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D A V I D   Z I N D E L L : Back to Roots
(excerpted from Locus Magazine, June 2000)

David Zindell
    Photo by Beth Gwinn

[Neil] David Zindell was born November 28, 1952 in Toledo Ohio, but has lived all over the US. At the University of Colorado, Boulder, he earned a B.A. in mathematics (1984), while minoring in anthropology, before turning to writing. Though his first sale, ''The Dreamer's Sleep'', appeared in Fantasy Book in 1984, he became known in the field when his SF story ''Shanidar'' won the first Writers of the Future Contest in 1985. He was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award in 1986. His first novel, Neverness (1988), was connected to the ''Shanidar'' universe, and the story continues in the ''Requiem for Homo Sapiens'' SF trilogy: The Broken God (1993), The Wild (1996), and The War in Heaven (1998). His first two novels were nominated for Arthur C. Clarke Awards.

He married Melody Scott in 1980 (divorced 1994) and has two daughters. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.


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Index to Locus Interviews

''I can remember thinking I wasn't going to live to see the year 2000. I was born about 10 years before the Cuban Missile Crisis, and remember my mother coming home with a whole parcel of canned goods, in kind of a panic. We were living very close to Detroit, and that would have been a prime target. I was expecting incineration. And for years afterward, I would have nightmares where I was in a car and I looked out the rear window, and there was this tremendous flash that carried me away. This wasn't an enlightenment kind of light it was a disintegrating, hellfire light. I just thought, 'I'm never going to live to see the year 2000. I would be 47, and there's no way we're not going to have a nuclear war by then.'

''But we haven't. I've seen great improvement. Highways no longer have litter. Lake Erie no longer catches fire. I get more optimistic as I get older. And I have children. That's connected me to the future in ways I wasn't before.''


''C.P. Snow discussed the 'two cultures' the scientific culture and the more literate culture, but I never really saw a dichotomy there. A science fiction writer, in particular, should be fluent in both. The thrust of all my fiction has been to heal, or put back together, that and other false dichotomies. One of the other big ones for me has been materialism vs. spirituality. A lot of people see a real split between the material world and the spiritual world. One of the things I try to do is get at the depths of both of those things and show (at least to my satisfaction) that they come from one source.

''I really believe there are very few true atheists. I used to think of myself as one, until I realized that the God I was protesting against and said didn't exist was a religious God, it wasn't this feeling of wonder. 'Filled with wonder' to me is another name for a sense of God. If you lay down on the grass on a summer night when you're 10 years old and look out across the stars, and think about how big the universe is, and the countless beings that are there, and you're just taken out and away from yourself into something greater, that is a mystical feeling, and that feeling is a sense of God. I had that as a child, and yet I thought I was an atheist.''


''In my books, I'm always looking for a Source. Some people would call it God. Plato or Plotinus called it The One, in the sense that all of our reality somehow flows out of that, whether it's a biblical creation or a mythological creation story. For me, a spiritual path would just be a practice or experience that recognizes that. In my first four books, the search for transcendence was through a scientific lens, looking at the deeper meanings of mathematics and science, and also using science as a mechanism for transcendence. 'Transcendence' literally means 'to go beyond,' and I was searching for the ways human beings were going beyond, within a scientific context. That's very different from what fantasy does.''


''The [forthcoming] 'Ea Cycle' is a grail quest. It's set in a secondary world which is also a secondary universe, something I haven't seen too much in fantasy, though it's like Moorcock's 'Multiverse,' tying his work together. My fantasy is probably more like a traditional science fictional structure, in that there's a secondary world, and there are other magical secondary worlds around other stars, in much the same way a science fiction universe would be set up. And the kinds of world-building I'm doing are more along SF lines. All those hard SF things I did to build the universe and world of 'Neverness,' and even some of the research there, have really helped me out.

''There's an angelic race, then an archangelic race, and a race that's higher than they are. And there's this great galactic civilization. It's not a technological one; it's a magical civilization, but the magic is not 'wizard and elves'; it's more like 'deep structure of the universe.' Built into that structure is the idea that there's an evolutionary progression from lower beings to star people, to immortal beings that would be like angels (though I don't call them angels), to archangels, to kind of an increate race that imbues its life force, its consciousness, into creating universes of which my universe is one. So there are some very deep structures and a sense of hugeness. And that is something you find throughout Tolkien.''


''To change people's lives that is why I write. And one of the reasons I write is to change my own life. So the mythological structure of the Grail Quest is for me my own quest. It's a quest to be a better human being, a quest for my own transcendence. That has a lot to do with why I'm writing fantasy, because it's very hard to do that within the structure of modern literature.

''One of the things that has made life very difficult for people has been the dissociation between science and religion, where science supposedly does not make moral pronouncements it's not about good or evil, it's just about a better description of external reality. And religion has reached a place where it's not making any statements about the nature of reality; it's more about 'this is right and this is wrong,' and reason doesn't enter into the discussion. There needs to be a reintegration of the two things. Science needs to be value-oriented, and in religion or spiritual practice we need to take a scientific approach: to evaluate experiences in a scientific way, to say, 'If you had that experience, is it a repeatable experience?', just like a scientific experiment.

''So the next century needs to see this integration happen. That doesn't mean things get jumbled back together, it just means there's not this complete disassociation. It's like the fingers of your hand they are differentiated, but not completely apart. And that gets back into the question of what would be the literature of the 21st century. If I'm doing my job as a writer, I can move people and I can move myself into that place of transcendence. If fantasy is more the literature of the 21st century, it's going to have to be myth.''

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