What The Hell Was That? (An Explanation of Black Hull the Novel)

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.

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.

19 Thoughts on “What The Hell Was That? (An Explanation of Black Hull the Novel)

  1. Patrick Holt on December 23, 2013 at 2:08 pm said:

    This is very interesting. Having just finished reading Black Hull this week, I happened to do a Google search for: How far away is the M82 galaxy? Which brought me to an article about the strange radio signal coming from the galaxy moving at 4 times the speed of light.
    I immediately came to the josephturkot.com website to find this article – posted yesterday about the book, and its relationship to that particular astronomical event. Some very strange symmetry going on there.
    It was interesting to read the author’s note about how he perceived the ending of the book, which was not the same conclusion that I came up with. I understood it to mean that since Mick had entered Utopia he was simply re-living his life through whatever world Utopia had created for him. It was the life he wanted, so it was the life he got. I didn’t find the end to be disappointing at all.

  2. josephturkot on December 24, 2013 at 10:10 pm said:

    Thanks Patrick for stopping by and reading the post. I’ve had a such a polarized response to the book, that it was like a load off to express my own feelings about it. I love poems and books that are like riddles, so I attempted to do some of that here. As for that anomalous signal–what the hell is it?

    I appreciate your idea about the FOD standalone story too. That’s really got me intrigued.

  3. Patrick Holt on December 25, 2013 at 12:42 am said:

    I love finding little details like those in stories. I’m generally not sharp enough to find them when I’m reading myself, but when I learn about them I’ll usually go back for a reread and look for deeper meanings and things I missed. That was the whole reasoning behind giving Black Hull a five star review on Amazon. A good story and characters deserve at least 4 stars, but extra’s like that make you want to go back and read again and again. I can’t speak for everyone who loves to read, but I think most people appreciate those little bonuses.
    I was a huge fan of the TV show Lost. The writers were always adding little mysteries, and puzzles that left the audience looking for clues about what was going to happen next on the show and if certain books or symbols on the show would answer any of the questions about the island they were stranded on. As I said those little extras are appreciated and they are what helps draw people into a story – which is the whole point of storytelling to begin with.
    As far as the FOD story: I’d be first in line to read that one. Get to work. 😉

    • josephturkot on January 29, 2014 at 6:20 pm said:

      Thanks for dropping by Patrick and leaving me with your thoughts. I definitely want to revisit the universe and discover more about FOD. What a cool idea!

  4. Ricardo I. Guido Lavalle on December 29, 2013 at 12:25 am said:

    You redeemed Sci-fi literature, Joseph!
    How much teenager crap I have been reading these last months! I even tried barely known books by Verne, like the Master Of World (the guy had M.O.W engraved in his pre-Nautilus’ helm, could you believe?), and I could not finish it.
    Black Hull is a BOOK. I regret I read in some 5 hours and I didn’t take time to follow the metaphors and the references ( I got Jack London’s), but anyway they would run out of me, as I’m not English native speaker (I’m from Argentina, living in Rio), and most english references got lost.
    I won’t do a critic, I’m no critic. I simply loved your writing quality and flux.
    I hate text that mess up with family issues and have sad or not-too happy endings, but the fact is that very few people can cite what the comedies Sophocles wrote, in fact tragedies are more successful (and you tell me why sad, tragical, emotive and weepy songs are more classy than the simple “Octopuse’s garden”. Happy, funny songs are in general for the great public). Oh, I lost track. I mean, I hate the themes you touched, but hell, you did it great!
    I liked the economy of words, too. Jorge Luis Borges mastered conciseness and I love it. And that makes me think I should reread the book, for I now realize I lost too much of it.
    Have a great time, and thank you! Happy New Year!

    (I’m dreaming of a white christmas while out there it’s 35 degrees Celsius in Rio. Santa uses very hot clothes down here, too, and there’s snow in the shopping centers)

  5. josephturkot on December 31, 2013 at 3:54 am said:

    Wow Ricardo–that’s so great to hear. I’m stoked you liked the book so much! My fiancée is flying to Bolivia right now. How cool is that? Heading to South America. Wish I was going too. Anyway, really glad you posted and shared your thoughts with me. Means the world.

