Tuesday, October 29, 2013
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Stephen B. Pearl
1. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer and why?
Let’s see. I was twenty-three and had just finished a woolly mammoth hunt when…
Okay, a bit of an exaggeration there. I was twenty-three and woolly mammoths were on the endangered species list. ;-) Actually, I was dating a fantastic woman at the time. Smart, sweet, the most beautiful blue eyes in the world, and well, suffice it to say she had the total package. (Still does.)
To impress her I wrote my first novel. It was a fantasy piece with her featured as the princess. The book is awful and will never see print, but it did have its desired effect. We’ll be celebrating our twenty-seventh or twenty-eighth (I lose track) wedding anniversary this November. What that awful novel did in addition to helping me win the heart of my beloved is it showed me that I could do it. It also reminded me that I had stories to tell. As well, to be honest, I had things that I had to prove to myself. Markus, in Worlds Apart, being Dyslexic is taken from very close to home. When you’ve been called “tardo” and “dummy” all your childhood I don’t think you can be faulted for feeling that you have something to prove.
2. What authors did you enjoy when you were young? What authors influence you today?
J.R.R. Tolkien was and is my favorite author of all time. Read the books, the movies (dedicated Tolkien fan rolls eyes and shakes head sadly). The books are well worth the effort. In Lord of the Rings is the code for living a good life. The characters are so archetypal and the language so lyrical. This is what literary fiction is supposed to be.
Frank Herbert. Mr. Herbert was a world builder par-excellent. He also taught me how to think and to understand the inter-connectedness of elements in a story. You can’t change an element without it having a ripple effect on everything else in the story. For example, in any society with Faster Than Light (FTL) technology raw material shortages are very unlikely because their technology would have to be advanced enough to allow for the economic mining of asteroids. One thing leans on another. This is a constant source of irritation to me in a lot of sf and modern fantasy because people forget this simple fact. If someone can lift a couple of tons with their mind why aren’t they making a fortune launching satellites into orbit? In Dune you notice the only real thing in short supply was the spice, and on Dune water but that was a consequence of spice production, because it was a naturally occurring organic compound that couldn’t be synthesized and required unknown and rigorous conditions for its creation. Thus it became the basis for the economy. As I got older there were a lot of books by various authors. Pierre Berton with his books The Last Spike and The National Dream really impressed me. Here was the drama that was the birth of my nation not as dry text but as living characters put to the page. That is the way to interest people in history.
I went through a time where I read a lot of historical fiction set around the American Revolution. Some of the Founding Fathers of the USA were truly great men.
To acknowledge this takes nothing from the greatness of my nation’s founders. Sadly, I think that these great men are spinning in their graves so quickly that you could hook a generator to them and power several cities. It is the way of all nations. They rise, peak, do great works that advance humanity (Can we say the moon landing), then decline to make way for the next dominant state. The cycle has gotten faster as advanced transport and communications have come more into play. This is not said to be insulting, but to simply note the recurrent patterns of history. I should also mention H.G. Wells and Homer as major inspirations. Currently, I am following the works of Jim Butcher, Harry Dresden Wizard for Higher, and Laurell K. Hamilton the Mary Gentry series as well as others.A very funny book I read recently was Welcome to the Multiverse *Sorry for the inconvenience by Ira Nayman. It had me laughing out loud in the dentist office, which if you knew my history with dentists would be a fare more impressive endorsement. I’m also fond of the young adult works of Timothy Carter. For a light read that none the less has something to say they are fantastic.
3. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
Career, hopefully able to feed myself. Myself, I’ve learned not to second guess. The world around me is changing so fast and there are so many directions things could go. We could be one scientific breakthrough away from physical immortality, how would that change the world. Suppose the research in zero point energy pans out? Will we wipe ourselves out or will it propel us to the stars. I can follow a thread into the future to write a plausible fiction, but for personal predictions the variables are too vast. Even when I read Tarot or the Runes I am loathe to push forward more than six months.
4. If you weren't writing amazing novels, what would you be doing?
If I could go back I think I probably would have trained as ether an engineer, an electrician, or a Forest Ranger. Sadly my youth was plagued by a lack of guidance. Such is life.
5. In Worlds Apart, you discuss different religions as part of the main plot. What role does spirituality play in your daily life, both personally and professionally?
I am a devout Pagan following a Neo-Egyptian path. I’m also an archetypest. What that means is that I think there are only a few divine forces, but they have many names and each name takes on a flavor from those who use it. These labels ultimately all come back to the same force. To Illustrate, Thor, Horus (son of Isis), Lug, Jesus, Mohammed and others too numerous to mention all represent the perfected man to their various cultures. This is a thing to be striven towards though it can never be obtained. Isis, Kerridwen, Frigg, Mary all represent the wise woman, sorceress, mother force. The number of these forces or rays is a topic open for discussion, but if you examine any pantheon you can see exemplars of a general type for each. As a result of this belief I don’t get hung up trying to tell someone they are on the wrong path because to deny the gods of another would be to deny my own. I simply use the Egyptian Gods and Goddesses to codify the universal forces because I resonate better with them that any other.
