I recently interviewed via email Canadian author Paul Collins about his latest novel, KING WITHOUT AN EMPIRE. It's an interesting book, and Paul has a lot of interesting things to say about topics very familiar to Daily Grail regulars. Be sure to read my review also.
TDG: Michael Bassett is an intriguing character. How were you inspired to create him?
PC: Thanks for getting the ball rolling. I must thank you for finding Mr. Bassett intriguing. What was my inspiration? In the mid 90's I dropped out of part time film school at Ryerson University and found myself working for ten dollars an hour as a film security guard, where I guarded all the film set locations and the vehicles that went with it. In life, one meets up with people along the way. In film and television circles, it is part of the territory. In the late 90's, I even directed a commercial and got it on TV. This whole experience was one hell of a life experience. I was ripped off in the process, but I came away with a life experience- I had used professional equipment to shoot a commercial. I wrote it, directed it, and had lived through the entire production process.
Since I had earned no money from it, I fell into selling radio advertisement. I was sent to cover a press conference at the bottom of the CN tower. You talk about cunning and clever people. I had no idea who Richard Branson was. I knew he was a billionaire, but knew nothing of his personal life. The CEO of Virgin records/airlines, was at the bottom of the CN tower dressed up in a hockey goalie uniform. He had several drop-dead gorgeous blondes at his disposal. During this radio experience I met up with a lot of billionaires. Some were dot com types and what not. I just found a lot of cunning, clever people in the media and in my production circles. Because of my experiences along the way, I have come to feel, "if you are that bad enough, you will get ahead— take no prisoners." That is where I feel my inpsiration has come from. All and all I would love to see the video for that Branson photo op. I actually bounced a few questions off of him, annoying him in the process. I remember asking him if he will guarantee that passengers on Virgin Air will not fall victim to economy class syndrome. He kept asking who I was and which media outlet I was with. I really found that amusing to no end. If you wonder where a person like me gets his ideas, just look at the people I have met along the way. At that time, I found it so very odd, that a billionaire would parade around at a photo op, when we could have a real space program, as opposed to what we have now-- relics from the Cold War.
TDG: It's interesting you mention DotCom billionaires, as they're a lot less identifiable and a whole lot more anonymous than publicity machines such as Richard Branson. Through your research for King Without An Empire, did you come across any evidence of shadowy billionaires up to no good?
PC: What a pity. That tech melt down in 2001, really killed a lot of ’new money’, as the rich call it. On google one can come across secret societies called the Trilateral Corporation and Bilderbergers. That is the extent of it. A few years ago, there was an arrest in Toronto’s east end beaches area. Apparently a man who owned a ten million dollar mansion was charged with operating which was then the countries largest prostitution ring. He actually owned all the escort servies in the local yellow pages! If you walked along the street, you would know instantly how poor you are, as you admired thecars in this area. One thing I am getting at... one never knows where one gets the money to buy those benzes, or porches. There is a price to everything. How much blood did a rich man have to bath his hands in to get those benzes, porches, or BMW’s in their driveway. As those oil stocks go through the roof, such questions become heresay.
TDG: Michael Bassett reminds me of S.R. Hadden, from Carl Sagan's Contact. Do you think first contact with an alien species will be through private enterprise rather than Governments or military authorities? Or are they all in cahoots?
PC: Thanks for the comparsent with the book Contact. Whenever I write about a character, Gordon Gekko of Wall Street (1987) comes to mind. That Michael Douglas/Charlie Sheen confrontation in Central Park, is the stuff of legend. I should have therapy for witnessing it, let alone Charlie Sheen! Other insperation should be the Aaron Eckhart film In The Company Of Men (1997). If you wonder why Enron or Worldcom happened, these movies warned about the backroom antics that such a scandal would come. If I can veer off topic a bit. I honestly feel that we should learn to live with this planet, rather turning this planet into a toilet, and populating other planets. The vicious cycle should end now, not in another solar system, as I portrayed it in King without an Empire. Planet Earth is just a collection of nations. We have a set amount of resourses, people, and money... and we should learn how to be content with what we have, then squander it in the name of greed and igorance. As for your question, everyone is in cahoots. Everyone knows somebody and that is the way the world is and it will never change. These secret societies in power are only there to maintain the status quo. They will not do anything differant to jepardize thier money earning ways. Thus we should expect nothing from such a vision impaired leadership. They are no differant from the Eons in King without an Empire. In a way, these secret societies give us structure. Face it, if we have total freedom, we have universal armegedon. First contact will not be through the governments, or any recognized institutions. It will be a group of techy nerds in a garage somewhere, bored at playing video games, and itching to do something, anything. The popularity of the internet, computer games, and electronic gadgets will prepare the next generation for a space age. The kids these days pride themselves on their technology, just as previous generations prided themselves on being noble men, or horse riders.
TDG: Bassett manages to have his own flying saucer built. Did you come across any interesting information regarding the back-engineering of extraterrestrial technology during your research for the novel?
PC: What got me into writing sci fi was when I first read The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence by Ray Kurzweil. I was fascinated with the prospect of how one man could lay out a vision for humanity, a vision butressed by contemporary theories. Martian Genesis : The Extraterrestrial Origins of the Human Race by Herbie Brennan was another book which I read that gave the basics of ancient archaeology. One other book I devoured in my research was The Anti-Gravity Handbook by David Hatcher Childress. There is a wealth of back-engineering of extraterrestrial technology in the book store and the libraries.
