So you’ve just read Black Hull and you’re let down. You hate the characters. They’re unlikeable. The political commentary was too much, too obvious. Or the ending just didn’t make sense to you. And what about the story was actually factual? I’ve found, since its publication, that Black Hull creates two kinds of responses in readers: There are the reactions like Mike Shreeve’s (MikeShreeve.com), where they love the book, and there are the ones who loathe the book. I’ve always seen self-publishing as special because of the dialogue it allows with my readers. This post is my chance to open that communication a little bit and answer some of the most common questions, and complaints about the story. I doubt any of what I write will change your opinion of the book (and it probably shouldn’t—is there a more subjective form of criticism than Art criticism?). But maybe it will intrigue you a little bit, and make you notice some things you didn’t in your first reading. I separated topics in bold so you can jump around.
THE ENDING: Stop reading if you don’t want spoilers. Still here? Okay, so you finished the book. A big thank you, especially if you hated it. I’m just glad you didn’t give up on it. Here’s what happened at the end, according to me. (The author’s interpretation of the ending doesn’t have to be the real ending, by the way—it can be whatever your mind works it out to be.) Here’s the ending that I think I wrote. I will say, I think the text will back me up on this: FOD ensured there was a reverse time travel station for Mick. It was the one thing he could do to repay Mick for his assisting in the creation of the quantum black hole. So by the close of the book, Mick’s back at college. He meets Karen all over again at the same ball he originally met her, but this time, he knows what he knows now (after all his mistakes) “when he was younger.” Therefore, I always considered it a happy ending. That’s why the ballroom scene happens twice, nearly identically. He’s received his long-awaited reset, and has the opportunity to do things differently now. And at the very end, the scientists realize the anomaly from the beginning of the novel is a distant black hole erupting. But, Mick has brought the future back with him, and knows this fate awaits mankind. This was intentionally meant to be the hope that with his high status in society he might bring about change and alter that fate. Adjust the malevolent trajectory humanity is on. Sera does get to finally reunite with her family also, although it only happens through Utopia, and for a brief period of time. So there is a bittersweet realization of her own dream. She gets what she’s always wanted, even if only for a little while. I intentionally left it vague to keep the reader temporarily guessing whether or not the ballroom scene was Mick just never having left Utopia (did he get stuck in the hallucination-inducing program?). But then it’s revealed he did use a time machine. So, this doesn’t mean that my interpretation has to be the only one. I love hearing negative, and in my opinion, darker interpretations of the ending.
FACTUAL INFORMATION: I love to take what I read from lay science writing and incorporate it into my writing. Here are some of the things in the book that are true (and some of these things may come as a big surprise to you): The anomaly. Yes it’s real. The signal that’s moving at 4x the speed of light, emitting regular bursts, and unidentifiable by scientists. Here’s a link to one of the articles about it: http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2012/02/the-unidentified-object-of-galaxy-m82-todays-most-popular.html. The same strange signal is written about on a lot of different websites, and it seems, science hasn’t been able to explain it yet. Notice the location of the anomaly. Yep, that’s right. It’s in M82, the setting of Black Hull. Another truth—time travel has happened! Yes, only a little, but it has. Here’s a link to the article, about the very astronaut I mention in the story: http://www.universetoday.com/105650/cosmonaut-sergei-krikalev-the-worlds-most-prolific-time-traveler/. Again, you can cross-reference this occurrence on many websites. He only traveled a little into the future, relative to Earth time, but he traveled into the future! Some other true locations: Zubenelgenubi http://earthsky.org/brightest-stars/zubenelgenubi-alpha-star-of-libra-the-scales and Gliese 581 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gliese_581_g. Also, quantum black holes are possible: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_black_hole. One more thing I left out–the story mentions the speed of light being broken. Turns out it wasn’t true, but there might be some other, new ways to break the speed of light, and get us our warp drives. The debacle was a big deal a couple of years ago. Read about it here.
REFERENCES: There’s a lot of poetry in this book. If you didn’t catch it, it’s all there, intertwined, and meant to connect to the story. One big one is The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats. This is the poem that FOD chants as he finds the droids. And the droids themselves actually quote this poem earlier in the book. Here’s a link to the poem and analysis of it: http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/yeats/section5.rhtml
Another poem, the one Mick reads to Sera from his college days, is by Hart Crane. Here’s an analysis of it, and you can connect the dots: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/guide/180083
Of course there’s the final poem at the end of the book by John Keats, but that one is obvious in its correlation to the story. Here’s an analysis of it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endymion_%28poem%29
If you didn’t notice this, XJ is a fan of the Beatles. When Mick first boards his ship, there is a picture of the early Beatles playing at the Cavern Club, and a Beatles song is playing in the background. The song is referenced once more before XJ’s death. It’s called You Can’t Do That. This song’s lyrics, and its title, correlate to Mick’s hope of getting home. But they also relate to his relationships with the other characters. Here’s a link to the lyrics: http://www.metrolyrics.com/you-cant-do-that-lyrics-beatles.html
There are more references: Jack London’s To Build A Fire is referenced when Mick knows he’ll probably be freezing to death. And also, Thomas More’s book Utopia is referenced by Mick. It’s a book about a corrupted Utopia, foreshadowing the Utopia built by the UCA in the book.
