Hans M. Hirschi, the author behind popular gay novels, “The Fallen Angels of Karnataka” and “Living The Rainbow,” will be releasing his first science fiction story, “Willem of the Tafel” on May 28. It will be available digitally and in paperback on Amazon, Barnes & Noble Nook and selected local bookstores.
The world as we know it is gone. Set 500 years into the future, a devastating war has turned the Earth post apocalyptic where the few people that remain have taken refuge underground beneath a mountain. The novel’s main character, seventeen-year-old Willem, must navigate through a battered world that is the result of our generation’s carelessness after being exiled and forced to the surface. In order to survive, Willem embarks on a journey where he luckily meets another young man named Hery. The two make discoveries that could threaten to alter the future of humanity once again. We are continuously evolving.
Vital VOICE caught up with Hirschi and chatted a little more in-depth about his latest work. “Willem of the Tafel” examines social issues and the big questions that affect humanity. In addition, gender plays no role and homosexuality is completely accepted.
Why did you decide to take on a science fiction theme? More so, a post-apocalyptic theme?
After my last book, I had this weird feeling that I had run out of inspirations, and I couldn’t write anything decent for months. Then my husband and I attended a dance performance which was very dystopic and it inspired me. The reason why the onset is post-apocalyptic is simply because the way we’re doing things on Earth right now have me worried. How we waste natural resources, don’t care about global warming – the consequences could be dire.
Throughout your lifetime, what has been the most disastrous event you have ever witnessed?
I hope you’re not expecting me to say my birth [laughs]. I have been very lucky to have been been in any major disaster. We missed the southeast Asian tsunami because my mom was ill that year, but that kind of qualifies to me as the worst one I remember. But there were others, like Chernobyl or the explosion of the USS Challenger in which I was watching it during my fourth period English class.
Who or what were some of your inspirations for this book?
Definitely “Cry the Beloved Country” by Paton. Sadly, I had completely forgotten about it, so the influence was subconscious. But also the former president of South Africa, Nelson “Madiba” Mandela, after who both the dead leader of the Tafel society is named and whose name Willem is given in the book. Madiba is one of the few idols I really look up to. A politician who truly forgives, and who did not cling to his power.
What are some of the main social issues you focus on?
Mainly racism. After someone had told me not to write a book about a black character, I was so upset that I figured I needed to remedy that. In the novel, the white hero is really the one who suffers from racism. Racism, as understandable as it is, I think we all suffer from it when we meet people we’ve never seen before. It’s frightening, it’s foreign and strange. But to give into those emotions is unfair, it’s degrading. It’s just appalling.
Tell us a little bit more about your main protagonists, Willem and Hery.
They are very different, yet alike. One’s an outcast, a victim of racism and a convicted criminal, as innocent as he may be. The other is a prince, the grand child of the ruling chief of Madagascar, yet he’s deaf, and he grows up a bit of a rebel. Both are very lonely for different reasons. When they meet, it is the loneliness that connects them. Yet when the time comes, both men accept the responsibilities thrust upon them, and they mantle that responsibility at great cost to themselves.
Oh, you even take on the medical condition of hearing loss?
Yes, why not? I’m currently writing a novel about a kid in a wheel chair, too. I think there aren’t enough good stories out there that feature disabled people. Just like being gay, we had to wait for centuries to even appear in literature, and when we did, we got to die, alone, miserable. It’s not until recently that we’ve begun to see happy and hopeful stories about the LGBT community. I have friends who are hearing impaired, etc., inside and outside the LGBT community. Why should they have to wait for as long as we did for good stories?
Does this story have a primary antagonist?
I would say yes and no. The environment created by Earth’s past is the primary antagonist. Peoples’ fear of technology, their fear of repeating the mistakes of their ancestors is really the main antagonist. Willem, Hery and their people live in a dangerous world. Peaceful yes, but without medicine to treat serious illnesses, even a shaving cut could be lethal. Traversing oceans is dangerous, without engines, without coast guard. Travel is extremely hazardous, without planes, trains, cars or horses. But there is also a human antagonist in the book, the chief of the Tafelians, and he doesn’t like Willem, one bit.
