By S.L. Dunn
Above a horrified New York City, genetics and ethics collide as the fallen emperor and a banished exile of the same herculean race ignite into battle over the city’s rooftops. In the streets below, a brilliant young scientist has discovered a technology that can defeat them both, yet might be more terrible than either.
Set both in modern New York City and in the technologically sophisticated yet politically savage world of Anthem, Anthem’s Fall unfurls into a plot where larger than life characters born with the prowess of gods are pitted against the shrewd brilliance of a familiar and unlikely heroine.
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The sharp knife of apocalypse struck without warning, burying itself into the unsuspecting skies of a sun-swept afternoon.
In the northernmost continent of Anthem, the remote city of Municera abruptly reported massive and inexplicable reports of rioting and hysteria. The limited transmissions that came out of the city were fragmented and unclear. Imperial Army regiments were at once dispatched to restore order to the city of Municera, yet all troops lost radio contact within minutes of their arrival. Powerful reverberations shook through the surrounding lands, reaching miles in every direction. It felt as though the gods themselves were hammering the very world with furious impacts. From a distance, billowing black pillars of smoke could be seen reaching high into the sky above the smoldering city. When the smoke and cloud of ash dispersed in the northern winds, the glimmering skyscrapers that had long been an icon of the elegant Municera had vanished from the skyline. Their steel and glass splendor was replaced with a blanket of alarming ruin. By midafternoon, the once prominent city was nothing more than wreckage against the horizon.
Most disturbing were the spreading rumors that a number of Imperial First Class soldiers had flown into the chaos of Municera and had yet to return.
The migration out of the region—an anticipated exodus for which the Imperial Council had quickly prepared—never arrived, and as a disquieting sun set on the remaining cities of the Epsilon empire, the truth became increasingly clear. There were no survivors.
Municera had been home to seven million Primus.
It is my pleasure to feature S.L. Dunn, author of Anthem’s Fall, on Room With Books. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.
Please tell me about Anthem’s Fall and what inspired you to write it?
In a broad sense, Anthem’s Fall is a collision of two stories. One side of the novel introduces Kristen Jordan, a young graduate student working on a cutting edge technology in New York City. Kristen is one of the scientists behind the Vatruvian cell, a mysterious new technology that replicates living cells. Kristen is incredibly brilliant and savvy, but she remains uneasy about the capabilities of their Vatruvian cell. The other side of the novel brings to light the futuristic and brutal world of Anthem, a world where the most elite members of society are born with the power of gods and who control their civilization with absolute authority.
The distinction between our world and Anthem is not as simple as it first seems. The race of men on Anthem uncovered their godlike power in an ancient and victorious war for survival. But once they were given the strength of gods, they abandoned the things that made them men. The most omnipotent among them long ago created an empire unchallengeable for all of future time. No weapon can harm their perfect flesh, no technology can trump their transcendent selves, and no one can possibly dream of overthrowing their rule.
Yet this world of gods is only introduced at the moment of its fall. For a new technology is created on Anthem, and with it is born unspeakable machines forged using the very power behind their strongest sons and daughters. The machines come to topple the cities of Anthem to the sounds of a holocaust, and bring a race of warrior-gods to its knee. All the while, the technology behind the unstoppable machines rings familiar to a particular Vatruvian cell being studied in New York City by Kristen Jordan. Two worlds collide in Anthem’s Fall, and the fate of each becomes intertwined in the plot that ensues.
There were two paramount inspirations that went into the conception of Anthem’s Fall. The first was an ambition to create a modern “superhero” story that didn’t revolve around good and evil. I can’t tell you how much it drives me nuts when a character is simply the “bad guy” who wants to cover the world in darkness and kill everyone in sight. Frankly, the “good guy” can be just as infuriating. It’s all well and good when a superhero stops a bank robbery or saves the girl, but when you push that reality a little further, bigger questions are left unanswered: what are this hero’s thoughts on civil wars, or human rights violations, or national sovereignty? My goal in Anthem’s Fall was to create a cast of characters that act in full three-dimension at all times and only rise to the call of “superhero” or “supervillian” begrudgingly.
All of the three main characters are exceptional in their own way, but each of them resents that exceptionality. On some level, each of them only wishes to be left on the sidelines of the calamitous plot instead of being at the front and center. And who will ultimately get defined as “good guy” or “bad guy” is in large part up to each individual reader.
The second inspiration to Anthem’s Fall was the world of Anthem itself. I hoped to create a vision of a future that looked paradoxically more like our past than any genre-established depiction of a sci-fi future. I like to call Anthem my own little anti-dystopia. It’s a terrible place to live, and one that is home to historic and modern atrocity. Anthem is futuristic and has advanced technology, but I think you’ll find it reminds you more of ancient Sparta than a futuristic society you might expect in a science fiction novel. It’s a world run by warriors, brutal and cruel. They live by the code that the strong must overcome the weak lest the strong become weak in turn. And ultimately it will be up to Kristen Jordan, a reserved young woman in New York, to prove them otherwise.
When you start writing a new novel, do you outline the story or do your characters dictate what will happen?
