Why is Lucifer’s Odyssey So Weird?

Lucifer's Odyssey - eBook smallNow that I’m finally moving on to a completely different genre and series, I thought I would go back and address some of the most common questions I’ve gotten from others and myself, the origins of the series, what’s going on, and why I’ve been disappointed in the series. If you have other questions that I don’t cover here, feel free to comment or send me an email (rexjameson @ gmail.com).

I want to make very clear that I do not intend to keep writing the Primal Patterns series, especially in regards to the interactions of Lucifer and Jehovah. If the series is ever picked up again for a fourth novel, Jehovah and Lucifer are simply going to be gone. If you’ve read the first three novels, then you know why and how. If you haven’t, just know that any philosophical questions regarding Christianity are tabled forever. There’s quite a bit to still talk about in regards to Lucifer and Jehovah because I had originally arced out 7 books and not just three. However, it does appear to be time for me to focus on other, lighter fare, and mull about whether or not I should continue the series in any way. This should result in more novels released per year because the Primal Patterns series was a bit of a nightmare to plot and build meta-story layers into and took a lot more time than a novel purely meant for entertainment.

Anyway, let’s get cracking!

Is this really an alternative theology/mythology? Why?

I grew up in the Bible Belt. I was born in Alabama and lived most of my teenage years in Tennessee. Christianity was a huge part of my developmental years. My mom took my siblings and I to church every Wednesday and often to two different services on Sunday (morning and evening). By the time I was five, I was speaking in tongues at our services, and my mother frequently moved us around to different churches for reasons I still don’t understand. I was a true believer.

Something really big happened when I was 11, and this had a seismic impact on my acceptance of biblical stories and lessons as absolute truth, as written. However, from the time I was a teenager, I thought a lot about two key issues:

  1. What happens when babies die? Why does anyone die?
  2. Why are the old testament and new testament so different, and relatedly, why are some of the lessons learned from the old testament so appalling?

These are hardly new questions. I’m just explaining why the heck Lucifer’s Odyssey was written in the first place. To answer as succinctly as possible: I wanted it all to make sense in a universe at least as big as what I knew about the universe right then. We’re talking about something massive and billions of light years across, and I had to resolve how angels and demons move around the galaxy, and then the universe, and then a multiverse. There were a million things I put into backstory and scientific foundations of this series, but it all hinged on one thing I had been told by adults and clergy in regards to the two issues above.

God has a plan. It’s all part of God’s plan.

The more I thought about this idea, that babies die according to God’s plan and that every life and death has some kind of purpose, potentially across billions of light years of space and possibly targeted evolution of many different alien civilizations, where all of those births and deaths matter, the more I wanted to write about this plan. And the more I thought about why a plan involved so many mistakes or just atrocious behavior (genocide, rape, murder, cannibalism in lots of different species, etc.), the more I probed into fields like chaos theory, quantum mechanics, emergent behaviors, and swarm intelligence. I ended up working as a researcher in distributed AI, and that’s probably in no small part due to this overwhelming curiosity.

If God has a plan, what is it? If God is fighting the Devil, how exactly would the Devil pose any kind of significant threat to something so smart as to literally have even a high level plan for an emergent system from something as small as cellular interactions to as complex as Earth, much less all of the systems of the universe? Then the question naturally came of where does God come from?

The series explores some of these things and pitches a plan that kind of makes sense to me. Again, this is the fiction. Demons existed before the firmament and creation process. God came from demons, but hated their existence and wanted to change the universe to order instead of chaos. Souls needed to matter. Life needed to have an ultimate purpose.

Now, let’s get down to the question. Is this an alternate mythology? Yes. It presents something that deviates from the literal text of the Bible. Now, more importantly: is this meant to be an answer to any of these questions and issues? No. It’s not an alternate theology. It’s PURELY fiction. I am NOT criticizing Christianity. I am NOT converting you to a new religion. I am simply going on a spiritual journey in a fictional setting in a way that tries to make some sense of things from my limited perspective of the universe.

God’s plan in the series: Why do babies die? What possible purpose does this serve?

When I spoke to clergy, I was often told that babies die because God needed them in heaven. My next question tended to be why? What possible use does a baby taken before it can even develop conscious thought have in God’s plan? If our purpose is to fight the Devil, and this baby died before it learned anything about fighting, how could it possibly be useful to God in his fight against the Devil?