As long as a person strives to show tolerance and respect to all and not hurt others or the world unnecessarily then I figure they are on a good path.
What a lot of folk need to learn is freedom of religion is the freedom to practice your own religion in privet or with like minded people, not the freedom to push your faith on others or use tax dollars or civil law to promote your religion over others.
What I mean is this. I have no problem with someone wishing me a Merry Christmas. I will return the good wishes with Blessed Yule. The positive wish is what is important. I do think it is inappropriate for a City Council to use Tax Dollars or public facilities to put up a nativity scene. However if a church wants to pay for and put up a nativity scene on their property they are a private organization and so long as they are in keeping with eyesore and noise bylaws I have no problem with that. I suppose you could say that I am a bit fanatic about the separation of church and state. A good measure is I think that under the law churches should have the same status as clubs. They both get to exclude members based on an internal set of parameters. They both can own property for use by their members. They both can apply for tax exempt status. The list of similarities goes on and if churches were treated legally as clubs it would solve much of the problem of one religion being given deferential treatment over others.
So, to answer the actual question. My spirituality affects all aspects of my life. It helped me form the ideal I strive to emulate and calls on me to try and be better. In my writing I try to give a bit of what Tolkien (a devout Christian) gave to me by supplying archetypes people can aspire to.
6. Markus lives in a world where magic replaces science as it is in our world. If it were possible, do you think our world would benefit or decline even more for it to happen in real life?
I think it would give a new set of problems while solving a bunch. In Markus’s world some individuals, like Markus, have a huge amount of personal power. The individual is more emphasized and social controls of a necessity would have to be looser. A cop with a stun wand is going to be rather hesitant about trying to bring down a suspect who could literally toss them into orbit with a thought.
It would be interesting to see how magic at the level on Markus’s world would play out.
The way I’ve written it in Worlds Apart the magic of Markus’s world is really just another branch of physics blended with psychology. There are limits and it behaves in a consistent manner. Isaac Bonewits in his book Real Magic put forward the argument that magic is in fact a science. I took that thought and jacked the power level to make it more interesting.I will say this much. Markus’s world may have had their World War Three, but they are far more environmentally conscious than we are. Maybe that comes from their use of magic which flows from the life in the natural world.
7. With Alcina and Markus being from different universes, and the differences/similarities between different religions, was it a commentary on the fact that we are all the same in the most basic sense, on the inside?
It wasn’t an intentional commentary, but when I think about it that definitely is there. We are all at our core the same. Because we all have to eat, drink, sleep, breathe and go to the bathroom we come from a common foundation. In Jungian psychology there is the collective unconscious. I’ve always viewed the concept like houses having the same floor plan. You’ll know where the bathroom is in any of the houses built to the plan. What colour the walls are, whether the second bedroom is a kid’s room, guest room, study or some combination of these, is up for grabs.
So, the answer is yes, but it wasn’t one I consciously incorporated. Though the left brain will gladly take credit for the right brain’s hard work.
8. Did you intend for Worlds Apart to be such a social commentary from the start or did it happen naturally as the story went on?
I say this often. I intend for all my books to entertain from the start. That is the duty of fiction, to entertain. After that if it can educate or inspire it may transcend from good to great, but the foundation of entertainment must be there first. That said, I did want to deal with social issues. Conflict grows out of issues and I feel if the issues are grounded in reality it adds spice to the conflict. So I had an incentive to pick issues that cut close to the real world then expand on them in the fiction. So half and half is the most honest answer I can give.
9. Will you ever write a sequel to the story?
Maybe one day. I have to market several novels that are sitting on my hard drive, write the sequel to Nukekubi (collectively that series will be called The Chronicles of Ray McAndrews); find a new home for Tinker’s Plague (sadly the publisher went out of business) and it’s first sequel, Tinker’s Sea; finally get enough time to work on a comedic, cyberpunk, romance called Cats I’ve been trying to do for over a year and have been perpetually distracted from.
I do have some vague ideas for how I would do a sequel to Worlds Apart. Basically, the elements I would exploit are that Markus has to finish scouting our world for transfer points, Carl is still alive and well, (excluding his mental state which was always a little questionable), Alcina was healed with other world magic, what it means to Alcina to move to Markus’s world, it’s not like she could hop on a jet and come back for a visit. There are threads that could be picked up in an organic way though I think I tied up the story nicely.
10. Can you give readers a sneak peek as to what projects you're working on for release in the future?
Hmm, I think I just did. I’ll give a taste of one I’m trying to market right now.
