The ‘Rosinante’ novels, by Alexis A. Gilliland

Long, long ago, when I first began writing short stories (and before I pretty much gave up writing short stories), my one regular market was Amazing Stories Magazine, under the editorship of George Scithers and Darrel Schweitzer. One of the writers who also appeared often in those pages (rather more than I did) was Alexis A. Gilliland. I went on to novelistic obscurity in fantasy, while Gilliland became a prize-winning science fiction author. After several successful novels, he seems to have given it up and turned to cartooning, as best as I can tell from an internet search.

Anyway, our friend Ori Pomerantz sent me Gilliland’s Rosinante trilogy novels, The Revolution From Rosinante, Long Shot For Rosinante, and The Pirates From Rosinante. I’m grateful for his generosity.

Rosinante is a space station built for mining activities on an asteroid. About the time Charles Cantrell, the manager in charge of constructing the station, is completing the project, developments on earth leave him and his workers more or less abandoned. So, unwillingly, he sets up a local government, aided by his chief subordinates, a brilliant Israeli woman and a sentient computer called Skaskash who has an odd predilection for metaphysics. This allows author Gilliland to do some Heinleinian experimentation with questions of government, freedom, and religion.

These books were written in the 1980s, and are set a couple decades from today, so it’s interesting to note how the future has changed. The great environmental disaster affecting space travel here is ozone depletion (remember that?), and the foremost world power challenging the North American Union (the United States is called the “Old Regime” and is gone, and most people claim they don’t miss it) is Japan.

These novels are what’s known as “hard” science fiction. There’s no interstellar travel here, and most problems are solved through the application of scientific principles which seem (to a scientific illiterate like me) highly plausible.

The issue of religion was problematic for me. The great villains of the first two books are a group called “Creationists,” who rose up as a powerful movement and helped to destroy the Old Regime. These people seem to be nominally Christian, but either the author didn’t know any real Creationists, or he made the effort to differentiate his Creationists from the real ones, in order to avoid giving offense. These Creationists seem to have no devotional or church lives, drink immoderately, employ prostitutes, and swear like sailors. Their great cause is preventing genetic manipulation, and they’re willing to abort the children born from such procedures, or even to murder them once born.

The religious problems go even deeper. The declaration is made, as if self-evident, that earth religion could not possibly apply off the planet. Therefore one of the computers invents a new, improved religion which sweeps through the space stations and space vessels.

Well written, for those of you who like this kind of story. Not really my cup of tea. Cautions for adult themes, though not extreme.

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