Had to try to tell about the book and intrigue an audience — in just two minutes.  Interesting challenge, which I have to say I really enjoyed.  Here’s what came out:

Parts of the world were disappearing; for a while nobody noticed.

These are the opening lines of my book, A World Between.

Imagine a world that was disappearing around you. With no way of knowing what was on the other side. If there’s a malevolent force at work, or something benign? If it’s natural evolution, or a horrendous danger? Terrified of what will happen if it is left unchecked?

While bureaucrats and politicians thwart your ability to try to fight it. And where your love for this world and those in it could be your greatest weakness.

Ultimately it’s up to a maverick physicist and a world weary UN field worker to fight what is indeed a threat to the very existence of the world as we know it, aided by an unyielding New York detective and a scientist questioning whether God could be involved.

A World Between weaves together my early love of physics with my later, rather less pure, experiences in politics, business and government. When I was reading Einstein at age 12, I thought he was an engineer of the universe, a proponent of essential truths. But not long after I discovered Nietzsche, who stated that a fact was only a truth when subjected to a human value system

My values began with my growing up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where we had to travel 40 minutes to get to a synagogue. That impressed on me the Jewish heritage of the profound importance of the pursuit of knowledge, and our legacy that we must take responsibility for our world, even when it is hostile to us, or we are treated as outsiders in it.

The book is for readers who see science, or technology, or stages of consciousness, as a means by which characters interact, with potentially profound consequences.

It is a book about people who encounter the facts of science and filter them through their values. Parts of our world are threatened. In Washington, the response is… business as usual, such as, how does it impact funding! Voting? Much as climate change is responded to today, some push to address the problem, others deny it. It is a slice of a world that could be, and a metaphor for the world that is.

 

What vexed me was how to create a story around concepts, how to attach and connect people to the stranger elements of the physical world I began to imagine. And then – the compassionate but fragile, resourceful yet scarred, UN worker, Susan Corporell. The fiercely insightful NYU physicist, a maverick who still yearned for validation, David Altaforce. A New York detective in all his earthy splendor, literally grounding the others in the face of a threat both existential and real, Sal Antifermo.   A physicist who at his heart cherished the notion of god while wondered at His intent, Driscoll Sebastian. And a woman whose very brilliance undid her in a world that was so uncomfortable for her, Mary Quinton.

It was the interplay of the characters that gave life to the corresponding physical worlds they represented. I will say that wasn’t easy for me. If I self-assessed my writing, in general, the screenplays I’ve tried, the other novel in the works, my short stories and plays, I’d have to say plot per se isn’t my strong point. I read stories of such imagination that I am in awe. I feel like I can’t just dream up something I haven’t somehow related to.

You may find that strange to say about a novel that ponders a world transforming from the corporal to the ethereal. I can only say that those concepts were real to me, unfolded in a visual sense, almost a logical extrapolation of basic precepts.

But I would have to say my early drafts were longer on concepts and theoretical exposition than on a dynamic interaction of characters. Thanks to Lou Aronica at the Story Plant, who had enough confidence from the first few chapters, which did unfold with drama and purpose, to prod me to develop more from the ingredients I had, forcing this chef to produce a better meal with what he had to work with.

I’ve always admired writing which teases out information, which circles back to events and people with ever greater illumination, so that there builds an inherent tension as events unfold – is this all, what’s underneath it, what more will I learn later? So I worked at visualizing my characters as they interacted down the road, not just at first sight. In particular, thinking about how they injected their distinct traits into the dynamic of the challenges they face, how they added or divided in facing unprecedented threats, when without experience to fall back on in knowing how to respond, they were left only with their core selves as to how to react.

Nietzsche (I think) said that spontaneity is the sum expression of the person in that moment. That can be exhilarating or disheartening, and as often as not produces wishes for second chances, so profound is the resonance of an act not completed, not satisfactory, a letting down of self.

So as characters spoke with each other, reported on their findings, went their separate ways and then reconvened with new information (or a disheartening lack of it), I tried to establish anticipation, tension, moments fraught with intimations of a future so starkly indifferent to emotion and context as to strip way the veneer that we all normally, and happily, wrap ourselves in. There are many ways that we experience what might be called action, the dynamic of movement that can be just as real and profound as we stare at a wall as trying to climb it.

In the end, then, what began with conjectures about the nature of matter became an exploration of the human heart as it confronted the matter of nature.

I got to thinking recently about what I suppose should be fairly obvious but I’d never thought about it much before. We measure the time from the Big Bang based on receiving in effect signals of that moment. So we can say from those observations that the universe is something like 13 billion years old.

I am wondering do we see items further out (older?) than we are in the same way as those further in? They’re moving away, but I’m guessing someone better versed in Uncle Albert’s wisdom can explain why the light they emanate covers distance the same as the light from the guys on the other side. Although I’ve never heard of a measurement of where the far end of the universe is. Can we not see it because of the expansion effect, has it just not reached us yet, or what?

In any event, what I was wondering about was, the Big Bang must have expanded as a sphere, which means we are in effect at a point in that sphere say 10 billion or so light years from its center. Which, incidentally, I get at around 6 trillion miles. It’s a lot, but I’m amazed it can even be measured.

But wait a minute. If it’s all a sphere, then there must be somebody directly across from us on the other side of the sphere, like the Indian Ocean is to the US. If that’s the case, then we’d be separated by say 20 billion light years. But that’s older than the age of the universe, so would seem to not be possible.

So how is this all coherent?

Fifteen years ago I was reading in the bathtub about Schrodinger’s cat, that famous quantum physics paradox. It got me thinking about duality in nature, which got me wondering, what if matter as particles stared converting to its wave state? What would the world look like? Who or what could cause such a phenomenon? Would it be a form of evolution, or an utter catastrophe? Once started, could it be stopped?

So… “Parts of the world were disappearing. For a while, nobody noticed.”

Those musings led me to write my book, a story of fractal geometry, quantum physics, and politics.