Interview with Timothy Scott Bennett

So let's start by talking about your new book sitting here on the table. It looks pretty thick.
(laughing) Yeah, it's a whopper all right. It's called Rumi's Field, it's a sequel to All of the Above, and it picks up the story approximately three years later, following many of the characters from the first book, as well as a great many new ones that stumbled onto the playing field as I wrote. Were we in an elevator and I only had thirty seconds, I'd give you the rough draft of my tagline:

As the world falls further down the stairwell of environmental and societal collapse, President Linda Travis meets with a member of the Secret Elite Rulers of the World to discuss the intentional reduction of the global human population.
Hijinks ensue, no doubt.
No doubt.
That's... uh... quite a topic you've chosen there. No wonder you needed so many pages.
That's part of it, yes. The discussion between Linda and the man she knows as the Fisherman is long and far-ranging, and the topic takes a great deal of time to unpack and examine. But there are a number of subplots and side stories that play out at the same time. Unlike All of the Above, which tended to stick closely to Linda and Cole as they had their series of adventures, Rumi's Field plays out in parallel, as we jump back and forth from character to character and situation to situation.
That sounds like fun. Was it more difficult to write it that way?
It did require more mental juggling on my part, yes. But it was an exciting challenge and a fascinating process.
So how did you decide to write about "the intentional reduction of the global human population"? I mean... that's some fairly rocky ground to walk upon, isn't it?
Well, first, I would say that I didn't "decide." It was given to me to do, and I did it. Second, it's a question that's out there, wandering around in the dominant global culture. You start looking at the environmental situation and it becomes immediately apparent that the exponential rise of the human population is a key facet of the present planetary predicament. And soon enough, in true If-you-could-go-back-in-time-and-kill-Adolf-Hitler-would-you? fashion, people begin to wonder whether, if there were a way to quickly reduce the human population, would they take it? I know I've thought about it. I'm sure others have as well. But it's not a topic for polite conversation, so we have to pretend that we don't think about it.
Don't you think-
Hold on. Let me finish my thought. Third, I would say that the question of intentional population reduction isn't really the point of the book, so much as a vehicle I use that allows me to explore other things.
Okay. So... lots to talk about here. Start by telling me what you mean when you say you didn't "decide" to write about it. Who gave this to you to write about?
I don't know, really. Or I do, but I'm not sure how to speak of it. I mean, I could answer that question in lots of ways. My subconscious? The Muse? The Source? The Great Hologram? The Morphic Field? The gods? The ancestors? When I say it was given to me to do, that I didn't decide, I'm speaking to my feeling experience of the process. I don't feel like I had a choice. I do feel like the story was given to me from something outside, beyond, above, and other than my rational, thinking, deciding egoic mind.
Any chance that's just a way to put the responsibility for writing about this topic on someone besides yourself?
(smiling) Ouch.
Sorry. I'll take you off the hook. Because I think you're right. The question is out there. I've thought about it as well, just as you say. I think lots of people have. And I, for one, am glad that you listened to the gods, or whomever,
Q: (continued) and wrote about it.

A: Thanks. It's interesting. I mean, I can feel myself flinching as I discuss this. It's so not okay, to think about and talk about such things. There's so much pressure to remain positive, and not without good reason. And, collectively, I think, we're sitting on a huge, pressurized well of fear and grief and loss and shame and guilt and longing and rage and hope, a powder keg of suppressed feeling. So it feels like we have to be very careful about what we think about, and talk about, and feel about. Because if we open just a tiny hole to peer inside, the whole thing might blow up on u
So, then... if it feels risky to talk about it, why are you talking about it?
Well, the book's going to come out soon and this discussion is in it. I can't hide it. It's right there, black words on white paper, easy to see. So I figure I'd better come clean from the get-go. Otherwise, I'll end up with a stack of returns.
My guess is that people are secretly aching to talk about such things. If, as a culture, we're looking at the future and wondering if humans will survive, then it feels natural to me to also ponder what would happen should we be bring intention
Q: (continued) to the matter. It's not really a new idea. You can see it at work on the personal level. When a person gets a fatal diagnosis, one of the things many of them ponder is the possibility of suicide. Going out on their own schedule, before it gets really painful. I think people do wonder whether there is some secret, elite group out there, plotting such things. You just allow us to meet one of them: the Fisherman.

