I received Mark’s answers today and, in reading them over, all that came to mind was “Wow!”. If I knew nothing about the book, I’d pick it up simply on the basis of this terrific Q&A. Enjoy – and check out the mailbag once you’re done. Oh, and finish up this month’s final book, Dogs by Nancy Kress. Discussion on that one starts tomorrow. Over to Mark…
Before I do anything else, I’d like to thank Joe for his interest in my book, and for offering me this opportunity to talk about it with everyone who sent such good and interesting questions! Thanks!
Ponytail writes: “Thank you Mr. Ferrari for writing the book. Next time –
some illustrations please! I can not believe this is your first book??? Wow!
That is awesome. Wow!
MJF: Thanks! New authors neeed that kind of encouragement. 🙂
Couple of questions for Mr. Ferrari. Why did you write this book? What was
your inspiration? Something from your childhood?
MJF: I am tempted to answer as Sir Edmond Hillary so famously never said, “because it was there.” There are a hundred answers to this question, a few of which are addressed on the FAQ page of my website, but basically, it boils down to two parts, one concerning the story’s content and one concerning its form.
As for content: like a lot of kids born in the fifties and earlier, I was taught – at home, in school, and at church – that there was some kind of ‘fair and reliable’ cause and effect connection between what a person did and what results he got. ‘If you do any of these things, the following good results will occur. Do any of those things, and the following bad consequences will result.’
I believed all that so deeply that it took the sixties – and the eighties – and the nineties and early 2000s to make me see that, in fact, the world did not – had never – really worked that way at all. Virtue seems punished as often as rewarded. Wickedness seems rewarded as often as punished. Bad things happen to good people and good things to bad people. At best, it all feels random. So … what’s a poor starry eyed ‘believer’ supposed to do with this discovery? How’s he supposed to live and act once his decisions can no longer be based on some expectation of ‘appropriate’ results? Why be ‘good’ in a world where ‘good’ seems to make no difference?
I’ve noticed that one frequent result when starry eyed believers finally confront the seemingly random allotment of justice in this world is ANGER. It may be directed at the teachers and authorities who ‘betrayed’ them with false expectations, or at the inconsistent world for failing – or refusing – to ‘behave’ as it was ‘supposed to.’ But the next thing a lot of disillusioned ‘believers’ seem to do is start figuring out who should be punished – and how. Where does such anger take people? What do they do with it, and what does it do to them?
These were all questions I was struggling with intensely toward the last millennium’s end, as a number of really wonderful children I knew in the town where I lived were dying, one after another, in senseless accidents, and the beautiful coastal town I lived in and loved was being eroded and buried by the outside world, and my country was marching off to a senseless war in Iraq, being led there by such obviously dishonest and self-serving leaders, while, for some reason, so many Americans rushed into the streets, hysterically waving flags in support. I had spent most of my adult life trying to do ‘good’ in the world, and in more ways than I will subject you to hearing about, everything my life had been about was seeming more and more thwarted and irrelevant every day. The Book of Joby was, in part, my attempt to pose these questions in a context I could control, (a story), and work through them there as I could not in the ‘real world.’ In the end, I think the book turned out to be more about posing those questions than answering them.
As for form: I have been an avid fantasy reader since early childhood, and like that venue for, among other reasons, its useful tendency to simplify the chaos of real life into comprehensible themes that can be recognized and explored without utterly losing even the questions themselves three chapters in.
Experiences in my own life 5 or 10 years before I wrote The Book of Joby had left me curious, though, about why so much of America’s contemporary fantasy literature – its own current folklore, in a way – was being framed in long defunct exotic mythologies, Celtic, Norse, Asian, Middle Eastern, which most of us no longer understand even superficially, much less resonate with in daily life. I think the power of fairytales and folklore rests in how deeply their audience understands the themes and references they touch. So what would happen, I wondered, if someone tried writing an American fairytale grounded in mythologies that modern Americans were still more ‘steeped in’ – consciously or unconsciously, pro or con – such as the body of supernatural lore we call Christianity? The Old Testament book of Job seemed a natural for exploring questions related to the seemingly random justice and injustice of life. For the fantasy content, King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere, the Grail, Camelot – the only other ancient myth I could think of that is still readily recognized and ‘resonated’ with by a significant number of Americans. Touch either of these before an American audience today, and most still respond by tapping immediately into all sorts of preexisting connections and meanings whether you’ve directly referred to them or not. Would my tale have more power if I framed it in these contexts?
