Author Interview – Session 6
Q: So you said that both All of the Above and Imbolc were actually begun many years ago. Tell me more about your early writing career. When did realize that you were a writer? When did you start writing?
A: Hmmm… I have memories of reading a great deal as a child. I remember the little library we had in the back of the one-room-schoolhouse I attended K through 6, and finding books there about Native American myths and other “fantastic” things. I remember the stacks of comic books at my Aunt Jean’s cottage. I remember reading through paperbacks about UFOs. I remember a collection I read over and over, edited by Alfred Hitchcock and called Stories That Scared Even Me. I can still conjure some feelings I had as I read these things. But I don’t remember writing as a child. Perhaps I did. I just don’t really remember.
Q: What’s the first writing you do remember? I’m talking about stories here, rather than book reports and essays for school.
A: I remember doing a great deal of writing in college. There were many papers to compose for a variety of classes. I often added some “fiction,” some artistic element, writing an analytical paper as a play, for instance, or as a short story. I remember my profs liking what I did, if for no other reason than that my papers were probably different from the rest in the stack. I remember being especially taken by the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and let him “speak” in any number of papers I wrote.
At some point, as a young married man mostly at home raising kids, I turned my hand to more deliberate attempts at writing. I wrote the first few chapters of both the books you mentioned. I wrote part of a thriller. I wrote a number of books for children, and taught myself watercolors in order to illustrate the picture books, and even sent some out for possible publication, scoring my first rejection letters. I participated in a children’s book writer’s critique group for a while. Attended some conferences. My kids got involved in local theater, which meant I got involved in local theater, and I wrote a couple of plays. I wrote the occasional poem. I wrote a great many songs. At some point I got very focused on environmental issues, and wrote and published an environmental ‘zine for a while.
But life intervened, and I got in my own way, and I wasn’t really ready. It wasn’t until after I worked through the information contained in my documentary, What a Way to Go, that I could turn back to fiction and approach it seriously, as who I am now.
Q: And you’ve said that your current fiction writing is related to your documentary?
A: Well, after staring at the global environmental situation for so many years, I was wanting to step back and see what else was going on. If What a Way to Go was an attempt to take a wide-angle snapshot of the present planetary predicament, then what was the larger setting in which that snapshot was taken? All along, while focusing on the confluence of environmental, energy, and economic issues unfolding in the physical world, I continued to pay attention to the many other things that fascinated me: the UFO enigma, the psychology of belief and culture and paradigm, the evidence for a long-forgotten human past that had escaped the notice of mainstream scientists and historians, various bits of anomalous or “paranormal” data, new scientific and philosophical views of the nature of reality. Things like that.
My guiding question was: what is there to learn in this most surreal of times, when so much is uncertain? How can we grow, evolve, mature, and regain our sanity inside of what often feels like an insane culture? If an individual, faced with a fatal diagnosis, can go on to live the best year of his or her life (because all of the crap gets stripped away in the face of one’s mortality) and possibly find peace, fulfillment, gratitude, even remission, or surprising new twists, or miraculous healing, then how can that work in my own life, as I look at the world situation, and face the “fatal diagnosis” for the present human-built world and the dominant global paradigm? And how can that work for entire cultures? How can I grow and change and learn in such a way that actually, in some way I might only barely comprehend, redeem the current global situation? It seemed a shame to me, that we might go the way of the dodo without at least learning from the experience.
Q: So your fiction is a way to explore what might be learned?
A: Yep. I’m taking the world situation as a starting point and then pointing at all of these others things and saying “Look! This is also part of our present situation. How might this impact what we think and how we live and where we’re going? And what happens when we look at all of these things together?”
Q: Does that entail a certain distancing from your former profession as Doomsayer?
A: I think The Story of Doom™ remains a powerful tool in my toolbox, a useful lens through which to look at the Cosmos. It’s just not the only tool in my toolbox. The stories of Doom™ and Collapse™ feel far too limiting and belief-bound for me, to use them as the only narratives through which I can live my life. Like Daniel Quinn illustrated in The Story of B, I make my art through bricolage, bringing all sorts of things together in new ways, drawing from what’s available to me, the many seemingly unrelated bits of data and idea which fascinate me. So, let’s take Doom and Aliens and Conspiracies and Consciousness and a bunch of Fringe Ideas, mash them all together, and tell a great story! Maybe there’s a bigger story we can tell about ourselves as well.
Q: And don’t forget the cats and dogs.
A: Right! Cats and dogs as well. What more could you want?