A: Well, the problem is that, at that larger scale, we go beyond the individual question of suicide to the larger and much more delicate questions of assisted suicide, murder, and genocide. But, personally, I'm fascinated by these questions, and I think that others are as well. And I think science fiction is the perfect place in which to think and talk about such matters. So it may turn out that this notion that feels really risky when I talk about it is actually one of the things that helps my writing find its larger audience. "Going for the jugular," as Natalie Goldberg says.
Well, you hit mine, for sure. So if "intentional population reduction" isn't really the point, so much as a vehicle for you to explore other things, what are the other things?
Thanks. I was hoping you'd go there next. Because it's the "other things" that I am most interested in. When the Fisherman confronts Linda Travis with this question, she's forced to confront the larger issues around it. The nature of reality. The truth about consciousness, death, and what lies beyond. The judgments of "right and wrong" and "good and evil" through which we view these things. The possibility that most people are stuck viewing the questions of societal and environmental collapse through the limited and obscuring lens of scientific materialism. The possibility that there is much more going on here than the dominant global paradigm allows most people to see. That's why the book is titled the way it is. The Fisherman calls the place they are meeting "Rumi's field," referring to a Rumi poem Linda first heard from her brother-in-law Obie in All of the Above. It's a land that lies beyond those judgments of right and wrong. An open space in which true dialogue can happen, and the deep questioning of assumptions and beliefs and language can occur.
I have the poem right here. (reading) Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other"
Q: (continued) doesn't make any sense. (stops reading) That sounds like quite a place.

