Transcript of November 2007 recorded interview
Accomplished writer/audio producer/director Laurel van der Linde interviews author Vanna Bonta about the emerging genre of quantum fiction, introduced by her controversial book Flight: A Quantum Fiction Novel, now available on audio book.
LL: So Vanna, I was hoping you could answer a few questions for us pertaining to Flight: A Quantum Fiction Novel. Could you define the term "quantum fiction" as a literary genre?
VB: Quantum fiction is any story that witnesses life and the human experience on a sub-atomic level. It involves quantum theory, bringing it forward as a possible explanation behind the concept of life imitating art, and art imitating life, in that all of us are - to some degree - the authors of our lives, in how we interact with reality. So, in the case of characters in quantum fiction, they bridge science, philosophy, and cognition, or the involvement of consciousness.
LL: What makes a story quantum fiction rather than some other literary genre?
VB: Well, quantum fiction is literature that embodies the new physical or quantum universe. It involves the view of reality as a multi-dimensional experience in which reality is subjectively seen and uncertainly known.
LL: Can you give us an example?
VB: Well, in one aspect of theoretical physics it's held that in any scientific experiment the observer affects the outcome. Electrons can behave differently whether they are being observed or not. And they can behave as both a wavelength or a more solid particle. So that brings up some interesting questions about how real can "real" be, if it's affected by the person viewing it. In a way, we can define it by what it's not. Just as how do we define consciousness? Or what has been called the human soul or the spirit, if it can't be quantified as matter or a particle. Often times it can be quantified or observed just by a process of elimination. Just like on a sub-atomic level if you break down an atom, and keep breaking it down to its sub particles, and then it disappears, and what's remaining is the person observing it. Well, through the process of elimination the observer or some aspect of awareness is indirectly quantified. For example, in Flight our protagonist grapples with reality to determine the validity of what's what: His dreams, with the drives of his physical body, what others think, being manipulated, his own will, and wishful thinking, fears. Like all of us, he navigates through a pre-existing world - what we see as solid reality - and discovers the existence and integrity of his consciousness, his self, his own awareness, his own power of his own ability to create.
LL: So what you're saying is a character's self-awareness and individual perception interacts with the quantum theory of reality and is essential to the plot?
VB: Yes, exactly. Like in life, the way we perceive life and reality is often instrumental in how things can unfold. For example, quantum fiction plays that out by factoring in consciousness or awareness and perception as a real playing component. Which quantum theory is now revealing to us is, through characters, non-linear plot lines, or the involvement of multiple dimensions. It ultimately witnesses the physical world as inextricable from consciousness or the observer of that world. Not that the science particularly has to do with a good story, but Heisenberg and other physicists have conducted experiments (like the double slit experiment), where electrons behave differently depending on whether they are being measured or not. That is life on the sub-atomic level. And whether we are aware of it, of the science, it is definitely a factor of what we experience as every day reality.
LL: Then if I understand this correctly, what you mean by sub-atomic adventures is literary material which delves beneath the curtain of reality. Which is of course an age old question dating back I believe to the ancient Greeks.
VB: Yes. Math and literature are very cerebral. But Pythagoras, for example -Pythagorean thought was dominated by mathematics, but it was also profoundly mystical. Pythagoras' idea of the transmigration of the soul is central, and it's closer to Platonic idealism in the theory that substantive reality is only a reflection of some other non-quantified spirit, awareness, consciousness, whatever you want to call it. But ultimately, any literature when it arrives at being good literature, transcends genre. It has the power to affect us in a profound way.
LL: So, you are very well studied (obviously) in both the classical philosophers as well as contemporary mechanics, contemporary physics, etc. Which leads me the next question: Were you deliberately trying to create a new genre of literature, or was this something that evolved as you were actually writing Flight?
VB: It was in no way deliberate. It's not what I set out to do. It is what I was writing and I was simply being true to my writing. I followed my inspiration to an ending I couldn't yet see, and incorporated techniques of allegory and exposition, expository essay, and to tell a story knowing only that I was on the road that I needed to be on creatively. It only came later that various editors, senior editors at major houses who wanted the book said that they didn't quite know what genre it was and what was it. They were saying "it's not really science fiction, it's not really adventure, it's not really romance". And I said "well it is quantum fiction". The first line of the story is "which came first the observer or the particle?" - and it goes from there. So, it was just a result from me writing the story that I needed to write.
LL: So far from being contrived, this was a natural evolution, which like anything new and different has created some controversy. I understand several books have been written about quantum fiction, and over the past three years other authors have began to define their work as such.