I was also intrigued by the fact that this country’s ‘fantasy’ tradition and its Christian tradition currently have such an interesting love/hate relationship. Are Christians just a bunch of witch burning inquisitors? Is Harry Potter a satanic Trojan horse seducing children to the dark side? By mixing them together – sympathetically in the same story – could I create a tale that was clearly not just ‘Christian’ or just ‘fantasy’ – but about ‘us’ in some way harder for any one faction to own or renounce? Might there be enough here for folks on both sides of that dubious divide to leave them less certain of the division’s merit after all?
In short, I decided to launch my writing career with a really reckless experiment that might well kill my career right out of the gate – (may, in fact, have done so) – and leave me sharing a hotel room somewhere with poor Solomon Rushdie. But hey, it made for an interesting challenge!
“What made you step out of your illustrator profession to write this? Did you work while you wrote it or stop working and devote all your time?”
MJF: I’ve always been intensely interested in storytelling. It is a quintessential human activity. We are the species that ‘invents and modifies reality’ rather than just receiving and accepting it ‘as is’ like most other animals seem – perhaps more wisely? – to do. Being an avid reader, I could not help being interested in writing from an early age. The year I turned 40, my mid-life crisis project was to take a year off and finally go write something. I wrote an 800 page tome that makes a hell of a doorstop but is not much good for anything else. I did not even try to get it published, just came home to continue my day job as an artist. … Once started, I kept writing though.
For years, I worked a week or two of writing into my day-job work schedule every few months, until, after six years, I had managed to finish the first version of The Book of Joby in late 2001. But even then, it took a head on collision with a panel truck while out riding my mountain bike one evening to pry me away from art as my first priority. You can read more about that accident on my website, and how it left me without the ability to render things in colored pencil anymore – which only mattered a little since so much of my work by then was digital anyway. But it drove enough of a wedge between me and art to make me admit that one book is worth thousands and thousands of pictures, and I could tell all the stories buzzing inside my head MUCH faster and more fully if I stopped trying to draw them one frame at a time.
“Does anyone ever try to compare The Book of Joby to the book of Job in the
Bible? If so, what do they say? I was prepared to compare, but found them
MJF: I am glad to hear that you found them too different to compare. They are that – and are meant to be. As I have at least implied above, I was not really trying to write a Christian book, or even to remain entirely faithful to the body of Christian mythology from which I was drawing. My three main characters were all reincarnations after all. While I did try to respect the Christian material I was borrowing from, I was basically improvising upon it as one might improvise, (more safely I suppose), on any of a number of long abandoned and less relevant or heated mythologies such as the Greek, Celtic, Ancient Egyptian, and Ancient Asian ones so frequently embellished on in most fantasy stories. My story starts where the original Book of Job starts, and veers off in very different directions to examine very different issues than the author(s) of the original biblical take were addressing.
People who go looking for ‘accurate’ Christianity in my book are sometimes unsettled. Overall, the response to Joby has been amazingly positive on both sides of that line, however, and in all fairness, I must admit that what little flack I have gotten seems more often to have come from members of the ‘fantasy literature establishment’ – apparently for daring to touch the material too sympathetically – than from Christian readers, who are, perhaps, just surprised that I didn’t simply savage them like so many other fantasy writers have. (?)
“Can I ask one more?”
MJF: No. …
Well … alright then. Just one.
“What is next for you?”
