APEX Hour at SUU

10/14/21 Matt Bell - Author of Appleseed

Episode Summary

In today’s episode author Matt Bell joins Host Lynn Vartan and author Todd Petersen to talk about Matt’s summer hit Appleseed. The explore the various timelines in Appleseed along with the creative writing process! Enjoy!

Episode Notes

APEX Website

Southern Utah University

Episode Transcription

Dr. Lynn Vartan  00:01

Hey everyone, this is Lynn Vartan and you are listening to the apex hour on KSUU Thunder 91.1. In this show, you get more personal time with the guests who visit southern Utah University from all over, learning more about their stories and opinions beyond their presentations on stage. We will also give you some new music to listen to, and hope to turn you on to some new sounds and new genres. You can find us here every Thursday at 3pm or on the web @suu.edu slash apex. But for now, welcome to this week's show here on Thunder 91.1. All right, well welcome everyone. Welcome to the apex hour. It's the middle of October, you're listening to KSU Thunder 91.1. We are dealing with books and authors today. We have in residence with us Matt Bell, the acclaimed author of Appleseed. And then also Joining me in the studio is Todd Peterson, who's been on the show with me before. Welcome in Matt and Todd. How are you guys?


Matt Bell  01:12

I'm great. Thanks so much for having me.


Todd Peterson  01:14

Great. It's a nice afternoon after this week.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  01:17

Yes, we had a big dump of snow earlier this week. Like almost 10 inches of snow. And now it's gorgeous and sunny outside. Welcome to Cedar City. So well. I'd love to get started because we tend to the three of us just get in and go. Matt Appleseed. We've been reading on campus and really enjoying it. And it was on the summer best reading lists and everything. Tell our audience what is Appleseed about?


Matt Bell  01:43

Sure, thanks so much for having me. Appleseed is 1000 year epics speculative environmental novel. It's so divided in the past, present and future. It begins in in 1799, with a mythological retelling of of Johnny Appleseed and the sort of settling of the Midwest. the near future part takes place 50 years from our time, sort of a late climate change America during a plot to geoengineer the stratosphere to deal with climate change. And then there's a third thread of the book set 500 700 years in the future on a sort of new glacial North America, in which a single sort of bioengineered clone characters is making this Glacier by himself.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  02:28

Oh my gosh, okay, that's awesome. You probably I mean, there's so much in the book, you probably have that down to a science, we were sort of joking a little bit about the elevator pitch, in terms of the genres and terminology and so it tell us all the different genres that you feel are in this book, because I know you kind of don't really want to be pigeonholed if it will. But what are all the different genres?


Matt Bell  02:53

Yeah, I think, you know, the one way to write a novel is to like, fill it full of like all the things you like, right. And I think there's a lot of that in this book. There's parts of it that are retellings of myths, there's a retelling of Johnny Appleseed folk tale, but also of Orpheus, and you're ready to see and these three kind of American witches who are also maybe the fates, or the theories or this Greek sort of part of it, there's a science fictional aspect to the near future in the futuristic power with cloning technology and bioengineering and nano bees that pollinate super trees designed to live in like late climate change. There's a heist narrative where these environmentalist re Wilders are trying to stop a, like mega Corporation from from changing the world forever. There's also like the adventure tale kind of crossing of the glacier. There's the historical sort of settler kind of narrative, you know, like, maybe a little little house in the prairie or something, you know, that sort of aspect. And there's a lot of like delays of nature, writing it in a really sincere kind of straightforward, like just trying to depict like the wonder in the natural world, and just sort of stew that together. And it becomes the book.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  04:06

Oh, my gosh, I love that. Let's do it together becomes the book. Well, Todd, I know that you have tons of things that you want to talk with Matt about. And it's such I love being like the fly on the wall. And this conversation is to let your conversation unfold. So what do you want to talk about?


Todd Peterson  04:22

Well, it's important to get people I think, excited about books and excited about this book, because it's so interesting, and it's so timely. And I think that that's one of the things I wanted to start about like to have crossed over the entrance of a book into culture at the same time that culture is kind of arriving at a crossroads. Like that's a pretty lucky thing. I think both of us as writers have done that, like hit a moment in history with recent works, that really lined up. But to get that done, it's almost impossible right like to have started early enough to understand that we would actually come to this climate Crossroads just in time for your book to come out. Just like I was like to have national monument revocation, crossover just at the right time, it's weird. But sometimes my students asked me like, how do you do something that you so that you can write it so that it's timely. And I wonder if you were aware of that as the book was coming out, like I might be hitting a moment, I'm doing this thing with my hands like that there'll be intersecting, right. So that you can see that but but maybe you can just sort of reflect on that, like, what it means to do this, because we knew climate change is coming. But we're in a crisis now. Like, as Appleseed came out, this is when these international announcements of the severity of the situation hit.


