James Suriano's sci-fi novel The Antarcticans is about a Pastor and his biologist wife who are desperately trying to save their Schizophrenic son from suicide. They have tried everything, except contacting Lucifer himself.
Gavin Pennings and his wife, Noila, have exhausted all options searching for a treatment for their son, Joshua. Depraved personalities are battling for supremacy in the teenager’s mind, pushing him to the brink of suicide. In desperation, Gavin tracks down Lucifer, realizing he may be his last hope for finding a cure for Joshua.
When Gavin meets Lucifer, he finds he’s nothing like the cloven-hoofed Satan he learned about in his seminary training. In fact, he’s quite affable and seems genuinely interested in helping Joshua. But Gavin is sure he isn’t seeing the whole picture.
Soon, Gavin and his family are split between Lucifer’s massive aircraft carrier off the coast of South Florida and Chimeruth Village, a mysterious Antarctican outpost on the Getz Ice Shelf, a place inhabited by strange creatures and futuristic technology. Before they know it, Gavin, Noila, and Joshua are embroiled in Lucifer’s monumental quest to save the world. When Lucifer reveals his final hand, however, and demands something from the family in exchange for the help he provided, someone will not make it home.
Interview with James Suriano
What inspired you to write this book?
That's a long answer. When I was 10 my parents split up and my father became involved in a fundamentalist church, much of my family followed him, and so at that age I got dragged along. The teachings of the church got forced upon me and were at complete odds with the person I was. It was horrible and I hated every minute of it. Their message was completely anti-knowledge and demanded blind obedience to their inaccurate interpretation of the bible. I watched my family fall apart because of the destructive power of ignorant knowledge. Many of my family members are still locked in its grasp.
The whole experience launched me on a quest. Because underneath the layers of the dogma, I felt like something was there. But I needed to go back in time to understand the roots of the Christian faith, to understand what the first Christians were trying to describe and experience. When you get deeply in the bible, into the bottom layers of the tradition, it is saying something so different from what we are hearing religion say now. I find it such a shame, because the original message is so powerful and compelling. I was looking for a way to talk about the injustice of it all; when we move away from the truth, and begin talking about where it started. How did we deviate so far from the original intention? That was the initial thought. From there, the book took on a life of its own.
It sounds like your story was rooted from an eye-opening, emotional experience. What themes do you want your readers to grasp from reading 'The Antarcticans'? What kind of truths would you like the readers to see in your novel?
My first purpose in writing any novel is to make it entertaining. If the reader wants to go further than that; it is that our myths all have something to teach us, but that they are flexible and adaptable to our lives and will mean something different to each person. Gavin had accepted the Luciferian myth as it was told to him. But his life circumstance demanded he interpret and accept it in another way, in this case to save his son. I think when we are in extremis, this is when we really understand what we believe and grow in our ability to know what is our truth.
How much of your story is based from your experience?
I am just the collection of all my experiences and I use everything I have when I write. As for direct experience, well, as I’ve said I certainly have spent a lot of time with people who believe in extremist ideas like Gavin does. As far as location, Southern Florida is my second home. And -I’d love to go to Antarctica someday.
Does your novel provide answers to what humanity considers good or evil?
Yes, I don’t think good and evil are properties of the universe. I think the universe is morally neutral. Good and evil are human constructs that help us talk about what is happening. Putting those constructs into a myths we can internalize, understand and apply, is where we can talk about Good and Evil in a meaningful way. We are wired to understand things in context, and story is all about building a contextual universe the reader understands and can place themselves in. We feel our ideas as much as we think them. And when as an author, you can suspend someone’s current belief unnoticed and make them feel the myth in your way, then you have a chance to bring them around to your point of view.
When Lucifer tells Gavin that his personal eternal life, which seems to be a preoccupation with religious thought in the 21st century, is tied to every person on earth, that to me is what I think is the greatest good. Any direction that points us away from valuing every single human life, not just people that look like us, or believe like us, or happen to live in the same country, everyone. When we can really internalize that and make sense of what it means to live in a world with one common humanity. That will be the religion that frees us from the suffering we endure. I love this quote from the Buddha that I think sums that idea up, “In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true”.
What makes the Antarticans unique? How are they different from most people?
The Antarcticans are an ancient intelligent species who thrived on earth during an ice age preceding humanity’s arrival on the scene. They have been relegated to Antarctica now as their biology requires that they live in very cold temperatures. One of them, Addie, is modeled after my grandfather who I just adored. He was strong, brilliant, gracious and just a stand up human being. Their uniqueness comes in the way that they look, and of course that they must live in extremely cold climates. Also, the Antarcticans view lying as more serious than murder. That is certainly a reflection of me. I view truth as the highest moral value.
Name some authors who have influenced your writing style
I love Anne Rice for the way she can describe scenes, evoke feelings from settings and weave philosophical questions into supernatural characters. She has an awesome no bullshit attitude about writing too which is very attractive. She says “There are no rules. Write the book you want to read.” That gives an author a license to not try to fit into some premade mold. She is by far my biggest influence.
From a structural perspective, I like Arthur C. Clarke, and I also admire his ability to be accurate in future technology predictions. I read a lot of Danielle Steele when I was a kid, because it’s what my mother and sister had lying around the house. She is an excellent teacher for writing emotion into characters.
In what ways do Anne Rice and Arthur C. Clarke influence your writing style or focus when working on 'The Antarcticans'?
I try to channel Anne whenever I am describing setting. I want the reader to feel really immersed in it, that they are maybe a bystander in the story watching this all play out.
Arthur C. Clarke had a great way of balancing the metaphysical and physical, and it’s something I strive for. Keeping the reader engaged but also looking for a deeper meaning underneath the obvious story line that is playing out. He had a brilliant way of just slipping a line into dialogue that would stop you dead in your tracks and send you off thinking about how that applied to your personal human condition.
What's the most challenging part of writing this book?
Staying true to the religious questions I was asking without worrying about offending people. I’m really trying to be honest about what we, as a world are talking about, when we relegate someone, in this case Lucifer to a position of complete evil. Why are we doing that? What does it say about humanity when we incorporate into our myths a figure of this magnitude and don’t take responsibility for what we are doing? The Antarcticans is ultimately about us. Will we trust in our own humanity to make the decisions that affect or future? Or will we abdicate our mind to someone or something else?
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