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Rich Christiano[Jeff Gerke]

Interview: David R. Beaucage

[Photo of David Beaucage with his grandchildren] David R. Beaucage (shown here with, left to right, Sarah, Charise, and Shea Savage, his grandchildren) is the author of The Shiloh Project. (Virgil W. Hensley, Inc., 1993) David holds B.A. M.S. degrees from Rutgers, and a Ph.D. from SUNY, all in mathematics. (His thesis was "On the mod p cohomology of certain fibre spaces.") David and his wife Christine live in Tustin, California. He is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He took part in the list in January, 2000. Jay Carper, Manuel Edwards, Thomas P. Roche, and Greg Slade asked the questions, and here is an edited version of the question and answer sequence. You can find out more about David at the Shiloh Project and Rec Room sites.

GS: Where were you born?

Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

GS: Where did you go to school?

U. of Wisconsin, Rutgers, SUNY at Stony Brook.

GS: What did you take in school, and why?

Mathematics – there's safety in numbers. Also, my first roommate, Dave Rothman, was a mathematical genius, and imparted lots of interesting information and attitudes. (But there were a couple of years when I wanted to be an electrical engineer [see my answer involving Venus Equilateral, below] and wore a Pickett slide rule like a sword.)

GS: What is your marital status?


GS: Do you have any children?

Yes, two; & three (going on four) grandchildren.

GS: How did you get started writing?

This is what happened. I was laid off, not uncommon in a programmer's career; my wife Christine had a job, though. I dropped her off at work and went out to a local coffee shop to plan my next move. We were going to meet for lunch and discuss our plans. Instead, I showed up with the first six pages of The Shiloh Project.

GS: What books have you had published? (not restricting yourself to SF titles)

The Shiloh Project.

GS: Of your books, which one is your favourite? (including works in progress)

Summer Fruit, now in progress.

GS: Who are your influences as a writer, and why?

All the writers in the wonderful big fat hardcover Groff Conklin anthologies in the town library in the fifties. I remember checking one out one snowy evening and then sitting on a bench under a street lamp reading it while waiting for the bus home. (Later on someone told me Groff Conklin was really Isaac Asimov. Is this true? Is it well-known to everyone but me?)

GS: What was the first exposure you can remember having to SF as a genre?

Ah! Meeting Leonard Gross in Assembly (do they still have Assembly?) my second day of high school. He was carrying a paperback of Van Vogt's The World of ~A, chess pieces in a plastic bag, and a model rocket. (After a hasty glance at the book's title I referred to it as "The Woman of A." I was ribbed unmercifully. But what else can a freshman expect?) His brother carved fantastic, beautiful figurines out of bars of soap. Leonard, if you're lurking – thanks!

GS: What is your personal all-time favourite SF work, and why?

Venus Equilateral, by George O. Smith. There is where I learned about astounding inventions drawn on tablecloths in the finest bar in ninety-three million miles (minimum); about engineers and their triumphs & romances; about suspense and just desserts. And that the Golden Age of Science Fiction is ~ twelve. That book was actually a big part of the reason for my short-lived "crush" on the engineering profession.

ME: How do you pronounce your name?


ME: Are you aware of any efforts to organize a sort of Christian SF writers conference?

What a splendid idea! When are you holding the first meeting? But seriously, no, I'm not. How about if one were to join the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and start recruiting Christians from among the members? Or attend the Mt. Hermon conference and look for SF authors there? (Webmaster's note: check out the Christian Writer's Group list on the links page.)

GS: What is the Mt. Hermon conference?

An annual conference for Christian writers, held in the Santa Cruz (CA) area. The next one is April 14-18, 2000. It's expensive but many say it's worth it. Contact info:

Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference
P.O. Box 413
Mount Hermon, CA 95041
Registration : 1-888-MH-CAMPS
Phone: 1-831-335-4466
Registration FAX: 1-831-335-9335
Web: www.mounthermon.org

ME: If not, what do you think are the best networking opportunities for Christian writers of SF?

Christian writers' groups, to begin with, like the Christian Writers' Fellowship of Orange County (California). There you can get ideas; meet publishers, agents, and other speakers; connect with critique groups; pick up publishers' literature (style sheets, etc.); and even sell autographed copies of your books! (The downside is you might start thinking there are more writers than readers.)

Then there are conferences like the Mt. Hermon mentioned above. It was at one such conference, at Biola, that I got the blessing of meeting Gretchen Passantino and showing her the first draft of The Shiloh Project (she said, "It's publishable!") AND later, it was at a writers' group's annual "Writers Day" that Gretchen spoke about putting a hook in the first page, and I took advantage by showing her my new first page (of the fourth draft), and she said, "What a hook!" and "Where's the rest of this?" and I said, "I just happen to have it here..." and she read it and sent me a letter you wouldn't believe and I sent copies of it to 70 publishers with that first page and got seven requests for the entire manuscript (a 10% response!) and got published. So, two morals: conferences & writers' groups can be Good Things; and, avoid run-on sentences.

