Author Interview – Session 4
Q: So let’s back up a bit and look at the wider picture. We’ve been talking about the new book, Rumi’s Field, but not all of my readers will have read All of the Above. Can you talk about the first book, and tell us about the larger story you call None So Blind?
A: Sure. The series as a whole follows a number of characters as they make their ways through a rapidly shifting world. At the heart of the story are the American President, Linda Travis, and her husband, Cole Thomas. Around them is a suite of other characters: Cole’s three children, members of Linda’s government and staff, Cole’s brother, Carl, known as Obie, some members of the hidden elite government, a few aliens and hybrids, a band of Inuit. Throw in a few dogs and cats and a rabbit or two and we’ve got ourselves a show.
Q: And the show’s about what, exactly?
A: It’s a story about awakening, and what one does upon awakening, and how one might step into a very different worldview from the one you were born and raised in.
Q: Would you say, then, that All of the Above is about first waking up?
A: I think so, yes. Linda Travis wakes up to the fact that there are non-human intelligences involved in human affairs, and that there is a vast, powerful, hidden layer of elite human control operating in the background. She and Cole wake up to the dire environmental situation on planet Earth, and they wake up to each other, and the love that blossoms between them. And they begin to wake up to the notion that the foundational worldview of scientific materialism into which they were born is limited, and doesn’t hold up in the face of their experience.
Q: The title itself points to that, doesn’t it? All of the Above. You use it not only as a descriptor for the aliens, but as a way of saying that the truth is always far more complex and nuanced than any simple answer or belief might indicate.
A: Yep. One of my favorite quotes comes from the quantum physicist Niels Bohr: “the opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.”
Q: That’s a good one.
A: Here’s another from Bohr: “how wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.”
Q: Fun! So tell us what these mean for you.
A: Both of these quotes point to the rich, nuanced, often contradictory nature of truth and experience.
Q: Can you give an example of what you mean?
A: Sure. You can go through your life believing that “selfishness is bad,” and that we are here to take care of each other. Or you could go through life thinking that “it’s all about you,” and that selfishness is a good thing. But you can also hover in the seeming paradox that both of these statements regarding selfishness contain an essential truth about the human experience. You can see that neither single belief suffices alone, that “taking care of others and ignoring the self” is as limiting and damaging as “taking care of yourself and ignoring others,” and that holding onto both of these ideas at the same time gives you greater access to living a fulfilling life.
Another example might be the title of the series itself: None So Blind. The phrase comes from the larger quote: “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” The notion is thought to derive, ultimately, from the King James Bible, Jeremiah 5:21, but is attributed in this form to John Heywood, though Jonathan Swift also used it. It points to something we have experience with, which is that it’s really difficult to get somebody to see something that they are willfully trying to ignore. In this way, it operates in the same way as that famous Upton Sinclair quote: “it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
Interestingly, there’s another form of this quote that you’ll run into: there are none so blind as those who cannot see.” It’s the difference here that reveals the nuance. Is “not seeing” a matter of “will not” or “cannot”? It is willfulness or ability? Should we blame people for their willful disregard, or have compassion for them and their limited capacities? And can we not think of even their willfulness as a result of their ability? I mean, some people have the ability to notice their willful disregard of information and override those reactions. Some don’t. So what’s the truth here? We have experience with both and all of these situations in this world. There is truth both in “will not” and “cannot.” We need both of these notions, to live a more nuanced life.
Q: Got it. So how does this figure into your story?
A: I think it constellates most clearly in the mandate Linda Travis accepts by the end of the first book: her job, as President, is to not only lead her people through the unraveling of current social systems, but to help them “find some way to reach up to the stars.” She and Cole are forced into the realization that they live in a time that can be seen at once as “bad,” since it includes the collapsing of an old worldview and culture, which entails a great deal of death and destruction, but can also be seen as “good,” since it represents a new birth, a next step, a beginning of something else. As Richard Bach said in Illusions, “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”
Q: How does the phrase “all of the above” describe the aliens?
A: I’ve spent years closely following the global environmental, energy, and economic situation. I’ve spent even more years pondering the enigma we call “aliens” or “UFOs.” In both of these realms, I observe a strong tendency to seek simple answers and easy solutions, to make a claim to a more definite understanding than the evidence really allows for. The global predicament is either a “non issue,” or is “predictable,” is “bad” and “awful,” and the present systems are “evil” or “stupid” or “unsustainable.” Likewise, the tendency is to regard “aliens,” if one regards them as real at all, as either “good” or “bad,” and to hold the word “UFO” as synonymous with the word “spaceship,” meaning that “aliens” are physical lifeforms from other star systems who visit us in technological vehicles.
