Tell me something that you’ve always wanted to tell the world about the project.
I can’t speak for other authors, but in my case my writing often reflects some idea or desire that my unconscious mind is trying to share with me, but which because I am such an obvious dunderhead fails to slip through to my awareness. As one example, I’ve committed more than half a million words to the story of a protagonist and his alien animal companion (two novels, three novellas, two novelettes, and half a dozen shorts) that turned out to be all about mourning the passing of my first dog. Finally, someone pointed this out to me and I realized that twelve years of missing her was enough, and I went off to animal rescue and got a new dog.
Another such idea that shows up in my fiction a lot is death, or more specifically how the essence of who we are survives our own mortality. Barsk deals with a lot of topics and themes, including intolerance and friendship and prophecy and history, but the notion that something of us lives past physical death permeates all of these other ideas. That’s the piece I wanted to explore, both overtly and more subtly, in this novel. More importantly, and in keeping with the messages from my unconscious, I suspect that what it’s really all about for me is exploring a way to hold on to those we’ve lost.
Like many people, I routinely see and speak in my dreams with friends and family members who have died. In Barsk I formalized this, conjuring up some plausible and vaguely scientific explanations for the how and why of doing this in the waking world. I’m pretty pleased with the result, which in turn allowed me to tell an interesting story. Ultimately, I suppose I find it all oddly comforting to think that my fictional characters are connecting with their loved ones in ways that those of us in the nonfiction universe can only dream about. It holds out the promise that mortality is not the end of our connection with those dear to us.
Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, has been nominated for the Campbell, Hugo, and Nebula awards, is a world authority on the Klingon language, operates the small press Paper Golem, and is a practicing hypnotherapist specializing in authors’ issues.
His previous science fiction includes many light and humorous adventures of a space-faring stage hypnotist and his alien animal companion. His most recent book, Barsk, takes a very different tone, exploring issues of prophecy, intolerance, friendship, conspiracy, and loyalty, and redefines the continua between life and death. He lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with his wife and their dog