Then there's the Internet. Our host Greg Slade can tell you more about web networking than I can, besides which he's got a site with links to e-mail lists and web sites that collectively look like another good place to start.

ME: Where do you think there are better opportunities for Christian writers of SF, in the mainstream market, or in the CBA?

CBA first. If it takes off, the mainstream market will jump on the bandwagon, especially (but not only) if it's a "crossover" book. (Could I coin a verb here? To "peretti" – to sell so well in the Christian market that the mainstream picks it up. As in, "Left Behind perettied right away." Or, "I'm still waiting for my book to peretti.")

JC: Have you published any shorts or non-sf stories?

Those who want to read a short short story by me may find "Flight of Fancy" at www.recroom.org.

GS: Can you tell our audience what they're likely to find if they link to www.shilohproject.com?

Well, it's been a while, so I checked out what's still there. And it's amazing! It's all just as I left it! No improvements by the elves.

There's a cover picture and a pic of the main characters; information on purchasing a copy; and a link to reviews & sample pages. On IE there's also some background music – don't wait for it.

Click to the reviews. You may even read them. Also the free sample, calculated to hook you into wanting more.

There's a link to "More readers' comments" – if you go there and read to the end, you'll find a link to our ministry, The Rec Room. The picture is missing, but the link works. Go for it! There's also a link to the commercial site, one to "What is The Rec Room?", the link to "Flight of Fancy", another to the Ministry Update (about to be updated), a mail link, and a guest link to a friend's site.

Left out of all this is Amazon.com, which is the short answer to "Where can I get the book?"

I have one of my own: Has anyone else out there read The Shiloh Project? Those who have (and submit a book report <g>) can hear more about Summer Fruit than those whose surprise would be spoiled thereby.

GS: How did you become a Christian?

I can't remember exactly – no Pow! experience as in so many testimonies. I was raised Roman Catholic, so any Jesuit would say "Got 'im!" However, I departed from the faith – the usual story, college & adolescence – and came around gradually over years, through involvement in a variety of Christian denominations. There were also reverses. (Great is the patience of God!) When I was going to marry Christine, her pastor set up a premarital counseling series which consisted in a study of Acts. This quickened my interest in the Bible and advanced my faith. Since then we've both been growing in the Lord.

GS: What church do you go to?

None. If you visit www.recroom.org you'll see that God has given us a ministry to believers of many denominations. The verse that inspires it is John 17:21, Jesus' prayer for us "That they all may be one;" He has led us through several different kinds of congregations – Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, Reformed, Church of God, Calvary Chapel, Messianic Jewish, & more – in order, we believe, to set us up perfectly equipped for this kind of ministry. Read in C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity where he describes the church as a kind of boarding house: once you're inside the house you're sheltered, but you can't live in the corridor – sooner or later you'll choose to move into a particular room. These rooms are the various denominations. As we say on our web site, our vision is of the church as a condo complex: each Christian lives / worships / associates in the condo that suits him; our mission is to provide a place where he can meet people from the other condos, get to know them, share worship and fellowship and fun with them, come to love them – and then return, enriched, to his own condo. Hence we call our ministry The Rec Room. Hence, also, if we were to belong to a particular denomination ourselves, this would compromise the neutrality of our "mere Christian" ministry.

GS: How does your faith affect your writing?

I count on the Holy Spirit to give me the right words. I'm not always in tune, but here's an example of one time I was.

I knew the first part of The Shiloh Project was weak (having been told), so at the start of my writing time one day I wrote down a prayer for a new beginning, for a motivation that would propel my hero through his adventures and drag the reader through the book like a steel cable, arising from and starting with the hook in that new beginning. I was reading Dwight V. Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer at that time, and went on writing from the prayer, making notes from the book, seeing how Swain's techniques applied, and jotting down ideas as they came to me. And then one of those ideas was the answer to the prayer. Straight from Him.

GS: What Christian book(s) (fiction or non-fiction) have had the greatest impact on your thought and writing?

The Bible. The works of C. S. Lewis, especially Mere Christianity.

GS: When you were writing The Shiloh Project, were there any theological "puzzles" you had to sort through to your own satisfaction before you could continue with the story?

Yes, primarily the nature of time: no "parallel universes." (This view has recently been endorsed in the secular sf novel by Robert J. Sawyer, Flashforward.) God is outside of time, and isn't easily surprised, and saw everything that he had made and it was good, and works all things together for good for those who love him – these facts, as I see it, imply that God is the sculptor of the entire space-time universe; in particular, the sculptor of time. Therefore, since his work's been finished since the seventh day, the universe, seen from outside, is a static object. So nobody can change it. You can't go back in time and change the past (see "The Red Queen's Race," by Isaac Asimov): time-trips are already programmed in. Haven't you ever seen a sculpture with loops in it? Who says space-time is simply-connected?