The answer in the Primal Patterns series is the Hall of Souls, which was directly correlated to the Jewish concept of the Guf (Treasury of Souls). In the Bible, the Guf is a source of souls. Once it runs out, the Messiah must fill this Guf with more souls to be born. However, there was a twist I wanted to do here that ties into “Why do babies die?”

What if the reason babies die is because God had created this Guf to not be a one-shot source of souls, but a renewable soul mechanism from an initial soul creation (the equivalent of the Tree of Souls in the Jewish creation myth)? In the series, God takes martyr demons who believe in his cause, a group called The Intellectuals, and he fills the Hall of Souls with their existing, very powerful souls. These souls can be fragmented and reassembled into angels later, if God wanted, and these fragmented souls can each be a human being in almost infinite number. The Hall of Souls provides a method of reincarnation and progress of souls towards God’s plan by constantly making souls evolve, in addition to the evolution of physical creatures.

In the series, God hated the manner of creation and death in Chaos. Everything was born and then died permanently. He saw this as wasteful, and in the series, God was a kind of spiritual scientist who wanted knowledge to be more permanent so progress toward his goals could be guaranteed. Why did a baby die? It doesn’t matter to God in this series, because the baby is going to be reborn in a different body. It will learn something or nothing, and it will be recycled into the Hall of Souls. Progress is either not improved or improved slightly. The souls in Order, the thing Jehovah has created in the series, will be making progress toward fighting the huge demon army that exists in the multiverse and helping to accomplish God’s plan. Lucifer messes this up somewhat, but Lucifer is meant to be a formidable agent that Jehovah has reason to fight.

The Hall of Souls is also a type of afterlife, and if you physically visit the primal patterns, you can sort of experience it, as Lucifer’s child did. All the knowledge of the universe passes through you, as well as all of the emotions (which is obviously very intense).

God’s plan in the series: What is up with the primal patterns? Why do you wait to show them until the second novel?

The-goblin-rebellion_4_BThe Lucifer’s Odyssey you can read online is not the original, for better or worse. Lucifer’s Odyssey went through extensive rewrites with a developmental editor and even before the editor. The developmental editor forced a rewrite that focused on story telling. He wanted me to preach/soapbox less if never, and I think many of the changes we did was for the best for storytelling, but it also removed a lot of explanation that might have helped people understand that I wasn’t making fun of their religion or that I wasn’t just an idiot.

In the second book, I started bucking my editor’s advice and providing a lot more internal dialogue. But the real answer to these questions posed above is: it was my first novel, and I probably should have picked an easier subject matter to convey in my first series. I’m just the kind of guy who always goes after the hardest problems. If it’s not challenging, a lot of times, I get bored. This was a challenge I took on, and I will admit that despite hiring developmental editors, I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to accomplish.

And part of that is not my editor’s fault. I was incredibly scared of how the public would receive this book. I was terrified that this book would ruin my career if I discussed tweaks to Christianity in a fictional setting as part of a spiritual journey. I thought people would hold all of this against me, and maybe they still might.

But let’s get back to the first question. One of my favorite all time authors was Roger Zelazny. Reading The Great Book of Amber gave me ideas, years before I started writing Lucifer’s Odyssey, that a bit of science fiction in multiverses might go a long way. So, I researched and I thought, and I came up with something I thought could explain the faster-than-light travel by bending space-and-time without resolving to a card deck with people’s pictures on it (Zelazny fans know what I’m talking about). I also implemented a way that God might introduce emergent evolution into his designs that were reflected in the universe around us.

Why the tonal inconsistency? Why is there humor everywhere in Lucifer’s Odyssey, even in serious situations? What were you thinking with Sariel?

First, the jokes and humor are meant to admit “This is fiction. Please don’t take this too seriously. I’m just going on a journey here. Try not to get too offended. Please don’t crucify me over this. Etc. ” It was also meant to show how an immortal kept in a subservient role, despite his power, for a million years might grow hopeless, reckless, and obviously jealous of his brother who was treated as the chosen one by both his parents and the entire demon population. Sariel starts out with no real responsibility, despite his amazing potential. He loses his rock and foundation in Batarel, and he becomes the strongest demon wizard in existence. The whole arc was planned that way.