A: Yeah, but it can feel like a long journey, to get there.
So where's this "Rumi's field" in the new book?
On the surface of Mars.
Let's talk about some of the other "side stories." Which characters from All of the Above made it into Rumi's Field? Which didn't? And while Linda is having this long conversation with the Fisherman, what are the other characters up to?
(smiling) Times are so urgent you have to ask your questions three at a time, eh?
(laughing) Good one! That was something Obie said to Linda Travis in Book One.
Yep. And it gets repeated, to different effect, in Rumi's Field. But, to answer your questions, I'll start with who didn't make it, since that's a shorter list.
Okay.
The Inuit. Sina and Aamai and Utterpok and the rest. They've "gone out onto the ice" and don't appear in Rumi's Field, though I have a suspicion we'll see them in Book Three. Ben, Cole's father, has died in the time between Book One and Book Two. The General makes a very brief appearance at the beginning of Book Two, but then disappears. And most of the characters who made their final exits in All of the Above - Pooch, Ruth, Immaqa, Mr. Random, Mork - they seem to be gone for good, though nothing is certain, since there's Book Three still to come.
Most?
Well, some characters are just too much fun to let a little thing like death stand in the way of their continued existence.
Care to give us a hint?
Let's just say that getting sucked into a rubix, which is a sort of tamed black hole, doesn't necessarily obliterate you from the Cosmos.
Got it. And that's an ongoing theme or device in your stories: that death may not mean the end of consciousness.
Right.
So, other than the missing characters you've mentioned, the gang's all here?
I think so, yeah. They're back, in larger roles, or smaller, or in very different forms or guises. Cole and Linda. Iain, Emily and Grace, and their dog, Dennis. Mary, Keeley, Stan Walsh, Stendahl Banks. They all figure into one or more parallel storylines. There are kidnappings and rescues and confrontations that play out. Confusions of identity and sleights-of-hand and healing journeys into the past. There's a global pandemic to deal with, and an enormous hurricane. There's the secret elite and their mysterious Plan. And there are those pesky aliens, meddling in human affairs.
Is Spud around?
We see Spud as much as he allows us. He can be quite furtive, you know, and has the power to distract our thoughts so that we don't notice him. But, yeah, he's around, doing his enigmatic alien thing.
It's interesting that you mention a hurricane, as I read once how you describe your writing process using the hurricane as metaphor.
Yeah, I added a hurricane on purpose. The process I went through with both of these books felt like a hurricane to me. I'm going through my life, attending to other things, not noticing that the deep ocean of ideas inside of me has warmed considerably. Eventually, a storm begins to gather far out to sea. It builds, it strengthens, it begins to gyre and gimble. Soon it's a huge storm, heading right at me. It makes landfall, blows through me, tearing the roof off of my days and uprooting my routines. Eventually, the power of the storm lessons and it moves on. Forces are rebalanced. The air is clean and fresh. The sun returns.
And that's how it feels inside, to write these books?
It's a way to describe it, yes. And the stories themselves follow the same course. When the books begin, we're at a point where huge forces are out of balance, swirling and blowing and ready to hit the characters head on, and I follow them as their lives are disrupted and their assumptions are uprooted, and let it play out until balance is restored and the sun returns.
So you just went ahead and put an actual storm into Rumi's Field?
Well, as I followed the characters, I couldn't help but notice that a real hurricane was brewing out to sea, so I was compelled to write that in. Much of the story is set on the Maine coast, out on the water, or on Squirrel Island. What better place for a hurricane to hit?
The Maine coast isn't really hurricane country, is it?
After a few more years of climate destabilization, who knows?
Right. So, you've also got new characters, you said.
I do. A number of them, but a few who stand out. There's Gabrielle, the daughter of the Canadian MP who betrayed Linda and Cole in All of the Above. She steps up for a prominent role in Rumi's Field, mostly playing opposite another so-called "alien," Zacharael, who made a few rather mysterious appearances in Book One. Her father's role is expanded as well, as a way to reveal more about the secret elite. There's Linda and Cole's cook and confidant, Ness, who features in a storyline involving the kids, and who ends up being more than she at first seems. There's a group called The Church of the Stranger, some members of which get involved with Cole and Stan. And then there's Mihos, a cat, who lives in two different layers of reality, as all cats do, and acts as both guide and rescuer for Iain, Emily, and Grace. Of all the new characters, Mihos was the most fun to hang out with. He's a hoot.
I remember that there was a great deal of "dog energy" in All of the Above.
Yep. And now we've got "cat energy" as well. And "cat versus dog" energy. Mihos appeared from nowhere, literally "out of the darkness." He had to be written. The cats demanded equal time.
So apart from cats, dogs, and aliens, there's the Fisherman, who first appeared in the final pages of All of the Above, and who plays a central role in Rumi's Field. Did you know, at the the time you wrote Book One, what his role
Q: (continued) would be in the second book?

A: I didn't know much, no. Both All of the Above and the third book, Imbolc, began downloading into my conscious awareness back, oh, almost twenty years ago now. I'd written the first few chapters of both, though All of the Above was called The Black Box back then. But while it was time to start viewing and pondering these stories, it wasn't time to finish them yet. I wasn't ready. There were things I had to go through first - information I had to acquire and ideas I had to grasp - in order to become the proper channel for these tales, so to speak.

It wasn't until maybe seven years ago that I realized that the two books were connected, that they were really stories about the same characters at different times in a longer narrative. And it wasn't until All of the Above was almost finished that I really understood that there needed to be a third book that sat between them. The Fisherman's brief phone call at the end of Book One was a nod to that. I knew there had to be another story. The Fisherman spoke up and laid claim to being a part of it. Beyond that, I really didn't know anything more about him than Cole or Linda did. He called in the middle of the night, disturbing their sleep. I listened in on the call. That was it.
To the extent that it's true that every great story revolves around a conflict, and that every conflict requires some sort of protagonist, then the Fisherman showed for the the auditions and nailed that part.
Exactly. Couldn't have said it better myself. The Fisherman is to Rumi's Field who Agent Theodore Rice was to All of the Above. But while Rice was a nasty and dangerous sociopath, the Fisherman is a gentler sort, operating more from necessity and forethought than reckless impulsivity. He tells Linda, early on in their conversation, that he hopes she will one day understand and love him. Agent Rice did not care about such matters.
So in writing the Fisherman character, you're giving voice to "one of them," somebody on the inside of the elite, wealthy, secret layers of societal management or control, a "one-percenter" who bears at least some portion of the responsibility
Q: (continued) for the exploitation of the planet and the misery of Earth's living creatures, humans included. Do you fear any blow back from having done so?

