Socially Conscious Science Fiction with Victor Acquista M.D.

Socially Conscious Science Fiction with Victor Acquista M.D.

 

Sentient touches upon many social themes and provides an example of my attempts to call attention to certain societal and cultural issues. But how does one do that in the context of a science fiction novel? More specifically, what does it mean to write a sci-fi story with an underlying intention of raising consciousness?

Calling attention to social issues is a mainstay of literature. Name any particular social ill and there are probably dozens of books exploring the issue in order to raise awareness. Examples abound but here are a few:

  • The horror of war—Johnny Got Your Gun
  • Racial prejudice—To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Government control, propaganda—1984
  • Exploitation of immigrants—The Jungle
  • Class warfare—Les Miserables

I did not focus on science fiction in the list above other than mentioning George Orwell’s 1984. The dystopian future and apocalyptic sub-genres often expose or somehow incorporate social messaging in their plots. Robot stories, and in particular those dealing with artificial intelligence, might call attention to the dangers of sentient AI. