Wednesday 12 August 2015

Interview with Richard Thieme

Continuing our ten year celebration interview series, today we welcome to the TFF blog Richard Thieme, whose story “Less Than the Sum of the Movable Parts” appeared in issue #14 back in 2008. We asked him a few questions about the story and his writing and other work.
The Future Fire: Tell us a bit about the background to your wonderfully atmospheric, verbally witty, 2008 parallel reality story, “Less Than the Sum of the Movable Parts.”

Richard Thieme: I have been walking that mobius strip for some time. I spoke in London in August 2012 for “The Real Truth: A World’s Fair,” hosted by the Raven Row Gallery and curated by Suzanne Treister of Hexen fame, closing an edgy project about surveillance, national security, and the future and how we view these new views of ourselves. I also keynoted a conference on "Untimely Stories" at the Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz Poland on how European artists might reimagine “Europe” as prior conceptualizations disintegrate.

At Def Con VIII, I moderated a panel that included the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Dir. of Information and Infrastructure Assurance for DOD, and the Dir. of the Federal Computer Incident Response Team who came to “dialogue” with more than 5000 computer hackers. I was invited to moderate because, according to a National Security Agency veteran, “You’re the only one in the room with the acceptance and respect of both the hacking community and the Feds.”

About a decade ago, a friend at the National Security Agency suggested that I could address the issues we discussed in a context of "ethical considerations for intelligence and security professionals" only if I wrote fiction. "It's the only way you can tell the truth," he said. "Northward" is a product of that discussion. Three dozen published short stories and one novel (FOAM)  later, the result was "Mind Games," published in 2010 by Duncan Long Publishing. “Mind Games” illuminates four kinds of “non-consensual realities:” the world of hackers; the worlds of intelligence professionals; encounters with other intelligent life forms; and illuminations of deeper states of consciousness. In addition, his topic my Def Con 22 (August 2014), The Only Way to Tell the Truth is in Fiction: The Dynamics of Life in the National Security State has been watched several thousand times.

“Less Than the Sum of the Movable Parts” resulted from insights into the consequences over time of living a life of multiple identities and walking the mobius strip of nested deceptions.

TFF: Why did you choose The Future Fire to submit this story for publication? How did the tone and ethos of the magazine create a good fit for your story?

RT: Introduced through slipstream and Allen Ashley's "Subtle Edens" to The Future Fire. It was like hearing someone humming a familiar tune.

TFF: Have you revisited the characters or the world of this story in later fiction?

RT: FOAM is to be published in October 2015 (God willing). That world has also profoundly influenced my speeches. The story, “Zero Day Roswell,” purported to be the confession of a dying intelligence professional. Along the way, he said, let me tell you what we do. That page—published in 2006 in Zahir—was tweeted by a reader with a link to Snowden, after he outed so much, showing that one could say in fiction without authority or attribution what Snowden said in fact, with both authority and attribution. So he lives in Moscow and better not come back and I live in the USA.

TFF: TFF has now been publishing social-political SF for ten years. What is your prediction for what the next ten years hold for the world?

RT: My talk this week for Def Con where I will speak for the 20th year (!) is about biotech and the invention of humanity 2.0. Information flows through machinery and electromagnetic transmission is one thing, but recognizing that humans are an open system of information and energy and are being spliced to their machines and to one another at a pace we could not have imagined prior to the digital revolution, is another. The next years will see an arms race of pathogens, gene drive in the hands of the bad, counter-measures (pathogens invented to counter their germs) and on up. The dilemma is, we inhabit one biosphere, so we may be toast.  If the food supply goes, well, as my son says, "we're only 3 meals away from rioting in the streets."

TFF: What are you working on now? Where else can our readers find more examples of your fiction, if they’re looking for it?

RT: I am bringing out "A Richard Thieme Reader" soon in a series of inexpensive e-books which anthologizes fiction, non-fiction, interviews, the like. But FOAM (inshallah) will be available as One Big Print Book, in three parts in print, and in three parts digitally for kindle and nook. October 2015 is the target date. From Exurban Press.

The last book, about which I did many many speeches - including for the FBI and astronomical societies - was "UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry." It is the result of years of collaborative work by a team of the best researchers (names you might not know because they are serious and often invisible) over half a century.  "UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry" is a robust scholarly historical study in a field which sees a lot of dubious speculation. As the CHOICE reviews says, it's "an exception." (CHOICE recommended it for all university libraries and it is currently in more than 65, worldwide. The reviews have been raves because the data is bulletproof and we do not speculate about anything we can not document).

It's a big book—600 pages—and the nearly 1000 citations all point to government documents and other primary sources, so the data is "bulletproof" as the foundation of a seamless historical narrative. (In effect, the government in various ways responded from the 1940s through the 1980s in light of genuine national security concerns and our documents from the Air Force, CIA, etc. substantiate how the policies were set and executed). The speech for the FBI Infragard conference was about cover and deception, which that process illuminates. There is nothing like it in the field and the team is very proud of what we accomplished. We are now working on a second book, this time about the phenomenon.
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