Interview with A. D. Zoltan and Steven N. Nagy

Recently, Tellest promoted the great work of A. D. Zoltan and Steven N. Nagy on the brilliant story, Conjunction, the first book in their Wise Society series.  It’s a sprawling space opera with a focus more on what could become of our future if we meet it with open minds and other virtues.  We were afforded the opportunity to talk to the writers of the great story, to figure out how Conjunction came to be, and to determine where we go from here.  Read on to learn more!

 

Please note, we anticipate that Steven N. Nagy’s responses will come a little later, and we will be adding them to the article accordingly.

 

 

Tellest: Greetings A. D. and Steven!  I wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk to me about your recently released work, the space opera Conjunction, the first book in your Wise Society series.  It seems that a lot of thought and passion went into the novel, and as such, I can imagine finding the time to talk about your project is a little more difficult to find than putting together all your research for the story and developing it into what it is today.  I’m excited to get to know more about you, and to show readers just why they should be diving into this wonderful book.

A. D. Zoltan: When I first raised the idea of writing a book to Steven years before we actually started brainstorming on it, he said “Are you kidding? Why should we write a book?” I don’t remember my actual answer to that, but now I would be able to answer it. “Because we have important things to say.” At the very beginning it was more like a common joke to write a book, but we both shared the passion of enjoying good sci-fi works, and that joke became more and more of a reality over time.

We spent months of brainstorming sessions (collecting characters, purposes, ideas, and world-building) between May and August 2018. We started to write the book only afterwards and we finished the Hungarian manuscript it in 2019.

Maybe one of our first thoughts when the outlines of the story were settled was that “Ok, but where is the drama in Conjunction? Why will people actually want to read it?” We both agreed that this philosophical and spiritual sci-fi will be more about giving faith to people, that there could be a better future for us. This future won’t be about wars, climate crisis, or a battle between big corporations and governments. It will be about a society which is capable of making mutual decisions on a whole society level. In just one world: a utopia. But a clever one.

On the other hand, the story is about spirituality. What happens after we pass away? What does it feel like? To make this hard topic more understandable we invented a highly developed alien civilization, the Füzenis, who could travel between dimensions or as we call “spheres” and are capable of introducing these spiritual ideas in a simple way to humans.

For me the most engaging part of the book is the very clever and enlightening discussions with the Füzenis and other entities.

 

T: I find that one of the greatest ways to introduce readers to their new favorite authors is to try and understand a fundamental place that served as an inspiration for their journey.  It’s interesting for me to find out what fostered a spark for you wherever you find your passion, and to understand the reasons you began writing.  Did you have a favorite author, philosopher, or form of entertainment that you think helped to shape you into the people you are today?

ADZ: I do have many favorite authors and books like Asimov’s Foundation series, Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. But these books weren’t the reason why I wanted to write fiction.

When I’m speaking about spirituality and religion, I feel there are a lot of hurdles. In today’s world, religion isn’t about people, but more about power and greed. I really miss having honest conversations about beliefs, about feelings and why we are here.

I read a lot of spiritual works in my life, I learned to listen to my inner intuition which helped me find the true messages behind the stories. It worked as a kind of filter after a certain amount of time. Now I feel that my understanding of spirituality is worth sharing with others, and it feels very positive when I re-read these parts in Conjunction. This was the basic motivation why I wanted to write this fictional spiritual story: to introduce the truth to people who listen.

 

 

T: At the same time though, Conjunction doesn’t exactly feel preachy or proselytizing.  You’re not trying to convert anyone into feeling the way you do or pushing an agenda.  At the end of the day, it feels more like personal spirituality—almost like a personal vibe that people could tap into if they wanted to see things the way you do.

ADZ: I think this is one of the whole points of spirituality. There is no one, true religion or guru, but there are certainly things that are bigger than us. If we believe that death isn’t the final destination, an evident question could be that “But what’s exactly after it?”. If we have a non-material soul, how and where it could exist if not in the 3D space? If the story is bigger than one lifespan, what could be the ultimate purpose? On the book’s pages we tried to find answers for these simple questions.

 

T: Knowing that religion and spirituality can be deeply personal, and at times even messy, how did you prepare to write a story about another interpretation about the metaphysical in a way that connected to spirituality without being overbearing?

ADZ: There is no way to really prepare. It is the same case as writing about deep philosophical things: it’s an opinion, the opinion of the authors. But beyond the lines of the book, you could find true things and ideas, that you could take over into your own personal belief. If not, nothing happens. It’s just a story, a fiction after all.

 

T: What was it that inspired you to tell the story of Conjunction?  Was it something that was always sort of gnawing in the back of your mind—a story that needed to be told—or was it something that came about naturally amidst the work and research that you had done on other projects?