Q: Spam in a can.
A: Right. Spam in a can.
Q: But it’s more complex than that, you’re saying.
A: That would be my observation. There are many facets through which we can view our present collective predicament on Earth, and how it will all turn out is largely unknowable, I think, though many good guesses can be made about some aspects of the matter. And the UFO evidence is far more complex, strange, and assumption-busting than the phrase “spam in a can” leaves room for. Once you delve deeply into either of these two realms, you begin to see that there is, indeed, a much more nuanced conversation going on than the articles, essays, and ALL CAPS WEBSITES might indicate, at least amongst a small portion of the participants.
I remember when I was in seminary, taking Bible and theology classes. The professor would explain something about the real meaning of some Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic word or phrase, or discuss the deep debates that have gone on for centuries about this or that point of theology or creed or ritual, and I’d be incredulous. “Why don’t people know about this?” I’d ask. We’d all just shake our heads. It seems that very little of this more nuanced understanding manages to “trickle down into the pews.” Likewise for the more nuanced understandings of societal collapse, or of the so-called “extra-terrestrials” and their “flying machines.”
So, for me, “all of the above” points to that… that the truth that’s out there is vast and amazing and contradictory and strange and highly variable and impossible to capture with any single answer. The image that resonates with me is that the universe is like a wild, extravagant block party, peopled with all sorts of lifeforms in a multitude of “bands” or “layers” or “corners” of reality, a Cosmic swirl of consciousness and materiality and non-materiality and thought and love and time and space and possibility and being. Because humans often crave certainty and are uncomfortable holding paradox, they are too often all-too-ready to “collapse the waveform of consciousness and possibility into the hard matter of belief.” I understand and resonate with that wish for certainty and answers. Somehow, in these discussions, I am able to hold the questions.
Q: And “collapsing the waveform” gets in the way of what you said during our last session, about how these times are demanding of us that we become more conscious, mature individuals, and that we create a more conscious, mature society.
A: Yes. Following such people as Jacques Vallée, Terence McKenna, and Daniel Quinn, I think these times are asking us to call into question the foundational assumptions of the dominant global culture, and the underlying metaphysics of “scientific materialism,” to give up the arrogant belief that we in this time and culture have got it all figured out. I think that both the unraveling of current systems in response to huge shifts in environment and energy and economy, and the greater presence of, or awareness of, strange lights in the sky, act as what Vallée called “control systems,” mechanisms that push and guide us – or at least those who are ready, able, and willing to be pushed and guided – to question the limitations of our current understandings, and toward a deeper, more nuanced understanding of reality itself.
Q: So… lots to think about and process here. Are you ever accused of being too smart? (smiles)
A: (laughing) Well, I’m just going with your questions here, and following my fascinations, and trying to explain where I’m coming from. You’re asking deep questions. But, yeah. Sometimes I hear that. But I don’t buy the notion that my writing won’t have widespread appeal just because it’s “smart.” I’ve spent too much time in the world of science fiction to believe that. I think the sci-fi genre is the best place for precisely this sort of conversation. It’s a place where we can hold up beliefs and cultures and paradigms and assumptions and examine them openly and honestly.
Since sci-fi stories happen “once removed,” in a very different, far-off time or place, and play out in the lives and thoughts of fictional characters, they allows us to do an “end run” around the egoic reactions which we might expect to be triggered in the presence of otherwise challenging ideas and disturbing notions. Though it may not look like it – partly because it doesn’t show up on the surface of popular mainstream media, and partly because there are strong societal pressures that cause people to hide certain aspects of themselves – I think there are a great many really smart people out there who are hungry for the very sorts of deeper, more nuanced conversations that fascinate me. I think science-fiction is one of the places they go to find those conversations.
Q: Science fiction is the “spoonful of sugar” that makes “the medicine go down?”
A: Spoonful of Altarian Hyper-Nectar, maybe. But you get my point, right? Sometimes we need to approach new or challenging ideas in a more sideways manner, so they don’t overpower us before we sneak up and wrestle them to the ground. It seems to be how things evolve. New paradigms arise a meme at a time as old world-views die slowly away, and we get there almost as if by magic, rather than conscious effort. A direct attempt to confront the assumptions and beliefs in place can feel pedantic and dull and moralistic, and can provoke resistance. That’s why, for myself as a novelist, my first and most important task is to write a “rollicking good yarn” filled with believable characters that people care about.
Q: And have you succeeded at that?
A: I think so. Go read my Amazon reviews and tell me what you think.