Today, I have the very unusual honor to interview the author of a novel in which I am the main character. As many of you know, Seven Deadly Sinners features yours truly as a progressive blogger — imagine that — who plays an important role in the fight against some very nasty people. So, without further delay, let me introduce Fred McKibben and let’s get started with the interview.
Alex: Mr. McKibben, I’m so glad that you could spend some time with us today.
Fred: My pleasure, Alex. Call me Fred, please.
Alex: OK. To begin, tell us a little about Seven Deadly Sinners.
Fred: Seven Deadly Sinners is a compilation of the Gardeners trilogy, which was released over the last four years. It’s an entertaining novel, but it also has strong environmental and political themes. It’s science fiction in that much of the action takes place on Uor, a planet some 987 lightyears from Earth, but basically, it’s a novel about politics, injustice, the environment, history, religion and the power of money. There’s also a healthy dose of suspense, but it’s what I call “low body count”. Not much violence.
Alex: As one of the main characters, let me say that I certainly appreciated the “low body count” approach, although there were still plenty of hairy moments.
Fred: Well, we have to keep the readers interested.
Alex: The concept that Earth was “seeded” with humans from another planet was certainly interesting. Tell us a little about that.
Fred: In the story, a little of 50,000 years ago, humans from a planet named Uor sent three spaceships to Earth carrying a cargo of 9,000 frozen human embryos, along with three machines they called “Gardeners” to act as caretakers for the new human population. Those embryos were the foundation of all humans on Earth today.
Alex: So, we humans today are descendants of humans from this planet Uor?
Fred: That’s right. There were similar species here when they arrived — Neanderthal, for example — but those other species simply couldn’t compete with our ancestors.
Alex: Why did they send frozen embryos and not adult explorers?
Fred: The trip took almost 1,400 years, and even though Uorians can live for several thousand years, the trip would still have been too much. The embryos were frozen, so they didn’t require any life support, other than temperature, and the Gardeners were machines that didn’t need life support either.
Alex: Tell us about the Gardeners.
Fred: The Gardeners are quantum machines, basically atomic holograms. They look just like humans but they can change their appearance instantaneously, and they can shrink themselves to subatomic size and travel anywhere on Earth in just seconds. At least, two of them can. In addition, they have enormous computing power and they can easily penetrate any of our existing computers. The ultimate hackers.
Alex: You said two of them could change their appearance and travel instantly. What about the third?
Fred: The third Gardener is a Forsaken. The Gardeners are something called a Gemini Spatial Device, or just a Gemini as it’s usually called in the book. Once it’s built, a Gemini is divided into two halves, and through a process called quantum entanglement, each half can hear and see exactly what the other half hears or sees, even if the halves are separated by a vast distance. When one half of a Gemini is somehow destroyed, the surviving half becomes a Forsaken. He can do some of the things the others can, such as hack into computers, but he can’t change his appearance and he can’t travel in the same manner.
Alex: The Uorians obviously had very advanced technology. Why didn’t they equip us with that technology?
Fred: That was the point of the project — they called it “The Garden Project”. They seeded planets with embryos in order to study how humans developed socially and intellectually. The Gardeners taught them only very basic skills in language and food gathering.
Alex: But in your novel, the Gardeners are quite involved in events. What changed?
Fred: Several millennia after the seeding, a political upheaval on Uor ushered in the rule of the Seven Great Families, a powerful cabal of Noblers led by a ruthless dictator. Even though they comprise only one percent of Uor’s population, Noblers hold absolute control of all political and economic power. Thanks to genetic mapping of all embryos, Noblers enjoy physical advantages such as height, beauty, and longevity, as well. The Seven Great Families had things just the way they wanted them, so they lost interest in technology development. They sold off the rights to the Garden Project planets to wealthy investors on Uor, and of course, with the purchase of a Garden, the investor got control of the Gardeners on that planet. The rights to Earth, which they called “Eden”, were sold to a Nobler named Zeus of Helios. That was about 650 BC.
Alex: So Zeus now controls the Gardeners on Earth?
Fred: No. Zeus committed suicide a long time ago. His two sons, Apollo and Ares, inherited the Garden in 212 BC. They control two of the Gardeners, but the third — the Forsaken — they don’t control.
Alex: I see potential for trouble there.
Alex: Speaking of trouble, tell us about the conflict in the story.
Fred: There are conflicts on Earth and on Uor, and they become intertwined as the story unfolds.
Alex: Give us a recap, if you would.
Fred: Sure. It begins with a contest between Apollo and Ares. Since their father first acquired the garden, the brothers have amused themselves with contests — games — based on events happening on Eden. As the story begins, Apollo proposes a new contest based on the warming climate now affecting Eden. If nations representing at least 90% of greenhouse gas emissions agree to a new plan for reducing pollution, Apollo wins and will deliver a new technology to Earth that will provide virtually unlimited energy without pollution. If less than 90% agree, Ares wins and will deliver a very destructive technology to the nations or groups of his choosing.
Alex: I see. If Apollo wins, Earth solves the global warming problem, and ends its dependence on fossil fuels.
Fred: Yes. But, if Ares wins, the climate problem continues, and there’s a probability of devastating global warfare fueled by exotic new weapons.
Alex: So, who wins?
Fred: Well, I won’t release any spoilers, but I will say that the contest spins out of control on both planets.
Alex: Can you elaborate on that?
Fred: I mentioned the Seven Great Families a bit earlier. They’ve ruled Uor for 30,000 years. They guard against any changes to the status quo or any questioning of their historical right to rule. Imagine, if you will, a government formed by the Koch brothers and their ilk, and leaving them in power for thousands of years.
Alex: Sounds bleak.
Fred: It wasn’t bleak for the Noblers — the one percenters. They had all the wealth, the power, and they lived for five or six thousand years — as long as they wanted to, really. Prolots, the other ninety-nine percent, had no political power, fewer property rights, less access to education, and their lives, while long by our standards, were much shorter than Noblers.
Alex: Apollo and Ares are Noblers.
Fred: Yes, but Apollo is curious. He wants to learn the true history of the Seven Great Families. In doing so, he runs afoul of the authorities and must escape to the wild territories. The Supreme Ruler forces Ares to try to capture or kill Apollo in order to protect the family’s wealth and power.
Alex: The clash between Apollo and Ares is the central conflict on Uor. After global warming, what’s the principal conflict on Earth.
Fred: The stories are connected, of course. I mentioned the Forsaken Gemini earlier, he was known as Fulcanelli. On Earth, a right-wing extremist group gets control of Fulcanelli. They intend to remake Earth in the image of Uor, so, of course, they call themselves the Seven Great Families, too. Ares, in the belief that the threat to Earth will draw Apollo out of hiding, agrees to help the group. I won’t give away the rest of the plot, but that’s the central conflict through the remainder of the story.
Alex: It’s long book, almost 800 pages, but the pace is still pretty fast.
Fred: The story was originally released as a series of three books: Hot Times in the Garden of Eden, The Salt Castle, and The Carnival Road, and those books are still available if readers want to read it in section. When I finished The Carnival Road, I realized the story was so seamless that it would present really well as a single book.
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