However, to many people, he’s annoying. To people who get through the first book, he tends to be their favorite character, and for good reason: he has the best arc.

As for the comments and reviews about humor being completely out-of-place in combat, I know a lot of soldiers. They joke all the time. I’ll never forget a particular story one of my best friends told me about his tours in Iraq. He was joking with his best friend in the service on top of a tank in Iraq when a sniper blew his friend’s head off. He was looking at his friend and laughing with his friend when his friend’s head liquefied. This was not the first time they had been shot at. This was probably not even the thirtieth time. They had just grown used to the danger, and life goes on in war. You still have to keep your spirits up and people laugh during gunfights sometimes, especially if they feel invulnerable or just don’t care anymore (or maybe more accurately, they’re tired of being scared of death and want some normalcy).

I have three brothers and a sister. When we were kids, my brothers and I had rock wars and BB gun fights with other kids in the neighborhood. In hindsight, this was stupid and really dangerous. Whenever someone actually got hit and started crying, the whole neighborhood participating in the fight would scatter like cockroaches in the light. But while this fight was going on, before anyone got hit and we felt invincible, we laughed and trash-talked all the freaking time. We didn’t think we would die, and we were idiots.

The “tonal inconsistency” comes from those experiences. And yes, I’m well aware that boys are dumb. God, we were stupid.

Why is violence so prevalent in the series?

Because the universe is violent. The Earth is violent. Animals kill other animals. Animals kills plants. Plants kill insects. Supernova destroy all creations within light years of distance of the exploding star. Literally all life and even unlife (planets, moons, etc. all disintegrate and become something else). And all of it in the series serves God’s plan.

The violence in the series is meant to be a reflection of the violence I see around us. Instead of attributing death to God punishing a creature. It is instead a part of the renewal of life and the continuation of God’s plan.

Why does the series not stick to the Bible verbatim?

Part of trying to apply Jehovah versus Lucifer to a fight across a multiverse is that you have to overlook certain parts of the Bible that aren’t possibly true, probably because the person who wrote the chapter of the book simply didn’t understand how the universe works at the time (and if they were having a vision, they may have misinterpreted the message). For instance, verses like Revelation 6:13 where all the stars of heaven fall to Earth. Anyone who knows what stars are and how they compare in mass and size knows that a single star getting close to Earth, much less hitting it, would cause the Earth to disintegrate. So, I had to basically ask two more questions.

1.) What might these verses actually be trying to say?

2.) Is there any reason the Bible might need to lie or exaggerate something?

In the series, Lucifer can read the Bible. He sees these problems in the texts, and he immediately dismisses most if not all of it as a lie or a fabrication by humans. He doesn’t realize much of it is written in such a way that an omniscient being might be planning Lucifer’s demise. What if Lucifer wasn’t the biggest deceiver in the universe? What if God was better and smarter than Lucifer in every conceivable way?

The Bible seeming wrong is literally part of God’s plan in the series. It shows God’s intelligence not fallibility. Again, fiction. Don’t send me hate mail.

Why are there two Gods in Order?

The more I tried to reconcile lessons from the Old Testament and the New Testament, the more I felt like these two instances of God being worshiped and described in the two testaments were two different beings. The Old Testament God, the one with the big plan, saw nature and humanity as things to take sides on and simply part of a much larger mechanism with long term goals (such as in the story of Samson and Lion and the Bees, him being justified in going out into the streets of his town and killing dozens of random Philistines and not only it being right with the Old Testament God but also serving as a moral lesson about cheating riddles in the story of the Lion and the Bees). God had chosen sides: the Jewish people over the Philistines, even though he had created both. The New Testament God didn’t have Philistines. There was no evil side in regards to race. There was simply right and wrong, good and bad, and ultimately, love and forgiveness. These seem like different gods.

Clergy I have talked to have traditionally said something like “God changed when his son Jesus died on the cross.” And while that may certainly be true, there’s a certain interpretation of modern Christianity that glosses over this in the following ways. First, Christians in America tend to believe in Old Testament punishments instead of forgiveness for almost all crimes. Even petty crime is given Old Testament, eye-for-an-eye-style punishment guidelines, and Christians are generally ok with this (despite the Bible talking about forgiveness and God being the ultimate judge). I’m not saying I disagree with eye-for-an-eye in most cases. I’m simply stating an observation of our preference to have significant punishments for often trivial crimes with no thought to a  person’s potential rehabilitation in our own eyes, much less God’s perspective and judgement.