Thousands of years in the future humans are an unimportant species in an interstellar republic. Clones are considered property in the human territories though for the rest of the republic they are just another human under the law. (With a few exceptions local law supersedes galactic law).
Rowan is a studio clone enacting full, virtual-reality plus emotion entertainments that are one of humanities few exports. She believes it is the early twenty-first century and she is living in a small city on earth. She is actually in the “Set Region” on the colony planet Gaea. A No Intervention order (NI) is issued on Rowan by the studio which is in effect a death sentence given she is in an action based show. Ryan a tech at the studio, and ex-space navy captain, liberates Rowan and is trying to get her to Republic territory where she will be a person under the law. The studio and government forces are hunting Ryan and Rowan.This scene occurs after Ryan has liberated Rowan while they are using a broken-down, space-services, surplus ATV to travel to the Space Craft Ryan has been restoring as a hobby since he was decommissioned. Rowan was poisoned in the set region where she has lived up until this time.
“Sit down.” Ryan leapt to her side and helped lower her into the co-pilot’s chair.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I just can’t get enough oxygen.” Rowan’s skin had gone pale. Ryan took her pulse. It was racing.
“You’re probably still anaemic from the toxin. It will take a while for you to replace the red blood cells it destroyed.” Fumbling under his seat, Ryan pulled out a package about a decimetre square and passed it to her.
“Breakfast. Eat up, your body needs the fuel. Then you should go back to sleep.”
“I think I’m all slept out for a while. What’s that?”
Rowan pointed at the main screen where the steam pipe’s track way was displayed.“Just a geothermic energy transfer line.”
“Geothermic? That thing looks like it was put together by the same people who built Stonehenge. As far as I know there’s only one geothermic plant in North America, and it’s in Yellowstone. Somehow I think you could have found a parking space for your ship closer than that.”
Ryan began to sweat, and he gripped the arms of his command chair. “You should eat.”
“What did my father think you should tell me?”
Rowan’s face was pure focus.“You need to rest, regain your strength. Eat your ration pack. I’ll explain everything when you’re stronger.”
“No way, buster. You’ll explain now, or I... or I’ll...”
“What? Rowan, trust me. I do have your best interests at heart. Now eat your rations, and go back to bed, like a good girl.”
Red tinted Rowan’s cheeks despite her pallor. “Don’t you dare pull that little girl garbage with me. You want me to eat, fine! Tell me what’s going on and I’ll eat. Keep silent and I’ll starve myself.” Rowan stared at him defiantly.
“I always did have a thing for strong-willed women.” Ryan shook his head disparagingly.
“I’ll take that as a compliment, I think. Now spill.”
Ryan nodded. “After we’re underway, I promise. I’d have to tell you eventually anyway, and I need you to eat, but, for now, only the short version. You need to recover your strength.”
“I can live with that.” Rowan released the tab at the side of the ration box. The box folded out into a tray. “Sausage and eggs with a side of toast, and it’s hot.”
“You need the protein, and there’s no excuse for bad food when you apply good tech.”
Rowan picked up the black fork from the side of the tray. It was cool to the touch and slick against her fingers. “What is this made of?”
“Polycarbonate. About a hundred times stronger than tempered steel.”
“Star dust.” She stabbed her sausage and took a bite. It was pleasant, far from the best she’d had but better than her father’s rare attempts at making breakfast. At the thought of Gunther she hung her head.
Ryan saw pain cross her features. He wanted to ask why, but over half a century of marriage had taught him that sometimes it was best to give a woman her space. “I’m going to go out to prep the vehicle. I’ll only be a few minutes.”
“Okay then you tell me everything?”
“Everything is an awful lot. One-thousand-five-hundred and fifty-seven years is a long time.”
Rowan’s mouth dropped open as Ryan moved to the troop compartment.
The ATV jolted over the bedrock plain. The liquid-nitrogen feed masking its heat signature was perfect. The batteries were sinking fast.
Rowan stared at the man beside her, who kept his eyes on the screen in front of him. She felt sick, and she knew it wasn’t just from the poison’s effects.
“Just an entertainment? All those people died so somebody could watch TV? Farley cheated on me so people could have a cheap thrill?”
“Not like TV. It’s a full experience, all five senses, plus emotion. They tried to do thought, but the process is too complex.” Ryan’s voice was flat.
Rowan shook her head. She couldn’t believe it, wouldn’t believe it. It was too big, but in an odd way made sense of so much. Taking a deep breath, she focussed on a minor point, hoping that if she took it in little bites, she could wrap her brain around it. “Why the early twenty-first century?”
Ryan maneuvered around an area of sand that would show his tire marks. “By the mid twenty-first century any university lab would have had the equipment to spot some of the control vectors we use. They couldn’t make complex nano-bots, but they could spot them and get a good idea of what they were for. The clones have to be kept in the dark for the system to work.”
