I have a guest post today from Stephen Weinstock, author of 1001, or The Reincarnation Chronicles. He's here to tell us about how his work is both science fiction and fantasy--and more.
BIRTH OF A HYBRID
by Stephen Weinstock
I am the white sheep in my family. I am the sole artist among a group of scientists, and though I love the sciences and don’t believe my parents, brother, or Uncle Stanley ever worked for the Dark One, I prefer to think of myself as the brave little lamb who ventured outside of the dark laboratory, into the bright light of the Arts.
My parents met while working on The Manhattan Project at Los Alamos during World War Two. Yes, we’re a nuclear family. They were only in their twenties, my father a physics grad student at Columbia, and my mom a lab technician who got her job answering an ad in the New York Times. Before their careers had even started, they were working shoulder to shoulder with the greatest minds in the world. My mother remembered walking to work behind Oppenheimer, and holding hands with Richard Feynman after his wife died in Santa Fe. Inspired by the war effort, my father continued to do science directly related to social needs, and ended his life pioneering the first scientific research on air pollution.
In the new era of DNA research, my brother George headed one of the main labs that mapped the human genome, and currently is at the center of the Human Microbiome Project. The HMP aims to map every species of organism living inside the human body, and figure out what they’ve been up to for the last million years. Talk about the arts meeting the sciences: the project surpasses anything in science fiction!
I’m proud of my family, and was a happy third-grader bringing my dad’s model of the atom to Show and Tell. I went through an obligatory period of rejection, protesting Livermore’s nuke production when I was a grad student at Berkeley. That passed, so as my path led into the performing arts, I rekindled my love of science through Star Wars, literary works such as Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics, and an interest in speculative works of art.
I was a composer for years, so I never took the one burning idea I had for a novel too seriously. I thought it would be fun to read a book where a group of characters remembered fragments of their past lives, discovered their stories were intertwined, and solved the huge puzzle of their karmic history. One thing I loved about the idea was that the past life stories could be historical fiction, science fiction, romance, or whatever, a hybrid of genres.
One Tuesday during my middle age crisis, while I was driving to Princeton to play a modern dance class, I realized how my book idea could be done. The model would be The Thousand and One Nights, a book where every new story that Scheherazade tells the King ranges from history to romance to religious parable to dirty joke. As I researched the Nights, I became fascinated by its mysterious history, imagined a host of mathematical structures hidden under my use of this model, and decided to be a writer!
My series, 1001, or The Reincarnation Chronicles tracks the past life stories of a qaraq, a group of ten (or eleven) souls traveling together through Time, currently living in the suburbs of New Jersey. Since my parents helped build the bomb, and my brother is finding every extra-human creature inside us, I didn’t want to do anything too small. The eleven books of the series contain a 1001 chapters, each chapter revealing a past life tale. But that’s not the only way the book satisfies my science genes.
First, my work process for each chapter involves filling out a form that deals with basics like plot and character, but also selects what I need to include in terms of eleven hidden math structures at work in the text. This process is a whole tale in itself, but suffice it to say I feel like a lab technician filling out a report when I prepare to write the next chapter.
Second, given the hybrid genre of the series, I get to write as many sci-fic/fantasy tales as I wish, which has fed my creative soul plenty. There are stories about bored chunks of supercontinents gazing up at the heavens, sub-atomic particles having a lover’s spat, and the ten souls of the qaraq inhabiting the body parts of a single Carboniferous era dragonfly. (You can get free reads of two dinosaur tales on my site, qaraqbooks; see the sidebar: Online Tales from 1001.) Currently, I am writing the section of the qaraq’s history where they evolved from prokaryotes to the first species on land – plants, not amphibians! It was a tough time for them, but at least they discovered sex.
Finally, the scope of the karmic history speaks directly to my love of things scientific. The tales go back before evolution and the Big Splat by four or five universes, and stretch in a similar direction into the future. I get to decide how our cosmos is going to sputter out, and of course reincarnate. Book Five culminates with the qaraq’s involvement in The Manhattan Project. And the qaraq incarnates as anything, not just humanoid creatures: inanimate objects, philosophical concepts, nuclear forces, or protozoan organisms living inside us. Thanks, bro.
So now that I have published Book One, The Qaraq, I have successfully merged my arts and science background. Perhaps I am no longer the white sheep, but a curious hybrid of white and black, my very own clone.
STEPHEN WEINSTOCK has created scores for theater companies, choreographers, and dance studios; he currently works at LaGuardia HS (the Fame School). He is author of the series 1001, based on the Arabian Nights, about a group of people who discover they have shared 1001 past lives.
You can purchase Stephen's book on amazon, or email him at drstephenwATcomcastDOTnet with any questions.