A: How so?
Well, to the extent that you've worked to make him a sympathetic character, somebody whose goals and motivations and values can be understood. Isn't that like writing a biography of Hitler or Pol Pot or Idi Amin and focusing on their love of music,
Q: (continued) their care for their families, and how they stopped to pet every dog they saw?

A: Hmmm... Well, I guess the Fisherman spoke up to challenge the human (or this culture's) tendency to create labels, assign blame, and paint the many facets of a complex phenomenon with the same brush. In observing people's conversations about the current state of the world, and especially how the blame and responsibility for our collective predicament is so often put on "them," I became fascinated with the prospect of getting a glimpse into who "them" really was. The Fisherman showed up to give me a guided tour. "A primer, of sorts," as he says.
So your goal is to view the wealthy elite, the "one-percenters," as more complex creatures than our simple labels might imply, both as a group and as individuals?
Right. That feels vitally important to me. In Rumi's Field I call these secrete elites, collectively, "The Families." Like all families, they are a varied and unruly bunch.
Why is it so important, to understand them?
If we don't seek to deeply understand the complexities of others, then how can we hope to fully grasp the complexities of our own selves? And if we don't understand our own selves - our thoughts, our reactions, our motivations, our values, our reasons, our hopes, our fears, our felt responses to the world, our hidden shame and our unacknowledged woundedness - how can we hope to become the more conscious, mature individuals these times seem to demand of us, or play our part in creating a more conscious, mature society?
Wow. You've thought about this a great deal, haven't you?
Sure. I think many people have thought about this. I know I've had the experience of not being understood, that I'm far more complex in terms of my values, goals, motivations, beliefs, and actions than can be captured by an easy label or quick judgment. If you were able to look at the world through my eyes, I think you'd come to see that I'm operating from the best of intentions, that I'm doing the best I can with what I have, and that my actions make sense, given my experiences in this life. I think there are lots of people who feel this way.
So the Fisherman is here to tell us that, seen from the inside, from his point of view, the actions and goals and values of these "Families" make sense?
Right. If we want to be understood, then do we not have a responsibility to try to understand others? Let's work that muscle a little harder, by applying it to a group of people that are generally scorned or hated, at least in certain circles.
What fun!
I thought so. Now, that doesn't mean that, just because they can be understood, those actions, goals, and values should always be condoned, or allowed to cause harm to others. The Fisherman himself would agree that many members of "the Families" are as bad as the genocidal maniacs you mentioned earlier, and with the notion that their actions in the world should be stopped or contained. He's just saying that their actions make sense when viewed from within, and that their containment, should people wish to try to contain them, should proceed not from hatred or easy judgment, but from deep understanding, even compassion.

