Parallaxed Journal is excited to have the opportunity to interview Mr. Biesele, author of The Saeshell Book of Time, Part 1: The Death of Innocents! The Saeshell Book of Time is the debut novel for author Rusty Biesele. Prior to becoming a writer, Rusty did government funded student research, corporate funded research, finally progressing to various bleeding edge projects in Silicon Valley, working for companies such as Apple Computer, Philips Semiconductor, and Hewlett Packard. He has also been a securities trader and toyed around with robotics software. He currently lives in Silicon Valley in California with his wife and daughter, where he writes full time.
This interview is the first part of a two part series on The Saeshell Book of Time. We asked Mr. Biesele if he wouldn’t mind answering a few questions about his first book, The Saeshell Book of Time, Part 1: The Death of Innocents.
Parallaxed Journal: The introduction of your book is given by a fabulously sneering winged Saeshell. Why did you feel it was important to emphasize a “living book?” Can you explain to readers, and to those who have yet to read your book, the role of the winged Saeshells?
Mr. Biesele: Actually, the speaker at the introduction is the book itself. The book you are reading is talking to you and has a personality of its own. The main thing about the “living book”, the Book of Time, is that it records all that has been and all that will be. People in the world of the book feel that if they can influence the book, they can control time. But the question is who is influencing who because the future will change depending on what the book shows the reader. The book is also a metaphor for how my book is written. My book has key details missing and transparently to the reader, the reader’s mind will fill in those details. So each person has a unique experience when reading it. I deliberately designed it this way so that readers will debate with each other the book’s meaning.
The Saeshells are the most supreme race in the known universe in terms of evolution. They are able to invisibly whisper into people’s ears and influence them. They are able to make whole civilizations rise and fall by their whisperings. Metaphorically, they represent the merging of art and knowledge. You can also see this duality in Stefan and Tova2 where Stefan represents art, empathy, and sensitivity in his emotions, while Tova2 represents knowledge and clarity of thought.
Parallaxed Journal: Characters jump back and forth across time as if suggesting that time is not linear but circular. The main character, Stefan, is shown living his life simultaneously as both a seventh grader and a first grader, with only the reader knowing what younger Stefan will have to face in his future. Why did you feel this was important to structure your story’s time as circular rather than with traditional flashbacks from a present point in time?
Mr. Biesele: The book itself is written in a circular fashion because it is the only way to represent the complex workings of time. It allows you to start with a conventional notion of time while gradually coming to understand the book’s concept of time. The book’s concept of time is similar to a crystal. If you smack a crystal at one end, the sound travels to the opposite end of the crystal and there it reflects backwards and heads back to the originating end. The sound waves bounce back and forth in the crystal until they die out. Effectively, time is like that with a disruption causing effects to move forward and backwards in time until they reach equilibrium. If a crystal doesn’t reach equilibrium, it shatters. If time doesn’t reach equilibrium, the timeline ceases to exist. As a practical matter, if you can live other people’s experiences as if they are happening to you or a computer can project a historical event so vividly into your mind that you feel you are living it for the first time, then a flashback just doesn’t quite cut it.
PJ: The structure of telepathy in your story is a fantastic tool for words that are withheld from society. Specifically, words from a child’s perspective of the world. What prompted you to play around with telepathy as one of the main forms of communication in your story?
Mr. B: In one of my inspirations, The Tomorrow People TV Series (1970’s version), the telepathic kids were completely vulnerable people. One of their few defenses was information. They were able to discuss things about whatever trouble they had gotten into via telepathy with a larger number of other kids elsewhere. It allowed for them to have better access to information than their attackers and to be able to plan their defense without their attackers hearing. We have seen in the present day world that when people are the underdogs, access to a covert social media has been the deciding advantage preventing them from being quietly wiped out. Intellectual kids many times feel as if they are targets (and many times they are) of attacks by a larger different population. The book tries to demonstrate that covert information can be used not only for reactive protection but for strategizing to put themselves in a better situation. From a practical consideration also, if different beings take different paths of evolution, their telepathic communication will likely evolve to be different.