Matt Bell  05:41

Yeah, I mean, I, it's sort of obvious that the preference would be that by the time I finished the book, it would have been solved, right? And that you would not be timely to be like, why did this guy write this book about this thing that isn't a problem anymore, would always be sort of the preference. I'm blanking on the novelist name right now. But the knowledge wrote Schindler's List, talked about Thomas canali. Thank you very much. talked about how like the one task the artist might be, to see the thing that in 3040 years, someone will say like, Why were we all talking about evil in your time that people miss in in to me that some of what both of us are doing in that way? I mean, in some ways, it seems on ignorable like, you know, to write it to love the natural world and to love I mean, do you love the human world and not care about climate change would be ridiculous, but, but there are, it is interesting to enter a place where like, people are ready to have the conversation your book is entering, which I don't think always happens, you know, even when you're writing something that is important, it's not always where the conversations at. And I think one of the things that's been most interesting to me, and like reviews, or coverage or interviews like this is the way that people are thinking already on top of and pass the book, you know, sort of some of the things people wrote about the book, were like the next phase of thinking from it, which really, you hope it does is like, enable people to like think toward the future, as opposed to just like the lament the present.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  07:04

We touched upon this a little earlier about this idea of, of action. And I have a quote that, that is from Derrick Jensen that you've used in past interviews that every month, every morning, I wake up and ask should I write? Or should I blow up a dam? And every day I choose to write, and in talking about and that's from a language older than words, yeah, worlds? And so this idea of being a writer, and how is that action and your the way you think about taking action in terms of the environmental concept? Can you talk a little bit about the evolution of your thinking, and did this book change that or just satisfy your need fraction in a way?


Matt Bell  07:46

Um, I think, yeah, I mean, I think in some ways, like, you write books, as opposed to doing other things, because you're a writer, right? There are other parts of my life that are, you know, activists in different ways, but the main activity that I participate in is writing. And so my concerns come out that way. And, and, you know, we always have that feeling, they could be doing more, but we also we work with the things we the talents we have, but I do think my thinking changed in different ways that I was writing, like, one of the sort of obvious ways was just that I didn't know everything I thought when I started writing didn't hadn't done all the research. So the book is an occasion to think in the field to, I think, I don't know that I understood as much the way like the root causes of climate change, which to me are, are in like, super broad strokes, capitalism and colonialism, you know, I sort of didn't understand that in the same way I do now. So there's one part there's like coming to an understanding of and saying, I now know how we got here. I knew like the ideas and the stories and the theories that brought us to this moment. And then I also sort of learned, you know, that the dangerous climate changes to healing nihilistic or feeling like, there's nothing to be done. So let's not do anything, or we don't know what we should do. So maybe we should wait a little longer, even though we're kind of out of time. But that the reality is, like the climate scientists have known for a long time, what we could do to make the situation better, and what we should have done maybe, like 40 years ago, or like, really any second now. And, and also like what we might have to do in the future. So like, I really came out of being like, oh, the solution is known when people feel sort of paralyzed by this, but like, we're paralyzed because we're sort of the waters are purposely muddied around us. But if we listen to the right, people, who listen to people who've been studying this and thinking about this, the environmental activists, the philosophers, the scientists, like we could act tomorrow, if we were willing, and actually feels fairly hopeful to me that we're not up against an unknown sort of adversary or something that we actually like, it's really clear some of what we could start to do at least.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  09:49

Yeah, yeah. tidy, just something


Todd Peterson  09:52

well, and I wonder, too, if one of the powers of a book, it couldn't, I don't think a book would change everybody on its own right. But maybe one of the Things we need, when we're addressing large, huge planetary scale things is to hear it from different perspectives. So I would hope that there would be great climate change, rock and roll, you know, in great climate change children's cartoons, or whatever so that we can hear all these things from as many different perspectives as possible. The book perspective, the Appleseed perspective is one good way to help connect back into information that we're hearing from all different sources, news sources, or from the UN committees that come together and issue the recommendations that we hear warnings that we hear, because if you hear it from one place all the time and see people who tuned it out, maybe they can't be reclaimed, but then they hear it again from this other kind of book. Maybe they get tricked into it, I like science fiction, I'm gonna read this thing. Oh, hey, wait, I need to be thinking about this now. And I think that that's what the great writers have done all along, they've been working in this area, like I'm just going to tell you the story. And then see if you just kind of get brought in a little bit closer and a little bit closer with the story and tell maybe a mind can be changed because persuading people is really hard. If they don't want to it usually doesn't even work. So the question is, how can art or book start to change people's hearts and their minds? So that that action can follow?