Without giving too much away, can you explain a bit as to why Willem was exiled and forced to the surface?
Willem is framed for a murder he didn’t commit. He is the last white member of the Tafel society, a tribe of humans who survived the Great War inside a military complex in the Table Mountain near Cape Town. There, people were protected from the nuclear fallout after the war. Sadly, they believe that the world above is still dangerous four hundred years after the end of the war, and they exile criminals to the surface. That’s how the story begins.
You mentioned since we are looking at 500 years into the future, homosexuality will be completely accepted so they don’t stir any reactions from other characters. Do you think it will really take 500 years for the LGBT community to be fully accepted throughout the world?
Unless something really earth-shattering happens, I fear it may take longer than that. Look at the Jews. They’ve been around for thousands of years and are still hated by so many. Take gypsies. They’ve been living in Europe for a thousand years and are still treated like dirt. These two peoples are not unlike us. Jews are a religious “threat” to the majority, just as we are, while gypsies provoke with their lifestyle, their culture to this day. That is exactly the two ways we provoke society, as our very existence is a threat to religious beliefs and provokes deeply held cultural convictions. We also share with Jews and gypsies the fact that we, as minorities, are scapegoats for politicians and societies who do not provide their peoples hope for the future. The day poverty is truly eradicated and everyone on the planet has the possibility to pursue happiness, that’s when you’ll see acceptance for all those groups. Not a day before I’m afraid.
Do you relate to Willem in any way?
I’ve given this some thought, because when Willem is forced to axle the mantle of leadership of his people, he does so without really having a choice. It also comes at the cost of his own personal happiness. Would I be able to do that? Would I be able to abandon my family for a greater calling? I’m not sure, and I’m afraid to explore whether that is a good or bad thing.
What was the most challenging part about writing this book?
My writing is usually fairly straight forward. I sit down and I write. This was no difference. The greatest challenge was to read up on research about nuclear wars, and the effects of climate change fifty to a hundred years from now. Because when it comes to an all out nuclear war, nobody’s really given a shit about this since 1989. So many of the reports and research papers I’ve read are 30 or more years old. It’s really odd when you read typewriter typed and scanned reports! Also, nobody knows the answer. Will an all out nuclear war lay waste to all life or will life survive in pockets? Where? How? It’s all speculation based on data we have. My job as a writer was to present a plausible, believable scenario. That was probably the biggest challenge.
Has your husband Alex read it yet? If so, what did he think?
You should ask him [laughs]. This was the first of my books where he wasn’t the first to finish reading it, which is odd. He had the first draft to read and I made some major revisions to that, including some names, and it was odd when he was talking to me about people that hasn’t been called that for months. He’s a very busy manager these days and sadly doesn’t have much time to read.
How does “Willem of the Tafel” stand out from your other works?
The topic is different, and the genre, of course. My other works are very contemporary. But I think my fans will recognize that even though I take them to hell, I always deliver them back safely and leave them feeling hopeful for themselves, humanity and our world with a warm and fuzzy feeling.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Apart from feeling all warm and fuzzy? Hmm, hopefully we’ll learn that we still have a chance to fix our planet, before it goes down the drain. We can all do something to affect change, from the little things like changing to LED light bulbs to the big things and fight against racism, injustice and discrimination.
What will we be seeing from you next?
I’m not sure. I started writing a new novel called “Nightmare,” and that turned out to be a short story which was recently published as part of a free anthology, “To See About A Guy.” I figured I’d continue and write some short stories to put out in a book this fall. I’ve written four so far, including one about a really camp guy who witnesses a rape, one about and old man suffering from dementia remembering the love of his youth, and one about two trans people who help each other out in a time of need. But oddly, this latest, fifth story, about the guy in a wheel chair, has grown and I think it’s going to be a novel in its own right. V
Written by Denny Patterson