John A. Heldt Guest Post
What do you do?
If you're Joel Smith, the protagonist of my debut novel, The Mine, you do a lot of thinking, because everything you say and do might have a profound impact on people around you. People you were never supposed to meet or meet as a contemporary. People like your 21-year-old grandmother, your new best friend, and someone who's become the love of your life.
Much of the fun in writing The Mine was exploring questions that few of us will ever ask, much less answer. We live firmly in the present and generally have precious little knowledge of things to come. Not so with Joel Smith. He knows a lot. He is a walking encyclopedia who knows both the broad outlines of history and its seemingly insignificant details. He knows the time, place, and outcome of events great and small, from a celebrated heavyweight title fight to his grandmother's engagement to a man she never married. The challenge facing Joel is how to use that knowledge responsibly.
Joel does not have much time to mull things over. When he returns to his hometown of Seattle, he is immediately confronted with finding food, shelter, and a job. Like young people today, he has grown up surrounded by advanced technology and gadgets designed to simplify and enhance everything he does. But none of that is available to him in his strange new world. He must make do with what he has. But, most of all, he must make decisions, including some that may affect his very existence.
I decided to send my protagonist to America in 1941, rather than Regency England or Renaissance Europe, precisely because I wanted him to face these questions in ways that were both personal and immediate. Joel Smith is given the power to change not only the lives of strangers from an earlier time, but also the lives of people he has known and reveres. He must decide whether honor trumps personal gratification and look at friendship and sacrifice from an entirely new perspective.
I encourage readers to check out The Mine, not only because it is an enjoyable story, but also because it will prompt them to ask questions that are rarely asked these days. Questions that make us think about what is really important in life.
It will also make them think about the importance of knowledge. Albert Einstein linked knowledge to wisdom when he said, "Knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be." Sir Francis Bacon was more direct. "Knowledge," he said, "is power." In the world of a time traveler, it is power times ten.