Thursday, March 24, 2011

Interview with Guy Hasson

Posted by Simcha 6:27 AM, under | 7 comments

Guy Hasson is an Israeli author, playwright and filmmaker, and his new science fiction novel, Secret Thoughts, was just released this week. I'm pleased to have Guy here today at SFF Chat.


Welcome Guy! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview.

Can you start off by telling me about your new book, Secret Thoughts?

Secret Thoughts is a book that tries to explore great landscapes of unknown inside our own minds. To explore our minds in a way that hasn ’ t been done, I use telepaths. The book is made out of three novellas that take place in the same telepath world.

In "The Perfect Girl", the first novella, as part of her studies our heroine has to read the mind of a recently dead woman her age. You can ’ t read the thoughts of a dead person, but you can coast through roads already taken, at least for a few days. Our heroine explores the mind of the dead woman going deeper and deeper and deeper. On the way, she develops an unhealthy attachment.

In "The Linguist", the second novella, a telepath must read the mind of an alien being. The alien has not communicated with anyone, and so telepathy is the only option. However, you don ’ t know what will happen when a human tries to read the mind of an intelligent being that did not evolve on Earth. Expect strange results.

In "Most Beautiful Intimacy", the third novella, a telepath becomes pregnant. Telepaths have never survived pregnancy. Since telepathy is based on touch ( in my world ) , a mother can ’ t ever disconnect from her fetus. All telepaths that have become pregnant, have gone insane and died well before the baby could be saved. In this story, our heroine decides to go through all nine months, and we follow her progress as she sees the baby ’ s first half-thought, first spark of emotion, first reasoning, first sight, first hearing, and so on.

This is what I mean when I say there are great unknown landscapes inside our own minds.

Is this the first book that you have had published in English?

A long, long time ago, back when e-books were just starting out, I had two books published in electronic format: Hope for Utopia and God’s Shadow.

God’s Shadow was an exploration into past lives. Ryan, the hero, was a graduate student doing experimentation into hypnosis and suggestibility. He ‘takes people back ’ to their past lives, gives them his own scenario, and lets them tell him what happened then. However, two of his subjects give him the same response, additional detail for additional detail, of something that he had planted inside their minds. Once he establishes they ’ re not cheating, he begins to take on a path that leads him into their real past lives.

He goes back a hundred years, two hundred years, a thousand years, two thousand years, and he keeps on going. He discovers the truth behind souls and where they come from, behind events detailed in the Bible and the New Testament. And on top of that, he discovers an ancient conspiracy, thousands of years old, that is about to close in on humanity …

Hope for Utopia is a hundred year saga of man ’ s first serious colony outside his own solar system. The planet is called Hope for Utopia, and as its name implies, it begins with great idealism. However, as the hundred years progress, idealism gives way to corruption, and the political nature of human nature prevails. In addition, the planet itself, seemingly lacking intelligent life, carries evidence of a highly advanced civilization. Where are all the aliens ? Where have they gone ? The solution to those mysteries may put the future of mankind in peril.

Hope for Utopia was available in Fictionwise and Amazon up till a few weeks ago, when I had it pulled.

In your recent article on The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf you offer tips for writing original content. Did you follow these guidelines in writing Secret Thoughts ?

Of course. That article gives three major guidelines to help a writer write a story or a novel that is completely original. The most important one seems to me to be the second one.

I’ll try to explain it. The joy of reading SF and fantasy is that sometimes everything may be possible. However, writing a story in which everything happens creates a story which is not at all believable.

I’ve found that if you write a believable premise in which everything suddenly becomes possible, you can write about everything and it will be fine. Not only will the readers buy it, but your story will be completely original.

Look at the three novellas in Secret Thoughts: a ) You’ve got a telepath reading the mind of a dead woman. What will she find ? Anything can happen ! b ) You ’ ve got a telepath reading the mind of an alien. What will she find ? What will the process look like ? Anything can happen ! c ) You ’ ve got a telepath reading the mind of a developing fetus. What does a brain of a fetus feel and think when it ’ s in the womb ? Anything can happen !

See? It’s fun.

Was there anything in particular that inspired your idea for the book?

In the first novella (reading the mind of a dead woman) , I wanted to write a mystery in which the solution was an emotion. The story doesn ’ t read like a mystery, but it is one.

In the second novella (reading the mind of an alien) , I can ’ t tell you the inspiration. It would spoil the story. I ’ ll just say that whatever happens when a telepath reads the mind of the alien – well, once she figures out what happened and why, when she comes back to touch the alien again – that’s what I wanted to explore.

In the third novella (reading the mind of a developing fetus), I was intrigued at the questions posed: What would the first thought be ? What does half an emotion look like ? What does half a thought look like ? And so on.

Do you think that Israeli speculative fiction readers differ in their reading preferences from SFF fans in English speaking countries?

I wrote an article once for the World SF blog about the difference in writing stories for Americans and writing stories for ‘foreigners’ (Israelis in this case) that ruffled a few feathers. Different cultures look differently at the race of the characters, the sexual taboos, have different attitudes towards life, and even look at the future differently. But putting that aside, I think the new generation of Israeli speculative readers wants as much American SF as they can get, because they want to be just like Americans.

How do you take into consideration those culture differences when you are writing ? Do you write differently for your Israeli readers than for your American ones?

I found a way to walk between the drops and tailor my stories to both cultures simultaneously. Apparently, it works for other cultures. My stories have appeared in Greek, German, Italian, and Spanish – and the response is always the same, regardless of the differences in culture.

