What if you take four amazing and talented writers and pose questions for a Scifi roundtable like no other.  This is no longer a what if…..

The FoF is honored to host our second Sci-fi roundtable featuring:

 

A Mound Over Hell author, Gary Morgenstein

Speciman 959 author, Robert Davies

In the Dark author, Rebecca Fox

Serpent Rising author, Victor Acquista

 

Gary Morgenstein

 

1) How much are you impacted in your speculative writing by the current divisive political situation? Can you give an example where you’ve incorporated contemporary events or where you purposely avoid them?

I use today as fuel for thought and then fictionalize everything. As a science fiction writer, it’s my job to be imaginative and creative. I think it’s too easy, somewhat lazy and creatively stifling to write something that’s so rooted in the concrete of the present. In my dystopian sci fi-baseball book A Mound Over Hell, which is set in 2098 after America’s lost WW3 to Islam, I only mention the death of democracy through fictional events and avoid referencing all contemporary baseball players. Offering alternative futures is different than predicting. What science fiction does so effectively is demonstrate that tomorrow can be as tumultuous as today and yesterday. It is a history lesson using the future. And we all need more history lessons.

 

2) Do you think a writer should be publicly identified with a political ideology or does that risk alienating part of their audience?

I’m a political independent who, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, won’t belong to any political party that’d have me as a member. Sci fi writers walk this tightrope. You must be brave and have a strong voice. But I don’t always agree with everything in my world nor how my characters behave or their beliefs. Judging is the job of the reader. Especially in this cancel culture society, I think it’s a mistake to needlessly alienate the readers with your personal politics. But I think it’s more than getting trolled on Twitter. You should be a good enough writer to present more than one voice. It’s more difficult, but anyone who thinks writing is easy, has never written.

 

3) Is the role of the science fiction writer to leapfrog the present into the future or connect to comment on the present?

In A Mound Over Hell and the upcoming A Fastball for Freedom, I’ve created a world which is post-isms and beyond identity politics. Social media is banned under the Anti-Narcissism Laws. Religion is outlawed along with all acts of patriotism. The entertainment industry is illegal under the Anti-Parasite Laws, along with banks and lawyers. The three most revered professions are teachers, doctors and police officers. While you can see connections between then and now, I never draw them. The reasoning is rooted in my fiction.

 

4) Do you envision more politically/socially themed speculative fiction? If so/if not, why?

As more voices are granted needed platforms, we’ll certainly see long overdue opportunities for all people to express themselves. I hope that’ll be properly fictionalized so it’s not overtly political and strident, which we can get by turning on any news outlet, but is provided by thoughtful entertainment pushing boundaries, the hallmark of speculative writing.

 

5) What are some of your favorite political-social sci fi novels, movie and/or TV shows?

Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Watchmen and V for Vendetta.

 

6) How are the roots of science fiction grounded in social commentary masked by the future?

Science fiction has always been metaphoric. If you return to the Golden Age of science fiction in the 1950s (as knighted by the great Robert Silverberg) and into the 60s, we were locked in a potentially cataclysmic nuclear struggle with the Soviet Union plus we had an immorally segregated society. What science fiction did so wonderfully was talk about equal rights, peaceful co-existence, racial equality within the context of imaginative worlds because frankly, no one would’ve listened otherwise. How can we forget Rod Serling’s brilliant social stories in The Twilight Zone among countless examples?

7) What are you working on now?

A Fastball for Freedom, the sequel to A Mound Over Hell, will be published by BHC Press on March 25, 2021, a week before Opening Day. I’m also a playwright and my new funny drama about racial harmony, A Black and White Cookie, is scheduled to open at the Theater for the New City next year post-lockdown. It was originally supposed to premiere this past March 26. Man plans. God laughs. That’s why we have science fiction.

Playwright Gary Morgenstein is the author of the funny new stage drama about racial harmony, A Black and White Cookie, A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx about a 1960s Bronx Jewish family’s search for the American Dream, and Saving Stan, a work about passion, friendship and betrayal. He also wrote the book for the off-Broadway sci fi rock musical The Anthem and the upcoming science fiction musical Mad Mel Saves the World. Morgenstein is the author of six novels including the critically acclaimed dystopian sci-fi baseball book A Mound Over Hell, which has been hailed as “1984 Meets Shoeless Joe.” His new novel A Fastball for Freedom will be published by BHC Press on March 25, 2021.