Matt Bell  11:17

Yeah, you know, I think I may agree with all that it's one of the reasons that I think that art and storytelling and music and other things are sort of interesting for this is because when when we're argued with we harden in our own positions most of the time and so other ways might might be able to do that. I think one of the the tricks of fiction and is sort of a thing can play within a craft level is that we're trained as readers to identify with the protagonist like the person that either you know the protagonist has wants and the story is about how to get those wants and and as a reader you get on board with the ones kind of whatever they are like that you just you're trained to be on board with the protagonists and there's interesting things you can do with that but one of them is just like if you're reading books about characters who are trying to make the world better you're reading books about people who are trying to protect some part of the natural world or try to protect people who are endangered by climate change or something like then those then you start having this like pattern in your brain of like that as a goal and a person has gone through it a person has tried to make that better and it seems to me like that's that's going to change what you think it's gonna change what you think of is like goals people could have and and to me that's one thing that you know, an apple see like each of the characters is trying to protect something or trying to make the world better in their way or trying to find like a way of sort of improving the world as they understand it in their time. And like that's that's a pretty good maybe habit of mind to take away from it right? Like, like to see like to improve the world in your time and your understanding is like a goal a person might have seems fine.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  12:50

Cool. Well, that's a perfect that was an interesting conversation so far. That's a perfect color lead in to some of the music I have today. So in our research, we we found that you really like to write to music, and then it's kind of electronic drone movie scores, this kind of thing. So I was looking around and finding some things and there's an artist, I wouldn't say it's actually electronic, but it's an Icelandic artists that I wanted to share named, Olafur. arnalds and this piece is called loom which I thought was perfect because there's that in Appleseed so we're gonna listen to that this is loom by Olafur arnalds as you're listening to KSUU youth Thunder 91.1 All right, well welcome back everyone that song is called loom and it's by Olafur arnalds I just love that music box ending it sort of disintegrates from this a little more sort of electronic kind of sound into this beautiful little innocent Music Box towards the end. I am in the studio with authors plural. Matt bell of Appleseed and Todd Peterson whose most recent novel picnic in the ruins is just one of my favorite reads of the of this year. And last year, I think so welcome back, guys. Yay. Um, we are getting into we were talking about what to where to go next in terms of Appleseed and talking about that. And one of the things that I was really intrigued about were there relationships in in the book. And so I'd love to sort of start with the issue of brotherhood, you know, and talk about maybe share with us that a little bit how that relationship developed. It's particularly between Chapman and Nathaniel. It's a very complex brotherhood relationship. And I wonder if you could kind of talk about your development of that exploration what was what was surprising to you, if anything, what was like, oh, wow, I really want to do this and maybe just get into that a bit. Yeah,


Matt Bell  18:15

Lynn, thanks so much. You know, I, the historical john Chapman who Johnny Appleseed is, is the folk tales about had several siblings, including a younger brother named Nathaniel who did some planting with them. And so it didn't really seem to fit for Nathaniel to be my Chapman's younger brother, so should have made him an older brother, so that he could be the sort of the leader of their sort of project. And it took me a little while to figure out the relationship. My first two novels, both, in large part are like a person wandering around a landscape by themselves, well, bad things happen. And I was like, people have to be in like communities in this book. And people have to be parts of groups. And so I, the brother was a way of sort of solving men have another human person to sort of interact with, even in the wilderness. But in the early drafts, I configured Nathaniel out, so I kept so I do this thing, limb drafting where rather than go back and fix things, when I changed my mind, I just go forward as if I have changed my mind. So that like this, if you fix something, the second half, it'll be fixed, then you only have to fix the first half later. So I would be like Nathaniel's in and I'd write seems as if I knew it'd be like Nathaniel's a mistake. And I would write teams without him as he was sort of like haunting like the early drafts of this book, like did exist or not almost in a weird way. But it became eventually became clear that he was doing work and they should be there together. And it also took me a little while to figure out how they saw their project differently, like how they saw this project of planting the trees differently. And eventually, I understood that Nathaniel is sort of really more like historical Johnny Appleseed in which he has this entrepreneurial, sort of bent to their project, and Chapman is doing it from a sort of spiritual, personal middle logical quests sort of way trying to grow like a new version of the tree that was in the Garden of Eden is that clarify them a little bit because sort of had them on this track or one of them had like a kind of a manifest destiny approach to the wilderness. And one of them was unsure of his place in the human or non human. But I think like a lot of relationships you want to see, in fiction, you want to see them complicated and change and reverse and people in different positions. And so Nathaniel is the older brother, and he cared for Chapman's younger the whole project is to like Chapman is half human character has like a place to be yes. And then later in the book, when when Nathaniel is aging, and he's become sort of an alcoholic, I'm not sure if he's coming up. Yeah, like, and he challenges caring for him and mean giving up things for him. And sort of that sort of the way a familiar relationship sort of has stages and has those sort of things. I would say, I don't want to I know this too long of a radio answer. But my, my, I'm the oldest of five kids in my relationship, my brother, she was younger, and he was really close. I mean, he's really close. When I was reading some memoir, stuff, I wrote in another book, had all these childhood memories that like, couldn't figure out they like had holes in them. And I would talk to my brother about them. And he'd be like, Well, I mean, that the reason this just makes sense, is because you've forgotten that I was there. And like, Can you tell me what he did there and would come together, it was over and over. And what I realized was that, like, he was so omnipresent in my early life, that I like forgetting to remember oxygen or sunshine, I forgot to remember Brother, you know, and that made me really sort of aware of that, you know, that the sort of the relationship that closed it's like, lifelong and sort of omnipresent in Chapman and Nathaniel mostly like that. They're like, they're the other person's like whole of humanity for much of the book,


