The third element in my interest in the Western genre was moving to the USA in the 1990’s, and being able to see many of the places mentioned in the books for the first time. Frontier towns such as Dodge City and Abilene were no longer just names, but places I could actually visit. Exotic-sounding locales like Tucumcari (used to good effect by Sergio Leone in his ‘spaghetti Western’ movies) and Taos (infamous for its eponymous bootleg alcohol) were no longer all that exotic, but every bit as dusty and beat-down as the histories described them. I renewed my acquaintance with Westerns from the benefit of that new perspective, and enjoyed them all the more.
The big question for a writer (and, in the case of my new book, the small press that’s published it) is: how does one reach readers in a genre where one hasn’t previously written? I note from initial sales that the book is popular with readers of my blog, and the shared Mad Genius Club writers’ blog, and other books from my publisher. However, despite using categories and keywords typical of the genre, it doesn’t seem to be attracting much attention – yet – from ‘regular’ Western aficionados. That’s not surprising, given that most of them don’t know it exists yet; but what channels should be used to inform them? The genre’s been moribund for so long that it’s hard to think of a commercial outlet that will reach them.
I did not expect a book about Bible-believing robots to be this good.
The premise of God, Robot seems very silly at first: a corporation builds robots that worship the Christian God. However, what lies within is a story of how these artificial beings come to understand their place in God’s order as they grapple with their own programming, with human society, and with whether or not they have souls. The result is a wide-ranging tale of great depth that anyone could read and enjoy, whether or not they believe in God.
The book opens with an interstellar criminal named Locke, who is cornered in a monastery by a policeman. Before the policeman arrests him, though, he tells stories about theological robots, or “theobots” to explain why he did what he did. The stories cover the entire range of theobot history, from their creation in 21st-century California to their journey into deep space, along with all the ways they, and human society, changed throughout the centuries. Each story is written by a different author, but they all move the larger history forward and keep the theme unified.
It is true that the impasse between those of us who believe in Higher Power of some kind and those commonly identified as non-believers will not be resolved through conversation and argument. Anyone who doubts me is welcome to pick a current hot-topic political issue and try to bring an opponent over to their side. (Don’t do it now. I want you to keep reading, not to start a flame war on social media or tick off family members. But if you haven’t tried it yet and are up for a challenge, just see how it goes for you.)
However, just because we can’t talk each other into or out of faith, does not mean that one of the central questions of human existence cannot be examined in a proper manner. Dominic Saltarelli, an atheist, and Vox Day, a Christian, took up the challenge (originally presented by PZ Meyers, who declared it impossible to present a rational argument for the existence of gods, refusing Vox Day’s offer of debate back in 2008). Considering the current state of discourse in this country, you will be well advised to read Dominic’s Introduction chapter of OTEOG where he describes his decision process in taking his place opposite Vox in the debate. Suffice it to say that Dominic behaved as a proper intellectual in the matter and even called out those nominally on his side for often refusing to do so. Vox, in his own Introduction, similarly points out that many believers are just as guilty of repeating tired, flawed arguments without applying the proper intellectual rigor to the process.