Interview: Gary Morgenstein On How Baseball Meets Sci-Fi In ‘A Mound Over Hell’

It’s no secret that I love reading science fiction, especially the kind of genre stuff that I have never read before. That’s why I was really interested in hearing more about Gary Morgenstein’s new novel A Mound In Hell, the first book in The Dark Depth series.

It’s the year 2098 and America has succumbed to Islam. A new society has emerged, that pretty much prohibits everything that we know and love about the U.S. There’s no social media, no religion, no birth control and no patriotism. Baseball is on its final season, but it’s only played by holographic players. But it’s now more popular than ever.

I had a chance to ask Gary a few questions about the novel, as well as learn more about this story and what it entails.

Give a brief rundown of your novel and its characters.

A Mound Over Hell is set in 2098, twenty-five years after America has been defeated by radical Islam. we’re now surrounded, but still an independent nation.  Led by Grandma, a new society called The Family has been established based on love, ethics, and honesty.

All acts of patriotism, from flying the flag to singing the National Anthem, are illegal. Social media has been banned under the Anti-Narcissism Act. Religion is illegal. Children are revered, and abortion and the use of contraceptives are capital offenses, as is pedophilia. Teachers, police, and doctors are the most trusted professions, while the entertainment industry, lawyers, psychologists and banks are outlawed by the Anti-Parasite Laws I and II. Robots with faces are also outlawed.

As A Mound Over Hell opens, baseball is beginning its final season – forever. The once all-American sport is now synonymous with terrorism and treason. Holograms run the bases for out-of-shape players and attendance averages fifteen spectators per game. The only ballpark left is Amazon, the once-famous Yankee Stadium. Led by baseball historian Puppy Nedick and a band of former baseball greats, baseball regains its popularity only to become a pawn between those who want peace, and those eager for another war.

In addition to former star college pitcher Puppy Nedick who realizes his dream isn’t dead yet, the characters include Zelda Jones, an endearing artist/teacher who has failed at most everything in life; Pablo Diaz, a somber dentist offered a chance to join the exclusive Cousins; feisty Mooshie Lopez, once the greatest baseball player ever, male or female;  Azhar Mustafa, the wise Muslim fishing captain who becomes embroiled in global politics; Elias Kenuda, the arrogant and ambitious Third Cousin of Sport and Entertainment; Clary Santiago, one bad-ass 11-year-old in a Spanish orphanage for Crusader children; Grandma’s long-time second in command, First Cousin Albert Cheng, who believes America must finish the job and win the next war; and Grandma/Lenora Chen, still brilliantly charismatic at 92, who wants to forge a legacy of peace and bring America and Islam together.

And let’s not forget Mickey Mantle and Ty Cobb.

How did it occur to you to combine science fiction with baseball?

These are two of my great loves, along with politics and history. Combining baseball and science fiction is very rare, although all the sci-fi peeps point out there was an episode on Deep Space Nine. I don’t want to claim my novel is the first, but it certainly re-imagines the genre. Since baseball is so old school, old-fashioned if you will, science fiction writers don’t think it’ll make the cut into the future or, if it did, play any prominent role. As a lifelong baseball fan (the Yankees are my team), I wanted to turn things upside, making baseball represent what America once was – for which it is reviled.

Science fiction often finds a basis in or is a reaction to real world modern events. What (if any) real world events inspired events in your book?

Obviously, I’m taking the current clash between Islam and Western Civilization to a nightmarish possibility. To lose to a viral strain of ISIS or al-Qaeda is terrifying for everyone. We sci-fi writers are all about that, aren’t we? Okay, I create a nightmare, but what happens next? The world building was fascinating. I wanted to go beyond any contemporary politics or “isms,” political ideologies, and create something very different. I’m sure different readers will accuse me of siding with the right or the left, but truly, I wanted to create something very different, a post-democracy world.

Still, at the end of the day, it’s all about the characters. I’ve got a disparate and very diverse cast — this is the 22nd Century. Yet remember that even in the most dystopian circumstances, people are people, just surviving, trying to find joy, pleasure, love, “uh, what’s for dinner, honey?” That’s what I focus on, how these flawed, essentially decent people affect each other and their world, not the other way around.

What do you hope readers get out of A Mound Over Hell and the rest of the books in the series?

Like any writer, I hope the reader thinks or feels or is even a little disturbed. A laugh now and then would also be wonderful. Now ultimately what a reader decides is up to them.  I can’t go around explaining what I meant by this story line or that scene. I can explain why I chose the subject I did in the way I did. But should I say, this book is about and you got it all wrong? No. I only hope my motives aren’t attacked.

We live, sadly, in a society where all too often discussion consists of name calling. Few people listen any more. You can’t explain a point of view without being accused of embracing that perspective, which I find pretty terrifying. So within the context of my novel and the subsequent books in The Dark Depths series, I talk to the reader one on one, no Facebook posts or Tweets. Just me and them. This is the world I’ve created. You honor me by buying and reading my 500 plus page novel, spending your valuable time with characters who’ve flown out of my head. For that, I thank all of you now.

How did you make the decision to devote yourself full-time to writing?

I spent most of my life working in the corporate world of entertainment publicity – I was the mad PR genius behind the Sharknado phenomenon – while having this second life of writing novels and plays. When the opportunity came to focus exclusively on writing and letting other people promote me, it was really easy.

For More

To learn more about A Mound Over Hell and Morgenstein, be sure to visit his author page on Amazon.

A Mound Over Hell can be pre-ordered at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, IndieBound, Google Play, Kobo and iTunes, plus more to come!

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