Dr. Lynn Vartan  21:47

Oh, my gosh, that gives us so much. Thank you so much for that, I was curious about what your familial sort of background was, and how that played out. There's, there's one just thing that I want to drill down a little bit in there is that when you were talking about their different approaches, you know, at basically, to the project into life, and there's a there's a quote, and in one of the chapters, or there's one sentence that the idea that you wish to be God. And it's so interesting, too, because they're both kind of doing that, you know, and I wonder if you might talk about that back end in where they've kind of both sides of that coin.


Matt Bell  22:25

Yeah, I think, you know, I was raised Catholic and was very, very devout Catholic for much of my life, early life and, and I think forever, we a lot of those sort of the Bible stories are really sort of, you know, deep in my sort of imaginative DNA still, and I think I've written maybe like three novels in a row that are in some way in conversation with the idea of like stewardship and dominion sort of over the earth or over over other animals or other people that are in Genesis. And so that's part of this to this idea of like making the earth productive or like make, you know, go forth and multiply and like some of those sort of, like Genesis ideas are, are baked into all this stuff we're talking about, but I think those are our Nathaniel's ideas especially this idea of like the productive Earth and Chapman shares those on a sort of human side and then his his sort of Wilder side I think he sees the way that the animals and plants and exists in the world which the term the book uses is like self will like a thing that like lives only to be itself and for itself but isn't trying to like like the there's a meaningful encounter with like this elk herd and the book the elk are trying to like dominate some other species or something right that there's just nothing like that and what in the wild world


Dr. Lynn Vartan  23:42

but there's divinity in distance 


Matt Bell  23:46

so like isn't enough just to like be what you are Yeah, without ruling everything else right. And that sort of question of the of the book is is definitely all three of those storylines in different ways.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  23:56

Thank you. 


Todd Peterson  23:57

earlier today, you talked a little bit about the lineage into this to like Wendell Berry or any Dillard plus science fiction, and that's a big Wendell Berry approach right to talk about, yes, maybe the United States in its Manifesto, city, listen to the subdue the earth part of the Bible, but not the replenish it and Martin, and that seems to be really, I mean, part of the whole project, right? between the brothers, like, maybe, maybe there's these two forces that are playing and maybe that's what we have playing across the cultural time. What is the motivation to fulfill this, you know, whatever mandate for believing Christians, but followed up by missing the fact that one has to take care of what you've got, right? Yeah, tending the garden was one of the things that was kind of key to that. And if that's a mythological structure for so many people here, you said in your kind of imaginative DNA, maybe it's for other people, and it's a point of contact.


Matt Bell  24:56

Yeah, I think that's absolutely right. You know, I think There's a part later in the book when in time surpassing the champions part goes through time the most. And decades have passed. And they're seeing like that, they get to see some of the, the future that they made. And they see some of this environmental devastation that's already happening in the 1800s, which is just historically correct. You know, they sort of like Ohio where their planting was depleted of sort of like, like deer and things like that and had to be restocked. They were restocking deer, and in the woods in Ohio and 1850, you know, before the Civil War, they're like, out of deer, which is hard to even sort of think about in some ways. And, and so I think like, Nathaniel has more of a, he doesn't want the world to be like, like, totally, totally extracted, or totally sort of made human either, right. And he sort of encounters people who do and is offended by it. And sort of, like, this isn't what I thought we were making. And I feel like it's okay to meet that moment where you're like, this is what I was trying to do. And now what do I do, because the future I made was not the one I intended.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  26:00

There's another relationship, I want to ask you about our collective relationships. So Nathaniel and Chapman are a femme family based relationship that have ideological differences. But what about the group in the john storyline? Who had who were more of an ideological Brotherhood in a way, I wonder if you might talk about the relationships in that group and the ideologies and that kind of thing?


