CHAT WITH ANGELA STEVENS REGARDING RENAISSANCE 2.0

1259448179WDjxZ8Angela: This quote is taken from the book. Could you listen and then expand on the idea for me?

“Maybe it was for the best he didn’t know then what he’d come to know, after digging deeper into Hartman’s students’ lives:

That the best and brightest had fallen before the entire gamut of get-over-themselves schemes, powerless to undo the PTSD symptoms of modern life.

Like so many others making headline news, they had failed at employing best practices to stay afloat of the rising tide of expectations of the global economy.

If he’d known all that, he might have been tempted to ask:  So who was he? What one thing did he have in spades the others did not?  Was it what Drew said it was, or was it something else?  Or was he just fooling himself?”

Dean: The story is about one man’s quest to find out what it takes to survive our age. We give lip service to reinventing ourselves. We have all the right buzz words courtesy of corporations that subject their people to grueling pressures in order to stay afloat in a world of global competitiveness.  But how many are really thriving in this sink or swim economy, how many are merely surviving, and how many are going under?  In a sense the Occupy movement has already given us the answer: Only the top one percent are truly excelling.

But to get the ninety-nine percent to beat the top one percent at their own game, to be smarter, more creative, more driven…  What we’re really asking is exactly what does it take to turn men into gods? For it’s very much a Neitzschian proposition that global competitiveness forces on us when we have to find ever new ways to “get over ourselves” ever faster and more efficiently than the competition—many of whom have every advantage on us.  It’s this fundamental crisis of our age that the book delves into.

It’s a survivor’s manual that’s interlaced in the subtext; and there are quite a number of fields beyond philosophy and psychology interwoven into the interdisciplinary approach to the subject of thriving in an End Times economy. The novel is written so as to coax the integral mind to surface and take charge in this acid-test environment like only it can. If I’ve done my job, the story doesn’t simply present you with more than one path through the maze to higher consciousness; it drives the shift in consciousness needed to survive the age itself, which is something that can only be arrived at by allowing the wizardry of the words to take hold of you and procure the alchemical transformation.

Angela: Ostensibly, the book takes place in a parallel present, but before we’re through book one in the series we’re bursting into parallel universes, partaking of time travel. No shortage of superheroes and shapeshifters are thrown into the mix.

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Dean: The theme of continuous improvement links the story-threads to one another, giving the book a very contemporary feel despite how many departures it takes into mind-blowing alternate realities, be they cyberpunk or steampunk in nature.  Can you imagine any time in the future, any alternate universe in which forever taking your game to the next level isn’t going to be front and center of your survival? Not only is it the defining characteristic of both Present and Future Shock, it is one of the things which collapses us out of ordinary space-time into Singularity State. Singularity is viewed in the context of the novel as the jumping off point to the multiverse—this idea that we can never let up, not for a second. Otherwise, we drop down to a lower energy level of consciousness, one not at all adapted to survival even in modern times, far less all the far flung worlds the book opens into, some contemporary, many not so.

Angela: So, far and beyond being a rollicking sci-fi adventure and thriller both, it’s a coming of age story for adults.

Dean: Yes. It wrestles with the idea of how we trigger Cambrian-like explosions of creativity within ourselves, and undergo major paradigm shifts in our thinking, versus mere incremental change.

I argue that certain historical circumstances—such as a worldwide economic collapse—generates the sustained long-term pressures needed to force people to take their minds to the next level. It drives the shift away from ego-identification to Witness state as all other human attempts to cope prove inadequate.

We are stripped bare, down to the God-consciousness at our core, which is our true self, and freed of self-limiting concepts. We become like the Phoenix rising in the fire, which is unbearable for mere humans; gods alone can survive the heat.

But just what exactly is the nature of the psychology running through the various man into superman scenarios?  Of what does the tool kit so necessary to the transformation comprise? These are the very Nietzschian questions with which the book is concerned.

The debate remains open throughout the series.  One by one, the flaws and fallacies of this line of thinking are exposed.  But we also see the redeeming qualities of the continuous improvement agenda and how it can help us to ride out any storm.

The series asks: why are we failing to make it to the next quantum level of consciousness both individually and at the level of the entire human race? What are the elements of our own natures that are holding us back, and what can we do to overcome them in order to ride the rising wave of global consciousness to the next level of our unfolding?

1305896816Ya91oxAngela: I keep coming back to why on earth you’d set a sci-fi world in 2012.  I guess your answer strikes me as incomplete.

