On Monday September 10th at 8:00 ET, award-winning novelist and movie producer J.Neil Schulman will be available for Q&A at the Laissez Faire Books blog. His movie adaptation of his novel Alongside Night is currently shooting with Kevin Sorbo starring as Dr. Vreeland. SF author L.Neil Smith and graphic novelist Scott Bieser will be in attendance. You can purchase J.Neil’s book here. And check out the LFB Club while you are at it. The LFB Club is the fastest growing freedom community on the Internet.
Interview with J. Neil Schulman
Q: Your Prometheus Award winning novel “Alongside Night” has been called prophetic. Can you explain why?
J.Neil: Robert Heinlein said back in a speech he gave in the 1940’s that science fiction is not intended to be prophecy but it often is anyway. The truth is that if you look at contemporary trends and plug them into history you can figure out what’s likely to happen next under the principle that if you see someone jump out of a skyscraper it’s not a hard prediction to make about what happens when they hit the bottom.
In writing Alongside Night I applied the monetary principles Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard applied to the causes of hyperinflationary crises in France in 1793, Weimar Germany in 1923, and so forth. These are always major destabilizing events as people lose the ability to plan or save for the future because money won’t hold its buying power, an “end of the world” decadence sets in, and we get a society of spend-it-all-now grasshoppers and few stock-it-away-for-tomorrow ants. The decadence resulting from the German hyperinflation of the 20’s is well represented in the musical Cabaret … and the danger is, then as now, an iron-fisted “man on horseback” riding in to provide what everyone wants desperately: stability and predictability, even if its monstrously cruel and dictatorial.
Q: The novel paints a vivid picture of how an agorist society — that is, a true free market society — might function. How prominently does this figure into the movie?
J.Neil: It’s as central to the movie as it was to the novel. That’s the world in which my characters live.
Q: How closely does the movie follow the novel?
J.Neil: The flow through of the story is pretty much the same but a lot of the details had to be reworked to catch up with three decades of history. Also, movies tell stories differently than novels, and the story needed to be “weaponized.” One difference: in the new timeline of events taking place before we begin the story, New York City has become much more like Detroit and the Vreeland family has moved from New York to Las Vegas – the same move Murray Rothbard made in real life when he moved from teaching at New York Polytechnic to an endowed economics chair at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. The story now takes place in and around Las Vegas. Some people have said to me, “But since Las Vegas is already decadent, how will anyone know the entire country has gone that way?” My answer is that Nevada’s western freedoms mean that Las Vegas is more resilent during a federal crisis than other American cities will be, so it makes sense that Dr. Vreeland would have thought of moving his family there. Plus, whoever thinks Chairman Bloomberg’s New York City is in any way less decadent and corrupt than Las Vegas is out of their minds.
Q: What is your favorite scene from the novel and movie?
J.Neil: I’d say it’s the pro-freedom rally where Elliot is almost captured by the feds who are looking for him. It’s great action.
Q: What is the most difficult aspect of the novel to translate on to film?
J.Neil: Film is a visual medium and that means words slow down the action. I have to find endlessly clever ways to put speeches and dialogue in the background while the action moves forward.
Q: Pushing aside economics, what is the main non-economic message or theme of your book and movie?
J.Neil: I suppose it’s about love. In the novel and the movie what’s driving Elliot Vreeland is his love of his missing father, mother, and sister, and his loyalty to his classmate and friend Phillip Gross.
Q: Dr. Martin Vreeland, played by Kevin Sorbo, is a wonderful character. Can you capture who he is in a sentence or two?
J.Neil: Dr. Vreeland is a mixture of the great 20th century free-market economists of both the Austrian and Chicago schools – Austrian, specifically, in his monetary theories. In the story he’s been awarded a Nobel Prize in economics for advising the EU to put their currency back on the gold standard, and in the movie the fiat Euro has been replaced by the gold-back Auro, which results in the salvation of Europe. So when the United States is going through the collapse of the fiat dollar, Europe – which collapsed first – is already on the road to recovery. This is the sequence of events I wrote in the novel three decades ago, and now we see Europe – in Spain, Greece, and Ireland – facing their monetary crisis before it reaches the shores of the U.S.
Q: What is it like to work with Kevin Sorbo?
J.Neil: Good time to ask that question since we just had our first shooting day with Kevin yesterday (Labor Day). Kevin is a consummate professional and that makes my job as writer/director easy. Just say action and he turns in a performance that brings the words I wrote to life. Aside from that, Kevin understands the principles behind the story. He’s economically and politically literate and comes out on the side of individual liberty.
Q: Do you believe the economic collapse depicted by Alongside Night is now inevitable?
J.Neil: It’s already history – as I just said – in Spain, Greece, Ireland – coming up fast in Italy. The United States is upside down with more government debt than gross domestic product. We’ve already had a collapse of the real-estate market, a leeching of manufacturing to outsourced markets, and everyday commodities like gasoline going up by half in price in a matter of weeks. Ron Paul was the last chance the United States had for a solution within the system and they tossed him out on his ear. So now nature will take its course and Alongside Night is now a pressing warning to be an ant rather than a grasshopper.
J.Neil: Widespread possession of individual private arms is the only defense individuals, families, and communities of neighbors have when the government goes lawless as it has done so often before, in Russia, Germany, China, Cuba, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum. Without this you get holocausts, and by any other name – concentration camps, gulags, relocation camps — the turning of a free society into a deadly and horrific prison where the guards are terrorists and the prisoners are dying.
Q: When will fans of “Alongside Night” be able to view the movie?
J.Neil: I’m aiming to have a film-festival cut by July 2013. I expect to have our first teaser trailer, featuring Kevin Sorbo, and produced by Austin Petersen, out by the end of September – just a few weeks from now.
Thank you J.Neil. We’ll see you right here on Monday, September 10 at 8:00 ET