MJF: You mean when I finish writing these answers? … well, … Rotisserie chicken and fresh spinach, raspberry yogurt and some ‘pear and burnt pecan’ ice cream I believe. Then to sleep, as I am currently suffering from ‘that flu’ everyone’s getting – and giving to innocent bystanders like me. After that, I wouldn’t dare to guess, as my expectations are ALWAYS proven instantly wrong – even about the simplest things. It’s supposed to snow again tonight here in Seattle … Who knows what may come of that?
Oh! You mean, ‘writing-wise?’ Sorry. Yes, well. I wrote another book last year, which I was persuaded to throw away by everyone who ‘manages’ me, and am now working merrily away on a new ‘second novel,’ currently called, “Twice,” which I am really pretty happy with.
It’s the story of a man who may or may not have been beaten to death by a troll in an alleyway one evening. He makes an unwitting dying wish, and wakes up the next morning deeply alarmed to find it granted.
You see, he was 50 when he ‘died’ and 14 when he awoke, knowing everything he knew at 50, but sadly without any parents to look after him, or any acquaintances at all, or a job or a home that he can credibly claim, or a car he can legally operate, or even a credible past – and, very inconveniently, wearing the oversized clothes and wallet of a man who has just vanished under mysterious circumstances. … Not what he imagined at all when he made his careless wish. And then there’s the little interspecies conflict he got tangled up in on the night he was beaten by that troll, and love at long last – with a woman far too old to be courted by a 14 year old boy, etc. …
“Thank you again Mr. Ferrari. Really enjoyed your book! It was a great read.”
MJF: Thank you for your interest and such good questions!
Bethella writes: “Question for Mr. Ferrari: At the end of the book we learn
that Hawk is going to be writing The Book of Joby. Is that just a literary
tool or do you see some connection between yourself and the character of
MJF: The Jungians have a saying, I am told, that ‘in a dream, ALL the characters are you’ – which is true at least in the sense that none of them are being generated by anybody else’s mind – as far as we know. … I feel that way about the characters in this book. If I had to pick one that I identify with most, it would, unsurprisingly, be Joby, I think, but I had to identify even with Lucifer, at least a little bit, to make him tick even a little credibly. I am all of those characters – and none of them. The character of Hawk was actually inspired by a boy I knew back when I lived in Taubolt – who ultimately bears almost as little actual resemblance to Hawk as I do – except in tone.
Sparrow_hawk writes: “Questions: First, I’d like to say that The Book of
Joby is wonderful and I loved it! You depict this view of God and the world
MJF: Thank you! (And if you are, by some chance, the Sparrowhawk of whom Ursula Leguin wrote so much, I’d like to say that I have been a tremendous fan of yours for many years as well!)
“Does it represent your personal beliefs or is it pure fantasy?”
MJF: Not entirely sure how to interpret the question. The story’s musings about the nature of justice, the problems of anger, grief and despair, the riddle of ‘free will’ etc., certainly do reflect my own thinking. If you’re asking whether my depictions of God, Lucifer, angels, etc, reflect my actual religious beliefs, that’s harder to say. In tone, certainly, they do, but not necessarily in the details. Most of that is just “pure fantasy.” What else could it be?
I have been reluctant to discuss my own ‘religious views’ too explicitly, but for some reason, am deciding I will – a little – here tonight. … Don’t ask me why. ‘It’s a mystery, my child’ – or the cold meds suppressing my judgment.
Bottom line, I believe that if ‘God’ exists, (and, candidly, I have never been able to quite extinguish the hunch that ‘He’ does), ‘He’ is beyond any human capacity to understand or define ‘accurately.’ Therefore, I do not believe that anything in my book, or anywhere else, ‘accurately’ describes ‘God.’ I believe that religions of all stripes are human creations made by us – not by ‘God’ – in response to our experience of ‘God’ over time, not ‘accurate’ divine creations handed *to* us from above somehow. I also believe that this opinion renders me heretical in most places of worship. A damn shame. But I bear up, because my opinion is founded, really, in what the churches I grew up in taught me – that God was infinite, inexpressibly more knowing, more powerful, more present, more surprising than we could ever know. So … how can we say, “but I‘ve got this infinite, incomprehensibly knowing and powerful God all nailed down right here in this very finite very knowable and often impotent doctrinal formula, and so ‘accurately’ that you’ll go to hell if you don’t swallow it whole and reject all others”?