How about the factory farms? Taking up whole planets? I see it as the natural continuation of the current status quo in America. The facts are as follows: Factory Farms have risen so much since the mid-point of the century that nearly 95% of what people put into their bodies is from a factory farm. That’s a crazy number. Something like 10 billion animals currently die from these farms every year. The idea is that we need to do this to survive, or that its inevitable. In actuality, it’s all about massive profits, and making sure those profits continue to increase, no matter the suffering of the products (animals). I can tell you from personal experience, it’s a completely unnecessary evil (I haven’t eaten any animal products in over a year and I am in the best shape of my life). Here’s a link to read more on the factory farms: http://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/#. The main issue is that society is extremely fickle (cherish one animal, think nothing of killing millions of another, i.e. dog vs. pig). Granted, this a primarily American problem, and it doesn’t apply to extreme societies where animals are necessary for survival (for example, the northern regions of Canada). That is why, however, in the book, the UCA is the main government. It’s a natural extension of American government. Of course America may lose its power, but in this book, America dominates universally. It’s not anti-American (in my opinion), just a reckoning of our current trajectory and the problems that need to be addressed. Factory farming is the one evil that 9 out of 10 people I know don’t care about. For them, it’s like it is for the UCA, out of sight is out of mind. If you’re one of the brave souls, spend 10 minutes to know the truth of what you’re putting in your body (if you’re an American who consumes meat and dairy and cheese), and watch the following videos. It will be one and a half hour of your time, but there’s no going back once you know the truth. Otherwise, continue in your ignorance of the reality that sustains your unnecessary consumption of mammals and birds. It’s what most do anyway. Here are the links to the two videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzrRmB40l00 (If you make it through that one, please let me know. I want to personally thank you for exposing yourself to the truth. If you start to watch and can’t, that says more about your willingness to know the truth about what you’re participating in than it does about your squeamishness). Here’s the longer, more convincing display of the truth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-F8whzJfJY.
What about the massive consolidation of wealth in America? That shouldn’t need an explanation. It’s something like 15 percent of the population hoards 90 percent of the wealth (don’t have the exact figure right now). The book just makes a natural continuation of that trend. How can those with the wealth ever have it taken away? Don’t ask me. But if you ask FOD, it has to be the black hole. That’s the only real solution. Here’s a link to an article about the problem of wealth being hoarded: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sanjay-sanghoee/what-elysium-reveals-abou_b_3768916.html. Now, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that the government and the money have a deep, and depending on how deep you dig, disturbing relationship. Does the money control our politicians, or vice versa? Black Hull assumes it’s the former. So government, at least in this dystopian book, is a puppet of money itself.
What of Mick? We hate him, right? He’s so hard to like. He’s meant to be the person who, in old age, is overly aware of all the mistakes they’ve made. What really matters is empathy, only he doesn’t realize this until the very end. While he gets a chance to relive his life and adjust his actions based on this new enlightenment, regular people don’t. His story is supposed to amount to the idea that we have to do more reflection when we’re young. Take different kinds of action that help to develop the evolution of human empathy. Yes, that’s right. Not to get too philosophical, but developed countries have the new chance to choose their own purpose. I think it should be to develop the evolution of human empathy toward as many things as possible. To do as little harm as possible, to as many things as possible. Harm is a subjective word, and so it’s loaded from the start for many interpretations. But that’s the message and I’m sticking to it.
Also, notice that religion in the book has been replaced by pursuing Utopia. A real version of heaven. Is religion the opiate of the masses? Black Hull says so. Only that fictitious assumption of present day is supplanted by the realized virtual reality of Utopia. Notice who profits from Utopia though? The ones who don’t need any more wealth anyway. But that’s the mysterious unknown that FOD hints at. The thing that doesn’t have a name. It’s not money, power, greed, or any name that can be given. It’s the lost connection—like in Yeats’s poem, FOD’s mantra: The falcon cannot hear the falconer. People can no longer hear their own inner voice. Their own sense of right and wrong.
I love writing dystopian literature because it provides an avenue through which commentary can be given in a way that’s a little less brusque, or offensive. That didn’t seem to work with Black Hull because the book polarizes people so much.
Another note—the book reads like a dream. I formatted it in blocks, and dialogue that runs together, to showcase this effect. It jumps all around, and at times it can be hard to discover who’s actually speaking. Please, as much as you hate that, know that it was intentional. It is meant to symbolize the nebulous nature of the subjects the book addresses, and how there really is very little clarity about the issues, and very little clarity about a cohesive way to solve them. In the end, I hope the book opens more questions than it answers, and gets people to think a little bit about some of the problems we have to deal with going forward as part of the human race. Write me off as a preachy bastard, and don’t read any more of my books (they’re not all like this, by the way). But at least I kept you captive this long. Thanks for reading. If you have the time, I’d deeply appreciate a review on Amazon in support of the book, even if you don’t have good things to say about it. Every one counts.