ADZ: In case of great stories, you always feel that basically the grounds aren’t new. Like, in the case of Harry Potter: wizards and witchcraft schools existed even before the book, but J.K. Rowling managed to put everything together. We did the same when we tried to put spirituality and highly developed civilizations together. Maybe there is nothing new since the story elements already existed, but seeing everything together in one story is fascinating.

We discussed a lot about this with Steven, but we both feel that mainstream readers may find Conjunction’s story too “drama free” because of the philosophical nature of it. But we still felt strongly that this story should be out now, and here.

 

T: If you think you had been able to tell a story that was a little less dependent on the general reading public’s need for strife or conflict, do you think the book would have by nature been a bit more peaceful?  Would there have been focuses in other areas in that case?

ADZ: Not necessarily. Honestly, in the days of Netflix and Tiktok influencers writing a book itself feels like a dumb thing. But still we needed to find a form to tell the story. In 10 to 20 years, these stories could be easily transformed into a movie like form with the descendant of ChatGPT. Maybe the story will still not be action packed on the screen, but at least suspenseful. You would never figure out what could happen in the next minute and that is something we both like in this story.

 

A. D. Zoltan

 

T: It’s certainly surprising to the reader in quite a few places.  But when it came to writing the story, did you have any story elements that snuck up on you that you weren’t prepared for?

ADZ: Yes, there were many story elements that emerged during the writing. Like Sarah, Dave and their daughter’s Ester past at the very beginning of Chapter 4.

It was also an interesting attempt to implement other alien societies in the story like the ‘Irians’, whose civilization is toward to a totally wrong direction. And how this dark progress destroys the everyday life of Irians in a personal level. Well, I think these improvised fiction parts of the book, will bring a little bit spicy to the storyline, and also gives motivation to us (authors) to further expand the universe of “The Wise Society.”

 

T: Though certainly the idea about looking to the future of our society and trying to understand how things could be different needs to be interpreted with a certain degree of suspension of disbelief, you’ve still done a lot to ground Conjunction with a feeling of possible reality.  How did you manage to balance this with some of the more fantastical elements, like introducing super-intelligent alien societies?

ADZ: The beginning of Conjunction projects a rather believable future of ours, and it was an important point for us at the beginning. We wanted to figure out what will happen between 2020 and 2610 with our society. But afterwards we wanted to weave a storyline that wouldn’t remain on the grounds because there is much more to tell about ‘life’, than business, power and money.

 

T: While there is a bit of academia and philosophy to this book, it’s driven by its characters as well, and they’re interesting, dynamic members of an ensemble cast.  How did you find a way to balance them into a story that so deeply engages the reader on the concepts of what the future might hold?

ADZ: One of the strongest parts of the movie Cloud Atlas was the way it connected characters over time. In Conjunction, we have 38 characters that are connected in a way to each other throughout the story, and we tried to compose this well.

The main characters Erin, Kate, Keat and Zoë are strongly bonded over space and time. I really enjoyed creating the connections between the characters and how they communicated with each other despite their limited knowledge throughout the story.

 

T: In addition to writing characters who are pleasant to be around, you explore the concepts of world beyond what we know, and in ways that are serviceable to grounding the story.  Rather than make it more fantastical, and thereby requiring readers to engage in suspension of disbelief, there’s a real sense of possibility here.  How did you bring about the worlds outside our own, and the potential of civilizations out among the stars?

ADZ: At the philosophical level we introduced two important paradoxes in the story. The ‘Education’ or ‘Learning paradox’ and the ‘Entity paradox’. These concepts are presented in the discussions between the main characters and in order to avoid total chaos we imagined a utopian society that could be ours in several hundreds of years, putting readers in a comfortable position, enabling a focus on the spiritual and high philosophical parts of story.

In terms of alien civilization, we brought in a lot of new sci-fi elements that may inspire readers, that not everything is about invading each other. These highly intelligent Füzenis are not just technologically advanced but also incredibly enlightened. To illustrate this part of the story with Steven we invented a so called ‘Erin scale’ similar to ‘Kardashev scale’ but we measure a civilization’s level of consciousness with it instead of technology.

The book delves into how Füzenis civilization acquired this knowledge and what implications it has for humanity’s understand of the universe.

 

T: A. D., you have a history of working on non-fiction books in addition to this wonderful space opera.  Do you think that writing about the details of real-life content help you to ground Conjunction in reality and make it feel richer and more immersive?

ADZ: There are many indirect connections to the book ‘The Invisible Game: Mindset of a Winning Team’, the ground philosophy behind the books is matching.