In the computer gaming industry, which is my day job, we often create and use something called ‘placeholder art.’ It’s not the actual art. We don’t have that yet. It just indicates, very usefully, what the real art will be like when we get it. I think of religions as placeholder art. I believe they all point toward something real – but none of them ARE the thing they point at. Thus my invention in The Book of Joby is just one more piece of placeholder art – to be discarded as soon as the ‘real art’ arrives.
“What inspired you to move from illustrating to writing?”
MJF: A truck and the desire to tell stories faster than I could draw pictures. See above. 🙂
Antisocialbutterflie writes: “Questions for Mark Ferrari
1)I found your choice of plot to be rather interesting. How did you decide
to combine the story of Job with the story of King Arthur?”
MJF: Again, see answers to ‘Ponytail’ above.
“2)What led you to the decision to make the angels capable of free will?”
MJF: Now THAT’S a great question I have never gotten. Thanks!
Once again, the riddle of free will and its connections, (in my mind at least), to the nature of love on one hand, and the urge to ‘control’ on the other, were very much at the heart of this story for me. I see a lot of people with basically good intentions these days who are so sure they’re right – and so angry at everyone who fails to recognize their ‘rightness’ – that they do terrible things to themselves and to the world around them in the name of control. Those who are Christian will virtually all agree right away that of course God gave us free will. What puzzle’s me is why so many of them feel that no one but themselves or their group should be allowed to exercise that freedom. Have they thought about why that freedom matters? Have they read the parable of the prodigal son, and asked themselves which brother ended up on better terms with ‘the father?’ Do they understand how impossible real ‘love’ would be without free will? … Are they really prepared to preempt love itself in exchange for compliance with the ‘right’ motions? Are they REALLY sure they’re THAT ‘right?’
It was through the ‘angels’ in my story that I explored this question most overtly. If anyone should know what was ‘right’- one thinks it would be them. And yet, if ‘God’ was really as wise, powerful, capable and admirable as all his worshipers keep claiming ‘He’ is, then why would he make such crummy stuff that it had to be constantly controlled, thwarted and punished into doing ‘the right thing?’ What if ‘God’ really did make things just as they should be – whether they look ‘right’ to us or not? What if he made them so well that even their ‘wrong’ moves worked out as they were ‘meant to’ in the end? What if ‘God’s’ handiwork could simply be trusted – whatever happened – though no one but ‘Him’ really believed it – even the ‘angels?’ What if ‘God’ really wanted something other than ‘Himself’ right from the start, and made things not only able, but actually worthy to be truly free? These were the questions I was asking through my story’s angels. As to whether my conclusions are ‘right,’ … I keep asking every time God and I have lunch, but he never gives me a straight answer.
“3)The book was a fabulous twist on both the God v. Lucifer plot and the King
Arthur plot. Both plots are very well-tread, but you made it fun and
MJF: Again, thank you. That was my hope, and I’m glad that, for you at least, it worked. I suspect that some of that interest derives from the unexpected combination of the two.
“Are there any other traditional story lines that you’d like to
MJF: Oh, all kinds. In fact, if storylines last long enough to become ‘traditional,’ I think it’s probably because they have such lasting power and importance that they will *have* to be retold again and again from generation to generation – always re-tailored to their era, but still basically the same. I do not have plans for anymore ‘Judeo-Christian’ fantasies for a while however. Lived through that once. Why tempt fate further?
“Thank you for a wonderful read.”
MJF: Thank you for reading it!
Thornyrose writes: “Questions for Mr. Ferrari. I’ll start with the one Mr.
M. has pointed out already. What do you,as the author, feel that God gained
out of making this wager with Lucifer in the first place? In the biblical
book of Job, the wager centers around a grown man with a longterm devotion
to God, and with a well established style of life based around his faith.