A Mound Over Hell

 

 

Robert Davies

 

 

1) How much are you impacted in your speculative writing by the current divisive political situation? Can you give an example where you’ve incorporated contemporary events or where you purposely avoid them?

I am not impacted by current events, or the divisive climate in 2020.  All my books are set either far into the future, or in the past.  Generally speaking, I disapprove strongly of the incorporation of political/social/cultural likes and dislikes in my fiction work.  Great stories and films have been ruined because creators found it necessary to preach, so I try to avoid a personal narrative when it is not asked for.  I purposely avoid contemporary events in almost everything I write.

 

2) Do you think a writer should be publicly identified with a political ideology or does that risk alienating part of their audience?

It depends on how closely an author is linked with a political ideology.  There is absolutely a risk of alienating readers, particularly in so bifurcated a society.  The gulf between competing interests and philosophies has never been wider, so making a political preference into a neon sign is likely to turn away roughly half of the reading public.  If I see overt political advocacy from an author, I will find something else to read.  I want to be engaged by a book, not scolded or made to feel diminished.

 

3) Is the role of the science fiction writer to leapfrog the present into the future or connect to comment on the present?

Science-Fiction has evolved fundamentally to a point at which there may no longer be any roles at all.  The pervasive influence of fantasy has made sci-fi into a no holds barred proposition.  It could be argued most sci-fi greats crafted their stories as a commentary on their present-day existence, and most of it was negative, even posed as a warning.  A vision of the future should be interesting, thought-provoking and at least plausible to warrant a serious place in ‘future fiction.  If that includes judgment and commentary on the world today, it would hardly be a surprise.

 

4) Do you envision more politically/socially themed speculative fiction? If so/if not, why?

I would be disappointed if politics and social issues in sci-fi become any more prevalent than they are now.  Predictions are always difficult, but I believe it’s a generational question.  Politics as fodder for sci-fi would likely be more welcomed by 1960s hippies who adopted politics and social struggles a part of their identity.  Millennials are not as charmed by heavy-handed politics in fiction, so I would say the bubble is at risk of breaking even now.

 

5) What are some of your favorite political-social sci fi novels, movie and/or TV shows?

My all-time favorite from sci-fi is still Fahrenheit 451.  There are places in the world where book burning still occurs, making this book timeless.  Others include, 1984, The Dispossessed, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Brave New World, The Lathe of Heaven, Cat’s Cradle, A Clockwork Orange, Anthem, A Canticle for Leibowitz.

 

6) How are the roots of science fiction grounded in social commentary masked by the future?

The future is an unknown, obliging us to consider that it may very well become realized in ways that do not comport with our present-day notions of society and politics.  Technology is the most likely vehicle for shaping tomorrow so that it fits our ‘today,’ but the truth of what lies ahead may be so dramatically different, current advocacy and social consciousness become irrelevant at best, and ridiculed at worst.  In the end, society changes, and commentary with it.  If the future is much as things are today, we would not have learned anything.

 

7) What are you working on now?

My current work is a historical fiction story set at the end of the 19th Century.  It is an adventure story, for the most part, but it is rooted in actual events (beginning with the Spanish-American War).  I am away from science-fiction through this project, and I will evaluate its utility to me at some point after it publishes in 2021.  I feared venturing outside sci-fi for a long time, but I am more comfortable with it now, and may keep historical fiction as a regular genre.

 

 

 

Rebecca Fox

1) How much are you impacted in your speculative writing by the current divisive political situation? Can you give an example where you’ve incorporated contemporary events or where you purposely avoid them?

Reading, for me, is a form of escape; I assume it is for others as well. While I do sometimes draw inspiration from my own experiences, I try to incorporate as little of our world’s conflicts as possible when creating my stories in order to provide that escape for my readers.

2) Do you think a writer should be publicly identified with a political ideology or does that risk alienating part of their audience?