Dean: What better location for a new Renaissance age than in the ashes of an old world order? The global economic crisis is in full swing; it’s the darkest era in human history. When you factor in that the next economic rebound will likely be driven by AI and not humans, leaving most of us disenfranchised, struggling to survive on the crumbs off the table, the present is grimmer still. As they say, it’s darkest before the dawn.

But for a new Renaissance to truly arise, it will take more than glass-half-full psychology and spin-control regarding the true hidden value to be found in this global crisis.  It will take deep dives into human psychology to unearth our sticking points better than ever before in order to accelerate our learning curve so we can possibly keep up with AI, even with human upgrades. And failing that, it will take such effort and more to get us past the resistance to migrating to this higher-order of consciousness—if indeed it is higher.

The book explores in depth the question of what indeed constitutes evolution. What does AI have to offer us that is truly better than what we have now? Is a better-marriage between silicon and carbon based life forms possible, and what would be the outcome of that marriage?

Angela: How much technology is enough before it ceases to improve the quality of our lives and starts to erode it?

Dean: Many would argue that we’ve already turned a corner with our existing technologies if indeed the outcome is mass joblessness on an ever-wider scale. What then is the changing nature of technology and our relationship to it that will continue to push us forward so more and more people don’t jump off the Ferris wheel as the Amish did, choosing to live in technological holdouts in time?

These are among the more profound questions of our age; grappling with them in fictional format has the advantage of recruiting all levels of our psyche, not just the rational mind, for that extra power boost we need to process and integrate these higher truths—and make the necessary life changes in time.

Angela: Your lead character is a strong advocate of the Occupy Movement. While the page count on this topic is admittedly quite limited relative to such a big book, aren’t you afraid this dates your novel? Especially with the Occupy movement going the way of the doe doe in the minds of many, who hear little of it because they only watch TV news. Major media outlets have done such a good job of tuning them out. No doubt because signs of revolution on the streets make the advertisers uneasy.

Dean: The Occupy movement signals the kickoff of the new Renaissance age.  Whether it recedes into oblivion or actually grows in importance over time, neither destiny will change its pivotal role.  They’re an early sign of the global shift in consciousness from an ego-centered psychology to a trans-humanist psychology, which thinks more in terms of the greater good than one’s personal good, or at least tries to better balance the two.  It represents a shift away from Machiavellian politics in a world of limited resources and everyone scrambling at one another’s expense for the crumbs on the table towards the idea that we thrive together, or we shall surely perish together.  Ironically, Occupy’s approach is closer to the military credo, “No man left behind.”

Whatever you think of the Occupy Movement, they represent a very real concern over the erosion of the middle class in favor of a ninety-nine percent versus one percent society in which the one percent is empowered to live as virtual gods, and everyone else is lucky to eke out a living as their hired help.  And, among the hundred percent, the top one percent are the lucky ones, at least for a time, before the ascent of AI and robots and software-driven IVRs and self-help websites continue to devalue human labor and cast even them out of jobs.  Something that’s happening far faster than anyone expected, even Martin Ford, who wrote Lights in The Tunnel.  You can check out the Technological Unemployment community on Google+ for additional insights on this issue.

Whether you’re a fan or a rabid opponent of the Occupy movement, you’ll find all viewpoints well represented in the book. I’m not looking to push an agenda so much as give multiple perspectives in which to help think through the change in consciousness happening worldwide, of which the Occupy Movement is a rather small reflection.

Angela: One of the hazards of writing near-future sci-fi is that by the time the book comes out, some of what is predicted as likely to happen in the future has already happened or possibly even been surpassed by something better.

Dean:  True, but the value in this genre is more in how the characters deal with present and future shock, and in how it looks at the societal impacts of these emerging technologies.  Viewed from this light, even if you are off here and there with a given technology, hopefully, what you’re really helping to imbue your readers with is the flexibility to deal with whatever comes along. The thing is to make a game of boosting EQ, IQ, and SQ, using narrative techniques to recruit the whole brain and not just the rational mind.  This is the power of fiction over nonfiction, to my thinking.

What’s more, by working out the logistics of these alternate reality scenarios, hopefully we are better prepared to know which ones to avoid, and which ones to steer ourselves towards in fashioning, as Leibniz would say, the best of all possible worlds.

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Angela: One of the notions being toyed with in the story is that we may have to destabilize the system (human society as a whole) to make it paradoxically more stable.

