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Bill DeSmedt

Bill DeSmedt

Tell us about the genesis of your book SINGULARITY.

It's all Carl Sagan's fault!

To see why, it's helpful to know that -- although the body of the book takes place in present-day-plus -- SINGULARITY's premise harks back to the last day of June 1908, when, in the most desolate region on earth, there took place something called the "Tunguska Event." And it was Carl Sagan's discussion of that Event that started the gears turning.

It happened like this:

Several summers back, I was sitting around on a rainy Saturday afternoon watching a rerun of Cosmos, Episode IV, "Heaven and Hell." That's the one where Carl talks about meteor and cometary impacts on the earth.

So, midway through the episode, Carl gets around to the Tunguska Event -- the still-unexplained explosion that wiped out an area of Siberian forest the size of Belgium, leaving not a trace of whatever caused it behind.

And from there, Carl goes on to the Jackson-Ryan hypothesis -- namely, that the Event was a collision between the earth and an atom-sized black hole! And then he's refuting J&R, citing the standard missing exit-event objection -- namely, that the mini-black hole should have cut through the solid body of the earth like a knife through morning mist, and come exploding up out of the North Atlantic an hour later, wreaking all manner of havoc. Never happened. QED.

And, next thing you know Carl's gone on to Meteor Crater in Arizona or some such, leaving me sitting there, staring off into space.

"But, Carl," I said slowly, "What if the damn thing never came out?"

Little did I know it at the time, but I'd just been hooked. I wanted to see where things went from there. In my effort to find out, I tried giving the idea away to the three published authors of my acquaintance, hoping one of them would write the book so I could read it. No takers. "Great concept," they'd say, "but I wouldn't know where to start with the science."

Finally it dawned on me that the only way I was ever going to find out how that book came out in the end, was if I wrote it myself. So, with more than a little trepidation, that's what I sat down to do.

How did the story develop?

By accretion and osmosis, mostly. Like I said, it took me a while to realize that I was going to have to write the novel, but at the same time I couldn't leave it alone. I kept buying every book on cosmology and astrophysics I came across (not that I didn't do that before, but this was more focused on black hole physics, etc.). What's more, chunks of my own checkered history kept suggesting themselves as plot elements:

-- Like what could be more natural than that a story that starts out in Siberia would have Russians in it? And, as it so happens, I knew Russians pretty well, having studied their language, culture, and politics in college and grad school. Heck, I even lived there for a year as a graduate exchange student at Moscow State University.

-- Or the fact that I could use my own work experience in consulting to make one of my protagonists an ueber-consultant.

I must have spent two or three years thinking about the plot and characters that way. When I finally sat down at the keyboard, the book all but wrote itself.

What possessed you, at this point in your career, to suddenly up and write a novel?

Well, in answering the first two questions I've pretty much covered why I wrote the particular novel I did.

As to why I decided to write any novel at all, at this or any other point in time, I guess I figured it was bound to happen eventually, so I might as well do it while I was still young.

Who are your favorite characters?

Don't get me wrong: Mycroft and Doctor Jack are fun, and even Jon Knox has his moments. But I'd have to say it's -

Marianna, hands down. Partly because she's the only character in the book who's not remotely drawn from life. But mostly because it's fun (for me, anyway) to see what she'll do next.

What are you working on now?

A SINGULARITY sequel of sorts, called DUALISM. The manuscript is pretty much complete, save for one more root-and-branch editing pass. Hopefully that'll get done by Halloween.

Oh, and I'm also trying to get a start-up off the ground, one specializing in "conversational agents," whatever they might be -- I'll know more once I've invented them.

Do certain characters return?

Definition of a sequel, I guess. But yes, the new book features the return of Jonathan Knox and Marianna Bonaventure -- turns out I'm not done with them yet, nor they with me. And, as (one reading of) the title implies, DUALISM will be focusing on the next move in the dialectic of their relationship as well.

What issues are you exploring?

DUALISM will (as the title also implies) be exploring Descartes' mind/body dichotomy, as filtered through the prisms of artificial intelligence, quantum computation, collective consciousness -- oh, and life after death.

How is working on your second novel different from working on your first?

It would be hard for anything else (of a work nature, at least) to compare with the absolute rush of writing SINGULARITY. That was, quite simply, one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

DUALISM's been interesting too, though, in its own way. For instance, as I said, when I started writing SINGULARITY, I more or less had the plotline all worked out beforehand. When I started writing DUALISM, on the other hand, I only had two scenes -- with no idea where they should go in the book, or why.

I'll leave it to the readers to figure out which two scenes those are.

Do you have any links you'd like to share? (trailers, blogs, websites, etc?)

Well, SINGULARITY's just sold out of its first printing (no small feat for a small-press book, I'm given to understand), so the Amazon and Barnes&Noble links wouldn't be particularly helpful. Not sure what the publisher's plans are for a new addition, but folks could contact them at -   http://www.perasperapress.com.

Thank-you, Bill, for this fascinating interview!

Sharon Linnéa 
Jaime's World 


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