VB: Einstein said "The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it's at all comprehensible." And when we can build something like the Hubble telescope and fathom images of this vast cosmos of which we are a part, it really gives pause to wonder what and who we are within a larger framework than linear adventures at the shopping mall and taxes. I certainly didn't write it to be popular. I wrote it because it was what I had to write. My theory has always been that the real plot in fiction parallels life in that it happens within the characters. Essentially events, time, forms, all propel the inner plot within each of us. And at the end of a person's life that's what they are looking at. What happened inside? How did that experience change me, and how did I change it? That's essentially what quantum fiction is, it's what quantum theory defines as a realm.
LL: Which is a very deep subject and therefore requires some very deep answers, very deep thinking and very deep answers.
VB: It is although it would really be doing a disservice that any story involving this should be relegated to simply that realm. It's essentially a story and the job of a writer is to be entertaining. In quantum fiction adventures things like coincidences, synchronicity, telepathy, deja vu, and an assortment of odd experiences that have been formerly the realm of the paranormal can now - at least theoretically - be explained by a new look at the physical world. The realm of quanta is how I have intrinsically approached and viewed reality since I was born. Knowing that what appears to us solid is ultimately both a particle and a wavelength, and on that realm everything behaves as both a particle and a wave. There are infinite possibilities and I believe people at large are becoming more aware that there is much more to reality and to themselves than what meets the eye. So, it's really not about understanding. I'm not a physicist. I am essentially a writer. It has been my passion, and it is something that took me into this realm.
LL: Very good. Now, focusing still on this evolving genre which is solidly rooted in the classics from what I'm understanding here. How do you see this developing? For example, we basically look at H.G. Wells as the founding father of science fiction, so that goes back roughly a hundred plus years ago, almost one hundred fifty years ago, and now we see how science fiction has evolved to this point. What do you see happening with quantum fiction a hundred and fifty years from now?
VB: Well, since Flight was first published I have seen the past couple of years (2002 / 2003) other people are defining their works as such, and the possibilities are really unlimited. I believe as people become more aware of this universe as a quantum universe, it will embrace things like holographic entertainment experiences, and already virtual reality and virtual interaction are an element of quantum fiction. Where it really is the participant; the reader and the author are interacting. In Flight essentially our protagonist is a writer who is writing a novel, and then begins to see things from his novel occurring in the reality around him and he questions "am I losing my mind?" or "am I somehow influencing reality around me?" And he dreams of true love, and then he meets this woman that he believes is his soul mate. So there is quantum theory behind all of that; you don't have to really be aware of what it is to enjoy the ride. More significantly, stories will not be linear and they'll overflow and incorporate the factors of existence that are invisible. So essentially Flight is just an adventure of multiple realities.
LL: Well that gives credence to the term "genre bending" at that point, because it requires us to think a little bit more when we are reading stories that aren't linear. Focusing now on some shop talk, as a writer prior to Flight you had written poetry, short stories, novels or novellas. What was the catalyst that prompted you to write a full length novel?
VB: Essentially it was the medium that I felt would best serve the story and I think it's a natural progression that just occurred.
LL: And referring to your characters, getting into "does life reflect art" or "does art reflect life?" - and this is all an excellent example - did you create your characters, or did they emerge from your subconscious and move to the front?
VB: I actually thought of the character ... I think the story was character driven in that I thought of Aira Flight, our heroine, while I was in a movie studio lot and bored out of my mind in a dressing room thinking "this is not what I wanted to act for, and this is not what I want to write about." And so from there it was like "well if I could write any story what would it be?" And so I thought of who would be the Errol Flynn of today? Just as the character of a swash buckling heroine - and she may not be the more obvious heroine - but it did work out that as I was creating characters to serve the story and the concept, each character is an allegory for kind of every phase of and every aspect of human existence. There is Aira Flight who is like a pure light being, who is incorporated as a woman here on Earth here for the first time. There's a writer who is a man who questions reality, and he has both his dark side and his light side, which really embodies the human condition. And you know, his ex-girlfriend the conniving, body-oriented hot journalist who controls by manipulation, and thinks that the only thing there is to reality is what she can see in the mirror. So it was not intentional, and it was a process of discovery and serving the story. And then after a while they tell you who they are. [laughter]
LL: Yes they do and they tell you where they want to go and you better come along with them. And interestingly enough you mentioned the character of Sandra and being driven by what she sees in the mirror, and yet Aira Flight is in essence a mirror of our society, and our social morals and what we are doing at this time.
LL: It was very interesting to have her observe all of us and her reactions to, her objective reaction to what we do in our society now and how we interact with each other. So given that we have all become rather captivated by these characters that have found their lives through you, may we anticipate a sequel in the near future?
VB: Yes, they are on the runway and should be cleared for take off next year.
LL: So that would be sometime in 2008?
LL: And is there one sequel or two?
VB: There are two at this time.
LL: At this time? So we might be able to anticipate more! Very good. Well Vanna, we certainly thank you for talking with us today. And if you have enjoyed this interview with author Vanna Bonta, download Flight: A Quantum Fiction Novel read by the author at audible.com
Author interview series copyright Audio Library 2007.