Second, from the perspective of most modern Christians, God still takes sides, and he still smites for transgressions. The Old Testament God still smites people who offend him. Floods sometimes are attributed to human cause in offending God. Accidental deaths are a part of God’s plan, whether punitive or for some higher level purpose. We’ve all heard stories from certain preachers about how gays and lesbians brought on God’s wrath and things like that. OK (definitely not OK, but I’m talking out the issue with the single God structure for both testaments). This creates a problem in the model of forgiveness for most transgressions against God’s code and the cleansing martyrdom of Jesus. Though, I’m well aware of the counterpoint to this argument that clergy might argue if a person asks forgiveness but doesn’t really mean it and keeps up with sinful ways, then perhaps God has to punish those people to show them that true forgiveness is only possible when sinful ways are abandoned. And again, this is not my viewpoint. I’m just talking about a journey here.

Anyway, for the series, an Old Testament God (Jehovah) and a New Testament God (Gaea) seemed to be coexisting. One smites. One forgives. And since this was completely meant to be fiction, why not go with a simpler explanation for the seeming confusion between God’s forgiveness. What if the son of God was actually the son of two Gods, and he preferred the mother’s point-of-view? Again, fiction. Not real. Please do not send me hate mail. This is about my own spiritual journey, and how I expressed it. It would be great if others want to take their own journey with me, but I completely understand if you hate the very thought of even trying. It’s ok. I’m moving on from the series.

What is up with the elves? What the heck is that about?

There are multiple reasons for the elves to be in the series. First, they show the single-mindedness of the demon race and how they view other immortal species. They are an example of why Jehovah should be afraid of demons, even though he is one of them, because he is fundamentally different from other demons. Second, they are a showcase of part of my research into distributed AI and my thoughts on some of the future and problems with the future, masked as a fantastical crazy idea so it wouldn’t seem as scary. Third, the series is not just about Christianity, and is also about how the Hall of Souls churns knowledge and how some of our favorite stories may actually be sourced on some realistic, possible truth in this sci-fi universe of primal patterns. Again, fiction though. Not theology.

Why do you feel like Shadows of Our Fathers is currently your masterpiece, and you will never top it in terms of storytelling? What does this say about you as an author?

Shadows-of-our-fathers_4AObviously, no one asks me this question. This is just something I feel like I should address because these are thoughts I’ve had.

The final installment of the series took a long time to write. There are so many meta-stories going on that I wanted readers to peel away like an onion while reading. The title itself is reflected in many stories in the tome.

Kisha is in the shadow of her father’s malice and legacy. Her pursuit of marriage with Sariel is in the shadow of how she believes her father failed her mother before and during marriage. Sariel’s pursuit of greatness is in the shadow of his father figure Batarel and in the negative shadow cast by his own father. There’s also a literal shadow of his father who is giving him and Lucifer advice. Lucifer’s son is in the shadow of his father’s greatness and in his actual shadow cast from somewhere inside Hel. I could go on and on here. You’re supposed to read this book and think about these things, because it was certainly a part of my plan.

The development edit and other edits of Shadows of Our Fathers cost nearly 4,000 dollars, and I was very disappointed in my development editor because he didn’t care to reread the series or understand what I was trying to say here. He didn’t even remember the style manual we were using in the series, so I spent months combing over changes and cross referencing them with the other two books and getting really disappointed and depressed with each chapter. I did this edit knowing the series would not make back the costs, but I saved up for it in my main job. Because my previous cover illustrator stopped responding to requests for new work, I saved up for redoing all three covers in a consistent style to give people the final versions of the series that I would write. The last book in the series took roughly 6,000 dollars to bring to market, including editing, covers, etc, despite knowing there was no way in heck this was going to break even. I felt I had an obligation to those who did read the series to finish it in a strong and reasonable way, despite the limits of my own abilities as an author and a thinker to finish this first series in a way that people would like. I think I accomplished at least that much.

