It's been said that one should shy away from discussing certain topics such as religion if one wants to avoid controversy. Today I'm talking with author Randy Attwood, who seems to have decided to confront such controversy head-on with his religiously and politically charged dystopian story, RABBLETOWN.
1) Please tell us about your book.
The title, RABBLETOWN: LIFE IN THESE UNITED CHRISTIAN STATES OF HOLY AMERICA, pretty much explains everything. The religious right has won. The Pastor President and Pastor Governors rule with a Bible in each fist and the computer in your hovel.
2) What inspired this book?
Years of watching evangelical churches gaining increasing power in the political field: Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, for example. Ed Meese once said when he was Attorney General under Ronald Reagan that the freedom of religion didn't mean freedom FROM religion. Oh-oh, I thought. This is not good. It was starting to sound as though religion was becoming a litmus test for whether you were a good citizen or not.
3) What is the fundamental theme you explore in this book?
Power corrupts. And absolute religious power corrupts absolutely.
4) Your setting posits that a particularly extremist form of fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity takes control of the United States. How does that happen in your story?
Perhaps it's time for an excerpt from the book. A history teacher is speaking:
Great strides had been made by Christians in winning elections to the U.S. Congress and state legislatures after the devil Muslims attacked our country in 2001. Our country came to its senses and recognized that the Islamo-fascist-communist-socialists wanted nothing more than the eradication of Christianity. Good Christians woke up and gained vast political majorities. There were a few hold-out areas that still elected liberals who claimed to be Christian, but of course you couldn’t be both, and there were even a few Hebrew people elected from districts that had high Hebrew populations and that was becoming more and more intolerable. The problem was that there were so many old line denominations that still had liberal leanings that the evangelical leaders realized they needed to consolidate their power into one true Christian church. They started their meetings with much prayer and worship on March 25, 2007, and asked God’s direction. On April 1, the Holy Spirit descended into the body of President Jerry Falwell I, who, it turned out, was in the last year of his life on this world, and God spoke. He wanted them to form God’s Church of the Evangels and he wanted all Americans to have a chance to convert to that true church. Those who did not would be an abomination to the Lord. All the leaders present recognized the voice of the Holy Spirit and fell to their knees and all instantly joined the newly-formed church. The Great Conversion had begun...
5) Religion is one of the most fundamental aspects of human society, yet also one of the most divisive. Did you ever worry about the controversy that can come into delving so thoroughly into religious themes? Some Christians may read your book and become offended, for example.
The religious right has offended me for decades. I think other Christians will relate and take to RABBLETOWN just fine. The recent barbaric measures in many state legislatures requiring women seeking abortions to be raped by a sonogram probe is offensive to me, and I think to many Christians. My book shows the logical outcome of the religious right's approach. In RABBLETOWN, if you are a woman and married and fertile and not pregnant, you will be artificially inseminated--art pregged. The whole Rush Limbaugh slut-debacle shows that some Christians need to face the consequences of their extreme positions.
6) Why did you choose to set your story so far in the future?
George Orwell's 1984 had a tremendous impact on me when I read it in high school. I wanted to write a novel about what life would be like in 2084. After many starts and stops and stalls, RABBLETOWN resulted. At one point, I had written myself into a corner. I gave up on the book for many years. But I returned to it after realizing that the character Bobby, who had a remarkable memory for Bible verses, was my savior in this story. And that I should let him make miracles. Bobby became a way of showing that the teachings of Jesus can show us again the way to our better natures. One reviewer now calls herself a "Bobbyite." RABBLETOWN is not a cynical sarcastic portrayal of right-wing Christianity, but a reminder that redemption is very much through the teachings of Jesus.
7) You have a rather large body of work. Can you tell us about some of your other work? Do you have any particular unifying thematic concerns or subject matter focus?
I have written since I was in my 20s and I'm now in my 60s. I had very little publishing success, and, quite frankly, admitted defeat. I told myself that I had written as well as I could, given what talent and discipline I had. But each work was unique to itself. Nothing fit easily into any genre (though RABBLETOWN is considered a dystopia). I had always been against self-publishing, but I did have an agent for one work, SPILL, and editors at two houses urged my agent to urge me to epublish. So I did, and then thought, well, why not epublish everything. I have now 13 works live with two more soon to come that will fit into the suspense/thriller genre. The ability to epublish has meant that my work has gone from my filing cabinet to the digital realm where people can find it. The most gratifying thing to me is that this work has connected with many people in a meaningful way. More detail can be found at this blogpost:
You can find more from Randy at http://www.randyattwood.blogspot.com/.
RABBLETOWN is available for purchase at Amazon.