“You are a real bastard.” Tears came to Rowan’s eyes. “We’re people. You turned us into puppets.”
“Rowan, understand this. You aren’t a person, not on this world. You’re studio property, and I’ve stolen you.”
“You can’t own people, that sl--.”
”Don’t you think I know that? They don’t admit it though. Rowan, you were grown in a tank until your body was fifteen years old. Your memories were compiled out of archives of other clone’s experiences then imprinted on your brain. The process took less than a year.”
“Less... That time I fell off the horse, and my Dad picked me up and put me back on so that I wouldn’t be afraid of them?”
“Stock file, I don’t know the code designation, creation wasn’t my department.”
“When Anitose saved my Mom from cancer by making her a cyborg.”
“Your mother was a perfectly healthy clone, except for the studio’s tinkering. I wasn’t in on the start of the series.”
“She suffered so much. She hated herself so much, for so long, because she wasn’t totally human.”
“That’s e-entertainments. I don’t make the rules.”
“How could you?” Tears tickled over Rowan’s enraged features.Ryan bit his cheek then spoke softly. ”I couldn’t... not anymore. I couldn’t let you die.” He rubbed the back of his neck; the muscles were like ropes. “Look, there’s over a thousand years of catching up you need to do, and we aren’t going to do it today. Go to bed, let your body heal.”
11. Worlds Apart is not your first novel. What can you tell readers about your previous works?
Well, the laundry list is below.
Tinker’s Plague: A post-apocalyptic, science fiction, medical and political thriller, Available in paperback from the author. (The publisher went out of business)
Slaves of Love: e-book: A futuristic detective story of love and madness. ISBN: 978-1-9269839-04-2
The Hollow Curse: e-book: A centuries spanning tale of love and obsession. ISBN: 978-1-897532-53-9 Available from Club Lighthouse Publishing: www.clublighthousepublishing.com
Nukekubi: A paranormal, detective novel, ISBN 978-0-9867633-6-6 - eISBN. 978-0-9867633-7-3
Worlds Apart: A paranormal Romance, ISBN eISBNAvailable in paperback and e-book formats from Dark Dragon Publishing: www.darkdragonpublishing.com
War of the Worlds 2030: Dark, Military SF, Romance, ISBN: eBook ISBN: 9781629290492 | Print ISBN: 9781629290508 Available in paperback and e-book formats from Damnation Books: www.damnationbooks.com
I suggest going to my website: www.stephenpearl.com for more information you’ll find reviews, free first chapters and a host of information on each book. To go into more detail then I have here would become space prohibitive.
12. Would you like to see any of your work made into a movie?
I’d love to see a TV series based on Tinker’s Plague and or Nukekubi (The Chronicles of Ray McAndrews.) War of the Worlds 2030 might translate well into a movie. I of course would love to have anything produced for screen as it means visibility and money. I have written a couple of scripts. Triangle of Fire a sf designed to be low budget and a movie version of Nukekubi. One lives in hope.
13. What would you most like readers to take from Worlds Apart?
One, the memory of an entertaining read.
Then, Accept the differences because they are what make the world interesting and allow us to grow. The divine has many faces do not focus so much on one you close your eyes to the wisdom of the others. Finally, let’s try to be nice to each other for a change. Isn’t that really what the core of all positive faiths is saying?
14. Are any of your characters based on real people or are they wholly imaginary?
They are all partially based on elements of real people. Alcina is about one quarter my wife, one quarter my favorite actress, or at least my perception of my favorite actress, a mix of other women I’ve known, and maybe a quarter my own creation. The proportions vary with my mood. I’ll be writing and find I lifted a gesture or turn of phrase from someone I know. The trick is blending the elements to be consistent. There is a bit of me in Markus, epically the literacy handicap, and his feelings about people who talk in a crowded classroom.
I’ve taught a little at the college level and I wish I could pull his trick. (Yes, I’m going to make you read the book to find out what it is. I’m a meany.) I also supplied the swimming and first aid aspects of my characters. Ray from Nukekubi, Markus and Alcina from Worlds Apart. I was a lifeguard / swim instructor for longer than I like to admit. A lot of it comes down to write what you know.
15. Thank you for participating in this interview! Can you please leave the readers with three things that they would be surprised to know about you?
I’m actually quite shy. I’m a reasonable actor and put on a face for public appearances, but I’d rather be walking in the woods than at most social functions.
I have industrial hearing loss, which means I hear quite well, but I have little or no capacity for sorting background noise. Bars are a joy and a half.
I’ve spent a good deal of time dressed up as a noble from the middle ages hitting people with sticks. I was in the Society for Creative Anachronism for about nine years. It was fun until it wasn’t anymore, then I left. I have fond memories and recommend the club if you like history, crafts and want to put on a metal suit and hit people with sticks.
Find Stephen B. Pearl via the following online links:
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