Am I worried about blow back? Maybe. A bit. From some quarters. I know that Rumi's Field does challenge some societal assumptions. But I'll also be interested to learn whether the Fisherman pulls it off, so to speak. Whether the readers end up understanding and loving him, which he so desires from Linda Travis. The proof will be in the pudding, as they say. This is fiction, you remember. It's all "made up," the meaning of which would be a fascinating discussion in and of itself. But it's not made up from "whole cloth," I don't think. It feels like I was in touch with something real when I wrote it.
So how would you like to be more deeply understood?
To put it in the terms we've been using, I would say that I, too, love music and "stop and pet every dog I see." But I've also got my own set of limitations, confusions, quirks, blind spots, and differences that set me apart, my own shadows, my own unconscious aspects, my own seemingly incomprehensible actions, when viewed from the outside. There's a part of me that feels as nasty, impulsive, fearful, and judgmental as Agent Rice. There's another part of me that's more mature, gentle, reasoned, and hoping to connect and be understood, like the Fisherman. I can be moved by the intelligence and goodness of President Josiah Bartlet and revel in the evil scheming of President Frank Underwood, to bring a couple of other fictional presidents into the mix.
So, does it make sense to say that you are the Fisherman, that you are Agent Rice?
It's never so simple as that, I think. There are pieces of all of my characters that I resonate with. Not just Rice or the Fisherman but Linda, Cole, his kids, Mihos, Gabrielle, Mary, Zacharael, others. That's one of the great delights of writing fiction: I get to meet characters and see the world through their eyes, and find places of alignment and resonance between them and myself, as well as differences.
So being a novelist is a way of "working that muscle" you spoke of a moment ago, a way to train yourself in understanding others.
And of understanding myself. I'm a lifelong student of the human heart and mind and spirit, an "alien anthropologist" come to study these strange creatures amongst whom I walk. Having had to take on human form myself in order to do so, I get to study humanity from the inside as well. It has been... fascinating.
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
Q: (continued) 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.
And the show's about what, exactly?
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.
Would you say, then, that All of the Above is about first waking up?
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.
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.
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."
That's a good one.
Here's another from Bohr: "how wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress."
Fun! So tell us what these mean for you.
Both of these quotes point to the rich, nuanced, often contradictory nature of truth and experience.
Can you give an example of what you mean?
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.
Got it. So how does this figure into your story?
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."
How does the phrase "all of the above" describe the aliens?
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.
Spam in a can.
Right. Spam in a can.
But it's more complex than that, you're saying.
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.
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.
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.
So... lots to think about and process here. Are you ever accused of being too smart? (smiles)
(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 otherwise expect to occur 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.
Science fiction is the "spoonful of sugar" that makes "the medicine go down?"
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.
And have you succeeded at that?
I think so. Go read my Amazon reviews and tell me what you think.
So if All of the Above is about first waking up, then Rumi's Field is more about how your characters respond to what they encounter once they're awake?
Sure. Three years have passed since the end of All of the Above. During that time, Linda Travis strove valiantly to lead her nation toward finding a more sane response to the issues of global environmental destruction, economic instability, and resource depletion. She confronted the group that had served as the primary liaison, in the U.S., between the secret human elite and the alien presence, and that group has largely gone into hiding. It almost seemed as though both the aliens and the human elite had disappeared from world affairs.
And in Rumi's Field she finds out differently.
Yes. We meet her at the point where she's having to confront the limitations of her Presidential power to avert the laws of physics, chemistry, population dynamics, and human psychology. And we learn that there are far deeper levels of hidden elite power and control, and that they are enacting a centuries-old plan of their own.
You sound as if you're being careful with your words, not wanting to reveal too much.
I am, yes. I find stories much more fun when I don't know where they're going. I love the surprises around the next corner, the twists and turns, the slowly unfolding mysteries. I love guessing where they're going, and then seeing if I'm right. I'd hate to deprive my readers of that experience. I avoid spoilers whenever I can.
Thank you.
I saw a movie trailer yesterday, for the remake of Ben-Hur. In two and a half minutes, they told the entire story. Hit all the beats. Showed all the major characters, the primary conflict, the story arc. After watching that trailer, I knew that there was now no reason at all for me to see the movie itself, unless all I wanted was two hours of eye-candy. I'd already seen it. I knew exactly how it would resolve, how it would feel. And I was already bored with it. Contrast that with the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane. I've got a million reasons to see that one. I need to see it. It looks jam-packed with the sort of delicious reveals that I love, and the trailer told me only the tiny bit I needed to know to get me in the theater.
Okay. So, in that spirit, what would you like to say about Imbolc?
Um... not much. But I'll say what I can. We actually see a scene from Imbolc in Rumi's Field. A small "flash forward" that reveals something about Cole's story and points to a future he does not understand. In this small flash, he's an old man, walking through an ice-encrusted landscape, looking for his daughter, Grace, who's now grown.
So the story jumps far ahead, then.
About thirty years or so. And things have changed a great deal, as a direct result of the events in Rumi's Field. There've been more unravelings of the present social systems, and Linda's mandate to "reach up to the stars" has flowered in unexpected ways. But you probably shouldn't quote me on any of this.
Why's that?
Well, the story has yet to fully unfold in my consciousness. I know where it begins, and much of what has transpired in the time between, and I know some really juicy bits about where it's headed. But until I sit for long periods and view the characters as they live through the story, there's much that I don't know. That delicious revelation that happens when you read a book or watch a movie? It happens for me as I write the story as well. It's the thing that makes writing the most exciting and fun for me. I can't wait.
The story's called Imbolc, which, if memory serves, is the old Celtic festival roughly equivalent to the modern Groundhog's Day. A festival that celebrates the first signs of spring.
Yes. So winter has come. But now there's a new smell to the air, a slightly warmer breeze, and even a new bud or two, appearing on the trees. But I mean that metaphorically as well as physically. Lots of things are shifting.
Will Imbolc center around the same cast of characters?
It will center on Cole and Linda, for sure. And it will go more deeply into their relationship. Focusing more on their "love story," if you will. Around them will be many of the characters we've grown to know and love. And a cast of new folks will make their appearance, as we should also expect.
Cats and dogs included?
And a rabbit. One who's been with me for a very long time, and is finally getting the chance to play out his story. And we'll finally learn why I named my artisanal publishing company Blue Hag Books.
I cant' wait.
You'll have to. But hopefully not as long as you've had to wait for Rumi's Field.
Yeah. So let's talk about that. By the time you publish Book 2 this summer, five years will have passed since All of the Above came out. Say more about why it took you so long.
(sighing) Well, lots of reasons for that, I think. One we've already discussed. While Books 1 and 3 had downloaded at least partially into my consciousness many years ago, and had already manifested in a few chapters, Book 2 took more time for me to stop and sit with and remote view. I had to wait longer for it to download.
And you were using a 56K modem?
It felt like it sometimes, yeah. But that's only a small part of it. I think there were some things that sort of knocked the wind out of me, so to speak. The first being that, while I knew how to write a book, I had no idea how to forge the link between the book and its readers. Having made What a Way to Go, and having amassed a good-sized audience and email list as a result of our documentary, our blogging, and the many connections we made while doing the interview and screening tours, I was astounded to learn that documentary watchers were not necessarily science-fiction readers, and that those who had loved the movie were not automatically interested in following me down this new path. And if they weren't my readers, then who were my readers? I didn't know. And I didn't know how to reach them.
I've heard you say that, in your mind, All of the Above was the logical successor to your documentary, that it was the way you wanted or needed to continue the conversation you wanted to have.
Yes. But as Sally is fond of pointing out, my Aspergian mind tends to miss some things, and regards things as obvious that are, in reality, not obvious at all. I think she's probably right. The conversation I'm having in the None So Blind series, while sharing some themes with my former work, is also fundamentally different in some important ways. It's not the obvious "next step" that people will want or need to take. It's just a possible next conversation to have. It's the one that fascinates and excites me, to be sure. And I think it's a conversation that will fascinate and excite many, many others. But it turns out that I have to find that audience in a different way.
And that realization "knocked the wind out of you"?
Well, the lack of response knocked the wind out of me. I failed to easily find the larger audience I'd dreamt of. But the realization came much later, and is still unfolding.
And there were other things that knocked the wind out of you?
I think so, yes. One was just the busyness of daily life. There were houses to renovate, and Sally's many projects and businesses to support and help with. I also took a left turn into rock and roll for about eighteen months, hooking up with a group of musicians and singing and playing my electric mandolin and drumming a bit, stepping into an old, secret dream I had not allowed myself to even consider before. That took a great deal of my time and energy and consciousness.