What factors made you choose to make Joby a child at the start of this
contest? And was there any particular reason to set a 30 year period for the
wager to play out?”
MJF: Again, what great questions that I have not been asked before.
What God gained from the wager was yet another chance to refute the claim that his creation was inherently flawed and merited destruction, as Lucifer and a surprising number of ‘well intentioned’ people seem to believe – and, of course, to spare in the process a few million innocent lives in Kashmir, the Congo, and a number of other places from disasters that Lucifer was engineering for them when they made the wager.
As for why I chose to make my ‘Job’ a child – I’m just a mean-ass S.O.B. … Oh, and yeah, I thought overwhelming malevolence and power pitted against pure innocence, not just mature ‘obedience,’ would better convey both the vulnerability and the power of ‘pure creation’ endangered. For better and for worse, I think we are far more genuine and true to who we are and whatever we really value as children than we will ever be again. There is a line near the beginning of the book: “…his heart filled with the kind of urgent devotion that perhaps only a child can countenance….” No one can ‘believe’ the way I wanted my character to believe, like a child can – not in religion, or in social quid pro quo – but just a kind of reflexive faith in ‘things in general’ that we are all too soon trained out of. My character needed to come from this place as no adult Job ever could have.
As for the 30 year period, there were multiple reasons for this – some of them purely mechanical like trying to apply limits to a story that was already too large to be manageable, and some of them philosophical. The ‘Creator’ that I was depicting would not simply have thrown the entire life of his champion away. He would have left room for some kind of compensation. Plus, maybe that Creator ‘suspected’ that the time limit would throw Lucifer off in the end – make him panic and push too hard rather than just keep eroding away. … Who knows? As I said, I never get straight answers when I ask God these questions.
“If not northern California, would you personally see as a “slice of Heaven on Earth”? ”
MJF: I think perhaps a word got left out of this one, but I’ll assuming you meant ‘*where* else would I see as a slice of heaven on earth?’
Well … anywhere that I could live a meaningful and adventurous life in the company of people I admired and loved who admired and loved me back. … It’s a lot to ask for – and I don’t often even know how to look for it. But, every now and then, I have been gifted – sometimes for years at a time – with such a life. The ‘where’ was rarely consequential. The ‘who and what’ made ‘heaven.’ Taubolt was a beautiful place – still is, though not in all the same ways – but it would have been just another pretty coastal town without a community of people and a network of amazing lives that is fraying and/or vanished there now – for me at least.
“In reincarnating Author, Lancelot, and Guinevere as Joby, Ben, and Laura, were you ever tempted to go another route with Ben’s character? Of the three, he seemed to me the least developed of the characters, either as Ben himself or as a reincarnated Lance. I’m just curious if his role had been fairly plotted out before you began writing, or if the story took its own twists with him. ”
MJF: The answer to your question is yes, yes, and yes. In the year before this book’s publication, I was required to remove 150 pages of the story. At the time I was told by my agent that this was mandated by the ‘cost-analysis’ division who needed to fit more copies into a shipping container. I suspect that was a polite way of telling me the book was just too damn long, and, candidly, I think the book is better since I rearranged it to accommodate that hefty amputation. But, ultimately, no one was encouraging me to develop characters ‘more.’ I was urged to find things that could be cut out. Of the three main characters, Joby, Laura and Ben, Ben was the most expendable in terms of depth – as is Lance in the original tales. I did love Once and Future King largely for the way T.H. White brought Lancelot so tenderly into full relief there, but I just ran out of pages for such luxuries long before I was sated. … alas.
“Thank you very much for taking part in Mr. Mallozzi’s BotM club.”
MJF: No, no! Thank YOU! (to quote Chip and Dale.)
SueS writes: “A few questions for Mark:
1. In the FAQ on your site, you said that this is not a Christian fantasy,
but I was wondering if you have read any Christian fantasies and what your
opinion was of them? (BTW, your portrayal of Satan and his minions reminded
me of The Screwtape Letters.)”
