Take a moment and remember what happened to you in high school. For some people, this was a den of depression, oppression and pain. As teenagers, we’re severely lacking in skill and experience, yet we need to navigate a world that expects us to act like grown ups. Many a poor decision has been made in high school that can go on to affect our lives for decades afterwards. In The Perfect Teresa by Ulises Silva we have an example of just that. Our protagonist is a jaded 43-year old woman working in corporate America. She surely hasn’t had it easy and while not everything can be blamed on her high school experience, what she clings to from that time is definitely ruling her life. Teresa can’t move forward and she’s trapped in this sad, drunken life where happiness eludes her. It’s not until she crashes hard into rock bottom that she is given a chance for a do-over, thanks to a talking coyote.
Our protagonist isn’t all quite there. It’s clear that she’s broken and she’d rather blame everyone else than accept any sort of responsibility for it. This tale is told in the first person and is showcased in such a way that it feels like the reader is Teresa herself. We’re privy to her thoughts, her neurosis and her desperate attempt at avoiding herself. She’s miserable and her life sucks. There is no denying that. Silva does an excellent job with the imagery and how the story jumps around Teresa’s mind. It’s hard to do that and keep the story on track. Silva is clearly talented in this realm.
Even the time skip is well done. It’s hard to shift from present day to the past and keep in mind how things have changed: technology, manner of speech, what is and isn’t popular with teenagers. Silva either did some great research or potentially tapped into their own past in order to recreate what it was like in the late ‘80’s for teenagers. This isn’t easily done, and the book is better for it.
Using deities from various mythologies can be a bit messy, but Silva focuses on what would suit our protagonist. She is of Latin-American descent and the use of Quetzalcoatl and our friendly talking-coyote Piltzintecuhtli, or Pill for short, makes sense. For an Aztec deity, Pill dislikes the use of profanity and seems to have an attachment to Teresa. It is well known that the gods will favour a mortal here and there for their own amusement. Is Pill the same?
Combining a slice-of-life with a timeslip can bring about a unique experience. Instead of the washed-up twenty-something that usually happens in stories like this we have a woman who has really lived her life and come to regret it. The Perfect Teresa by Ulises Silva is a story about self-search, self-love and acceptance. What Teresa accomplishes through her foray through time is a lesson to be learned by all. This is a must read for anyone looking for excitement, adventure and even just that gentle reminder that things will be okay.
Pages: 421 | ASIN: B06XG2GT22
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The Status Update follows Christine, a grieving mother, as she is presented with the opportunity to travel back and make different decisions that could save lives. What was the inspiration for the heartfelt setup to this emotional novel?
I wanted to write a character dealing with hopelessness and heading down a path of destruction, but who transforms. To reap the benefits of the gift, she has to trust in faith and magic, and she becomes hopeful.
The Status Update is a genre-crossing novel combining elements of science fiction and suspense as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I was pleasantly surprised by readers who found The Status Update suspenseful. I was going for thought-provoking and hoping the twist on the time travel genre would keep readers engaged.
I felt that Christine was an intriguing character. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?
I wanted to illustrate inner conflict and struggle. To highlight the tension between the two Christines, I use both third person and first person to tell her story. This “mirror” account was also designed to provide that sense of deja vu often invoked in time travel stories.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
The Status Update is my first piece of fiction. A lawyer by day, I typically write about law. I am incorporating law into my next fiction book, but with a supernatural twist. The heroin is a criminal defense lawyer who works with her dead ex-husband (a police officer) to bring about justice.
“Still grieving decade old losses and feeling the weight of new losses, Christine felt like everything was slipping away from her – her home, her physical health, her family. Upon a freak Facebook encounter with her younger self, she’s presented with a second chance. Has Christine finally lost her mind? Or has she been gifted with a rare opportunity to change the course of her life? And if this gift is real, can Christine convince her younger self to believe her and to heed her warnings?
What about the butterfly effect? Will Christine’s modifications result in some universal impact? Should she try to stop tragedy for all involved or should she be more careful, and instead just focus on protecting her family?
A new twist on the time travel genre, The Status Update is the movie Frequency meets the movie The Lake House meets the digital age.