PJ: There is a strong emphasis on loneliness and on finding strength from others as well as from oneself, specifically from Elof2 when he is teaching Ty and Tyco. His words of wisdom, particularly, ‘we can’t control how we were made. All we can do is try to be worth the cost’ (63), is a strong message for your readers. Do you find yourself ever following the advice of Elof2?
Mr. B: In some ways, absolutely. One cannot control what talents they are born with and what negative aspects are included with those talents. One just has to make the best use of what they have while learning to minimize the negative aspects. It’s a continual battle as those negative aspects, just like the positive talents, can never go totally away. Perfectionism is often one of the flaws that comes with talents. With perfectionism, the feeling I perceive is that I’ll never do the task well enough, so why bother doing it at all. Perfectionism killed many projects of mine in the past. This book is the first one it didn’t. I learned to accept that the books will never be perfect.
PJ: Your story balances well issues of parental misunderstanding with characters (like Elof2) who have gained a desire to give parental love in spite of his unloving upbringing from his father. What strength do you feel people and characters need to move forward in spite of discouraging upbringings?
Mr. B: Flexibility and the courage to remake yourself as if you had a good upbringing is the key. Elof2 desperately wants his own kids so he can experience the ideal childhood through his kids. As the book indicates, people are fundamentally children with a lot of burdens and expectations coating them. It’s never too late for the child to come out and play. This also has importance because intellectual talents are firmly held by the inner child. If the child can’t come out, neither can the talents fully.
PJ: I’ve noticed many correlations to war and images that suggest human violence within wars, specifically WWII. Why do you feel that it is important to express human violence in your story?
Mr. B: I attempted to write the book from both the US and UK perspectives simultaneously. World War II was a huge defining event which even today still affects British culture as far as I can tell. Modern British culture seems to be born from the ashes of that war. The books try to show that at a grungy, primitive level, violence is built into the very core of humans for practical reasons. The only way to eliminate it is to re-sculpt humanity into a fundamentally different creature. It is important to show the intellectual kids who don’t understand why violence exists, where its roots come from and the kind of permanent change it has wrought upon people. It is also an intellectual protest against violence by showing how even small violent events can cause widespread negative consequences.
PJ: Many readers will feel the familiar recollection with your character “Atreyeu” from the Neverending Story’s “Atreyu.” What are some similarities between your Atreyeu and the Atreyu from Neverending Story that you feel readers should know about? Did you want readers to correlate this character to that of your own story? What can you tell your readers about your Atreyeu?
Mr. B: I have to be careful with this one because it would be easy to giveaway the entire serial with my answer. Atreyeu in the book is a creature outside of time. In a way, Ateyeu has a never ending story. Stefan has a deep friendship with Atreyeu and is similar to Atreyu in the Neverending Story in that he has a quest of trials he must persevere through or everything wonderful about his world will cease to exist. The role of the princess is split between two characters and changed into an active character in my story. Tova2 is Stefan’s princess and like in the Neverending Story, she is an enabler for Stefan’s quest. The character Aleah contains the other half of the princess role. Like the princess in the Neverending Story, she contains the heart and soul of life. Aleah is Stefan’s little sister and you will be introduced to her starting in book two (part two).
PJ: Elof2 was probably one of my favorite characters from your story so far. He is an extremely paternal and loving person. Where did the character of Elof2 come from? Why does he so badly want children of his own? Will readers see Elof2 ever having children of his own?
Mr. B: Elof2 has his roots from the Tomorrow People TV series in the anchor character John. In American terms, John was a bit stiff as British characters would not be culturally able to openly be paternal. So I moved him to the US and gave him empathic abilities stereotypical of an intellectual person. I also was not shy about developing his intellectual background. Elof2 wants kids of his own because it’s the only way his inner child, who never really had a childhood, can come out and play. He also wants a deep unbreakable emotional connection to someone. Every time he tries, the connection seems to get broken one way or another. There is some hint of a connection between Paul7 and Elof2 in this first book. We’ll have to see how that develops. Their joint journey in itself is a deep, yet, subtle story.
