Sunday, June 30, 2013

Introducing Forbidden Conversations and Interviewing the two authors Eric Dietrich and Tara Fox Hall

Welcome!! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Let's get started by telling a brief Blurb about Forbidden Conversations.

Forbidden Conversations is social and political criticism.

Forbidden Conversations is the record of a series of conversations over eight days between three friends on topics which Americans are actively prevented from discussing, except perhaps in private, behind closed doors. An example is gun control.  The prevention of these discussions is destructive both to American society and to the future of our democracy.

The conversations are rendered as dialogues.  Dialogues are not plays. They are an ancient and venerable technique for exploring controversial or difficult subjects, and have been used to great effect by well-known philosophers and scientists, such as Plato and Galileo.

Though the topics of the conversations recorded are themselves quite controversial, the fact that they are now in readers' hands is due to something even more controversial: one of the participants of these conversations died in an effort to bring them to the reading public. Whether that death and its accompanying violence were worth it, we will leave to the reader to decide.

Does sound very interesting, that is for sure. Now just a few questions for you.
What lead you to write Forbidden Conversations?
 The discovery that crucial topics like gun control cannot be discussed openly, rationally, calmly, and in public in the U.S.  We came to this discovery slowly.  The suppression of debate in the U.S. was slow, taking many years, so its increase was not easily noticeable.

Tell us about the characters in Forbidden Conversations.  Are they based on real people?
 There are three main characters in Forbidden Conversations: Raquel, Shannon, Sophia.  In the first draft of FC, the three were modeled on Simplicio, Salviati, Sagredo – the three characters from Galileo’s famous book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems which argued that the Earth goes around the sun, rather than the reverse.  Raquel was supposed to be Simplicio, Shannon, Salviati, and Sophie, Sagredo.  Simplicio defends the old and wrong Earth-centered view of the solar system; Salviati defends the (then) new and correct sun centered view, and Sagredo is a more or less neutral discussant who, in Galileo’s book, becomes swayed by Salviati’s arguments.    But, we realized that Galileo’s characters, who were engaged in a scientific debate, didn’t translate well into modern political and cultural discussions.  So, as we continued to work, Raquel morphed into an intelligent and robust Christian who’s beliefs about Jesus and Christianity are decidedly not mainstream.  Shannon is a thoughtful firebrand, an atheist, and a revolutionary.  And Sophia is a wise and moderating influence on them both.  There are two more characters who are based on real people.  The book starts off with a recounting of an event that happened in real life.  In Casper, Wyoming back in the early 1980s, there were two gentlemen discussing the then hot issue of breaking up the U.S.’s large oil companies.  They really did get in a fight with several “oil men,” who were intent on shutting the two up.  In the book, the two gentlemen are murdered by the oil men, but in real life, the two gentlemen escaped more or less unharmed.

What is your background before writing Forbidden Conversations?
Tara is a paranormal romance author who has published several novels.  She’s also a health and safety inspector at a local metal fabrication factory.  She has degrees in science and math.  Eric is a professor of philosophy who teaches philosophy, mathematics, and computer science.

What do you hope readers take with them after reading Forbidden Conversations?
 Immodestly, we hope to reinvigorate informed debate in the U.S. on the issues pressing in on us as a country.  More modestly, we hope to have a positive and informative impact on our readers.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Working together.  Specifically, working out the characters of Sophia, Shannon, and Raquel was difficult.  Also, Tara and Eric are very different kinds of writers.  Tara is a fiction writer, primarily, and Eric is a non-fiction, academic writer.  We did know that there was a difference, but we didn’t know at the time that the difference between these two kinds of writing is huge.  It took us a while to bridge the gap.  The task would’ve been much harder except for the fact that this was our second collaboration.  Our first was writing an essay together entitled “The Allure of the Serial Killer,” which came out in Serial Killers and Philosophy, edited by In Sara Waller and published by John Wiley. 

Now Eric please tell us something about you and how we can connect with you.
 Eric Dietrich is a professor of philosophy at Binghamton University. Before studying philosophy, he was a concert pianist and mountain climber. He has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Wyoming, and a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Arizona. Between those two degrees, he worked for a Nasa/Defense Department contractor in their artificial intelligence unit. His most-read paper is "There is no progress in philosophy." He is the co-author of Sisyphus’s Boulder: Consciousness and the Limits of the Knowable, a book on consciousness's resistance to scientific explanation.  With Tara Fox Hall, he wrote "The Allure of the Serial Killer," which came out in the book Serial Killers.  He is also the founder and editor of the Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence.

Wonderful, Now Tara let's hear about you and how we can contact you as well.
Tara Fox Hall is a safety and health inspector at a metal fabrication shop.  She received her bachelor's degree in mathematics and chemistry from Binghamton University.
Her writing credits include nonfiction, horror, suspense, erotica, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal action-adventure Lash series and the vampire romantic suspense Promise Me series. She also coauthored (with Eric Dietrich) the essay “The Allure of the Serial Killer,” published in Serial Killers - Philosophy for Everyone: Being and Killing  (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).  She divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chain-sawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice.