In addition to being an author, you are also a playwright and film maker. How is the process of writing a play or script different from that of writing a book?

There is a huge difference in writing prose, a play, or a film. The stories are told through different means. The plot of a book is written with words. The plot of a play is written with actions ; the words are only shadows of the action. The plot of a film is written in an alternating combination of actions and pictures.

In prose, what you write is all there is. You have full control of the end result. In drama and film, what you write is the guidelines for the piece, written in actorese and directorese in such a way that best points the actors and directors in the direction you want. Actors are human words with which you write on a stage or screen. Without the human element, it ’ s not yet a finished piece of art. With different humans, it ’ s a different piece of art every time.

But you asked me about the process. Writing is writing. The tools are different, but for me the process is the same.

Are you currently working on any other projects ?

I just finished writing a huge fantasy epic. Hopefully it’s like nothing you’ve seen before ( Remember? The guidelines to being truly original. I try to stick to them) . I did my best to create an explosion of intense, raw imagination that lasts for six hundred pages. In addition, for the first time in my writing, I tried to explore beauty, what makes a story beautiful. Now I ’ m renewing my batteries a bit while searching for a home for my new manuscript.

That sounds really interesting. Will this book be written in English as well?

I write everything in English. Even though I live in Israel now, all my books and stories have been translated into Hebrew. So, yes, my fantasy novel is already written in English and actively searching for a home …

All the Israeli authors that I’m familiar with seem to gleefully follow the motto “the stranger, the better," in their writings. Do you also share this penchant for the weird?

Not at all. Strangeness, I suppose, is their way of trying to be original. I think you can be original and completely out of the box without going to things that do not really connect to the reader and his or her life. But there is also a way to connect something strange the author feels is important to a reader for whom this experience would be utterly strange. There ’ s a way to make the strange more normal and easier to swallow for the readers. Most writers don ’ t take the trouble to do that. That leads to the fact that utterly strange SF and fantasy are read only by a small readership that doesn’t have a chance of ever growing.

Have you lived in Israel all your life?

I was born in Israel and spent my childhood there. I spent my teenage years in the US, then came back. I feel close to both cultures, and yet always felt like an outsider in both.

How did you get turned on to science fiction?

Being a bookworm as a kid, I devoured our entire library. I loved adventure, science fiction, and science. Science fiction was perfect for a kid like me.

Was SF popular in Israel when you were a kid?

SF was never popular in Israel. However, it had a brief literary golden age just as I was growing up, with many translations of all the best American SF of the previous decades. And right when I finished reading them all, I moved to the US, where I could read even more.

Are you currently involved in the SFF scene in Israel?

I used to be. Now I’m concentrating on getting my books and stories to an international audience.

I'm always interested in hearing about the books other people are reading so can you tell me which book you are currently reading?

I only recently discovered H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain, and it blew me away. His stories (in this and his other works ) are clearly the basis for almost all SF books and stories up till the Seventies. Not only that, but his writing is better. So right now I’m reading as much of his writing as I can find.

Who are some of your favorite contemporary speculative fiction authors?

I like Greg Egan, Charles Stross’s Accelerando, Susanna Clark’s Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell, and Connie Willis. But SF readers ( and certainly authors ) should widen their horizons with a lot more than SF. I think Anne Tyler is amazing, Dickens is better at writing than any author before or since, and the list here is really too long. Gay Talese’s non-fiction teaches us about ourselves. And then there ’ s children ’ s fiction ( most of it is SF ) , most of which is a great way of connecting with the thing that made us write SF in the first place.

I agree. Most of my favorite books are not genre books at all. And I think it's interesting that so many people that shudder at the idea of reading a SF or fantasy book, actually grew up reading just such books, because most children's books include elements of SF and fantasy.

Is there any author or book that has particularly influenced your writing?

The thing about being a writer is that you are influenced by almost everything you see and hear and read. Everything adds a story or a line, a character or a thought, something you now know you hate or something you now know you love.

Thanks again Guy for taking the time to answer all of my questions.

To find out more about Guy Hasson visit his webpage and read more about his new book, Secret Thoughts, at Apex Publications.


Great interview!

I recently read Secret Thoughts, and I was very impressed by how intimate it was. I've always enjoyed character driven SF with big, earth shattering ideas, and Secret Thoughts fit the bill perfect.

Cool - fun interview! Secret THoughts sounds interesting. I like his interview writing style, so I feel like I've got to love the book!


All those stories in Secret Thoughts sound original. I'd be curious to see where the author takes them.

Also, it would be an interesting to explore what in American novels would offend those readers outside of the US. Almost like the contrasting human/alien perspectives in one of the novellas mentioned.

Great interview :)
New to me

redhead: I've also found that it's the characters driven sf books that I really enjoy, and after reading your review of Secret Thoughts I've been very eager to read it myself.

Audrey, welcome back! This is actually the first time that I've interviewed an author without having read their book first and I'm really hoping to get a chance to read the book soon because it does sound good.

Stephanie: I was trying to draw Guy out a bit more, to get him to talk about this subject in more depth, but he seemed reluctant. Perhaps due the reaction he received to his World SF article, that he mentioned here.

Blodeuedd: Well, he's kind of new to me as well because I haven't yet read any of his books, though this one sounds good.

Great interview :)

I have read a few good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how much effort you put to create such a fantastic informative site.

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