PJ: Readers are introduced to Tova2 in the beginning of your story as a tantalizing, yet, alluring female character. Nevertheless, readers learn that Tova2′s past and her nature is one with depth and history. Tova2 is a much deeper character than first implied. What will readers expect from Tova2 in Part 2? What challenges will Tova2 face as a future leader of Sophista?
Mr. B: Tova2’s challenge is actually the same as Stefan’s in that she will become the queen of Earth. Like Stefan, she must go on a journey of self-discovery where she has to come to grips with never having been human despite her human upbringing and being told she was human. The thing that makes Tova2’s journey different is that she is deeply gifted in the biosciences field. During her journey, she intimately understands what has been done to her and what the implications are. It’s like an expert in cancer being told they have cancer. They know where things are headed step by step and it becomes difficult to accept their own fate when they are the one being affected. The serial doesn’t wave any magic wands in terms of Stefan and Tova2’s ascension and the reader can practically smell the nitty gritty stench of the functioning of life in detail. At every step in the story, Tova2’s preconceptions about who and what she is, are peeled away layer by layer.
PJ: You have created a spicy love triangle that will appeal to many readers of romance novels. What can you say about the future of Tova2 and Elof2 (they both have the number 2, I noticed, does this mean something or does it just imply that they were both reintegrated?) Have you considered disrupting Tova2 and Stefan’s relationship or are they a solid pair?
Mr. B: The love triangle is extremely poignant. The triangle has been irrevocably doomed by outside forces. I don’t mean killing off one of the members or any other convenient plot device like that. The triangle exists because of concrete facts that lead to its development. Those facts never go away. Tova2’s heart is slowly ripped out over four books and Stefan must be patient as he is repeatedly humiliated. Stefan can never hate Elof2 because Elof2 saved him and repeatedly sacrifices himself for Stefan. In the end of the serial, changes in all the characters force resolution and they must all still love each other, though some not romantically any more. And it is not an “oh well, let’s shake hands and be happy” ending either. And yes, the “2″ at the end of the name is just coincidence. Book four (part four), where things are resolved, will be too intense for some readers.
PJ: Science fiction dominates your story as readers are introduced with complex, yet, intriguing scientific scenarios that seem almost to echo, in some parts, James Cameron’s Avatar. Specifically, the reintegration of Tova into Tova2 was a remarkable read. The concept of reintegration is one that fascinates reader’s mind by opening a wormhole of endless imaginative possibilities. What does reintegration insinuate about death in Sophista? Can you explain to your readers what it means when characters are reintegrated?
Mr. B: As one of the characters on Sophista says, “No one ever truly dies on Sophista, except…” Reintegration means that your mind, as it was at some particular time, is dropped into a new body. This body is created by the machine but designed by the Sophistans. Thus you come back to life in a body that is largely the same in appearance as when you died. But at the point of becoming conscious after reintegration, because your genetics and body structure can be altered internally, you might have new talents. Your brain could be ten-times smarter, in which case, you change your perspective on some aspects of your own past. Reintegration also allows a convenient platform for explaining Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. If you could repeatedly kill someone and then bring them back without the memory of their murder, would it be okay to kill them? Book one briefly explores this in the Sophistan context. To capture the complete description of your mind and body, you must be ripped apart molecule by molecule while alive to experience it. The Sophistan’s delete that horrifically painful memory before you are put back together. There is another ethical conflict to this in that if your conscious mind exists as a simulation that can be repeatedly run and then reverted back to its initial state, are you owed any respect or consideration? It is another perspective in Plato’s allegory.
PJ: What can you tell your readers about Sophistan culture that might help them relate in some way to the role the Sophistans play in your story?