Tara's Facebook Page:

Awesome! Now how about a little excerpt to leave our readers with?
Raquel:  At what age is suicide okay?  I don't know.  But you need to be an adult, maybe even an old adult.  And you need to be already dying -- the doctors have to have done as much as they can, and you have to have lived a life that you are proud of, then maybe suicide is okay.

Shannon:  But that is too strict if that is the only condition under which suicide is allowed.  Don't you think living wills should also be honored? If we are giving the right to die to terminally sick older people, we should also give it to those who are healthy, but are anticipating the worst.

Raquel:  No.  Again, only if you are already going to die, then, perhaps you can morally commit suicide.  Actually, I'm not really sure even in this case.

Shannon:  But does it make sense that you have the right to choose death if you’re incapacitated and can't implement your decision, but you don't have that right if you’re even remotely healthy – talk about a catch-22!

Raquel:  No, you're right about that.  I think that imminent painful death in old age is the only reason death can be a choice, but, yes, you have to be able to implement your decision.  Still, I have my doubts.

Shannon:  Then you’re saying death isn’t an allowable choice unless it is painful and immediately around the corner.  That makes it not a choice at all, just a more quickly reached destination.

Raquel:  That’s right. Taking it a step further, I'm worried about who gets to make the decision.  A teenager whose girlfriend or boyfriend has broken up with him might think she or he's facing imminent painful death and then commit suicide.  That is wrong.  Someone with professional expertise has be involved.  Perhaps suicides should only be allowed in hospitals.

Shannon: I thought you wanted smaller government involvement in our lives.  Now you’re arguing for government involvement in our most private and personal decisions.

Raquel: And I thought you wanted larger government involvement in our lives -- to protect us.  Now you are arguing for a hands-off approach to those about to make an irrevocable uninformed decision.

Shannon: Uninformed only according to you Christian people.  But, yeah, I see your point: Our views are not only mutually but internally contradictory.

At this moment, Sophia shows up, carrying a cup of coffee.

Sophia: Hi, you two.  What are you talking about?

Shannon:  My father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.  We are discussing whether suicide is a good option for him or not.  I say suicide is a good option; Raquel thinks it is an immoral option.

Sophia:  Really. Sounds like an important conversation. But are you two whispering?

Raquel: Whispering?  No, why would we whisper?

Sophia: Don’t you watch the news? Two guys in Wyoming were in a bar discussing breaking up the oil companies and were later found murdered.  The local police suspect that their murder might have something to do with their having that conversation.

Raquel: I don't think anyone is going to murder us for discussing suicide.

Sophia: Don't be too sure.  These are "interesting" times.  And a conversation involving the plusses of suicide might be forbidden.

Shannon: Sophia, please join us. I think we’re safe here.  We would certainly value your insight.

Sophia: I’m honored.  Shannon, I missed your side of the conversation about suicide. What do you think?

Shannon:  I think suicide is my right.  I find Raquel’s view that suicide is usually wrong and therefore not allowed an infringement on my rights.  Raquel, suicide's a freedom we should have just by virtue of being the conscious animals we are. We should all have the freedom to die, just like the other freedoms we enjoy.  In fact, in some sense, suicide is our first freedom.  This is because the individual is sacred.

Sophia:  You sound like the famous philosopher Ayn Rand, who said her philosophy was ". . . the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."

Shannon:  That evokes a nice sentiment, but I don't agree with it.  I would put it this way: All humans should strive to be heroic, their flourishing is the central purpose of their lives, but no one who is sane and rational can be happy when others around him are suffering, so the flourishing of all of life, our own included, is our noblest activity, and there are no absolutes.

Sophia: Very nice, Shannon.

Raquel:  I see now why you are so pro-suicide.  There's nothing in that statement about respecting the dictates of God.

Shannon:  You don't respect the dictates of God, Raquel.  If I give you a gun will you go kill a homosexual for Him, just as He commanded in Leviticus 18:22, and 20:13?  I don't think so. Appeals to God and what God wants are so small-minded.  The Bible contains some very nasty stuff which I find both blatantly immoral and personally offensive.

Sophia: I think we had better stop for the day.  Tempers are beginning to rise.  Let's adjourn and agree to return to this "forbidden" conversation when we meet again.  Say tomorrow, at this location at this same time.

Raquel:  Agreed.

Shannon: Tomorrow, then.


  1. Sounds like a very interesting book.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Connie :) Eric and I hope that others find it interesting! :) Don't forget to enter the rafflecopter to win the knitted scarves or the red/white/blue couch lap throw!

  2. Thanks for having us today! :) Eric and I are happy to be here! :)