GOD HAS A SENSE OF HUMOR (I HOPE)

Why do I have such a hard time remembering dates? I should start keeping a diary or something. Anyway, I don’t remember when it was that my former boss at TSR and Wizards of the Coast, Peter Archer, now an editor at Adams Media, came to me with this idea. Peter edited The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and we’ve known each other for a decade and a half. He knows I couldn’t say no to this one, and I didn’t, even though it’s a bit of a departure for me—especially becuase it was a bit of a departure for me.

I say “a bit of” because I’ve had my hand in creating more than one fantasy religion, including taking the lead on the revised pantheon for the fourth edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, and offered some advice on the same in The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction. But this new book, which came to me pre-loaded with the title: How to Start Your Own Religion: Form a Church, Gain Followers, Become Tax-Exempt, and Rule the World, was meant to be a mix of fantasy and reality. It’s “fantasy” in that, frankly, I don’t expect you’re going to use any of its tongue-in-cheek advice to actually create a new religion (and may God help you if you try) and “reality” in that . . . well, I’m not really sure.

I saw the cover for the first time on Amazon!

But what I do know is that it’s going to be funny, if I don’t say so myself. I laughed when I was writing it, anyway, for what it’s worth.

Here’s a little glimpse into the book, the current version of the introduction:

So You Want to Start Your Own Religion

If you have ever observed the power, wealth, and privilege that accrues to leaders and practitioners of certain religions, you’ve probably thought, “You know, I should start my own religion. Then I would be the one who gets to decide if recreational drug use is an acceptable response to the crushing angst of adolescence.” Or perhaps you have experienced a loftier sentiment and have toyed with the idea of creating a lasting ethos that will endure through the rest of human history, spreading enlightenment to the unenlightened for all time to come.

Either way, you’ve come to the right place. In How to Start Your Own Religion, you will discover everything you need to know to go about establishing a religion, gaining adherents, and running their lives. They will thank you for this by making offerings of money, time, sex, and bulls (and sex with bulls) unless you’d rather they didn’t.

In Part I, you will decide what kind of religion you wish to start. You will also create (or “receive from On High, in a dream”) the religious texts that will dictate your religion’s policy on questions such as one’s right to control one’s own body, one’s obligation to share the wealth (e.g. “help the less fortunate”), and more.

In Part II, you will find out not only how to spread the word and attract followers, converts, and fanatics, but what to do with them when you’ve got them.

In Part III, you’ll start to figure out where to gather your adherents, and work on all the little things that keep them coming back for more, like holy days, adulthood rites, and weddings—and learn how, when, and why, to toss them out.

In Part IV, you’ll take it to the next level by insinuating yourself and your new faith into every last corner of your followers’ lives, and have them thank you for it.

And finally, in Part V, we’ll speed the dearly departed off to wherever it is you think they’re headed, and maybe bring a few of them back from the great beyond.

Lofty goals, all that, but I think I deliver on it, with a wink.

The book is almost done. I’m going to be making one more pass through it over the holiday weekend (no rest for the wicked, as they say), and it’s already slated for publication in May.

They work fast over there at Adams, and it was quite an experience working on this sort of book, a departure for me in a number of ways. But my initial reluctance with the process gave way to the pure fun of it.

I hope that comes across in the finished book. And hey, maybe when people say “Happy Holidays” this time next year, it’ll include one of your own creation!

—Philip Athans

About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the recently-released How to Start Your Own Religion and Devils of the Endless Deep. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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