Matt Bell  26:25

Yeah, so there's this group of sort of re Wilders, who are you know, x scientists and programmers and, and some ex military folk who are resisting this, like a global company that's playing to geoengineer the stratosphere? And you know, I think the found family is like one of the great sort of like, like story shapes, right, like, and I think science fiction and fantasy are full of found families that are so attractive that for sort of obvious reasons for how many of us need a found family in our, in our real lives. And this is both like that, and it is like a group with a very specific purpose. And, and there's, there is both like the big shared purpose of like stopping this this geoengineering event from happening, and inside that are like, fractures on like, the how, in the why, and the for who, and I think they get to hold a lot of the different responses to the sort of maybe like, more dominant culture, like the sort of capitalist techno utopian kind of thing that Yuri muroc sort of represents. And there's sort of a variety of approaches to it. But I think the found family is a, an amazing sort of shape. And I think it is so wonderful to sort of be in contact with one in a story. Because we find that so moving, and we're so lucky when we find ourselves in those units in our own lives.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  27:43

Cool. Todd, you were sort of talking about the john Yuri. relationship? And did you want to kind of go go with Matt on that for a bit?


Todd Peterson  27:52

Well, now these sort of brought up the concept of the found family I think that that's, it's so interesting in the plotline of of that john sequence, which is seems like it's an adversarial relationship, but it once you realize that john eurion is probably giving some stuff away, but you, maybe it'll just make it all more interesting that when they come together, my first thought was, Oh, no, this is a person who's kind of trying to come in like a Bond villain, you know, and say, you know, we found you, we know that you're one of these people, but then all it's like, now let's remember all the work that we've done together in the past. And I think that that's, that's a new and interesting thing. Like there's an existing relationship that's uncovered. One person has gone one direction, one person has gone another, which is again, I think a thing that happens, I mean, it's happened to me, like, like class reunions and stuff, like, okay, where were you? And then like, Oh, well, now I'm an English professor. And people are like, what, right? How did you go that route? And I'm like, you're a stockbroker. And I'm like, What? Like you were the pothead skateboarder. I know, these places, but now I started to kind of track along because it is a little bit of a thriller, when we go through that section. But it's also there's this really interesting character work that's going on, which is usually not what a thriller does. So usually thrillers plot based, and event based, but then when you start to bring in these characters in retuns it in another way. And we were talking earlier today about how the difference between like speculative fiction and scientific fiction and what's literary and what's not, but I think this character attention is literary. And it's not just fancy language. So that was kind of what I noticed in that relationship. And I wonder, was that conscious? Or was it just like that it seemed natural and an emerge from the writing processor.


Matt Bell  29:28

Right? I mean, yeah, some of that's probably discovered, but I do think I it I think it's really important to me as like a writer of like climate fiction, or writing about climate change that people who are trying to do something about climate change are not villains like so right, like URI is the antagonist in that part of the novel, but she's not the villain, right? Right. Like she has a her own vision of how she's trying to make the world a better place. And she's using the tools she has available to her which is like technology and capitalism and political power and she's like, acquired those specifically to do this. And so and so that's really interesting to me, I think of john, I think john, the key to John's character that was eventually clear to me was that he was a good person who wanted to do the right thing. Like he would give his life for the right thing. And he was unsure of what the right thing was. And and Cal and the sort of other like resistance group members present one way forward. And Yuri presents another way. And I think he's almost like convinced by whoever he's standing closest to, right. You know, when he's with cow. It's this. And as with the URIs, this, and everything here, he says to him is, is right, from a certain point of view, like she doesn't her argument is, is absolutely the argument people are making now about doing these things and will make in the future like, when Andrew Yang ran for president, his, his climate platform was geoengineering. And he was like having this he is coming from that technocratic sort of technology, we will have the technology to solve it, yeah, we're going to change anything else.


Todd Peterson  30:55

And you all won't have to worry about it. Right? It'll be handled, it'll be handled,


Matt Bell  30:58

take care of it. And so, you know, but I do think that sort of push, like, in many ways, it's, it's john gets to be the guy in the room at the button at some point in the book, you know, but it's really eurion eurion cow who have who have primed him for that. And I loved reading those conversations with him and Uri, because he's gone there to, like, convince you that she's wrong, and he doesn't come out of it. He doesn't win, right? He doesn't come out of it convincing here, and he's no longer sure of his own path. By the time he gets there. There's another like a different order of events in which they saw him before the last act of the book. And the book ends a different way. Right? Could be Yeah,