Why do you view yourself as a failure in your first series?

I bit off more than I could chew, and I wrote something that I knew many people would hate without even understanding what I was trying to do. I knew it might poison my brand. So why did I do it? Because I couldn’t get the story out of my head. Because I was on a spiritual and scientific journey, and I wanted to write something that I felt might show how amazing Christianity might be if you tried to apply it to the vastness and craziness of the cosmos, instead of focusing on only the events of Earth. Because I wanted to write something complex and honest, and I really loved the idea, characters, and plot.

Ultimately, I think it’s fair to say that I failed to accomplish my objectives. The series reached around 28,000 people, mostly through free downloads of Lucifer’s Odyssey, but it is a net loss of many thousands of dollars. Only around 565 people bought the 2nd book and 115 bought the 3rd book, which was released in 2017. I had arced out seven books of material and introspection and I obviously blew it. I had to shorten it to three books. I don’t like the first book because my developmental edit convinced me to remove most of the exposition and internal dialogue, and I didn’t know any better. I didn’t say no, and I think that caused quite a bit of the failure to launch for the series.

There are reviews by people, especially other authors, who believe I just made up random events instead of meticulously planning how all of this wrapped up into an omniscient god’s plan. They didn’t see Lucifer’s tendency to leap before he looked (he literally met his fiance this way) as a reflection of the randomness in the churn of the Chaos’ primal pattern. They saw it as laziness, and they reviewed accordingly.

In short, I was dumb, but I was stubborn enough to push through the obstacles and end the third book where the planned seventh book had ended. I’ve been told by many that the series got better, and this is a good sign that I grew in confidence as a writer and learned some kind of lessons that will hopefully carry into future series. I am now smart enough to move on to a new genre and series that should be more fun for readers and helps me avoid some of these pitfalls. I’m ready for the journey.

If you read through the Primal Patterns series, thank you. It means a lot to me. I’ll keep writing and getting better, and one day, I hope to give you readers something truly amazing to read. I’ll admit that my first series fell short. Unfortunately. For this reason, I’ve decided to keep Lucifer’s Odyssey permanently free.

If you have gained a new appreciation for these novels and would like to try them out, see the Novels page for individual links. Or click these links for Lucifer’s Odyssey, The Goblin Rebellion, and Shadows of Our Fathers. Otherwise, stay tuned for The People’s Necromancer and the Age of Magic, a high fantasy series set on the world of Nirendia. I’ll get to awesome fiction that is more broadly palatable and soon!

About Rex Jameson

Rex Jameson is the author of the three novels in the Primal Patterns series and half a dozen short stories. An avid history buff and an unabashed nerd with an appetite for science fiction and fantasy, he loves to create complex speculative fiction with layered characters. He earned a PhD in Computer Science at Vanderbilt University and researches distributed artificial intelligence in robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. Rex and his wife Jenny live in Pittsburgh where they enjoy hosting family and friends.

2 Responses to Why is Lucifer’s Odyssey So Weird?

  1. Rachel Motes says:

    Have enjoyed all of your books and am sad to hear that you will not be continuing the Primal Patterns universe. In your approach to theology, you think a lot like I do, and it was a refreshing change in what I have been reading. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to return to this series some day.

    • Rex Jameson says:

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed them! Like I said, if the Primal Patterns series continues, I’m just going to shy away from Lucifer and Jehovah. Sariel would still be the most powerful wizard in the known multiverse (though he’d have his hands full with the creatures that feast on raw energy), and you have the journey to Archimedes’ past (and the ancient universe that spawned him and everything else). The growth of Christian and Isaac. There could even be prequels of Tiamat or offshoots about shadow universes (since there are infinite in each universe, and the interactions with the primals get really interesting here).

      I’m having to restrain myself in the definition of the new theologies/mythologies of the Age of Magic series. Many characters have biblical origins (I’m not sure if I’ll ever get away from this or if it’s even a good idea to move far away from biblical characters). Either way, I’m hoping the People’s Necromancer and the Age of Magic series are easier to market and find an audience for. Lucifer’s Odyssey gets rejected by a lot of types of promotion websites because of the reviews that call the book heretical and the questions concerning an active religion. Advertisers believe their audiences would be offended by its inclusion, which makes marketing very difficult.

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