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Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Interview with author Gary Morgenstein
Mound Over Hell
A dystopian science
1. What really inspired
you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and
conveying it into a book? My wife Marcina Zaccaria
and I were having a Sunday breakfast of bagels and listening to The Beatles
when the idea popped into my head: what if I wrote a novel about baseball’s
last season ever in a dystopian America run by someone called Grandma? And I
was off to the races. Baseball and science
fiction are my two loves, and I’m also a political junkie and a history buff. The
beauty of writing speculative fiction is you build upon existing events and
take them to that next terrifying level, like Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,
George Orwell’s 1984 to Ray Bradbury’s
Fahrenheit 451. The greatness of
science fiction is asking “What if?” Then you have to answer it!
2. What is it about and
whom do you believe is your targeted reader? I think the
readers will be science fiction and baseball fans, and those interested in
current events. A Mound Over Hell is
set in 2098 following America’s defeat by Islam in World War Three. In this
world, all acts of patriotism, from flying the flag to singing the National
Anthem, are illegal. Social media has been banned under the Anti-Narcissism
Laws. Religion, associated with Islam, is also illegal. In a nation where
children are revered, abortion and the use of contraceptives are capital
offenses along with pedophilia. Banks, lawyers, psychologists and the
entertainment industry were banned by the Anti-Parasite Laws I and II. Robots
with faces are also outlawed; during the 2030s the AIs caused havoc by posing
as humans and blending into society.
A Mound Over Hell opens, baseball, a
sport now identified with treason, begins its final season ever, playing in
battered Amazon Stadium (formerly Yankee Stadium), the only remaining ballpark.
All of the nation’s stadiums were razed after the failed terrorist attack by
the pro-war, pro-baseball Miners at the Seventh Game of the 2065 Yankees-Cubs
play for out-of-shape players and attendance barely averages 15 fans a game.
Just as the sport is about dead, everything changes. Infused by the miraculous
appearance of great players from the past such as Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle
(and from the future, the greatest of them all, the female Mooshie Lopez),
baseball regains its popularity, only to become a pawn between those who want
peace -- Grandma is reaching out to dissident Muslims chafing under the tyranny
of the Caliphate -- and those who want another war.
3. What do you hope will
be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book? What should
remain with them long after putting it down? I’m
hesitant to ask readers to feel or think a certain way since that is entirely
their right in the magical relationship between writer and reader. I don’t
think a writer can say, oh you got that wrong. I didn’t mean that. Well if
that’s what the reader thinks, if that’s what they’ve gotten from the book,
that’s correct. Once I turned the novel into the publisher, it was officially out
of my hands. It’s in the hearts and minds of the readers who honor me by
spending time in my world. At best, I hope I’ve touched them in some way, made
them think, made them feel, made them laugh and oh, maybe even brought a tear
to their eyes, and certainly, I hope they remember and identify with some of the
characters. To me, the greatest triumph of a novelist is when their characters linger
in the mind.
4. What advice or words
of wisdom do you have for fellow writers? Write,
write, write. No one wants to hear about the idea you’ve had for twenty years. It’s
hard work and you have to be prepared to make sacrifices, like any goal. Above
everything, don’t be afraid. There’s very little quite so terrifying as the
blank page. Everyone feels that way. But once you’ve got it down, that’s when
the work begins. Writing is about editing and you have to be prepared to
discard what you’ve written, no matter how wonderful you think it once was. Oh,
and have a thick skin. A writer who thinks they won’t be criticized is like a
boxer who thinks he won’t get hit. Like Rocky, you just have to get up.
5. What trends in the
book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
I think the explosion in independent publishing
has been a transformative populist literary revolution, knocking down
traditional barriers and giving voices to writers and opportunities to indie
publishers, like my wonderful and supportive publisher BHC Press.
6. What great challenges
did you have in writing your book? Building the world was fun,
a society that has no ideological “isms” – other than the foundation of love
and ethics -- post-WW3, post-democracy. But when you create a new world, you
create rules which beget other rules which you must follow. For example, this
America sustained 13 million deaths in the war as well as nearly four million
children. The country must, quite simply, replenish the population, so
contraceptives are illegal. One of my main characters gets pregnant and as I
pondered dealing with that, I realized that abortion would also be illegal, as
would laws governing how a single pregnant woman, with no partner, would be
treated in a society where family was paramount.
7. If people can only
buy one book this month, why should it be yours? If you love baseball and sci-fi like the works of Philip K. Dick,
I think you’ll enjoy my novel. A Mound
Over Hell is quite different from anything you’ve ever read, an unusual
blend of science fiction, baseball and politics featuring memorable characters
in a nightmarish, uniquely drawn dystopian world, with humor. As one advance
critic said, it’s “disturbing and thought-provoking.” Plus it’s just the first
book in the series, so buckle up.
A Mound Over Hell is Morgenstein’s fifth novel. His
previous novels were Jesse’s Girl; Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman; Take Me Out to the Ballgame and The Man Who Wanted to Play Center Field for
the New York Yankees. A playwright as well, Morgenstein wrote the book for
the critically acclaimed off-Broadway rock musical The Anthem, as well as the sci-fi musical Mad Mel Saves the World. His stage dramas are A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx, Right on Target, Ponzi Man and Saving Stan.For more info,
please see: http://www.bhcpress.com/Books_Morgenstein_A_Mound_Over_Hell.html