Todd Peterson  31:39

so this is good storytelling, though, because as you said, we we aligned with protagonists with a number of them. But then, rather than representing a position john is someone who moves between positions. And I think that that's really good for people to feel I mean, if we're trying to get people to think about this and say, you can not only believe one thing, one of that section really reveals how difficult the decisions are, that I think would feel real to other people rather than this ideological purity thing. Humans had no involvement humans at all the environment, humans can't do anything or whatever, it seems like ideological purity is created a political system that we have now which is nothing happens it locks up. But by moving between, then you have a dynamic system, which is an ecosystem, right? And so this is what your books able to do is, is let us follow john and see the trends and the frustrations of the moment. Yeah, that's how I read it. And I enjoy to do it that


Matt Bell  32:35

way. You know, one of the Yeah, I love all of that. I think one of the books is in the way back of the influence in this state which I haven't really read in 20 years probably as jack your ex desolation angels and I don't know if you read that but that is great. Right. But in that Kerouac's, you know the the characters him right is like in a Firewatch station in Colorado, you know, and he's outside of Denver for spends the summer just like spotting fires. And so he's all by himself. And he's just reading and writing. And he has this like, fake purity of thought and feeling. he's by himself. And then he the Summer ends, and he comes down into Denver, and he's so happy to see his friends again. And when he's in the real world with other people, it gets messy. Yeah, you know, and they're sort of like john in the wilderness. The beginning is like, this is how I feel about things. This is what's right, right, as soon as you're in the world with other people. It's complicated. what's right for everyone is is an almost impossible thing to decide as a person and especially in conversation with the people you're deciding for. width. And I think, you know, it was something I thought about constantly but I know that shape is part of the shapeless books like this sort of like alone in the wilderness to community with people or with an unnatural world or like what does it mean when your your ideas and your morals and your own wants have to like be in conversation with other people's 


Todd Peterson  33:56

Which get us to see which gets to explore what happens when you're in this environment? Alone? Or maybe not? Yeah, whatever. Yeah,


Dr. Lynn Vartan  34:04

well, let's take a musical break and then come back and talk about see we haven't talked about see so much today, either this morning or now. So this will be the time we'll have another song from all of our Arnold's the Icelandic multi instrumentalist, and it's sort of along the same lines, it's called woven song. And again, going with this loom idea, which perfectly fits for what we're going to talk about next with see the character who is woven and remade time and again, so take a listen to woven song. You're listening to KSU Thunder 91.1 Yo buddy bye all right well welcome back you are listening to KSUU youth Thunder 91.1 That song is woven song and the artist is Olafur arnalds And just a reminder if you're interested in any of the music that we play on the apex our there is a Spotify playlist called played on Apex our it's a public playlist on Spotify. You can also find it on our website which is suu.edu slash Apex and you can click on the podcast button and find all of our episodes and also the Spotify playlist. So welcome back into the studio authors Todd Peterson and Matt Bell we are talking about Matt's most recent book called Appleseed and we've covered a lot of the storylines that are in it but there's a really special storyline that I'm anxious to get into and that is the character of C one through 400 and whatever. And so I wondered if you could just kind of introduce this a little bit to see and let's dig in from there.


Matt Bell  38:12

Yeah, so the third storyline takes place 700 years in the future and the sort of top of those two begins to top a glacier that's are covering half of North America and see search to see for 32 is a cloned bioengineer creatures so like like the Fon Chapman has horns and hooves but like as blufor and part of them are made out of plastic and metal and he's sort of this this kind of combined thing. And he's scavenging below the glacier for like sort of bio materials from from the before the collapse, I guess, that he's using to sort of fuel his longevity so every time he gets hurt or injured or sick, he sort of recycles and reprints himself and then there's a device called the wrong that's implanted in his neck that contains all of his memories of his past life. So he's lived 432 lives at the beginning of the novel, and then the next life for 33 years as most of it and I don't think this is really a spoiler that happens pretty early in the book but the the thing that really prompts the storyline is when 433 is sort of reprinted, something's different and this tree starts growing out of his body and the personality becomes about his care for the tree. That's that's taking overpower his body and awesome trying to deliver it to this place in Nevada where he thinks that there might still be like a remnant of humanity. I'm glad I'm glad you both like to see I think CS really finds his people and there's people who like big bats like the like the emotional heart and I feel really tender towards See I think his reverence and care for that for the tree grandma's body, I find just deeply moving when he just do anything for you know, there's one other living thing in the world and he would do it Ever a cost to take care of it in such a world reduced, but like at full, like moral responsibility.