Dean:  Yes.  We pass through our current period of growing chaos as a precursor to getting us to a higher integral order that is part of a trans-human condition. On the other side of the abyss is a co-created commons and a far more egalitarian world that is beyond what is possible in the strictly human ego-driven realm.

Angela:  Is this why you take some liberties with traditional narrative structure?

Dean: Precisely. You’ll find a good old fashioned three act narrative connecting the overarching story line as well as the five individual books of volume 1. But to capture the essence of a Renaissance age I had to go beyond allowing the hero and heroine and a small ensemble cast to steal all the reader’s attention. These familiar anchor points, too, are present, but there is a much wider constellation of characters that artfully play off one another, as one might expect in a more egalitarian age.

Sadly, the politics of the traditional narrative belong to the old world order; they suggest that most of us are here just to lend a minor supporting role to the one larger than life hero, the Titan among us.  Well, in a Renaissance age, we are all Titans.  This requires a modified approach to storytelling.  It doesn’t mean you throw out the baby with the bathwater, but you do have to tweak the formulas a bit.

Angela: You spend much of the early part of the book delving into the pitfalls of your characters’ minds, and how their psyches are built in many ways like temples of doom. Was that wise? Wouldn’t it make more sense just to get to the fun stuff straight away, with folks busting out with powers in the opening scenes?

Dean: There is no shortage of characters that are every bit as colorful in their caterpillar phase as they will be in their butterfly phase later in the book and in the series.  I indulged myself here because it does no good to just present folks with powers as some sort of wish fulfillment or escapist fantasy, if you don’t show the mechanics of the transformation itself, the how-you-too-can-do-this underlying process.

Angela: But isn’t that just more wish-fulfillment?

Dean: Amazingly enough, there has been quite a lot of literature on this topic dating back thousands of years coming out of various schools of Eastern mysticism. But the book draws on many other sources, as well, including quantum physics.  Moreover, it’s only by encouraging Zen masters among us—and cajoling people to center in Witness state rather than ego-state that the Singularity can be truly self-sustaining.

???????????????????????????????????????It’s tempting to think Singularity is strictly a technological phenomenon, but it isn’t. Mercifully, as the book illustrates, the emerging technologies will facilitate this shift in consciousness/will co-arise with it as the shift in technology’s focus moves more from manipulating the physical environment (which will still continue to some degree) towards empowerment of the individual. The nexgen technologies will also move towards fostering cocreated systems, i.e open source government, open source business.

Angela: But one of the big ironies we face today is people are regressing, not progressing, under the herculean stress of contending with a collapsed world economy. Major trauma tends to do that. You can’t build a healthy trans-ego on a weak ego.

Dean: This is another big reason for the focus in the early part of the book—to facilitate this remediation of the psyche, if the story magic is up to par.  First ego and confidence have to be strengthened, then the personality must be put in service of the higher self. The ordinary personality doesn’t go away, because it is also key to the unique expression of the Godhead through each of us.  It qualifies, filters, and focuses the impact of the divine ground through the “lens” of individuality. But that personality is now in passive service to the higher self.

This is what makes the Robin Wakefield series so profound; she is subjecting her psyche to the kind of inner work that ultimately we must all do to make it to the other side, to survive the global shift in consciousness. Only in this manner can we morph successively into the next generation lifeform.

The transhuman alone can survive the world of Singularity with its consummately more daunting rigors and challenges, but also its higher highs and lower lows as regards potentialities for human development.

Angela: You certainly don’t sugarcoat what it’s like growing up in the decaying old world order. I can tell you’ve tried to accurately portray the true horror of it and the cost to human life. Renaissance 2.0 arises out of this 2nd Dark Ages.

I appreciate that you take the truth of the old world order we live under, and the cost to society, and use the magic of storytelling to recruit dimensions of mind beyond just reason in order to help the reader blast free of the oppression.

By your own admission, this is the task you undertook in writing the novel. And this is a nice niche for you to create for yourself in the marketplace—as a philosopher and social critic hiding out in fiction, and as a bit of a magician aiding in the alchemical process of transformation.

Dean:  Robin’s quest to discover how to shockproof his mind against a mind-blowing modern-day world is perhaps the principal journey we’re all on today, by comparison to which all other quests pale.

Whatever our personal missions in life, we first have to master the same lessons Robin has to master if we are to accomplish them.

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Note:  Angela Stevens is a good friend of the author and, to date, has penned such titles as Lemon Drops and Love (available on Amazon and Goodreads), and Mariquita, as well as a few other titles currently only available on Wattpad in rough draft form.