MJF: Oh yes. I read both the Narnia Chronicles and The Screwtape Letters in college and loved them all. I had no conscious intention of aping Screwtape, but it’s definitely in the stew I conjure from. I have also enjoyed more recent ‘religiocentric’ fantasies as Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, and Children of God – Damiano’s Lute by R. A. Macavoy, I believe – as well as Steven Lawhead’s Arthurian trilogy, and several others. I have lived my whole live happily straddling the line between religion and fantasy. Though I grow more heretical with every such statement, I believe they all point at the same thing – whatever that thing turns out to be.
“2. Speaking of books, if you were locked in a room with only three books
(and a good source of light) which three books would you choose?”
MJF: What an unfair question! I love EVERYBODY’s children EQUALLY, of course … but I supposed if the oxygen bags dropped suddenly at 80,000 feet, and I had to choose which of the books to put them on first, it would be Little Big by John Crawley, Songs of Earth and Power, (formerly a two book series called Infinity Concerto and Serpent Mage), by Greg Bear, and Wizard of Earth Sea – or virtually anything else – by Ursula LeGuin. Really not fair though. Tisk!
“3. Regarding your encounters with that flat-panel truck on that hairpin
turn .not to get all psycho-analitical on you here, but was the Book of Joby
a way to come to terms with what you went through (what you lost)?”
MJF: Alas, I had already lost more than enough years before I ever met that truck that the collision on that logging road seemed almost like good news – (really, in fact. But that’s a MUCH longer story than there’s room for here.) I was spurred to write the story when I did, as I did, by far more tragic events happening in the lives of other people in my little town, as I have said, but what I was ‘coming to terms with’ in this book was a whole lifetime of uncomfortable questions, not just a ‘local loss.’ Having said all that – in public – (I am writing this in bed on serious cold meds. I suspect I will wince and regret much when it shows up in all the tabloids on Monday.)- I must say, just as candidly and sincerely, that my life has had at least as many equally dramatic – and equally senseless – ups as downs. The whole thing’s been a fine adventure that will hopefully fuel many, many more novels before I am done, and if I were hit by an ice cream truck today, and died with a mouth full of Eskimo Pie, I would feel nothing but satisfied and grateful (for my life, I mean, not the Eskimo Pie, though that would not be entirely unwelcome, I suppose … Or a Crispy Cream truck, perhaps… hmmmm). 🙂
Ponytail also writes: “Some book related questions for Mr. Ferrari:
Why didn’t Joby’s parents come to visit him after he sent the letter telling
them where he was, and that he was happy? Lucifer intercepted the letter,
but told his crew to make sure it got delivered. Then nothing more was ever
mentioned again. Why?”
MJF: Er … actually, Joby went to visit them – and Sarina in Berkeley – soon after that. There were several chapters about it, but, alas, those were among the 150 pages cut to make my book fit correctly into shipping containers. … Trust me, you didn’t miss much.
Then again, if you’d like a way to explain the fact as it stands now, I could say that sometimes when an ‘easement’ has been achieved between two previously uncomfortable parties, everyone is happy to remain at a safe distance, smiling across the miles, but not getting too close or touching anything too directly, lest the fragile peace be broken again. … Yeah. … That’s the ticket. … (Help any? … Thought not. … Sorry.)
“Why did you choose to end the book with Joby driving toward his new home,
Laura, and son? After 600+ pages, I still very much wanted to read about the
reunion. It would have been the finishing touch for me.”
MJF: Yeah, I sort of knew that too. Sorry again. :-/
For one thing, that reunion threatened to open up a whole new wing just when I was trying to close down the building. For another, I figured many of my readers would imagine that reunion far more vividly and in ways better tailored to their specific expectations than anything I wrote anyway. Let’s face it, if I nail the scene for ‘Janet,’ it’s still going to be all wrong for ‘Mike.’ The point there was that ‘justice’ for Joby turned out to be nothing more or less than someone worthy to love and be loved by, un-thwarted, which he was clearly finally on his way to owning at last. And the tale goes on – I hope – even after the cover is closed. If too much is resolved, one may simply never think of it again.