Todd Peterson  40:08

So the C character set up a bunch of complex information because I'm a parent, and an English teacher, and I'm a student of Brian Evanson, who oftentimes write about these characters are kind of trapped in their own worlds, and selves. And they're trying to define what they see. But maybe they, they're doing it with complete lack of understanding, right, like, each moment that a character moves forward, they're redefining themselves and with the world they see is, so I see this all kind of playing. So it's sometimes I'm seeing see, as like a Samuel Beckett character, sometimes I'm seeing see as like, Wally, you know, and, and all of those things, I think, move across those spaces for me because of the things that I've picked up. But it's really kind of an experimental approach. That's, that's, again, braided into this, this thing. So can you talk a little bit about how c exists, not just as a as a character, and we take them realistically, but you know, maybe as a function of language, or a function of thinking, or just something that sees asking us to think about as a possibility of life that hasn't happened yet.


Matt Bell  41:11

Yeah, thank you for that. I, you know, I think one of the things that I had to figure out as I was writing C was like, what he knew and didn't know. And he has this sort of cause of the remainder, this is this recombinant version of all the other people. And in some versions of the early drafts, they were like, like numbers of them spoke really directly as opposed to being kind of like a swarm like they are now. You're just trying to figure out how much knowledge he had about the world and ended up sort of in this place, you're talking about like, actually pretty, pretty little, you know, he has this very constrained world. And he knows how to live in it so that you can keep going on but his life is only about going on, and has no other content.


Todd Peterson  41:48

Which by the way, that's where the Beckett's Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Go on. I must go. Yeah, no, I will go on. Yeah. And that's, that's such a core idea there. And I just maybe I pipe that into No, I think that's right. Yeah. But it's, it's there. And it's really compelling. 


Matt Bell  42:02

thank you. And, you know, I think the other thing we've we've talked about a little bit off airs. You know, every story has that kind of a slightly different style to it. And one of the things I decided for C was that, that he didn't have points of comparison, he didn't have experiences outside of his little world. I was in bubble cars, but he rolls around to this bubble, bubble, that bubble, and, and there aren't any, as far as I know, they're not similes or metaphors. In his section, I remember writing a part where he's eating this, like nutrient paste he lives on. And it was just like, the paste tastes like paste. And I was like, Oh, right. Like the only thing he has to compare things to was themselves. So So this elemental sort of thing I love to Yeah. Which made him an interesting sort of character, like almost, I mean, similarly, a metaphor rely on like, individual memory and cultural memory, right? You're sort of a thing people will know when you make a comparison. And so a person incapable of comparison is incapable of memory or history or connection in certain way. And, and that changes as it gets out into the world and its quest with his tree, but, but I think it was an interesting place to start that he'd been robbed of, of memory and history in a way that the other characters had not been.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  43:17

Yeah, fascinating.


Todd Peterson  43:19

Because he then sort of a metaphor for the future in general, like, will the future know what produced it?


Matt Bell  43:25

I don't know. Do we know what produced it? I mean, you know what I mean? Like, we're always a little history blind. I never think I'm such a bad allegory. I never think any of this stuff is an allegory for anything, right? It's like, what does this symbolize? And I'm like, No, it's just a bear. Like, you know, all day.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  43:39

What is the apple? What is the Yeah,


Matt Bell  43:41

it's great, because I often feel like those are actually the questions. Those are questions for the reader, right? Yeah, of course, one of the one of the things that, that I do in revision, and we talk to your class about revision a little bit, but one of my favorite tricks is I go through and a highlight everywhere in the book, I explained something. And then I tried to take it all out, just because I really Yeah, because as I'm writing, I'm thinking on the page, so a lot of that explanation is really for me, and the explanation is like a record of my own experience of the book in some ways, and so you clear it out, and then the reader gets to have an experience of the book and so there's questions sometimes or someone says, I don't know if I get this Is this what you meant? And I'm like, What that's you're describing your experience, right? You don't need me to validate it in that way. Like it's exciting like the the what is the what is the apple or what is the tree or, or what is he a metaphor for? It's like, I don't know what is the metaphor for Todd and like your answer is your answer. And I feel great about that. So you could you could say one thing you could say another Lin, and I would say yes, right? Right. It's not either or it's it's you know, all these in and it might change over time as people read it out. Hopefully people are reading in the future, but like if people read it from like, a different time or different place or different cultural position, right,


Dr. Lynn Vartan  44:57

right. What is the person reading Apple See? 25 years So now you're 25 years in the past, it's a lot like music.


Matt Bell  45:04

I would love that person read it. 25 years in the past, yeah.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  45:07

It's a lot like music performance, you know, when we're on stage and we're feeling something, or we're putting a certain story into something, the audience never knows that. So they'll say, you know, they'll ask about it. But it's not about that. It's about what you're feeling when you're reading, or when you're experiencing it. So I love that that's, that's how you feel about it.


