Monday, 4 August 2014

The Betelgeuse Oracle by Joseph Macchiusi: Interview + Giveaway

The Betelgeuse Oracle (Chronicles, #1)
by Joseph Macchiusi

Every civilization has ended in collapse. Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome. All were sophisticated cultures brought low by unanticipated forces greater than themselves.

What forces hasten the collapse of our civilization? Not nuclear war, or climate change, or even an asteroid strike.

For millions of years the supergiant star Betelgeuse has waited patiently on Orion’s right shoulder. Now its moment has arrived. It severs the single thread suspending Western civilization over a great abyss.

Something we take for granted disappears forever. Everything changes now that it is gone. Electronic equipment fails. Aircraft plummet from the sky. Motors cease to work. Distances that seem trifling by car become days-long slogs. Food and water are scarce. Forces awaken that have remained dormant for centuries. In a matter of hours, Western civilization teeters and falls.

James Muir is trapped in the midst of this huge calamity. Struggling to reunite with his wife and young daughters, he suffers bizarre, overpowering visions. A mysterious Voice berates him in ancient Egyptian. Amazed, he comprehends its command to embark on a quest for something it identifies only as ‘the Stone.’

Hunted by cadres of well armed, highly trained militiamen, haunted by the erosion of his own sanity, James flees urban warfare, riot and pillage. He joins a group of desperate strangers, united to escape a metropolis transformed into a burning, violent wasteland.

But what awaits them beyond the fringes of the city? The further they get, the stronger is the painful tug exerted by the Voice on James’s exhausted mind. As strangers grow into friends and lovers, James comes to realize that the thing called the Stone has a fanatical will of its own. Even if he survives the trek, he may not be strong enough to match the Stone’s baffling power.

The Betelgeuse Oracle is a sweeping saga of loss and heroism, mysticism and visceral horror. Reading this novel will change the way you see the world.

Paperback, First, 386 pages
Published November 2012 by Betelgeuse Oracle

My previous online publications include two short stories, “Of Smelly Toilets and Wet Cheese” and “Triage”. Another story, “The Pythagorean Theorem” was short-listed for the 2006 CBC Literary Awards and The Writers’ Union of Canada 2010 Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers. “The Perseids” also made this short list.

My current obsessions include Motorhead, the experiences of frontline soldiers during the First World War, and the pathological psychology of Ajax Quire. Quire is the hero of another (soon-to-be-published) Macchiusi novel, Lurking in Plain Sight. I am currently at work on the The Prion File, which is the second of the Quire thrillers; and The Betelgeuse Shaman, the second book of the Betelgeuse Chronicles.


Q & A with Joseph Macchiusi

Tell us a little bit about your main characters.
James Muir is the main character. A blocked writer working as nighttime security on a university campus, he is grappling with the disappointments and resentments of his moribund writing career when he is engulfed in the apocalypse. Subliminally wishing for change, he gets it! By losing everything – his family, his home, life as he knew it – he undergoes painful transformation into the titular oracle. Here is James in his own words describing the scariest moment of the story for him: “Definitely my first encounter with the Dog Man. I was already torn up from the final realization that my family was gone, my home destroyed. The Dog Man chose that moment of my most naked vulnerability to make his first appearance. And let me tell you this: any time you meet up with your mother’s undead fuckbuddy with some kind of twisted team mascot dog’s head sewn onto its severed neck – that is going to make a terrible day even worse. Cowering in the burned-out basement of the house where I had been raising my family – with the Dog Man blasting away at me with his shotgun! Fun wow! Something akin to that awful certainty you’re about to puke – I knew for certain it was just a matter of time before the Dog Man and I would face each other in mortal combat. And I was sure he would slaughter me.”

Quentin Tribe is a rapier-carrying avatar of the Renaissance. So he represents all the promise and brutality of that volatile time. He is difficult, honour-bound, fiercely intelligent, stubborn, violent. An expert in the art of killing with edged weapons who absolutely refuses on principle to touch a firearm. Not the kind of person you’d want crashing your family reunion; exactly the kind of person you need at your back if you want to survive the apocalypse.

Amy Faccini is a former Olympian biathlete and expert markswoman. She is hard, determined, and wise-cracking. Her experience working at her family’s hunt camp in northern Ontario means that she has the skills and knowledge to beat the overwhelming odds. Her biggest challenge is overcoming the gender bias of some other characters who find it difficult to see her potential and recognize her leadership qualities.

Where did you get the idea for this story?

Many years ago I was sitting on a bus on my way home from university when a thought struck me like an epiphany: imagine how different the world would be if all electricity simply stopped working. From that point, the idea developed and grew. This combined with my interests in the history of ancient Egypt, hiking and fieldcraft, basic astrophysics, firearms and survival in the midst of massive social collapse allowed the story to take on a life of its own.

  What do you see as influences on your writing style?
The attitudes, words and style of people like James Osterberg, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, John Lydon, Ani Di Franco. The work of these artists transformed me. Pagan mysticism, surrealism, the Dada movement, and stoic philosophy have also left their indelible marks. Writers like Irvine Welsh, CĂ©line, William Burroughs, Henry Miller, George Orwell, Diane Ackerman, Anne Michaels, J. K. Huysmans, Jorge Luis Borges, and H. P. Lovecraft are some of the nucleotides in my creative DNA.

  Describe your ideal writing spot.
In the numinous quiet of the Haliburton, Ontario woods. That is my cathedral.

  What is the best advice you have been given?
From Marcus Aurelius: “When anyone offends against you, let your first thought be, ‘Under what conception of good and ill was this committed?’ Once you know that, astonishment and anger will give place to pity. For either your own ideas of what is good are no more advanced than his, or at least bear some likeness to them, in which case it is clearly your duty to pardon him; or else, on the other hand, you have grown beyond supposing such actions to be either good or bad, and therefore it will be so much the easier to be tolerant of another's blindness.”

From AA: Every day, create and meditate upon a list of all the things that you are grateful for.

From my maternal grandmother: “Never chase after a man (or a woman). They are like streetcars: there will always be another one along.”

  If you could have any superpower, what would you choose and why?
I’m not sure if it counts as a superpower, but I would choose to be fluent in every human language. It would be incredible to have the ability to go anywhere on earth and be fully conversant with anybody. To fully comprehend all the complexity and intricate subtlety of the human family’s complete myths, stories and beliefs. (Sounds like some kind of massive Penguin collection, doesn’t it?)

Which do you prefer: hard/paperbacks or ebooks?
Good question. I definitely prefer paperbacks to read. I get sick and tired of reading text on a glowing screen. That being said, as a writer I’m very thankful to be living in a time and place where ebooks make it so easy to share my work with so many people!

  What book are you reading now?
As usual, I’ve got several books on the go. Too many! Greedily devouring good prose is the one (positive) addiction I still indulge in! I’m rereading Naked Lunch by William Burroughs and The Air Conditioned Nightmare by Henry Miller. Burroughs and Miller are huge influences. Another big influence is Pat Barker. I recently picked up her excellent Regeneration trilogy. Her stories simply astound with their combination of historical precision and piquant emotional resonance. I’m halfway through Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden and it is superb. Finally, I just picked up The End: the Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-1945 by Ian Kershaw. Kershaw is an authority on this period, and he also happens to be a very good writer. As a high school history teacher, history is quite literally my life, and an outstanding source of thematic material for my writing. Again and again while exploring the past, you discover real human experiences that are so incredible, so surreal, that you’d scoff at them as impossibly far-fetched if they were presented in a fictional story. Clio has a lot to teach writers as well as historians!

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