Mr. B: Sophista is Latin for Sophist. Our current system of education comes from the Sophists. The name, Sophist, later in history, took on a bad connotation. So Sophista is the planet of knowledge, love, and peace. But they are choosy about who they share their knowledge with, both for their own protection and to prevent catastrophes in other civilizations. Like the Sophists, they may project an air of certainty in their knowledge, but the randomness sometimes turns their endeavors into tragedies. I watched a PBS series when I was a kid called “The Ascent of Man” which is based on the book by the same name by Jacob Bronowski. There is a chapter in his book (also an episode in the series) called “Knowledge or Certainty”. In that chapter, he shows that knowledge is ever-flowing and changing and that strict determinism can cause political views such as Nazism to arise. The Sophistans are not Nazis and what they do is out of survival needs and true efforts to improve other species. Yet things do go wrong which results in horrible atrocities being committed on other races of creatures. So, to some extent, one of the subthemes of the storyline is the Sophistans continuous atonement for their accidental misdeeds as well as their conflicting unrepentant thoughts for other races, since these other races have been modified and created to facilitate the Sophistans’ survival. Their conflicting goal is to fulfill their survival needs while attempting to improve other races situations in the process. Stefan and Tova2’s reintegration is just a tremendous focal point for the irony and contradictions in the Sophistan culture.
PJ: I noticed a great importance on ages and grade levels that describe each of your characters. Did you do this to partially distinguish for the reader separate points of time in your story (as in 6 year old Stefan vs. seventh grade Stefan) or did you do this to create a relatable character for gifted children and young adult readers?
Mr. B: I use the grades and ages as time markers so that the reader understands the emotional age of the kids and knows where on the timeline of the story they are. In terms of gifted readers, this system unexpectedly backfired. Some gifted children could be doing fourth-grade work in first-grade. So the use of grades actually is a bit confusing for them, especially if they were homeschooled. In addition, 6th grade US is actually year 7 in the UK, which further confused things. It would have been better if I had strictly used ages. But for kids in traditional educational settings, the grade system is more relatable, I think. Having gone through a semi-traditional educational system, I myself found the use of grades as a developmental marker for the kids more relatable.
PJ: What is one thing you hope your readers will take from reading Part 1: The Death of Innocents?
Mr. B: Many times readers get wrapped up in the character struggles without realizing the larger picture. One thing that is being set up is a backdrop of political intrigue. There is some tension between the fairies and the Saeshells. In addition, the fact that the Earth characters are from both the US and the UK is not an arbitrary decision but one that allows much political intrigue that will start in book three (part three). Book two (part two) will delve into it slightly as Tova2 and Stefan start to contemplate what their role on Earth will be. The setup for the political struggles occurs in book one (part one). It is very subtle. It’s useful to think of what might go on when you combine superior races vying against each other for superiority while being determined to maintain peace with the humans who are easily manipulated, and whose politics do not include a devotion to peace, especially when peace is inconvenient. The involvement of Elof2’s dad with covert ops people is not a plot convenience but portends of future political events. One of the other things I try to do with book one is to show that an intellectual lifestyle is not a boring thing but can be quite exciting. But the dark side of that is when intellectually and artistically gifted people are treated not as humans but as tools. A good saying to internalize is “I am not my gift”, meaning that gifted humanity has many facets, just like any other kind of human. One aspect to this, which is explored some in book one and explodes in book three, is what happens when gifted humans are ruthlessly exploited.
PJ: What is one thing you would like to explain to readers who feel this book is a challenge to read?
Mr. B: Readers who read these books should understand that these books are a puzzle. So it’s easier if you treat them as such. For one thing, the book will not give up all its secrets on a single read. If you are dead tired and want to escape to somewhere mellow, this book does not provide that experience. Like a puzzle, if you try to read the book (work out the puzzle) when you are tired and impatient, it will be a most unpleasant experience and you will likely skip key clues leading to total confusion. For example, in book one, Ty is not just saying random things nor is he just giving you hints for the serial story (books one through four). He is giving hints for the entire series as well. The Saeshell Book of Time, Parts One through Four form a single story in the Children of Sophista Series. Book five starts a new story and is set just after books one through four. So read these books sometime when you can focus intensely on what is going on in the book and you will walk away with something more than just a good story; you will have some things to think about in terms of life itself. That is, after all, what a philosophical book is designed to do.
Part 1: The Death of Innocents is one of four books ready to be read. The Saeshell Book of Time Part 2: The Rebirth of Innocents will be released on March 29th of this year. I recommend you buy the first book to prepare for the continuation of the story! You can purchase Part 1: The Death of Innocents here.
Visit Mr. Biesele’s webpage for more information on the Children of Sophista Series.