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Interview: Nancy Kress on “Belief”

– Tell us a bit about “Belief.”

“Belief” is about the clash of two worldviews in our current culture: the super-rationalist view that nothing should be believed except that which can be proven scientifically, which means measured and tested experimentally with tests that can be replicated, or else defined mathematically in precise terms.  The other view is faith-based, whether it is faith in conventional religion or other aspects of the supernatural.  According to a Harris poll, more than half of adult Americans believe in ghosts and one-third in astrology.  On a biological level, this disagreement takes the form of: Are we just a bunch of neurons, or does being human involve some other, larger, cosmic component?

My story, you might have noticed, isn’t actually science fiction or fantasy.  Rather, it is about those things, and our conflicting belief in them.


– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I have been thinking about this for a long time.  I think everyone does, in some form, wonder just what is true about humans, about the universe, about anything “more” that might be out there (or in us).  The immediate inspiration, however, was the latest iteration of a long-running argument about these issues between my husband, Jack Skillingstead, and Daryl Gregory.  Daryl is a super-rationalist; Jack is not so sure.


– Was “Belief” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

For me, neither the rigors of the scientific method—which in some quarters is taken pretty much as a religion—nor the “squishiness” of faith are completely satisfactory.  “Belief” is my personal way of simultaneously criticizing both–while leaving the door open to both.  Talk about squishy!

But no other stance feels right to me.  Besides, it was fun to turn scientific principles into parallels of the Ten Commandments.


– What would you want a reader to take away from this story?

An examination of science as a religion in itself, with all the limitations of dogma, and of faith as so susceptible to the kind of error that comes from passionately wanting to believe.  Which, I know, is a lot to ask of a 6,000-word short story :)


– What are you working on now?

I am turning my Nebula-award winning novella “Yesterday’s Kin” into a novel, for Tor.


“Belief” appears in the March/April 2016 issue of F&SF.


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One Response to “Interview: Nancy Kress on “Belief””

  1. SHORT STORY ALERT: “Belief” by Nancy Kress - Sacred Earthlings on July 3rd, 2016

    […] an interview with The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Kress explains that “neither the rigors of the scientific method—which in some quarters is […]

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