Genres: Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Futuristic, Nanotechnology
A world where illness and disease have been eradicated.
What if you could be young forever?
What if you didn't want to?
Levi Clayton Furstman's decision not to be inoculated with technology designed to bestow youth and immortality leads him on a journey that forces him to reexamine his relationships, his purpose in life, and, ultimately, what it means to be human.
The Interview With Daniel Seltzer:
Hi, Daniel. Thanks for doing an interview with us. Have you always been a science fiction fan, or was it something that developed after you became an adult?
Thanks for having me here. I have always been a fan of science fiction. I grew up a prolific reader and one of the schools I attended (I moved quite a bit growing up) used the Houghton-Mifflin readers. I think it was in the one entitled Serendipity (I’m not sure why that sticks with me) that we read Bradbury’s The Veldt. I found that story to be powerful. When I got a little older I picked up a copy of the Illustrated Man and enjoyed it immensely. I read a lot of science fiction in middle school and high school: The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, the Foundation series by Asimov, Ender’s Game (the list can go on). A lot of really good stories. My mother was also a big fan of Star Trek and I watched a lot of that when I was younger. Throw in all the great movies (2001, Terminator, Star Wars, BladeRunner) and television series (Lost in Space, Battlestar Galatica) and I’d say I was a big fan for most of my life. I continue to enjoy the genre, but am also a big fan of dystopian literature. Leviticus is, ultimately, a futuristic dystopian novel (actually the first of a trilogy).
Did you always want to write? What steps led up to you writing a book?
I’ve always enjoyed writing. When I was younger (somewhere around 5th or 6th grade) we had to write poems for school. I started writing limericks and enjoyed doing so. I continued to write poetry through high school (I was equally obsessed with music and thoroughly enjoyed studying the lyrics of many songs - some of the most powerful poetry I’ve ever read). At one point, I decided to write a poem a day for a year. I’m not sure I was completely successful at producing 365 poems - I’ve got a book somewhere filled with a lot of bad poems, but it did get me writing. I also tried my hand at a few short stories. One children’s story and another a science fiction piece. I tried the traditional route to publishing for the children’s book quite a number of years ago to no success. The sci-fi story is a good story, but not nearly to the point of thinking about publication. Still, it filled the need to write.
In college I earned an English degree and ended up in law school a few years later (oops!). After that, the thought of writing seemed a far-fetched dream. I always say that law school squeezed the creativity out of me. Legal writing does not lend itself to fiction (or at least it should not - but that’s a different topic!). For a long time after that, I didn’t even think about writing. I had a few ideas here and there, but they led to little more than a note jotted down on a post-it note and stashed away.
I have never been overly enthused about the practice of law and back in 2009 I had the opportunity to work as a post-doc researcher at the now defunct Northwestern University’s Center for Bioethics, Science and Society under the tutelage of Dr. Laurie Zoloth. (I had earned a MA in Healthcare Ethics the decade after I graduated law school.) My research dealt with the social and ethical implications of nanotechnology (a word I had not even heard of at that time). It was through my research and I began to think creatively about the implications of molecular manufacturing and the medical advances that nano-scientists claim are possible. In reading the theory of one famous scientist, an idea was formed for the ending of a book (I’m not prepared to disclose the scientist or the theory as this trilogy is, ultimately, a direct response and I don’t want to give too much away). Ever since, this “ending” has been gnawing away in the back of my brain. When they shut the Center down in March 2011 I had some free time while I worked at rebuilding my law practice and decided to put pen to paper. Originally I had planned on writing a single book in three sections. My brother suggested a trilogy (“Why don’t you write a trilogy, Dan? Everyone’s doing it?”). It seemed like a good idea, a chance to expand on some of the characters and explore my vision of future a little more.
From reading the bio and excerpt, it looks like your main character, Levi, has quite a journey! How did you manage to stay inspired to create such an epic science fiction novel?
He does. And that is why I spend so much time in the early part of the story developing his character and the world he lives in. The story takes a little time to get rolling, but without the deep understanding of Clay (that’s what Levi goes by), who he is and where he comes from, I think the reader will have difficulty fully understanding the dilemma he faces.