I’m something of a people pleaser so I try my hardest to avoid identifying with or endorsing anything that might alienate my readers. But some writers are very outspoken about their convictions and people read their books anyway so I guess it really depends on the writer and the audience.

3) Is the role of the science fiction writer to leapfrog the present into the future or connect to comment on the present?

I think it’s more about connecting the present to the future, giving my readers a glimpse of what I imagine the process and growth of humanity will look like, looking forward with hope.

4) Do you envision more politically/socially themed speculative fiction? If so/if not, why?

Some writers process their thoughts and feelings about what’s going on in their lives as they write so, yes, I imagine there will be a lot more politically and socially themed fiction in the near future.

5) What are some of your favorite political-social sci fi novels, movie and/or TV shows?

I’m a geek. I love all things Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, and DC. I’m also a Firefly and Dr. Who fan. I try not to analyze my entertainment too much but I’m sure there are hidden themes and messages in a lot of these.

6) How are the roots of science fiction grounded in social commentary masked by the future?

In the end, the story is never about the gadgets, the new planets and cultures, or even about the good guys beating the bad guys. The story is about the characters, about unpacking basic human desires such as the desire to protect, to survive, to find love, to get revenge, to accomplish a lifelong dream. That’s essentially the root of all fiction: humanity, with its flaws and struggles and beautiful fragility.

7) What are you working on now?

I’m currently going back and forth between two novels, the last book in my science fiction/fantasy trilogy and a magic realism type book that I’m co-writing with my sister.

Bio:

Becca Fox lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, her two children, and a mini Australian Shepherd who thinks she’s a forever puppy. Becca enjoys reading and writing, but also binge watching shows on Netflix and baking treats she shouldn’t be eating.

Becca has published five books to date: two YA romance novels titled I Dare You to Love Me and I Dare You to Stay With Me, an adult paranormal thriller titled In the Dark, an adult epic fantasy titled Asta and the Barbarians, and an adult science fiction/fantasy called The Andromeda’s Ghost.

 

Victor Acquista

 

 

1) How much are you impacted in your speculative writing by the current divisive political situation? Can you give an example where you’ve incorporated contemporary events or where you purposely avoid them?

First, I want to express my thanks for this opportunity to answer questions about my writing and to share this space with such outstanding author colleagues. I think writing in this time of divisiveness, characterized by social and cultural unrest, is an excellent and timely topic to discuss.

I try to incorporate social themes and issues into my speculative fiction work but I am less focused on current politics and more focused on the deeper currents that flow within our culture and society. I think the divisive politics that are so prevalent reflect deep issues that are longstanding. Those issues are ripe for exploration in my writing.

For instance, my recently published suspense novel, Serpent Rising, incorporates issues of fake news, propaganda, media manipulation, and conspiracy theories. Those are in the news today, but I began writing this novel well before the last election cycle. These issues have been present for centuries. The principles of psychological manipulation by powerful elitists with hidden agendas haven’t changed, but the tools to employ these methods, particularly through social media, are new.

The current pandemic is a contemporary event, but I wouldn’t rush off to write a pandemic novel. As it turns out, book two in this suspense novel series (due for release next year) has a major story element that involves a water-borne highly lethal virus and how disruptive to society that is. The manuscript for that novel was completed before Covid-19 was identified. Am I just ahead of my time? Probably not. Although, major story elements for each novel have highly contemporary themes and issues, and both novels were completed prior to these issues being part of current news cycle, they represent much more longstanding currents that are present even when they are not in the news of the day.

 

2) Do you think a writer should be publicly identified with a political ideology or does that risk alienating part of their audience?

I think this largely depends on the writer. It is certainly the case that writers who publicly identify with a particular political ideology can attract or alienate some readers. The same can be said of other businesses. By way of example, Chickfil-A ownership has been vocal about some socially divisive issues. As it happens, I’ve never been to a  Chickfil-A so I have no opinion about the business, but the views of ownership might potentially turn off or turn on some potential patrons.

My personal preference is not to have my politics publicly stated, but I do frequently use my writing to express my politics and ideology in a more subtle way. That will appeal to some readers and likely alienate others.