But probably the biggest factor was that I had to go through some rather dark times of withdrawal and anxiety and grief and loss and self-examination. For me to write, I need a background of peaceful routine and a sense of safety. I'd lost what little I had of that, and it took me a long time to recover it.
But you've recovered it now?
I've recovered it enough to dive fully back into my work, yes. Anxiety remains a constant friend, though he doesn't call as often as he used to, and his voice is not quite so loud as it was. I've found I had to face head-on into the truth of my being, so that I could understand why my life had gone as it had gone, why it was going as it was going, and why so much of it felt hard and challenging and confusing. As it turns out, I am "afflicted" with both Asperger's Syndrome and very high IQ scores.
"Afflicted" is a funny term to apply to high IQ scores.
Sure. That's why I said it with scare quotes. And I don't actually consider either Aspergers or high IQ as an affliction. Both confer upon me a set of superpowers I'm quite glad to have, and I would trade neither of them in for a new rack of letters, to grab a metaphor from the Scrabble game. But so many things are two-edge swords, in a very all-of-the-above sort of way. While they convey certain advantages, both Aspergers and high IQ come with some significant costs attached to them. Those costs had begun to really add up in the last five years or so. They'd become a great weight on my soul, and showed up in every relationship I had, and interfered with my ability to simply calm down enough to sit and write, to feel safe in the Cosmos. So I had to take some time and sort my way through them. Declare psychological bankruptcy, if you will, and get the creditors off my back enough that I could rebuild my sense of self.
It sounds like you've done a great deal of that now.
I have. In a way, getting these two "diagnoses" allowed me, in Sally's words, to "get my ticket stamped." I was able to admit the truth of myself to myself, and then to others, which I do in my blog. I was able to find some new sources of peace and power. And now, knowing what my superpowers are, I'm able to consciously apply them to my work. I hadn't really "known" how smart I was, how able I was to learn and understand certain things, and how much ability I do have to forge connections with other people, even if only, or primarily, through the written word. Knowing that, I can dive in.