TDG: If you were rich like Bassett, would you buy your own flying saucer, or just take a trip into orbit like every other space tourist these days?
PC: Let’s go back to the point where the coceptualization of King without an Empire. It was when I saw Branson dressed up in a hockey goalie uniform. He had several drop dead gorgeous blondes at his disposal. It was there I remembered thinking at the base of the CN tower, "If I was a billionaire, I wouldn't be here! I would build a flying saucer! And fly it to Mars!" Yes we have X Prize Foundation giving out awards fo r those who wish to engage in competitions to engage in alternative type of travel. It is great to see us challenging ourselves. If the super rich can do it, someday we will do it too. Who financed Christopher Columbus? Wasn’t a school for navigators set up in 1500 century Portugal? Didn’t a member of royality bank roll Columbas? The United States and Canada, or Mexico, didn’t just appear over night. I feel space tourism will ignite change in the next few decades. The idle rich will lay the foundation for space travel. I don’t know if I would wish to pay 100 million to go around the moon. I just consider myself a ridiculous day dreamer who scribbled his way into publishing! It's common knowledge escaped Nazi Germans post Word War II established colonies in South America. Do you believe the scenario of secret colonies on other worlds is possible?
This book just didn’t appear on paper, I had to read something to get the story going. Man-Made Ufos 1944-1994: 50 Years of Suppression by Renato Vesco, David Hatcher Childress. That Vesco book got the bug in me to put the secret colonies scenario in Alpha Centauri. I don’t think the Oil and Gas companies would allow such a thing to happen. Could you imagine such an operation occurring in the 40’s and 50’s? I think organized religion had too much of a choke chain for society to apply new technology in such an era. Yes Hitler and his followers were the epitinmy of evil. I do believe that the Nazies used their resources to create such tech. When John Wayne and the Americans raced in and helped end WWII, they did get Hitler’s tech booty, stored it in Area 51, where they test it. Since the US is relatively a young country, in comparasent to Europe, or Asia, I don’t think the US has the wisdom to apply this new tech for the betterment of society. I feel if the Europeans or Asians, had such hardware at their disposal, we would of set up bases on Mars long ago. We have to accept the fact that the United States dicatates the world in business, trade, and commerce. Through it’s business interests, the US has the weight and power to finance a space mission. When the Oil and gas companies turn Earth into a toilet, only then would will the human species become a spacefaring society, as in ancient times.
TDG: The alien entity on Pangea is quite unique. Can you explain its conceptualisation for us?
PC: When you look out to the ocean and see the water so peaceful, one does not expect to expect the water to become dangerous. Yet there are storms and even a Tsunami, or even the famous stories of ship sinkings. In short, we must respect the water. In another another society, they actually worshipped Poseidon, the god of water. I never knew my oceanic entity would get the attention of reviewers. I thought the fact that I wrote Marshall McLuhan into the work and expected Mr. McLuhan would get most of the attention. We all know McLuhan is famous for his quote "Medium is the Message" and "global village." Never in my wildest dreams would I think the alien inteligence would eclipse Mr. McLuhan in stature.
TDG: That's quite a trip Michael Bassett experiences in the novel's conclusion. To what extent do hallucinogenic drugs play in the expansion of his consciousness?
PC: The journey at the end of the work is my favourite. I spent much time crafting these scenes. Many times I would go over it, over, and over again, making sure it was right. I must admit I have a fascination with eastern thinking. I read The Upanishads, some of Dr. Paul Brunton’s work, and even The Western Book of the Dead. I tried to give ’King without an Empire’ an esoteric quality. Some Hindu mystics actually espouse the notion, that the worlds is illusionary— the Maya idea. When I read the Upanishads, I found myself saying, ”I am alive because I exist, when I cease to exist, I become part of the cosmos.” Eventually, I made this line into the last line of the novel. I have more of a fascination with Eastern thinking then hallucinogenic drugs. I only added the drug quality after reading The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley. Several years ago I actually read Brave New World and this work helped me write ’Prescience Rendezvous’. My first book went on to sell three copies. It was so error ridden. It had spelling errors, grammar errors, and lack of character development. In fact, the publisher just published it as is, no editing whatsoever. I have bugged them to give it a second edition, but they won’t even think of doing so. Since I was inspired by Brave New World, I went back to reading Doors of Perception. You can say I wrote KING WITHOUT AN EMPIRE as a penance for my previous work!
TDG: Do you believe Bassett's experience is what we all face as the next step in the evolution of the human mind?
PC: We humans only use ten percent of our brain. I always felt that if science achieved a breakthrough, we would use all of our brains. Thus eliminating racism, war, or disease. It is reputed a lot of shamans used hallucinogenic drugs to expand their consciousness. Thus this is how they activated levels of their minds to enable them to foretell the future. In this day of age, the authorites ban certain drugs. I think using such drugs is the easy way to stimulate the mind, but also the most dangerious. As a matter of fact, I feel if you consume one bad chemical, you could activate a fatal gene, causing cancer, or other diseases. My ticket to the evolution of the human mind is not through drug use, but Sahaja Yoga. Proper breathing exercises and meditation is what I encourage, but we all know Kitsch sells!