 

3) Is the role of the science fiction writer to leapfrog the present into the future or connect to comment on the present?

This is not an either/or dichotomy. A science fiction writer may be inclined towards one or the other or both or neither. Science fiction provides a creative medium to explore the human condition. Even stories that only involve aliens are usually exploring some facet of humanity by playing with alien characteristics that are either similar to or distinctly different from humans and our home planet of earth.

An entire storyline in my sci fi novel Sentient takes place in the distant past on earth while the bulk of the story is set on earth today. There is a third thread happening on a distant alien world. All three story elements intersect in the present with the clear understanding that the present has been shaped by the past and sets the stage for the future.

I can’t help but add a favorite quote, “If you want to know the future, read science fiction today.” Past, present, future are all connected.

 

4) Do you envision more politically/socially themed speculative fiction? If so/if not, why?

I’ve given a presentation and written a mini essay on “Socially Conscious Science Fiction”. I also did a podcast episode on the topic linked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFAFxnbAUp4

I think it’s very clear that politically and socially themed science fiction has been around a long time. As I point out in the essay, Erewhon, published way back in 1872, had three chapters titled, “The Book of the Machines”, in which Samuel Butler raised the issue of mechanical consciousness, essentially self-aware artificial intelligence.

Social and political themes provide rich fodder for speculative fiction and I expect that to continue unabated. I think we might see an increase just based upon the volume of new speculative fiction that is being released.

 

5) What are some of your favorite political-social sci fi novels, movie and/or TV shows?

Among novels, I remain enamored with some of the great authors such as Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury. Stranger in a Strange Land, Foundation, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Fahrenheit 451 are all great examples. Huxley’s A Brave New World is another standout. Perhaps my favorite is Frank Herbert’s Dune. I eagerly await the latest movie adaptation as prior productions have not done the book justice. The social and political issues that permeate that novel are still highly relevant today even though that book was published in 1965.

The list of movies and TV shows that I would elevate to favorite status is surprisingly short. There are many good examples but few great examples for my high bar. Avatar is probably at the top of the list. The first Terminator is on my list. I enjoyed Chappie quite a bit for the social themes it represented, and I found Ex Machina disturbing and therefore worth mentioning. The Matrix is another fine film to have on this list.

 

6) How are the roots of science fiction grounded in social commentary masked by the future?

The socially relevant issues and topics have deep roots; these roots extend into the past through the present and into the future. There has always been some masking of issues. Perhaps people don’t want to or choose not to be aware of or to think about social ills. Perhaps there is an effort to suppress awareness by outside influences. It seems to me that part of the role science fiction authors who want to include social commentary in their writing play is to unmask and expose the socially relevant issues. It is a challenge to do so in a way that still engages readers without being “preachy”. Engage, educate, and entertain readers in a thought-provoking story and what’s behind the mask is there for all to see.

 

7) What are you working on now?

I just completed my sixth book which happens to be a light satire and it’s chock full of social commentary. I’m quite involved in post-release activities following the recent publication of Serpent Rising and will be starting a virtual book tour next month. I’m still podcasting but my production schedule has been scaled back in light of these other commitments. I’m incubating some short stories but not yet ready to reveal any details.

 

 

Victor Acquista Official site

Victor Acquista has become an international author and speaker following his careers as a primary-care physician and medical executive. He is known for “Writing to Raise Consciousness.” His multi-genre works include fiction and nonfiction and often incorporate social messaging to engage readers in thought-provoking themes. Dr. Acquista is also the creator and host of Podfobler Productions, a podcast series featuring his own and other authors’ narrated works.

He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, the Florida Writers Association, Writers Co-op, and is a Knight of the Sci-Fi Roundtable.

When not pondering the big questions in life and what’s for dinner, he enjoys gardening and cooking. He lives with his wife in Ave Maria, Florida.

 

 

We cant thank Gary, Robert, Rebecca & Victor for taking time out of their schedules to spend time with the FoF.  Hopefully for round three, we can do this in person.

 

Be sure to checkout BCH Press for more from our favorite authors.

 

 

 

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