So I'm creating my own "crash course" in social media, blogging, writing and editing, marketing, and putting my work into the world in a way that others can find it. I feel "credentialed" now in a way that I did not before. I have great gifts and a unique way of seeing the world. And I know now that my writing is really good, and valuable to others, and is worthy of a larger audience.
I'm glad you've figured that out. When you read through your Amazon reviews, it seems like there are a bunch of people that already knew that about your work.
By talking about my previous failure to find a larger audience, I hope I don't sound ungrateful for the audience I did find. I'm so thankful for those who have read All of the Above, and especially for those who've taken the time to leave a review, or a comment on Facebook, or a like or a tweet or a follow or a share. This conversation that I'm having in my writing, it's beginning to feel really fun when I get to have that conversation with other real human beings, rather than just with the more abstract "Mind at Large." I can know, intellectually, that there's a large community of lurkers out there, people from whom writers will never hear directly. So in actuality, I won't ever really know exactly how big my audience might be, or who they are. But sometimes it's difficult to remember that, and feel the truth of it. And the circuit doesn't feel complete, when I don't trust that my stories are reaching the ears that want and need to hear them.
Speaking of lurkers, when you write about secret elite conspirators and their nefarious plans, do you ever wonder, or fear, that some of them are lurking out there, flagging you for watch lists or following you for potentia usefulness to their plan?
(laughing) Worry? Not at all. In fact, to the extent that there really are "secret elite conspirators" out there, which would be another topic altogether, I'm hoping to catch their attention.
Really? And why is that?
Because I'm fascinated by them. And I want to know the truth of things, and to see the world through their eyes, and understand better why things have gone the way they have gone. I wish the Fisherman would take me on a guided tour of the "breakaway civilization," if it exists as some people describe.
And the aliens? You want them reading your books?
Wouldn't that be interesting? I can imagine Spud, reading All of the Above, and shaking his head at the parts I got wrong. Maybe he should write an Amazon review!
Sometimes I have difficulty knowing when you're just joking.
You and me both, 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?
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.
What’s the first writing you do remember? I’m talking about stories here, rather than book reports and essays for school.
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.
And you’ve said that your current fiction writing is related to your documentary?
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.
So your fiction is a way to explore what might be learned?
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?”
Does that entail a certain distancing from your former profession as Doomsayer?
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.
And don’t forget the cats and dogs.
Right! Cats and dogs as well. What more could you want?
Published 2016-04-21.
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Books by This Author

All of the Above
Price: Free! Words: 165,560. Language: English. Published: March 16, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
When President Linda Travis is told of the human-alien conspiracy that secretly controls her government, she does something none of her predecessors dared to do: she runs. During the chase that ensues, Linda is forced to face fully the converging crises of energy, economy, and environment that threaten the entire world, and to confront deep assumptions about the nature of reality itself.