Much of the current crop of science-fiction writing takes place in dreary, post-apocalyptic dystopias, complete with visions of nuclear rubble, viruses, starvation and desperation. Author Tom Schaefer envisions a brighter outcome, however, one more in line with a utopia than a dystopia. In his debut novel, Tu & the Collectors, Schaefer explores the possibility that, with a little guidance, humanity could attain a bright, hopeful future.
Prior to embarking on a career as a writer, Schaefer served in the U.S. Navy submarine service, then worked for years as a computer programmer and web developer. He has long had a love of photography and art, and has been a fan of science-fiction since he was a boy.
To learn more about Schaefer and his writing, visit him online at tuandthecollectors.com.
What were you like as a child? What are some of your fondest memories of your younger years?
I am a twin — but although I am a twin, my brother and I have distinctly unique personalities. Our twin-ness gave us the opportunity to be “special” – it added a novelty to our lives. I was very shy and quiet, my brother more energetic and willful. We were put up for adoption around two years of age, which is a whole story in and of itself. We were the youngest of five in our original family, and the oldest of four in our adopted family. We didn’t meet our birth parents until we were 21. Overall, I wouldn’t say I have any fond memories of my childhood – we grew up middle class, typical parents, and life growing up in the 1970s and I can’t really recall anything special. Hated high school and couldn’t wait for it to end.
Who were your biggest creative influences growing up?
Nikola Tesla. I was reading about Tesla before the current popularity of Tesla. Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry — science-fiction related to astronomy and space were my biggest interests. Loved Twilight Zone, the Star Trek series, Stargate and anything that came out related to space travel. And then the book by Erich Von Daniken came out, Chariots of The Gods, which really blew my mind, that sci-fi may have some basis in reality. I’ve also had an art background, which found me involved in several photographic pursuits.
What made you decide to join the U.S. Navy? How did that experience help to shape who you are today?
Before I got interested in science fiction, around 7th grade (maybe sooner) I was an avid reader of an author by the name of Willard Price. His books inspired me to want to explore the world. I think it fueled a growing desire to want to see the south Pacific, go to strange places, explore jungles and see exotic wild life.
The Navy became part of a plan. I was also getting heavily involved in an electronic hobby at that time and I saw the Navy as a vehicle to launch a career in electronics.
It didn’t work out like I planned, but I did make it to the Pacific, got to go to Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, and Guam, and did it aboard a nuclear submarine during the Cold War back in 1978. (USS Pogy SSN 647) It was a crazy adventure in and of itself. Submarine duty is a lot like being in a spacecraft, for an extended period of time, and having to live in a sealed environment, where the exterior environment is your enemy.
What inspired the story of Tu & the Collectors?
I began to see the massive changes going on in our current world. That corporatism, capitalism with its bottom-line mentality, is destroying not just the natural resources of this planet, but the people and the “humanity of humanity” is also being destroyed.
Personally “awakening” to organics, realizing the economic slavery that we all live in, and yearning for “a ride off this planet to a clean organic planet” became forefront in my thinking.
The idea of “what if” we could go to newly discovered exoplanets. And then realizing we are trapped here because we do not have the transportation.
The only people with the transportation are the entities or people that we see in lights in the sky, the UFOs, the ETs.
Next, I began to see that current science fiction has all become a vision of a dystopian future. 99% of all science fiction on the market, in print and in movies as become a vision of dystopia. I began thinking that all we are seeing is a confirmation of a single thought, that “there can be no utopia, utopia is impossible.”
From there, I began to realize that yes, that is true, utopia is impossible unless we get a higher authority to help us. Religion, peace makers, prophets, and all manner of great people have tried to help mankind achieve a better world, but none has succeeded.
The code of humanity has a flaw in it, the best we can do is still failing. We need help.
And I began to go back down the rabbit hole about UFOlogy. Much of what I found seems plausible, yet we have no conclusive proof of any of it – yet. These ETs, whoever they are, they mastered interplanetary and some say interdimensional travel. They are way more advanced than we are, and they do what we only dream about — traveling the stars.
So, I began to mull this over, if humanity could get their help, what would that look like, how would that happen from their perspective, and how would it impact humanity.
The entire series is meant to be a playground for the concepts of “disclosure,” colonization, freedom from economic slavery, ancient aliens, and what it will be like to live on a planet without an oligarchy and corporatists who are intent on the destruction of this planet and humanity.
The big exceptions, the missing ingredients from our current experience that will save humanity are:
- Advanced space transportation systems that enable all humans to go to other planets. Sorry, but rocket technology developed hundreds of years ago is unacceptable and silly. Anyone getting excited about rockets is missing the boat. The governments of the world have access to advanced ET technology and are keeping it hidden from us.
- Real freedom from governmental systems and overlords who seek to enslave humans. All of the Earth’s current political and social systems need a reboot. Cancerous, murderous religious ideologies that cripple forward advancement need to be seen for what they are.
- Energy and technology systems that are balanced with an organic lifestyle, that enable humans to live cleanly, and sustainably. The concept of replication technology is now in its infancy, but when fully developed has the capability to free mankind from economic slavery. This is something no-one else is discussing — but Tu & The Collectors goes into this in depth.
All of this, in my opinion, will only be possible with an override from a higher authority, i.e., we need an extra-terrestrial intervention to break the status quo.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing Tu & the Collectors? And how did you overcome that challenge?
Finding a good place to end. I was already a few chapters into the next sequel and could have doubled the size of the book but began to realize it was losing its simplicity of the story arc.
Does writing come easy to you? If so, has it always?
When I write what I know, and what I see in my head, I cannot stop! I have always loved writing, and have done it professionally in the IT/computer world, but that was never as satisfying as writing stories.
What does your writing environment look like?
Simple, quiet and rather ordinary. I need a quiet comfortable environment where I can’t be bothered.
What’s the best piece of advice — writing or otherwise — that you’ve received in your life?
For writing, to just write it as it comes, then wrap around and fix things. Rules of sentence, grammar and style were crippling my ability to get started. Once I decided to “just write,” that allowed me to get things down onto the page.
For life, deciding to find and embrace my artistic side.
In your opinion, what is the best sci-fi movie ever made?
The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
Additionally my list includes (concept over quality):
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Silent Running
- Stargate (entire franchise, especially Stargate Universe)
- Enemy Mine
- Star Trek: First Contact
And no, I was never really into the Star Wars genre, Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, Game of Thrones, anything with wizards, vampires, werewolves and demons… none of these ever really grabbed me. Great special effects, but just never grabbed me.
What are you working on next?
I have a sequel to the book Tu & The Collectors called Tu: Mayorga which takes the characters into a new role, where humanity begins to not only do what we always wanted, explore the stars, but reunite with the succeeding generation of some humans who disappeared from Earth a long time ago and were transplanted into what some call a “breakway civilization.”
I am also starting a pre-quel to the Tu & The Collectors called Tu: Aforetime which goes into depth about the alien race in Tu & The Collectors and goes into their involvement with the creation of mankind, a supposed pre-history of humanity. It really explores their mindset and culture and how we are a part of them.
I also have another sci-fi book in progress (unrelated to Tu & The Collectors) called The Writers which is more of a short story more about fate and concepts of the timeline of our lives.