The setting is Lewiston-Auburn, Maine and the time period switches between 2015 and 2025.”
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Ever wonder what would happen if you made just one different decision? The Status Update by Sonia Buck examines the power inherent in just one choice. Christine Reed supports herself and her three children. Her twins, Brian and Brenda, are seniors in high school, and Samantha, her surprise child, is eight. Although Christine wants to keep her children safe and close to home, she allows the twins to attend a college party on New Year’s Eve, believing there is little harm because they are good kids. The repercussions of that night haunt Christine and her family until a miracle occurs through an unlikely source: a defunct Facebook account on an outdated computer. Christine gets to experience the ripple effect of that one decision and the gift of changing it.
Buck focuses on themes that resonate with many readers: choice and grief. Everyone wishes for an undo button in life, but only hindsight can reveal the choices that mattered. Christine and Brian Reed spend ten years of their lives wishing they could go back in time and change the one night that ruined everything. Brian’s alcoholism and Christine’s refusal to treat an illness force them to live in a world of pain, punishing themselves. Both Brian and Christine succumb to their own grief in destructive ways. Anyone with loss or regret can relate to these two characters. Then there is a moment of magic that allows Christine to alter her past and future, and who wouldn’t want that?
The Status Update follows a familiar path but with new twists. A magical moment gives Christine a second chance, and social media is the impetus for this change. The new approach piques the interest and pushes the reader to keep going until the end where Buck unpacks some surprises.
While the plot keeps readers engaged, I felt the character descriptions were doled out mechanically through second hand accounts rather than organically. There is a lovely scene in which Brenda is able to help her younger more analytical sister understand the magic of a fairy tale. The interaction between the two characters felt like a genuine moment, but there were too few of these experiences. I felt I was being told who a character is rather than being shown.
Sonia Buck has a way of leaving tantalizing bread crumbs throughout the story that lead to an entertaining ending. I would say the pacing of the novel was spot on except for one spot; the event that allows Christine to alter her choice and her future is told twice: once as it happens and again as part of a journal entry. This time could have been spent with more anecdotal accounts that make readers fall in love with the amazing characters Sonia Buck has created.
Overall, The Status Update by Sonia Buck is a fun read and is an enjoyable way to pass the time.
Pages: 99 | ASIN: B01F2EXTQU
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The Time Slipsters spans science fiction, travelogue, historical fiction and comedy while showing a vibrant world of the future and the past. What is the funnest part about imagining and writing the future?
The fun is in seeing things that are commonly regarded as Sci-Fi beginning to happen. I believe that research on the web reveals what a wonderful world we live in. If you look for articles on medical research, the motor industry and technology in general, it also indicates where the human race is heading.
We are already seeing Nano robots being used for keyhole surgery, drugs being tailored to combat and kill cancer cells, and the early diagnosis of dementia, to name but a few. Plus the whiff of flying cars and free power is in the air!
Imagine a world where the health service does not feel overwhelmed by an aging population, because old people are no longer suffering the ‘ravages of old age’. Why would that be? The answer is: treatment of their various sufferings is being mastered, until death they do part! By the way, I come into the latter category.
Envisage a world where travel is from home to destination, in minutes. No airports, no connecting flights or trains or buses or taxis. No squandering of natural resources, no electricity costs, no power stations needed, no pylons or towering wind vanes blotting the landscape. Much of what I describe has been available for over a century, if it were not for intervention of vested interests.
The characters end up traveling through time, and like many stories, their actions in the past affect the future. What was the most interesting part about writing a time travel story?
Getting into the heads of the characters on both sides of the experience of time travel. Drawing word pictures of the experience and conveying mental images to readers was fun too. It challenges my imagination to run riot. By the way, unlike Professor Hawking I do not believe that the death of an ancestor caused by a time traveler would have any impact whatsoever on his or her descendants.
The threat to Earth is revealed by uncovering the mystery of the aliens who have been living under the auspices of the Sombrella Syndicate. What was the inspiration for the Sombrella Syndicate?
I once worked for a Lloyds of London group of insurance syndicates, so am familiar with the concept. The deserted brickworks near where I live in Spain was an ideal undercover location for an alien base, but not big enough to house it, on the surface. Who better to man it, underground, than dwarfs, who have a reputation for mining and gold!