I think the story is a good story. I’ve always felt it was a good story. The key was to be able to tell it well (which I hope I have done). The folks who have read it and commented to me have sought (and in one case demanded) that I drop everything and finish the trilogy - so they can find out how it ends. I’m equally as excited to finish the book - to get the whole story out there because I really believe it’s worth telling and I’m excited to share it. So, in a sense, it does not take much effort to stay inspired - the story is there, begging to be set free.
Do you think you would have made the same decision as Levi, the decision to not be inoculated?
That’s a great question. Unfortunately (for me), Clay spends a little more time considering matters before he acts. He’s a little more suspicious than I am and a little less comfortable with technology. I think that his actions ultimately represent what I would like my actions to be. I’m a little less cautious, however, and would probably have made the decision to be inoculated, and then, a week or two (or ten or twenty) later, I would have hit myself in the head for acting too rashly.
Do you think that one day soon, we might have a similar technology?
The technology in this book is not from my imagination. I basically tried to take the technologies that currently exist, and the technologies that scientists are currently working on, or believe are achievable in the next several decades, and created the world which exists in Leviticus. As the story advances (especially in Book 3) I will take a much further-reaching look forward at the technology, but still, it is technology that today’s scientists believe will come to fruition. Having spent over two years reading about nanotechnology and the science these folks are working on (and the advances they have made to date), I have to believe that much of the technology in my story will come to pass in the next 50 years. I tell my kids (teenagers) all the time that by the time they’re my age, cancer will either be curable, or treatments will be available such that it will simply be a chronic condition that will not prevent someone from enjoying a relatively normal life.
What are some of your favorite science fiction movies and television shows?
My all-time favorite movie (of any genre) is Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I love the Phillip Dick stuff (BladeRunner, Total Recall, etc) and can watch Lord of the Rings again and again. Movies are a great escape for a couple hours, and, better yet, they oftentimes result in me (at least wanting to) read the books (I try to spend my time writing - although I should be reading, too). I don’t watch a lot of television. With two teenagers, it always seems that something else is going on. When I do sit down and watch t.v., it’s generally a Blackhawks game (I love hockey). Otherwise, I did manage to find myself home alone the other weekend and watched a lot of Twilight Zone. Serling was a genius, and I love to see all the famous actors who did those (William Shatner, Jack Klugman, Art Carney).
What about science fiction books?
I talked about books a little while ago. In addition to those, I do tend towards the dystopian, which are usually futuristic and sometimes apocalyptic. My all-time favorite book is Cormick McCarthy’s The Road. I’m currently reading (or at least trying to) the Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin. I read The Passage (twice, really) but have yet to start The Twelve. I know once I pick it up - I won’t be able to put it down and work on my next book will suffer.
Do you ever attend any science fiction conventions? If so, what is your favorite?
I did attend a scientific conference on trans-humanism. I’d have to say that it definitely contained elements of science fiction, but, no, I have not. I’d like to at some point, but not sure which. I’d love some recommendations if you’ve got any.
Are you working on another book now? If so, can you tell us some about it?
I’m working on Book 2 of this series. I suppose I should have pointed out earlier that the trilogy is called When We Were Gods. Book 2 continues the story of Leviticus: Clay’s struggle to make the right decisions and how his relationships develop in the world that has risen up around him. We also learn a little more about Eva and her connection to the events taking place. Of course, the main antagonist, Col. Leeds, continues to appear and we are introduced to several other characters who will play continuing roles in the rest of the trilogy.
If you could live on any known planet, which one would it be and why?
I’m going to skip the planets and pick Europa. I love watching our moon (I actually love watching all the celestial bodies - I’m an amateur astronomer and have spent many nights stargazing), especially a new moon, when you can see the dark side in shadow and really get a feel for the three-dimensionality of it. Can you imagine the view of Jupiter and Saturn from Europa? Two large planets in full technicolor (and seeing the rings on Saturn from so close!) would be truly amazing.