  6. I almost never leave a book unfinished, particularly ones as thought provoking as this one. I just finished, and my record is intact. Your “What the Hell was that” follow up was as enjoyable as the book. I have been reading Sci Fi since I was a young lad, which, at 71 I am far past. One of my constant and biggest gripes is the (relatively) recent confusion of Sci Fi and Fantasy.

    While absolutly no fan of D & D, faeries, witches and worlocks,etc., I do not condemn the books written, nor the movies and TV concerning them. I do however, as a 71 year old trifocal wearing rheumatoid arthritic, resent having bent over to read a vertically shelved book spine only to find that it’s subject is enchanted lions and trolls, no science involved.

    Fantasy, wrapped in plausible science, with a measure of social commentary thrown in, is more than welcome. While I admit to being the occasioan steak eater, I am more of an omnivore than carnivore. Again, while not willing to participate in a completely vegan diet, I do feel that our not so gradual adoption of factory farming is not at all a good path to follow. I live in NW Georgia, where factory hog farms are common, and right up theroad from a huge Tyson chicken processing plant. I know how these things work. I am too old to change my ways because I saw how it’s done. You arecorrect that it says something about me.

    Now, M82. We humans naively assume that we have permanant tenancy. Talk Radio and TV are full of pundits prosletyzing about “liberals” who would attemp to change the military industrial status quo. They don’t, nor do the oligarchs paying them, like to hear anything not supportive of that line. I will not be around should M82 be a Death Star, or Klatu come to shut down our morally bankrupt society. Unless, of course, the math is wrong, and it gets here early.

    I eagerly await your next effort.

    • josephturkot on January 29, 2014 at 6:21 pm said:

      This was such a great post for me to read. Truly inspirational. I want to be reading as much as you at 71. Awesome stuff, and I appreciate all your comments about my veganism and how that relates to the common situation and history of American diet. Much love, Joe

  7. mark1downing@yahoo.co.uk on January 31, 2014 at 6:14 pm said:

    Firstly thanks for writing this. It was a grand engrossing ride, an affordable entertainment with some germane social commentary.

    I do notice a paradox though. You say above:
    “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. ”

    But if Mick does bring about change then he won’t get to travel back, so that change won’t get made… But then he would get to travel back, so… Or something like that.

    Well, Bertrand Russell pointed out that physical objects are merely logical constructs (we reify patterns of sense data, and call it a world.) So maybe more important than physical “reality” is what is going through Mick’s mind, whether he happens to be in the past, the future, a dream, a computer simulation or whatever.

    I look forward to reading more of your work!

  8. josephturkot on February 1, 2014 at 1:34 pm said:

    Thanks for dropping by Mark!

    It’s really interesting you mention Bertrand Russell, because I’m currently in the middle of A History of Western Philosophy and I’m loving it. I never really knew about him until a class dealing with Hegel sent me to learn about early Greek thought.

    I guess I meant that Mick will be able to instruct humanity as to the true nature of the anomaly and direct science on a path to protect humanity from its effects. This is all, of course, perfectly plausible as far as physics is concerned (laughs at himself for assuming such absurdity…)

  9. Mark Downing on February 1, 2014 at 3:37 pm said:

    Hi Joseph,

    Yes but if humanity is directed away from the future Mick has experienced, then he will never get to travel back with his warning, will he? So then humanity won’t be directed away from its mistaken path… Changing the past leads to well-known paradoxes, like going back to murder your granddad. Unless of course you imagine multiple parallel universes, with Mick travelling back in one but thereby creating a new one without the dystopia, in which he is able to live happily ever after (well almost).