Time Slipsters is book three in the Dreadnought collective. Where does book 4 take the characters?
Book 4 takes the characters in an entirely new direction that totally engrossed me for a while. I took great interest in the feasibility of psychic involvement in crime detection. This added another dimension to the evolution of the Dreadnought Collective. The various characters in all the books are intertwined in book 5, the Sightseers Agency, which is now run under the auspices of the U.S. government, as is the entire collective. The individual agencies in the collective instantly become more effective as the two genres are mixed.
A group of friends who have drifted apart decide to reunite and take a trip together. It is the near future, and their intention is to travel on the latest type of transport, in order to visit the ancient sites in Turkey.
They want to do this in luxury, and the travel company they selected has done its best to accommodate their desires. They are lost for words when they first cast their eyes on the spectacular, gleaming new vehicle waiting for them. It is in fact alien in technology, and far more of a futuristic craft than a mere ground-hugging coach.
Unwittingly, they are entering a world where time travel is a reality and machines can cater for individuals as well as the masses.
Soon, they embarking on a sightseeing tour like no other they could have imagined, and meeting a time-travelling stranger who takes them under his wing.
More than one person has a hidden agenda, as they realise when reach a highly protected secret location. It contains hybrid creatures on which the Gods of mythology are based.
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Book 3 in the Dreadnought Collective series returns to the home of Terry and Sandra Tumbler. Terry and his wife plan a return holiday to Turkey, recalling their last visit with their grandson, Seb, when his tour group from the Sombrella Syndicate got into trouble in the underground city of Derinkuyu. They’d like to go again to see it at their leisure. Terry invites several couples who had accompanied them on an earlier visit to Santiago. Since they’d had trouble on that particular tip, Terry sweetens the deal by booking a luxury version of fast-travel flying cars, colloquially known as “potties,” to speed them on their way.
On arrival in Istanbul, the five couples embark on a grand tour of historic sites on a large coach, shared by a group of Spanish tourists. During their travels, Terry meets with a mysterious man named Marius. Marius asks Terry for help regarding Alien visitations, and Terry is delighted. His love of researching UFO phenomena may help save lives, and Marius may be able to explain the odd dreams Terry is having. When the tour visits the ancient hospital of Asklepion, the true nature of the “Magic Carpet” tour coach (dubbed the Turkish Floater by Wilf) is revealed, and the travelers slip back in time to witness ancient Rome in person. This leads to uncovering the mystery of the aliens who have been living under the auspices of the Sombrella Syndicate, and a threat to earth.
If you can’t tell by the irreverent names of the vehicles, this is a very funny book. The Time Slipsters is a delightfully fun read. It crosses genre borders as easily as the Magic Carpet crosses timelines. The story spans science fiction, travelogue, historical fiction and comedy while showing a vibrant world of the future and the past. Terry is a loveable rogue, and his gaffes are both funny and important to the story. Laughing at phallic rock formations and obsessing over bathroom facilities in ancient buildings could be jokes, but they may come in handy later.
But the trip is not all fun and games. When the ship begins to slip between time zones, the travelers are under very explicit orders to stay away from the locals. One of them foolishly ignores that advice, and like any time travel story, what you do in the past can have a ripple effect into the future.
The author’s imagination is truly fantastic. Even the little details of this future world are well fleshed out. There’s the concept of Democracy on Demand that allows people to guide their government by instantaneous voting. And sure, the flying cars are neat, but what about smart suitcases that carry themselves to and from your hotel, or having delicate surgery performed by nanobots while you sleep? I can’t start on the alien technology without spoilers, so you’ll have to read for yourself.
One thing I liked was the occasional break in the intrigue so I could wander the streets of ancient monuments along with the characters. It’s clear the author has visited these places and wants to share these remarkable places and their histories with others.
Though Seb Cage Begins His Adventures was a book aimed at young readers, The Time Slipsters is decidedly more adult. The adult humor and a few sexual references, though never explicit, wouldn’t be appropriate for a young reader. If you like SF, time travel stories, or dry British humor, you’ll like this book.