In the case of Anthem’s Fall, I did a bit of both. When I first started writing Anthem’s Fall in 2009, I wrote out a long bulleted outline that hashed out most of the plot points as I saw them logically unfolding. Starting a novel is such a truly gargantuan undertaking that I think it would be difficult to keep everything up to speed and not mess up details in your head. There’s simply too much going on, especially in the case of a novel with several main characters. In the end, almost every aspect of how I pictured the climax coming to life changed by the time I actually got to writing it.
What I found as I pushed beyond page one, beyond page ten, and past page one hundred, (and realized my little Microsoft Word document was undeniably becoming a novel) was that my characters developed personalities of their own. After I got to know them, it became clear to me that certain things would have to change, because the given character wouldn’t act so cruelly or stupidly, etc. I knew I was really cooking something when my scenes and plot points stopped telling the story and my characters “took the wheel” to define their own climax.
The novel that I set out to write, and the one I ended up writing were very different thanks to the characters that were forged along the way.
Do you ever have arguments with your characters and who usually wins?
I don’t have arguments with my characters, per say. But as they grew, they did develop their “own” personalities. Their decision-making became a key component to the “reality” within the novel. As I wrote a scene, I would have to pause and admit that Kristen would never act so foolishly, or that Vengelis (the “bad” guy) would never act so maliciously. In that sense, I would say that the characters always won.
What is something about you your readers would be surprised to know?
I wrote the first half of Anthem’s Fall during long quiet nights by the ocean in the archaeology shed on Cinnamon Bay in St. John, USVI. I worked a paid internship for the archaeology department of the Virgin Islands National Park after I graduated college. One humming overhead light, an electric outlet, and five miles to the nearest public wifi connection are great motivators to a burgeoning writer when the sun goes down over the tent site he calls home.
If you could write with any other author who would it be any why?
Stephen King in his drinking days. We could drink together while simultaneously producing strangely accessibly genre fiction (thanks to him, I should say; the jury’s not in yet with me).
When you were little what did you dream of becoming when you grew up and why?
Coincidentally, I did wear a secret superman tee shirt under my normal clothing for the better part of two years when I was really young. But I learned early on that there’s not much in the way of job opportunity in that racket. I wasn’t the type of person to be dead-set on any individual vocational path, as my mind was always far too scattered for such specificity. That being said, a list of random things I once aspired to be includes: horticulturalist, Japanese koi garden guru, Iron Chef, woodworker, microbrewer, meteorologist, arborist, shipwright, sommelier, video game tester, biologist, World of Warcraft freelance arena strategist, etc etc. That particular list could go on for pages…
When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?
I had tried my hand at a few short stories and little projects throughout the years, but nothing serious. In college I was honestly too busy with coursework to write my own fiction. I took Anthropology and Biology classes, which didn’t leave much room for creative writing. But all through my teens and early twenties I was keenly aware that my imagination had never diminished. When I was a kid in middle school, my friends and I would all go out into the woods ever yday after school in Chelmsford, Massachusetts and pretend to be great warriors, or hunters, or who knows what else.
Everybody pretended back then.
As the years passed, it became clearer and clearer to me that I still enjoyed pretending. Even though I rarely talked about it, daydreaming was a key component of my waking life. One day it dawned on me that I was actively trying to suppress my natural inclination to imagine. It was a powerful realization for someone to have, a sudden awareness that you’ve been hiding from the very thing that you’re most passionate about: in my case, pretending. After that, I let loose the harness on my pretending, and started brainstorming story ideas by the dozen. I wrote little bits of stories here and there, or mentioned a passing idea to a friend or family member. Nothing stuck. For a year or two, nothing stuck.
Then one afternoon the premise to Anthem’s Fall hit me like a freight train. I was driving on an empty highway in Vermont when the idea for the story truly erupted out of my head. It was like a muse hit me with a shotgun blast. The genius, the dreamer and the leader—the characters all introduced themselves to me at once, and their plight unfolded with utter clarity.
By the time I got to page ten, I knew my life would never be the same. I had found my passion.
What music inspires your writing?
When it pertains specifically to my writing, anything I can blast at full volume until I blow out my eardrums and realize I’ve had way too much coffee is a good thing.
What is your favorite breakfast? My girlfriend Liz’s scrambled eggs. I don’t know how she does it, though I’m strongly suspect of cumin involvement…
What is your favorite color? Unquestionably, blue.
What is your favorite movie? Sorry, I can’t give just one. Ravenous (1999). Highlander (1986). At a close third, the currently unmade sci-fi summer blockbuster, Anthem’s Fall. 😀
What is your dream car? 1978 Mercedes 450SL convertible. Black. Any other dream vehicle would take the form of a motorcycle, (specifically, a Harley Wide Glide).
How can our readers find you?
Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/author/sldunn
I appreciate the time you have taken to answer these questions so our readers may get to know you better and for allowing Room With Books to be part of your tour.
S.L. Dunn is the debut author of Anthem’s Fall, a novel he wrote amid the wanderings of his mid twenties. He has written while living intermittently in St. John USVI, Boston, Maine and Seattle. Raised on big screen superheroes and pop science fiction, he sought to create a novel that bridged a near-sci-fi thriller with a grand new fantasy. He currently resides in Seattle with his girlfriend Liz and their dog Lucy, and is hard at work completing the next book of the Anthem’s Fall series.
Get in touch at www.sldunn.com.
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