(Sorry if you thought you had free will. <g>)

GS: Why did you give Jesus blue eyes?

Why not? True, Mel thinks on p. 265, "...his eyes were a bit unusual for a Semite."

GS: Why did you make Jesus' birth, rather than His crucifixion, the central point of time?

The Incarnation was a prerequisite to the crucifixion – but I see your point (no pun intended) too. However, the germinal idea of The Shiloh Project was Genesis 49:10: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be...." A reference to the Messiah's first coming, hence birth (or age 12, when He went up to the Temple). Hence the birth should be the central (or fixed) point of time from the perspective of The Shiloh Project.

GS: How much longer until Summer Fruit is published?

Probably it'll have to wait until I finish writing it – by the end of 2000, I hope. Then it'll depend on the alacrity of the publishing world.

GS: How much are you willing to tell us about the plot of Summer Fruit?

It's the sequel to The Shiloh Project, so it wouldn't be quite fair to people who haven't read that to give away too much. I can say where the title comes from, Amos 8:1-3: "Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit. And he said, 'Amos, what seest thou?' And I said, 'A basket of summer fruit.' Then said the LORD unto me, 'The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more. And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day,' saith the Lord GOD: 'there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence.'"

Sound good so far?

TR: Can you make a living on writing your books?

Not so far, but the jury is still out. Experienced authors have told me that the usual return for a writer is to break even on postage. I've done better than that, but still rely on supplemental income from other sources.

On the other hand, spiritually I've seen a better return than on many other things I've done. Many readers of The Shiloh Project have been blessed already (one read it again for "another dose of reassurance") and that makes it worth every minute. But we know the novel could bless many more. I look forward to your questions once you've read it!

TR: What other living sf authors would you recommend reading?

Jerry Pournelle (I think he's a Christian and I know his wife is). Read Lucifer's Hammer, a collaboration with Larry Niven.

James White (a Christian, I believe, who died August 23, 1999), especially for The Watch Below.

Robert L. Forward, who puts the science in time travel in Timemaster.

Frederick Pohl, especially in collaborations (like Search the Sky and Not This August) with the late C.M. Kornbluth.

Robert J. Sawyer, Flashforward.

TR: How long does it take you to write a book?

How long is a string? First book, first draft, six months; then there were the revisions. Started in Jan. '89, finally hit the streets in Aug. '93.

The nature of the second book makes it more of a challenge – it's taking longer.

TR: Any plans to convert your book to tv/movies?

The Shiloh Project would make a spectacular movie. Sort of like "The Greatest Story Ever Told" crossed with "Raiders of the Lost Ark." As Cecil B. DeMille isn't available, I've discussed it with my son Robert, who is a budding producer/director.

GS: What does the "R" in "David R. Beaucage" stand for?

Robert! See http://www.phyfutima.com for news of my son Robert's movies (if you like.)

[Home][Creativity][Genres][Resources][Links][About Us]

[Audio][Biographies][Books][Events][Film][Interviews][Mailing List][Publications][Publications]

[David R. Beaucage][Kathy Tyers][James BeauSeigneur][Jefferson Scott][Walker Chandler][Alton Gansky][Ray Hansen]

[Emily Snyder][Randall Ingermanson][Theodore Beale][Steve Laube][Laura Lond][Frank Wu][Donita K. Paul][Brenda W. Clough][Bryan Davis][John Granger]

[Karen Hancock][Miles Owens][Robert Liparulo][Bryan Davis, part 2][Chris Walley][Kathryn Mackel][Gene Wolfe][Sharon Hinck][Wayne Thomas Batson][Lars Walker][Christopher Hopper][Jeffrey Overstreet]

Rich Christiano[Jeff Gerke]

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[David R. Beaucage] [Kathy Tyers] [James BeauSeigneur] [Jefferson Scott] [Walker Chandler] [Alton Gansky] [Ray Hansen] [Emily Snyder] [Randall Ingermanson] [Theodore Beale] [Steve Laube] [Laura Lond] [Frank Wu] [Donita K. Paul] [Brenda W. Clough] [Bryan Davis] [John Granger] [Karen Hancock] [Miles Owens] [Robert Liparulo] [Bryan Davis, part 2] [Chris Walley] [Kathryn Mackel] [Gene Wolfe] [Sharon Hinck] [Wayne Thomas Batson] [Lars Walker] [Christopher Hopper] [Jeffrey Overstreet][Rich Christiano][Jeff Gerke]