Pages: 291 | ASIN: B018MLKT7M
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Recusant is a science fiction adventure story that chronicles the journey of two peoples through time where their lives and struggles are intertwined over more than a millennium. What was one thing you hoped to accomplish in this novel that you were not able to do in book one of the Brin Archives?
I wanted to expand on my efforts to tell a precautionary tale about intolerance and prejudice. I also wanted to expand the world of the Brin and fill it with more locations and people. In book one, my very first attempt at writing anything, I was learning how to become an author. With Recusant, I hoped to expand my wings and see what I could do. I hope to continue this learning process in the third and final installment of the series.
Many of the occurrences in the story parallel important issues in our world such as slavery, greed, lack of tolerance, and abuse of power. Was there anything taken from real life that you used to develop this story?
Oh yes. As a teacher, I listened to stories from many of my students of color about how they experienced the world in unbelievably different ways than I ever had seen. I also have several nieces and nephews of color who, unfortunately, have to deal with a world of prejudice and intolerance. I have always believed science fiction was a wonderful avenue to address these sort of issues in a stark, but relatively non-offensive way. Back in the early days of the civil rights movement, my family was very involved in helping end many of the immoral abuses of the times. It is unbelievable to me that we are still dealing with the same issues today.
I became fond of Jontar and Maliche. Their spirit and ability to love, trust, and overcome adversity appealed to me. And I enjoyed the courage and tenacity of Vidad and Neas. What was your writing process to ensure you captured the essence of the characters?
I am an incurable optimist, so I believe in the basic goodness of people. Neas and Vidad were named after my sons (anagrams) and looking back on their character, I guess loosely based on their caring and loving nature. My editors are always on my case about making my characters too nice. I have had to really work hard to resist the desire to have all of my protagonists turn away from their evil ways and repent. An evil spirit is difficult for me to comprehend.
What can you tell us about book three in the Brin Archives series?
Book three is tentatively titled Empyrean. I jump several years into the future where the Brin and Kolandi are coexisting. Maliche now leads the government of the planet, but learns some disturbing facts about their supposed benefactors, the Skae. To learn the truth, Maliche finds a way to escape from the Skae overseers and travels with several companions, including his son into the space. The offspring of a Brin and Kolandi mating develop not only an immunity to the Gorvin virus that trapped the Kolandi on their planet, but also have the ability to mentally connect with, and manipulate any technology, and the cosmic strings found in space. This is an adventure of time travel, new worlds and species, and the discovery that not everything is as it once seemed. The fate of the entire galaxy is in their hands.
In this sequel to Hegira, the Brin are thriving on their new world, but will greed, prejudices, and old rivalries tear apart their grand civilization? Maliche Rocker, descendant of The Saviors, uncovers a terrible secret and must fight those in power, including members of his own family, to save thousands of innocents from the cruelty of his own people.
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I was delighted to discover the writing of Jim Cronin in Recusant, the second book of his series, The Brin Archives. This fantasy/adventure/science fiction tale chronicles the journeys of two peoples, the Brin and the Kolandi, through time. The story depicts two different species whose lives and struggles are intertwined over more than a millennium.
Maliche Rocker, descendant of the original “saviors” of the Brin race on their new planet, was a very talented archeologist, and therefore, an embarrassment to his family, as most of the Brin people believed that genetics was the only honorable profession. Maliche came into possession of an article which enabled him to not only glimpse, but to experience the long-forgotten past of their forbearers. The history that subsequently unfolds will shake the very foundations of the Brin and their beliefs.
Many of the occurrences in the story parallel important issues in our world (past and present), such as slavery, greed, lack of tolerance, and abuse of power. A meaningful example of this is in some of the Brin people’s willingness to abuse another race. This corresponds with humans’ tendency to justify the abuse of others that may be different from us by demeaning their worth, and labeling them as undeserving of compassion. Because of this, the tale can strike home with many readers, allowing them to fully engage.
I lost myself in the narrative, as it felt quite real; palpable. I became truly fond of many of the characters, especially Jontar and Maliche. Their spirit, along with their ability to love, trust, and to overcome adversity particularly appealed to me. In addition, I loved the courage and tenacity of Vidad and Neas. I was totally absorbed, and could not put the book down.