Maybe in terms of concepts and story The Invisible Game didn’t help us a lot, but if you read both books, you will notice several similarities between them. The core philosophy of these books is the same.

 

T: A space opera like Conjunction certainly has any number of directions that it could spin off in.  Have you already got a direction in mind for a would-be sequel, and the next installment of The Wise Society?  Or is it one of those projects where you’ll just let the wind take you whichever way it will?

ADZ: I would say we did a big leap in time with Conjunction, we didn’t put a lot of AI story parts in the story, how ‘CIS’ (Artificial Super Intelligence) in the story evolved. What were the ethical questions or obstacles to achieving a super clever tool that serves and lives along with humanity? To explore this part of the story we are planning a prequel book.

To explore the spiritual part further—because a lot of paradox exists in our world—I would say we could fill another book with it. This book also received the working title ‘Message to Humanity’.

 

 

T: Obviously the alien species in this book play a big part in the overall piece of the story.  While the main focus of Conjunction is on our future, there is also certain to be an interest in the past of the Füzenis civilization.  Amongst the other works that you are working on, is that one of the ones that you have been considering?

ADZ: Well, in the book there is a refence to the past of Füzenis civilization when the human delegation asks about Füzen spacecrafts and they tell that they used them in the past, not anymore. Fünzenis also take humans to one and it feels like they are walking in a museum.

I would say discovering the how Füzenis get to the point of advancement where they are in the book is a really interesting discovery. Why they were always closer to the nature as humans, they should have many civilizational illnesses early on and yes, it’s a good question how they became an advanced civilization. In the next book there will be most likely many retrospective and parallel when the protagonist would like to implement the gathered Füzenis knowledge on Earth.

 

T: Of course one of the things that humanity must always be aware of is that knowledge is power, and power can be destructive.  When it comes to unlocking unlimited potential, what sort of things do you worry about—both within the story, and as it pertains to our world?

ADZ: That’s a great question! Historically, there were many cases where concentrated power has led to corruption and destruction. Many of people would say that everything depends on the leader itself, but we don’t believe in it. There are no perfect leaders. The other component of the problem is education and our consciousness ‘level’. In 2023 some of the leaders are still sending people to war. And why? Because of imperial ambitions maybe? People are suffering in many countries because of poverty, or because of war. In a ‘Wise Society’ this is unimaginable.

But let me give you a concrete example (spoiler), in the first chapter Erin’s two main ideas were to (1) put the resources produced the ASI (Artificial Super Intelligence) into a joint global fund. Available for everyone but isn’t in the control of any organization. (2) To control this fund there should be a governing body, which was the Council. The Council consists of 23 council members ‘conduits’ who’s only role was to basically summarize the opinion of people along with ASI. But ultimate the decision makers were the individuals. Every person on Earth or Mars had the opportunity to participate. An ultimate democracy, with no single leader. The funny thing that from technological point of view it’s feasible today. But who would want to give up power  in exchange for common good?

Back to our time. In the upcoming years Generative AI will produce a lot of value, the technology might solve a lot of problems freeing up time for human workers or even replacing human labor. This won’t be the decision of AI, this will be the decision of company leaders and governing bodies. In order to keep the development of AI on the right track, we need to make the proper decisions today. I want to believe that we are capable to do that.

 

T: If someone wanted to know more about A. D. Zoltan, or Steven N. Nagy, where could they be directed?  You have a rather broad web presence.  Do you prefer people to go to your website, or are you more active on a specific social media channel?

ADZ: I think the website (adzoltan.com) is a good starting point, I try to put everything new (books, personal appearances) on it. I’m not a big social media user, although lately I started to tweet topics I’m interested and I have several Quora answers in topics I’m interested in, but that’s all. Anyway, if somebody wants to contact us, just use the form on the website.

 

A. D. Zoltan and Steven N. Nagy.

 

T: I wanted to thank you, both of you, for introducing us to Conjunction, and for giving us a peek behind the curtain to see how your story came to be.  I know that you’re busy, and having the opportunity to pick your brain was very special indeed.

ADZ: It was our pleasure! Thank you!

 

Once more, I would like to thank Both A. D. Zoltan and Steven N. Nagy for their work on Conjunction, in addition to the time that they took (and are taking) in answering some of the most pressing questions that I had about their book.  Conjunction is a compelling space opera, a science fiction that isn’t a flash in the pan, but something thoughtful and engaging.  If that sounds interesting to you, check out Conjunction (The Wise Society Book 1) on Amazon today!

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Michael DeAngelo

Michael is the creator of the Tellest brand of fantasy novels and stories. He is actively seeking to expand the world of Tellest to be accessible to everyone.

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