Friday, July 11, 2014


A science fiction novel

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.

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.

-What made you want to write?

I’ve always looked up to authors with admiration. Authors work in the realms of awe, joy, sorrow and wonder. Raw emotion is the medium of the writer, and that notion has inspired me for as long as I can remember. A writer’s task is to take a blank page and turn it into entertainment. When I look back at some of my favorite books, I recall most distinctly the feeling of being pulled away from my own life. The best books transport you away, and lift you above the day to day. Unlike anything else I can think of, books truly ignite the imagination. Each reader is his or her own director, and in a way each book is envisioned anew every time another person reads it. I don’t think any other form of art is so intensely subjective and unique to each beholder.

The impetus that truly set my writing life into motion was the first glimmer of an idea that would turn into Anthem’s Fall. I was driving on a highway in Vermont, and out of the blue the three main characters of the novel appeared in my head. The whole plot fell into place at once. After a few weeks, I realized I couldn’t get these characters out of my thoughts. Over time this passing premise, this unwritten story, consumed me. I knew I had to write it. And so one Saturday morning I started writing. And writing. And writing. And editing. And rewriting. Almost five years and about a half million words of rewrites later, I look back at the day I first started and I recognize that it was raw passion of the purest form that kick started my writing.

-What draws you to your genre of choice?

I enjoy all types of stories, and my bookshelf is quite eclectic, but I do have a particular penchant for the fantastical. Anthem’s Fall is science fiction, but a soft science fiction at most. It also has strong aspects of fantasy and ultimately some romance as well. I would define it as Michael Crichton meets Marvel Comics.

It’s a genre-bending novel, with many disparate inspirations. But ultimately it will be at home on science fiction shelves. I read a quote once that said science fiction is the modern outlet for philosophy, but for my purposes it represents something much simpler than that. Near science fiction is a genre where a recognizable world can be introduced and then thrown upside down. I can’t think of a more invigorating undertaking, for both a writer and a reader, than to conceive of a relatable world not unlike our own and then cast it into an exhilarating plot of fantastical tragedies, triumphs and twists.

-Name a fun fact you learned researching this project.

I was on one of my final edit runs of Anthem’s Fall when I read an article by Craig Venter and found out that the “science fiction” I had introduced in Anthem’s Fall was, in fact, a modern reality. Craig Venter is a famous synthetic biologist who in 2009…created an artificial cell! Yes. Artificial. Cell. Created in reality. You can imagine my shock, both as a member of society and as an author polishing up a novel that introduced an artificial cell as science fiction. My science fiction was, in fact, scientific reality. Perhaps in the real world Craig Venter’s cell is not as theatrical and quixotic as the Vatruvian cell (which is the main science fiction aspect of Anthem’s Fall) but it nevertheless forced a rewrite.

After reading the article, I read every book written by Craig Venter and a few other top scientists in the field of synthetic biology. My goal was to fit the foundation of my science fiction into currently established ideas in the industry, and then push it to the next level. This meant I had to go back and rewrite all of the semi-realistic science aspects of the novel.

-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?

That’s a tough one. My characters are a rather defiant group of idealists. All three of the main characters in Anthem’s Fall in some sense represent a facet of myself, so I think drinks with any of them would lead to a raucous outing. However, since Vengelis and Gravitas could kill me with the flick of a wrist, I think I’ll have to lean toward Kristen.

-For aspiring writers, any tips?

“Good writing is rewriting”—Truman Capote

I spent four years writing Anthem’s Fall. I owed it to the story that Anthem’s Fall could one day become to sharpen my writing skills as much as I possibly could. I didn’t want my prose or narrative style to be the weak link in a story that had potential but ultimately failed. Anthem’s Fall will be published at 145,000 words, but in total I wrote nearly half a million. I have hundreds of pages of chapters that didn’t make the final cut, and whole characters who were removed along the way.

Writing should be thought about as any other skill, whether it’s the ability to play the guitar or swing a golf club. It takes a lot of time and practice to find your groove. It’s also important to keep in mind that what will define your writing is your unique voice, not a proficiency in grammar and syntax. Find your own voice and take all advice about writing with a grain of salt. There are about ten million platitudes out there on writing, and which ones prove true vary from writer to writer. But I will say that when I flip through my first draft from four years ago, it’s hard not to run to the bathroom and dry heave. That’s how poor I regard my early writing, now, as I look back on early drafts with a developed critical eye. I got better at writing as I wrote, and in that sense novel-crafting is a learnable (and achievable) skill just like anything else. Be patient with yourself and keep writing!

-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?

Romance. It’s difficult in its own way. Anthem’s Fall has fist-flying action, city-falling destruction, grand fantasy, freaky sci-fi, scholarly debates, characters falling in love, you name it. Cities get destroyed, heroes rise and fall, riots ignite, characters fly, epic histories are introduced. Objectively, there’s a hell of a lot going on.

But when I look back at writing every individual scene, some of the hardest ones to write were the intimate romantic ones. Writing a romantic scene is really difficult! There’s a very thin line between coming off either heavy-handed or vague. You don’t want to be sappy, but you also need substance. I can’t imagine writing an entire book of intimate scenes.

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

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  1. I read somewhere once that today's science fiction is tomorrows reality. If man can conceive of it, he will make it so.

  2. You've been asked what genre you could never write. What other genres would you like to write?

    1. anything fantasy or sci/fi at the moment

  3. I'm glad it worked out for you--good luck with the release!


  4. I enjoyed the interview.


  5. That's an interesting fact

  6. Interesting info you found about the artificial cell. I guess we learn something new everyday!

  7. So crazy that part of the "science fiction" part of the story was actually happening in real life!