The artful approach of the author in interlacing past and present to reveal, bit by bit, the characters’ missions, secrets, fears, and ambitions, is fresh and exciting. Although I enjoyed the creativity of Cronin’s unique approach, I did have to go back and re-read certain sections a couple of times to determine what was actually transpiring (and in which timeline). It is not absolutely necessary to first read Recusant’s predecessor Hegira in order to enjoy this book, however, I feel it would be helpful.
Mr. Cronin has created a reality with this series which will captivate and enthrall readers, young and old, for many years to come. I highly recommend Recusant, and the entire Brin Archives series.
Pages: 269 | ASIN: B01KTVTMNK
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Hegira is beautifully written and addresses a subject that is rarely discussed. Why did you want to write about subjects such as cloning and cryogenics?
I have always been a science geek so all aspects of science fascinates me. After I retired I started thinking about writing a science fiction story and the idea of time travel struck me as something fun to write about. To give a plausible reason for the time travel adventure, and a method for supposedly rescuing an entire planet’s population, I came up with cloning and cryogenically freezing the embryos as the strategy for my main character to save everyone. From there, everything else fell into place and the story was born.
I felt this story was very well written. What’s your experience as a writer?
Hegira is my debut novel. My only previous writing has been for education journals. I had no idea what I was getting into, or how difficult writing could be. I have learned a great deal along the way and am enjoying the new learning experience.
The characters in Hegira are very complex. What is your process for creating such in depth characters?
I have always enjoyed reading stories where the characters, not the technology, are center stage. I wanted my novel to do the same and present my universe with believable inhabitants. To do this, I try to put myself into each character’s mind and experience what they see, feel and do. From there, I use my experience as a teacher who has worked with thousands of students over the years, to imagine how each individual would react to the circumstances they find themselves in. The weird part of this was that when I really got into the heads of my characters, they told me how they would react and what they would do. Any time I tried to force my own ideas, the writing stalled. When I gave myself over to the character, the words flowed smoothly.
What is the next book that you are working on and when can your fans expect it to be out?
I have just released book 2 of The Brin Archives: Recusant. It is now available on Amazon.com and is already earning great reviews. Currently, I am writing the final book of the series, tentatively titled Empyrean. This book takes up the story not long after Recusant ends and we learn the Skae, the alien beings who played a large role in Hegira, may not be who they claim to be after all. The Brin have reason to believe they may be on the wrong side of an interplanetary war and need to learn the truth of what is going on. To do this, they will be time traveling and secretly spying on both alien races involved in the galactic war to see which side is at fault. I hope to release this novel sometime next summer.
Author Links: GoodReads
His home world is dead; the victim of a supernova, but this does not stop Karm from attempting to save the Brin, his extinct species. Rescued by an alien race from a derelict spacecraft as a vial of DNA, then cloned, Karm must travel back in time, convince a small team of co-conspirators to join him in his quest, and outmaneuver a power hungry monarch and his fanatic brother, leader of The Faith, both absolutely committed to opposing him. All of Karm’s plans rest on the untested and controversial cloning theories of the young geneticist Dr. Jontar Rocker, and the abilities of his bodyguard, personal assistant, and surrogate niece, Maripa. Will their combined efforts be enough to overcome the power of the monarchy and the planet’s most influential religion? Will Karm’s secrets destroy the trust of his companions and ruin his campaign to save the Brin?
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A mutiny on the spaceship Hegira kills everyone on board. The ship is not discovered until thousands of years into the future, when it is found to be carrying all of the remaining DNA samples of the Brin, an extinct race of birdlike humanoids. Using advanced technology, two DNA samples are used to clone two of the Brin. The clones, Karm and Maripa, are sent back in time to save their race, before their planet explodes when its sun becomes a supernova. Karm gathers the greatest Brinian minds, to prepare a new life on a distant planet, but he must stay one step ahead of the ruling family consisting of a power hungry monarch and his brother, the leader of a fundamentalist religion, as science goes head to head with both religion and big government in this fast paced Sci Fi adventure.
