Unexpected Questions with Paul Levinson

Paul Levinson, PhD, is Professor at Fordham University.  His science fiction novels include The Silk Code (winner of the Locus Award for Best First Science Fiction Novel of 1999), The Consciousness Plague, The Pixel Eye, Borrowed Tides, The Plot to Save Socrates, Unburning Alexandria, and Chronica. His novelette “The Chronology Protection Case” was made into a short film and is on Amazon Prime Video. His alternate history story about The Beatles, “It’s Real Life,” was made into a radio play, and is currently a finalist for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History.  His novelette, “Robinson Calculator,” was published in the Robots Through the Ages anthology in July 2023. His nonfiction books, including The Soft Edge, Digital McLuhan, and New New Media, have been translated into 15 languages. He has appeared on CBS, CNN, MSNBC, the History Channel, and NPR.  His 1972 album, Twice Upon A Rhyme, was re-issued in  Japan and Korea in 2008, and in the U. K. in 2010.  His first new album since 1972, Welcome Up: Songs of Space and Time, was released by Old Bear Records and Light in the Attic Records in 2020.

If you were transported into one of your books as a character, what kind of character would you be and what kind of adventures would you have?
It would be a character in any of my books or stories in which time travel was possible — The Plot to Save SocratesThe Loose Ends Saga,  etc — and I would travel back in time as many times as I could to make the world a better place and make sure my family and I were financially comfortable.  As to the first, I would do my best to make sure elections in the United States were decided by the popular vote, period. Come to think of it, correcting the errors of the Electoral College figured in another one of my time-travel stories, “Ians, Ions, and Eons”.
If you were stranded on a deserted planet with only one book to read, but it turned out to be one of your own, how would you feel?
Not happy!  As much as I love my own writing — and I really do — I obviously already know my own books like the back of my hand.  If I were stranded on a deserted planet with only one book to read, I’d prefer a novel by Philip K. Dick that I hadn’t already read.  (I’ve already read just all the fiction written by Isaac Asimov.)
If you had to choose between being a mermaid or a dragon, which would you pick and why?
Are you kidding?  Obviously a mermaid, and not just because I love to swim.  I’m devotedly non-violent.
If you could time travel to any point in history, which era would you choose, and why?
I already sort of answered this in #1 above, but to explain further: if I want to effectively improve the world, and be financially comfortable, there wouldn’t be much point in travelling too far back in the past.  In fact, I would say sometime in the 1980s, so I could secure my financial future, and work to get the Electoral College abolished in time for the 2000 election.  (Again, see “Ian’s, Ions, and Eons,” for another way.)
If you could travel to any alternate universe where a different version of yourself exists, what do you think your other self would be like?
It would be a world in which John Lennon wasn’t murdered. Indeed, I think his murder deformed reality the way it was supposed to be, into our reality.  And I wrote an alternate history story about it — “It’s Real Life” — which was made into a radio play and won The Mary Shelley Award 2023 and is a current Finalist for the Sidewise Award.
If you were to write a story featuring yourself as the main character, what kind of adventure would you embark on?
Well, my daughter Molly, when she was about 12 years old, read a copy of my first novel, The Silk Code, before it was published and I left the manuscript on a table.  She said, “Daddy, Phil D’Amato [the main character] is just like you!”  So I guess I’ve already written three novels and three stories in which I am already the main character (all six of those feature Phil D’Amato).  Molly also said, “Daddy, this is the best book I’ve ever read!”.  I pleaded with Tor Books, my publisher, to put that quote on the book cover, to no avail.

If you could have dinner with any fictional character from any sci-fi book or movie, who would it be, what would you talk about, and where what restaurant would you choose?
Hari Seldon, because the Foundation trilogy is my all-time favorite trilogy, and the series is my all-time favorite series — the book series, not the TV series, which is doing a great job with the Cleon clones but not so great with the psychohistory part, which is Hari Seldon’s (i.e, Isaac Asimov’s) creation.  I would talk to Hari both about psychohistory and why it’s been so hard to bring its story to the screen.  (I sent Asimov a copy of an article I had published about the Foundation trilogy in 1979, and he replied with this postcard). As for the restaurant: I’d go with Chillingsworth on Cape Cod.  Their elk is out of this world.
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