Introduction by the Author
Cultown is the story of Thomas Swan, a charismatic figure who forms a cult called the Milinish.
The most dull and obvious way to tell such a story would be to write it from a position of superiority i.e. “Aren’t cults terrible? Cult leaders are awful and the people who join them must be weak, deluded fools.” That is not my way. For one thing, the story is told from the cult leader’s perspective. For another, it is suggested that he has good reason for his actions. And finally, I say we are all cult members, or brainwashed, in one way or another.
Cultown deals with topics to do with science and religion. If it had been written by a hard core scientist, it may have just been someone making fun of religious beliefs. But the Milinish is a scientific cult as much as a religious one. A reader of the book said it ‘shows not just the cultishness of religion, but of science too.’ One of the book’s themes is that for some people, science has become our new religion, with all the problems that entails.
I wrote the first version of this book in the late 1990s, while studying these topics at university. Cultown helped me win an APA award which led to a PhD scholarship (and to date, that is the only time I have ever made a dollar out of writing!) Anyway, the first version of the book was quite good, but when I went back to it a couple of years ago, I realised it had flaws and could have been so much better. Fortunately, in the last ten years I’ve become a much better writer, as a result of writing two novels - The Vortex Winder and The Maelstrom Ascendant. From the lessons learned there, I’ve been able to improve Cultown considerably in its quality of writing.
That is not the only difference. The story’s setting has been updated from 1995 to 2015, incorporating the changes in technology we’ve seen in that time. Most significantly, Cultown now has a full rock soundtrack album. For both Vortex and Maelstrom, my band, Lighthouse XIII, recorded a full soundtrack of songs, each of which fit into the story (sort of like a movie musical, except it’s a book). That trend continues with Cultown. There are twelve new songs which tie into the story. I’m very proud of the new album.
When we think of cult members, we tend to think of people who are brainwashed into a given belief system and forced to adhere to a set of values and expectations. Yet if that is true, there are many different types of cults. On a mass scale, Nazism, for example, operated much as a cult does, with many of the same characteristics on show. There are other, more recent political examples which I won’t mention. Readers can make their own connections. More generally, whenever we align ourselves with an organisation that expects us to conform to certain values, beliefs, and behaviour, we are at risk of showing cultish behaviour to some degree. My fascination with the psychology of cults was one factor that led me to write this book.
I was also intrigued by the cult leaders themselves. What prompted them to form such groups? The most obvious explanation was the desire for power, yet I’ve tried to go beyond such simple motivations. Thomas Swan is also, I hope, a sympathetic figure. He is ‘evil but not vile’ as one of the song titles has it. Besides, as Cultown is partly a comedy, as well as a drama, Tom is good for a few laughs!
If readers have any questions, feel free to email me through this site. For now, that is all I’ll say on the book, apart from reproducing the back cover of Cultown below.
Thomas Swan forms the Milinish, a cult with an odd mix of scientific and religious beliefs.
From humble beginnings in Sydney, the Milinish moves overseas to become the fastest growing cult in America. Yet Swan’s mad reign spirals out of control. Finally, on the brink of disaster, he decides to tell all.
Here, in the ultimate inside story, Thomas Swan reveals the secrets and scandals inside the Milinish, the greatest cult of the 21st century.
‘Exposes not just the cultishness of religion, but of science too. This is the best novel yet written on the trouble between science and religion.’
J. Williams, Fuse.
‘I read it straight through in a weekend and finished it feeling invigorated and informed. A joy to read.’
Louise Brindle-Smith, HPST.
‘A very unusual and most entertaining book … shows an acuteness of perception and expression that is rare.’
Dagmar Lenzbruk, Universal Review.