Since Galileo, religious fundamentalists have asserted their violent opposition to ground breaking scientific discoveries, and time and again, history has shown their efforts to be naive. In Hegira, a new science fiction novel by Jim Cronin, a fundamentalist religious sect known as The Faith attempts to stop the work of the good guys, who are doing dynamic cloning research, which happens to be the only hope to save the entire race. Cronin sets all of this up rather quickly, while relying heavily on familiar time travel tropes, i.e. using knowledge of the future to make a fortune as an investor while not doing anything to alter future events. The pacing improves once the protagonist Karm establishes himself on his home planet Dyan’ta and gets to work on his mission: to save the entire race.
The strength of the book lies in the critique of the meddling of governments/militaries, and religion, with science. Hegira’s subtitle could have been: The Ethics of Cloning and the Religious Dimwits Who Think Their Opinion Matters. The bad guys in Hegira are a pair of power-hungry and conniving brothers. Brach, the king, kills their oldest brother to become the monarch, and Lerit, whose treachery leads to his position as the Archbishop of The Faith, team up to oppose Karm and his cloning research. In a way all too reminiscent of the way the church and right wing politicians have combined their forces to keep stem cell research, and other recent revelatory developments in genetics at bay, Hegira’s plot builds around what appears to be Cronin’s thesis: scientists should be left alone to do their good work.
Karm represents the future, both literally and figuratively, and his name being one letter short of karma does not seem to be a mistake. Such is an example of one of the more enjoyable quirks of the text: Cronin’s naming of things. He imagines alien animals like “thick furred pretzels,” and then hilariously, he creates great curse words, “I’ve got to get the strix out of here!” and my favorite: “Holy mutes!”
While Fans of more literary science fiction might be less than impressed with all of the tells in the dialogue, Hegira is fast paced and fun enough that such common errors of paperback fiction should not be judged too harshly. Written by a former middle school science teacher, Hegira contains plenty of cool science including cryogenics, cloning, and string theory-inspired time travel, to keep its Sci Fi readers interested. And it even manages a sweet love story.
With a little bit of everything, Hegira is a quick and fun read for fans of science fiction.
Pages: 292 | ASIN: B010E3EKC6
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The Monster interviews author Allen Brady, author of The Fruithandler Time Engine.
The Fruithandler Time Engine is about time traveling, from the past to the preset. There are many paradoxes involved with time traveling. How did you handle these in your novel, or were they an obstacle in any way?
The paradoxes aren’t an obstacle; they’re a large part of the charm.
Time travel is all about contradictions. At its core, every single time travel story is about the inversion of cause and effect—about someone in a place they cannot be, armed with information they couldn’t possibly have. When contradiction is your starting point, paradoxes are not merely inevitable, they’re where the fun begins.
Exploring the logical ramifications of esoteric premises is precisely what science fiction was invented for. In no other genre does more entertainment derive from learning the rules, then expanding upon them, and there are no subjects more rife for this kind of speculation than time travel. If thrusting a character out of his proper time leads to paradoxes, my preference is not to ignore or dismiss them, but to embrace them.
One of the primary ground-rules of The Fruithandler Time Engine is that no one in the novel really understands how time travel works. Both Colonel Fruithandler and Deirdre are experiencing a brand new phenomenon for the first time. There are no subject-matter experts to consult here. Deirdre’s decisions are her own to make, and she has no way of knowing what the full consequences of those decisions will be. I wanted the reader to be in the same boat.
The Whenstones do indeed cause paradoxes in the world of the novel. For the most part, the universe doesn’t care. The novel’s focus is on individual timelines. The stones change characters dramatically, but only with respect only to themselves. Thus will effects endure even when their causes cease to be. The daughter will remain even when the mother never had children.
Not because it makes sense, but because it’s fun.
The book was more satirical than expected. Did you intend for the book to be created this way or was this more of an organic growth?
The time travel genre lends itself to satire almost by default. When you remove a character from his own culture and transpose him into another, you’ve created a natural springboard for commentary upon both those cultures. Add humor to the mix, and satire is inevitable.
From the outset, I knew the subject matter of this story would require a comedic tone. The Fruithandler Time Engine is a story of time travelers who know nothing about history. This provides an ample playground for satirizing not only the characters and the worlds they inhabit, but the time travel genre itself.
