Kenneth Philippi and his wife, Mary, pose in front of a poster at Majestic Bluffs promoting Ken’s new book, “Brother Andrew,” about a robot who serves as a pastor.

Kenneth Philippi always wanted to be a writer. He enjoyed fiction and science fiction most of his life, but only took the next step when a friend challenged him to write a science fiction book.

With a computer available in his room at Majestic Bluffs, Philippi wrote his first novel, titled, “Brother Andrew,” and then gave it to his step-granddaughter, Jasmine, and daughter-in-law, Stephanie, for editing, publishing, and creation of cover art. Per their request, neither are credited in the book.

The book, which Philippi describes as a science fiction story with a twist, is set in a not-too-distant future in which mankind is very dependent on robots. The story begins when a church in need of a pastor gets a robotic pastor, Brother Andrew, instead of a human. As the tale unfolds, Brother Andrew discovers that he is more than the sum of his parts, which may or may not be a good thing.

Philippi spoke to the Press & Dakotan about his book.

What made you write a book?

I’ve been a science fiction fan for many years, ever since I read “The Moon Colony” by William Dixon Bell when I was in the seventh grade. I was going to be an astronomer at one time. I didn’t have the ability, but I always liked to read science fiction. My favorite author was Edgar Rice Burroughs, who wrote “Tarzan” and the “Mars” stories. Then, a friend of mine, Joe Blankington, said, ‘Well, why don’t you write a science fiction story?’ So, I started out, gradually. I kept adding on to it and adding on to it. I had an idea of what I was going to do. I kept going until I came to an end.

What was the inspiration for your story?

I used to read a lot about robotics, and I was amazed at what people do with robotics. For instance, they make a Ford that can park itself. I didn’t believe it, but they do. So I wondered, if robots do everything else, what would it be like if a robot became a pastor of a church, and that was my inspiration.

Is the robot pastor accepted?

When they build this pastor, in the modern days of communication that they have, the word is around the world in seconds. And everybody makes jokes about it, and one Catholic says, “The next time I go to confession, I am going to go to my washing machine!”

Anyway, he became the pastor and, over a period of years, something strange happens.

Are you thinking about writing more?

Actually, I had an idea for a story, and I started it already. It’s about a farmer who goes out and checks his livestock, and in with the cattle is a unicorn. He calls the vet, and the vet verifies it, and they move him into a barn. They are afraid, if the scientists get hold of him, they will treat him like a specimen. That’s where I stopped with my story. I don’t know what to do with the unicorn.

Then I had an idea about the three gorgons and (one) about the sirens (of Greek mythology). Their singing was so beautiful that men drove their ships on to the rocks, but these are just ideas that have crossed my mind.

What message would you have for others contemplating writing a book or doing something creative, like you did?

Put it down on paper. Write your story. Write something that is interesting to you, like an old farmer might want to write something about a farm, something that has interesting experiences in life that you would like to pass onto somebody else. I wrote fiction this time, but there are people that have done a lot of things in their lives that they should put down on paper.


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