Todd Peterson  45:26

One of my professors said that all books have a fourth dimensional quality, which is when you read them, they mean different things. Yeah. And this is like, bang, my whole head exploded. But it's really smart. This is a person who taught Shakespeare right? And he said, Look, if Shakespeare were alive now he'd be writing mash. Right, right. And it's like, well, wait a minute. Yes, that's correct. And so that the time in which the work was produced and the time in which it's consumed, there's a whole thing on reception theory, that's fancy talk. But this is really what we're talking about is when when you do this


Matt Bell  46:01

yeah, I mean, the ways that I'm a lover of like myths and fairy tales and, and the way that they just mean different things in different areas, we're not even talking about like, when you retell them in a different era, they just like, you read them through a different lens, you know, it's it's reading, I read Edith Hamilton's mythology, you know, it's on this classic sort of margin. Yeah, so good. And I reread it this year ago. And, and when she says the same phrase over and over, which I won't be able to say directly for, like, there's all these women who take their own lives in the Greek myths, because something a man does or departure occasionally tells them to, I mean, it's sort of a wild ride. And like, as when I read that in 1992, or something like that, I made sure I noticed that right. And then reading it in in 2019. I was like, oh, like these these these these are obviously like, women characters are not given their due or there's really no story in this sort of way. And like no one listening to me and and no one, I my guess is the dominant listener to it when they were written did not react negatively to that at all right, right. Like, I don't think I would hope no one reading in 2021 would fail to notice that these women characters agency is just sort of like stripped from them as the stories proceed. The words are unchanged, right, right. I mean, like, yeah, yeah, state fit. Absolutely. Yeah.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  47:20

Cool. Well, I have one more song to play. And then again, once again, the hour has flown by. The last song I have is the same, the same artist, all of our Arnold who is Icelandic and I think it's really interesting. And this last song is titled spiral. So again, kind of that spinning of history and just sort of bringing it back to all the inner woven stories of Appleseed. So please enjoy spiral. You're listening to Cassie, you Thunder 91.1 All right Welcome back everyone this is the apex our that song was spiral by all of our Arnold's we are back for our last few minutes here at the apex our which is one of my favorite times and that is the what's turning you on this week time. So I'm going to ask both of my guests, Matt Bell and Todd Peterson what's turning them on this week? So I would like to know, Matt Bell what is turning you on this week?


Matt Bell  51:24

Thanks. Uh, you know, I think I been really excited by a book I'm reading right now which is Alexander klieman. Something new under the sun, which sort of a la nuwara sort of Chinatown climate fiction child actor mystery kind of thing. It's really great. I'm really enjoying that and and you know watching I'm excited about the why the last man adaptation that's going on right now. I love those comics so much. And they and they did maybe need some like desperate updating for our times. And this seems to be so far so good on that. I'm really excited about it.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  51:59

Oh, those are two great pics. Thank you for those. I can't wait to put them in my next step. Todd Peterson what's turning you on this week?


Todd Peterson  52:06

On the book front, I'm diving into Colson whiteheads new book Harlem shuffle. Oh yeah. Colson Whitehead is the impossible wunderkind who's like won the Pulitzer Prize twice in like a row Yes. With underground railroad and a nickel boys but he's got this new one that's that's kind of like funny, but it's a heist book. It's like a it's like a Harlem 1960s heist book and it has all the great feelings and it's really great and you know it's a really because he's written about some serious things in the past also zombies so he's amazing


Dr. Lynn Vartan  52:40

I didn't know what the heist book


Todd Peterson  52:41

yeah and it it's a it's fantastic and on on the watching front a little late to the game but just so excited about it. I've been watching Barry the Bill Hader show it's it's right up in my wheelhouse of like sort of funny crime but sort of serious at the same time and almost like back to back so I've been watching it and like taking notes and going these rotten people are so so good. And so my wife is like Aren't you finished with your work so we can watch Barry because we have you know you have that watching relationship? Oh yeah. If I watch Barry on my own I'm a dead man. Yeah.


Dr. Lynn Vartan  53:20

Well, those are both fabulous. Thank you more for my list of things to read and things to watch and things to consume. So well that takes us to the end of our time together on Todd. Matt, thank you so much. The book well both of your books picnic in the ruins, Todd Peterson I love and then Appleseed with our guests who's visiting us this week, Matt Bell, go check it out anywhere that you find your reading materials. That's it for every us everyone. Thank you so much. See you next time. Thanks so much for listening to the apex hour here on KSU. us under 91.1. can find us again next Thursday at 3pm for more conversations with the visiting guests at Southern Utah University, and new music to discover for your next playlist. And in the meantime, we would love to see you at our events on campus. To find out more, check out suu.edu slash APEX Until next week, this is Lynn Barton saying goodbye from the apex hour here on Thunder 91.1