I first met Randy Ingermanson at a writer’s conference and have enjoyed getting to know him a little more each year. He’s weird. I like that.
Geeks, meet Randy Ingermanson.
Brad : Good morning.
Randy : Hi Brad!
Brad : It’s really good to have you Randy. Let me get started. On your site you introduce yourself by saying, “Hi, I’m Randy Ingermanson, physicist, novelist, and all around geek. But that’s way more than enough about me.” How do you think people have connected with that mini-bio?
Randy : I have no idea. I’ve never actually really thought about it. I assume there are a lot of geeks out there who might find the combo of physicist/novelist interesting.
Brad : Yeah, geeks like me. But you’re probably the only real, live physicist I’ve ever known. What exactly do you do? Are you working on any world domination/ destroy the planet stuff, or what’s your particular bent?
Randy : I used to do actual physics work for a defense contractor in San Diego. Computational stuff where you analyze a giant machine and figure out how it ought to work in theory, then compare it to how it actually works in practice. Then about 12 years ago, my ex-college roommate asked me to come work in his little biotech startup company. I was a little tired of the government cutbacks every two years, so I decided to get out of defense work and try the biotech stuff.
Brad : Your response reminds me of a question I once asked Siri when I first got my iPhone 4S: “Siri, are you the beginning of skynet and the end of the world?” She answered, “We were talking about you, not me.”
Randy : It’s turned out well. I still work half time for Vala Sciences in San Diego.
Brad : I’m glad there are people smarter than me out there working on this stuff. Switching gears, this has been “Time Travel Week” at Bradhuebert.com. So I’m interested in your books, especially the time travel series. Tell us about that.
Randy : Sure. Three of my novels are time-travel novels set in ancient Jerusalem. The premise of the first one is simple: A physicist travels back in time to kill the apostle Paul.
Brad : I love it. The premise, I mean. (FYI, Randy’s novels have earned him several prestigious awards).
Randy : If you like time-travel and are interested in the New Testament, this is going to interest you. I had been studying ancient Jerusalem for a long time. I found a local Messianic Jewish synagogue that was going on a tour of Israel, so I went along with them and wound up spending about 15 years in their congregation. Not that I ever became a member, but I wanted to know how Messianic Jews think.
Brad : That’s some deep research, Randy.
Randy : My lead character, Rivka, was a young archaeology student who came from that congregation in San Diego. In the story, I changed the name of the congregation, but everybody knew which congregation it was. Poor Rivka accidentally gets transported back in time along with our naughty physicist, and her job is to stop him.
Brad : Do you write like Crichton, weaving in a lot of science, or do you just use it as a backdrop for a good story?
Randy : I put in less science than Crichton.
Brad : Good, I find him really wordy.
Randy : Of course, a lot of his is made-up science. So is mine. I just choose to insert less made-up stuff into the story. You can’t have time-travel without making up stuff, so I tried to limit it as much as possible. Crichton has great, great story premises. I have never much liked his endings, but his beginnings were always awesome. Different writers have different strengths.
Brad : Did your writing about time travel change the way you think about life in general even though it is a speculative concept?
Randy : It forced me to think about some of those pesky things like free will and determinism. And the question of whether you can change the past.
Brad : I like to say that we can’t change the past, but we can change our history—because our history is our take on the past, and is full of biases.
Randy : A lot depends on whether you believe in the many-universe idea. Because if you travel back in time and you connect to a different universe, then you can “change the past” by making the past in THAT universe different than the past in your own. But I don’t think you can change the past in your own. As Stephen Hawking says, we have to make the universe safe for historians. But it’s still possible that you could travel back in time and influence things. You could do that only if in the past for your universe, you had already arrived from the future and influenced those things.
Brad : This week I’ve been blogging about how we, standing in the present, “travel” back into our history and forward into possible futures all the time. Our minds have been designed to navigate time.
Randy : Yes, we’re constantly moving forward in time. And our minds can take us anywhere, anytime. Of course, we don’t have a complete history of the past, so there’s no way to know if time travellers from the future have actually been there.
Brad : Ha. True. Randy, one last question. If you could have one superpower, what would you choose?
Randy : I’ve never actually thought about that. I’m not a superpower kind of guy.
Brad : Gasp. really? Then how will you achieve your goal (and I quote) “to become Supreme Dictator for Life and First Tiger and to achieve Total World Domination.”
Randy : I already AM supreme dictator for life. You didn’t know?
Brad : I missed the memo.
Randy : Check out: http://www.SupremeDictatorForLife.com. I guess I forgot to tell anyone. It’s always nice to control the world from behind the scenes.
Brad : Um, right. Thanks for your time, Randy. Any last thoughts?
Randy : There’s always more to learn, so I try to keep an open mind.
Brad : Good advice, brother. Thanks for this interview.
Randy : Thanks for having me!
Be sure to check out Randy’s site, and leave him some comments below.