“How long did it take you to write The Book of Joby?”
MJF: Depends on how you mean. In actual hours, probably not more than a year. But that ‘year’ of writing was squeezed in around my then very busy illustration schedule over 6 years before I got that year of writing done, and another five to get the book published.
MJF: What! You, again?
“I just visited Mark Ferrari’s website and OH MY GOSH!!! His illustrations are awesome!! You are very talented. ”
MJF: Er – I mean, Oh, you again! How lovely! 🙂
“Now I am a little MAD that you did not include any of your artwork in the Book of Joby. The picture of the angel-winged, teenage boy, sitting with the skateboard would have been PERFECT for the cover of the book. That picture alone practically tells Joby’s story all by itself. Why, why, why did you not use any of your drawings?? They would have added so much more to the story.”
MJF: Well, believe it or not, right up until the last minute, my artwork was supposed to grace the cover, but buyers at a large chain liked the book so well that they wanted to promote it to mainstream readers, and felt they couldn’t do that if it had a fantasy cover – so a main stream type cover was chosen, and the book went out in big stacks on the new fiction tables at a lot of Borders and Barnes & Nobles stores where all sorts of ‘respectable’ readers who would never have ventured into the Sci-Fi aisle found and bought it. Was I sorry? … Not too much. More people got to notice the book that way – and they could read it without embarrassment on a public bus. If my first priority was to have people see my art, I would not have started writing.
Still, I am deeply appreciative of your opinion about my art.
“As a fellow artist, your artwork is EXTREMELY IMPRESSIVE!!”
MJF: That means a lot – especially coming from a fellow artist. 🙂
Beckett’spaitent writes: “1. Many of us mentioned the delightful use of
humor in portraying Lucifer, his minions, God, and the angels. It was good
comic relief in the midst of Joby’s trials. What was your inspiration for
MJF: There were two primary reasons for making the divine characters as comical as possible. First, I’m a funny guy, who likes to laugh and have others laughing with me. Second, The story might well have been too bleak to stand without regular comedy breaks to lighten things up, and the only people who could credibly provide those were the divine characters who were not so desperately entangled in Joby’s plight. They were intended to function as a comic ‘Greek chorus’ shuffling in from time to time to provide relief and outside observation on Joby’s trial. I’m happy that this seems to be how they functioned for you.
“2. What role did your own faith play in the writing of this book?”
MJF: I think I have addressed this already, but I will add, just to be sure it’s clear, that I was more interested in making my readers think about who WE human beings are, how WE behave and why, than about religious views or who God and the Devil might be. In all seriousness, I don’t know either of them well enough to attempt saying anything ‘authoritative’ about either.
“3. Have you read Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the
Darkness? They were another example of demonic forces battling the powers of
good, while showing God and believing humans in a positive light. Were his
books a noodge in the direction of Joby?”
MJF: Honestly, I have not heard of these books. (I didn’t really get out of Taubolt much for quite a few years.) But I will certainly go looking for them now!
“4. Agnes Hamilton was such a pill! I really wanted to tell her to pack it up
and head for Napa Valley. (Good. Consistent with author’s intention.)You never ran into her in real life, did you?”
MJF: Oh yes. Sadly, she is one character I poured more effort into disguising than creating, for fear of liability lawsuits. Let me be very clear. Agnes Hamilton is a fictitious character, shaped at every step to fit the purposes of my story. The real person by whom that character was inspired never said or did most of the things Agnes did, but anyone in Taubolt will know who she was. In fairness, the real woman was nowhere near as one-dimensionally wicked as Agnes was, and had, I think suffered a lot over the course of her life. I used to be very angry at her, but could not be for long afterward without realizing what it must cost her to live in such constant conflict with so many around her. She passed on a few years ago, and I very sincerely hope she has found release from all the things that wounded her in life, and knows many of the joys and comforts that seem to have so often eluded her here.
“5. What themes would you like to experiment with in your next book?”
