Friday, March 18, 2011

Guest blogger Mark Konkel on Disaster Park

Please Welcome Mark Konkel to Immortyl Revolution!  He will be discussing his new book Disaster Park.

When I conceived of “Disaster Park”, I didn’t want to write a science fiction novel. Ha! What a weak denial, especially considering sci-fi was the only way to tell the story. The basis of sci-fi, according to Isaac Asimov, is the setting of the story. If the setting is real, it’s modern or historical fiction. If the setting is one that doesn’t exist in reality, it’s sci-fi. Of course, today he might make an exception for fantasy – I don’t know. After all, sci-fi and fantasy do inhabit the same websites and the same library and bookstore shelves.

But back to the conception of “Disaster Park”. I didn’t want to title it that either, because of the obvious comparisons to Crichton’s “Jurassic Park”. Then I realized that if someone made the comparison, it’d probably be a compliment. Or at least an insult designed to take down a successful venture. And what do I care if someone insults for being successful? Along with, “Yes, I’ll buy that island,” the phrase I’d like most to be able to say is, “They hate me because I’m rich and famous.”

But I didn’t write “Disaster Park” to become famous. I wrote it for the same reason I write all my stories: I can’t stop thinking about them. Or rather, the only way I can stop stories from rolling around like bowling balls in the kitchens and closets of my mind is to write them down. During my college years, I worked as an aide at a nursing home. I carried the stories of those years until I finished my first novel, “That’s what I Meant” twenty years later. It never was published, but it will be someday.

With “Disaster Park”, the idea that kept cluttering up in my mind was borne of the World War II craze after the release of “Saving Private Ryan” in 1998. These ancient soldiers, sailors and airmen who survived the bloody ruthless grind of war were being interviewed everywhere. And the stories they told were heartbreaking and fascinating at same time. Listening to these men was, for me, like attending the funeral of a favorite child. After a while, I couldn’t listen to or watch anything about that war without tearing up – sometimes even crying flat out like a summer rain.

But despite that, I had the irresistible urge to join this fraternity. To have been a World War II veteran. These men suffered the endless nightmares that come of surviving a war, and yet I wanted to be one of them. I don’t know why. Possibly it was because they had been a part of history, a part of something that was larger and more significant than themselves, but something that couldn’t have taken place without them. They were the instruments of, and the playthings of, the war. People, humans everywhere, want to feel that they’re part of something historic—this is why people show excitement about large but ephemeral events, and why celebrity is so favored in modern culture. It’s the desire to touch eternity, even for a moment. People want to be able to say, “Yeah, I was there when that happened—I heard Martin Luther King’s speech—I saw the Beatles at Candlestick Park—I watched Dillinger get shot in the street—Ike personally thanked me after the D-Day invasion,” etc. People want to connect with other people through historic events, events of power and influence, events that we feel long after those involved have all passed away.

And so from that desire of humanity, Disaster Park is born. Set in the future because we don’t have the technology to recreate Gettysburg or Omaha Beach or the Titanic. Oh, we could do it and have done it with today’s technology, but it’s not like being there. We’d know it’s playacting. While the exhibits at “Disaster Park” aren’t real either, being completely immersed in a particular moment in history, right down to the smoke from gunfire, they’re more real than the impersonators who walk around Colonial Williamsburg—not to disparage that fascinating and wonderful treasure.

Once I realized the true nature of a holographic amusement park that featured disasters and killings, I imagined that there would be those who would see the exhibits as evil. So the book becomes a struggle between the noble and ignoble parts of humanity.

As is my creative process, I worked all this out in my head prior to writing – then I sat at the computer for months to type everything out. Coming up with the solution to the mystery was particularly frustrating, as I struggled over how to finish the book. I knew sort of what I wanted for the final scenes, but I couldn’t work out the appropriate structure. Then one night—no exaggeration—I woke up at 2:17 a.m. with Arnie’s (the main character) solution to the problems he’d been presented. I bolted to the computer and typed non-stop for an hour—since then the final version has been tweaked many times (because writing is rewriting) but the essential elements of my midnight epiphany are still there.

So check out “Disaster Park” and ask yourself: Would you have been in the Twin Towers if you knew you would survive? Or do you see that as exploitation of the tragedy? Only you can answer the question for yourself.

Get ahead of the future: Read Mark Konkel’s novel, Disaster Park

You can find out more about Mark and his book at these links:

Publisher: Blue Leaf:
Print Edition

e-book Amazon:
e-book Barnes & Noble






Denise Verrico said...

Mark, this sounds like a great premise. My husband is a big Titanic buff. He actually has written a play about J. Bruce Ismay of the White Star Line. I'm sure lots of people would be interested in going back to some of theose events if they were guaranteed safety. But we all know Murphy's Law.

Mark J. Konkel said...

Denise, I'd love to read that. What was Ismay thinking when he snuck onto a lifeboat as the Titanice went down? As for Disaster Park, the amusement park in the book, think of it as a cross between the movie "Titanic" and a roller coaster.