  10. josephturkot on February 9, 2014 at 6:55 pm said:

    Hey Mark,

    But he is back–in other words, FOD sent him back to where he wanted to go, his own original position in a configuration of spacetime unique to his life, circa college. In this sense, I guess I have to say there is a possibility for Mick to reverse time-travel to a distinct replica of his previous life. And, whether that replica is in fact different, won’t have consequence in the sense that it is indiscernable from the old “real” state. This, of course, makes even more plausible sense than my last post (maniacal laughter of absurdity). Perhaps the FOD story can enter into more detail about the nature of reverse time travel. If only it was as simple as traveling into the future.

  11. A. Wilkinson on March 29, 2014 at 3:02 pm said:

    I just finished the book, your supplemental comments, and the above comments. I loved the book, even though (maybe because) I had to keep going back and reading parts to figure out what was going on.

    After reading the comments, one thing struck me that no one else, or you have commented on. FOD knew that Mick would appear. FOD does not give a name other than FOD. Is FOD somehow Mick? Instead of heading off the disaster, does he cause it?

    I don’t know why that thought came to me soon after he was introduced in the book, but it did. And it still seems possible.

    I am interested to hear your comments about it.

  12. josephturkot on April 2, 2014 at 5:20 pm said:

    Hey A. Wilkinson!

    This is very interesting, but I need you to clarify the following: Is FOD somehow Mick? Instead of heading off the disaster, does he cause it?

    I didn’t take the meaning of the ‘heading off the disaster, does he cause it?’ Did you mean that Mick, as he is in the end (returned to his college years), will not go forward to avert the calamity, but cause it, seeing that that is truly the only solution?

  13. Leo Richardson on January 14, 2015 at 3:23 pm said:

    Hi Joseph
    Having read many scifi titles over the years I found your story ticking many of the comfort zone boxes (space adventure, robots, virtual reality and boy girl stuff) I search for in an adventure without being samey.
    Rather than disliking Mick I was gunning for him as I think you managed to portray the good/bad battles he fought with himself in a way that, if we were honest with ourselves we can all relate to at some level.
    The ending at Utopia read to me like he was trapped in his mind at Utopia aided by the implant FOD put in his neck (part of FOD was still in the implant and able to help influence Mick against escaping and aborting the triggering of the quantum black hole) and Sera, Karen and his kids were just the Utopia computer using his memories until the black hole consumed all.
    I didnt get the significance of the patrol searching the mining planet and mention of the time machine although to be fair at this point my own kids were moaning in my ear about Minecraft.
    Still a nice ending though, reminded me a bit of the space odyssey 2010 dreamy ending (I’m quite old).
    I’m looking out for more of yours, havn’t checked yet.
    Best Regards

    • josephturkot on June 10, 2015 at 10:16 pm said:

      Thanks for dropping by Leo!

      That scene with the mining colony, it being a while since I thought about the story, was about the way Mick did go back in time. Anyway, I appreciate the kind words; they make we want to up and write some more science fiction!

  14. Leo Richardson on January 14, 2015 at 3:55 pm said:

    Oops meant to say Space Odyssey 2001 lol

  15. Praedor on May 27, 2015 at 8:31 am said:

    Precisely my take/interpretation Holt. I’m also among the number who l
    greatly enjoyed the book and clearly saw the horrors as extreme extensions of present Western capitalism and neoliberalism today.

    My biggest disappointment is actually minor: I’d rather hoped for another black hull novel involving Mick and the newly acquired black hull ship.

    I did grow to start loathing Mick as his story unfolded, brain alteration or not with his late regret being too little to late. Asshole. I LIKED Sera. A lot. And more so as her story unfolded.

    Nicely done Turkot.

    Note : I haven’t read it yet but I suspect the appearance of a superluminal “signal” from M82 is as artifactual as previous apparent superluminal expansion of a galactic core ejecta some years ago. It was resolved to NOT be superluminal afterall.

  16. josephturkot on June 10, 2015 at 10:19 pm said:

    Thanks for leaving a comment Praedor!

    I’m glad you liked the book. If I ever get to the point where I can write full-time, there is so much more I would like to cover in this universe. Who knows what the future holds? Also, you’re probably spot on about the signal. Nonetheless, it presented my mind with an interesting premise.


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