MJF: Well, while the description I offered above gives you hints as to my coming novel’s content, I am GLAD you asked about its themes! It will not be The Book of Joby – or in any way related to it. But it is not the same old slapstick farce, or the ‘eternal youth conundrum’ we’ve seen so many times in movie theaters either. It’s a lighter, but still serious exploration, (I hope), of what really does or doesn’t make one guy happy in life, and what ‘age’ and ‘limited timescape’ do and don’t need to mean in that quest. If you’ve ever wished – even for a moment – that you could be ‘young’ again knowing everything you’ve learned so far, I hope you will find this book both entertaining and thought provoking.
Alas, my poor tormented nose has begun to bleed profusely. Perhaps not flu then? Ebola most likely. Tisk. What a nuisance. I must go.
Again, my thanks to Joe and all of you for so many wonderful questions and so much interest in my first novel. Your encouragement stokes my writing furnace.
PL writes: “Since the infamous Atlantis toilet episode never happened, can we expect to see a similar story in SGU?”
Answer: Of course. Carl is presently scripting the toilet three-parter that was initially planned for Atlantis. Once he’s finished doing a search and replace on the character names, he’ll be good to go.
Indigo Sapphire writes: “I appear to have touched a nerve. Perhaps you have no idea what I’m referring to because I erroneously wrote Off the Grid instead of the correct title, Stronghold. […] I’ve already won. And we both know it.”
Answer: Sure sure, you nonsensical little mouth-frother you. Enjoy. By the way, I love the fact that for all your wacky anger, you’re unable to even specify what the hell caused this life crisis. What was it about Mitchell that bothered you in the episode? Was it what he was wearing? The way he walked? Or was he, as I suspect, sending you subliminal threats over the airwaves? Anyway, thanks for stopping by and reinforcing the stereotype of the crazed fan. We’re sending you off with the home edition! Thanks for playing.
Magsol writes: “1) Will SG:U have any of those “get in the gate” contests that SG-1 and SG:A offered? I figure, third time’s the charm.
2) How often do people like Indigo Sapphire troll your blog?”
Answers: 1) I don’t know what the network or studio have planned in this regard.
2) Not all that often. Most of the people who post here are fairly coherent.
Anne-Marie Sloan writes: “ Just wondering. Will there be a Blooper reel, apart of the Season 5 DVD set???”
Answer: Nope, sorry.
Ganymede writes: “You know, those cargo ships are so big – seeing as they’re used for cargo – the “toilet” question never came up as far as I’m concerned. Figured there was probably enough room for an entire spa back there….
HOWEVER, it *has* been a burning question in the case of the JUMPERS…??! “
Answer: Actually, I answered this question in a previous blog entry. In the event someone needs to answer the call of nature while on a jumper, they remain in the rear section while everyone else moves forward into the cockpit section, sealing themselves off to allow the individual their privacy. Then, when they are done, the individual radios the pilot who drops the ramp, decompressing the rear section and clearing anything that isn’t nailed down (or holding on for dear life). On the other hand, they could just go before they board.
Sock writes: “Any idea when SGA season 5 will be available on DVD?”
Answer: I just did my final SGA commentary on Remnants so I’d expect the box set to be out very soon.
Sgeureka writes: “In your December 23 entry, you wrote that Alan would write 108, and you mentioned in your January 24 entry that Carl would write episode 109. Have the episode slots been swapped, or is Alan writing two eps in a row?”
Answer: Episode slots are being swapped all over the place. I got a dozen eggs and a handful of magic beans for mine.
Atlantisjoefan writes: “There seems to be a lot of debate, even among the actors, as to whether the Atlantis movie will go ahead. What do you think Joe?”
Answer: I believe it will happen.
Tim the Technician writes: “So my question is: Would you consider reading Death Troopers when it comes out, maybe even for the BOTM Club?”
Answer: No knock against the quality of tie-in novels, but I prefer to read originals.
Melissa’s Cozy Teacup writes: “A huge lover of tea, and thoroughly having enjoyed all the tea references in SGA, any plans of someone bringing along their own stash on SGU?”
Answer: Given the circumstances, it’s highly unlikely.