But while the book may be satirical, my hope is that it will not be read as ridicule. If I play with the conventions of time travel, it is only because I find them fascinating. The Fruithandler Time Engine is meant to contribute to the genre, not to subvert it.
Which part of The Fruithandler Time Engine did you enjoy writing the most?
This is a bit like picking a favorite child. In truth, the book was a hoot to write from start to finish. The Estimable Fellowship of Esteemed Fellows was where the book began, both in concept and finished product. The original germ from which the EFEF sprang was an idea for a radio play in which a group of 19th century gentlemen scientists struggle to conceive of an experiment that would suitably prove the efficacy of their new time machine. That survives in the novel in the form of Fruithandler’s demonstration with the cashew and the aventurine box. When I got the notion to expand that into a contest among the EFEF, I suddenly found myself with a forum for commenting upon phrenology, cryptozoology, and all my favorite pseudosciences.
As the plot of the story unfolded from this seed, each new scene seemed to be a goldmine for exploring a different facet of storytelling. The scene in the future allowed me to experiment with how our language may be evolving. The congregation of the Deirdres let me consider the possibility of a character literally growing tired of her own company. The explosion of the hyper-charged Whenstone gave me the opportunity for a stream-of-consciousness segment unlike anything I’d ever written before.
But if I’m honest, I think Deirdre’s escape from the Wykoff farm was probably the most satisfying section to write. I always find myself doing far more research for each of my projects than I had initially anticipated. Fact-checking one plot point inevitably leads to the discovery of half a dozen tangential bits of trivia, which in turn spawn ideas for new directions to take the story I had not considered before.
In this story, this pattern was most prevalent when I was trying to figure out how Deirdre might charge her Whenstones with only what she could find on an 18th century farm. Once I had decided on the overall plan, I needed to research what kinds of materials Deirdre would need to implement it. That in turn led to consideration of where she might find components like copper and zinc. In the end, I spent hours reading about the history of currency and coinage in pre-Revolutionary America, as well as a good deal on how batteries work.
The end result is a sequence I’m particularly happy with. Deirdre’s plan feels natural, logical, and well within the means of a twelve year-old girl. Being able to produce this kind of material, while simultaneously feeling like I’ve learned something, is exceptionally gratifying.
The characters were smart, but sometimes bumbling and humorous. What was your inspiration for creating these characters?
The first seeds for The Fruithandler Time Engine were planted during an online conversation about time travel. Someone had posited a device that could send you back to any place or time, but only as an observer. If you could not interact with anyone, but only watch events unfold around you, invisible and intangible, where and when would you go?
I suggested that this would be a good way to unravel the Ripper murders. Just post yourself in Buck’s Row on the night of August 30, 1888, and you’re bound to learn something interesting. Another participant, on the other hand, suggested that he would like to be present for the Sermon on the Mount.
I found this answer preposterous. Setting aside the question of whether the sermon actually occurred at all, and wasn’t simply a collection of material culled from other sermons, a conflation of speeches by other prophets, or invented out of whole cloth by the author of the Matthew Gospel, we’re still left with no clue as to when or where it is supposed to have taken place. Forget about the date or time; even selecting a year would be a matter of pure conjecture. And even if you stumbled upon the right location at the right time, would your grasp of ancient Aramaic really be strong enough to allow you to follow along?
This answer reminded me of a sketch from the old Ben Stiller Show, in which Janeane Garofalo played “B-Minus Time Traveler”. The premise was that Garofalo found herself shunted back into the middle of crucial historical events, with only a typical high-schooler’s understanding of what actually transpired. When she met George Washington, she could offer no better advice than that his troops would need more shoes. She tried to warn General MacArthur about the attack on Pearl Harbor, but couldn’t quite remember exactly what day it was that would live in infamy.
Without the opportunity to study rigorously for a specific place and time, a time traveler couldn’t help but do a good bit of bumbling. Transplant anyone a century or more into the past, and he is necessarily going to find himself out of his element. Even the most educated time-displaced character is going to need some time to catch up.
Besides, smart characters who are in over their head are a lot more fun to write than morons.
Alright, you have a time machine, it can only go in one direction, which way do you go; to the future or to the past?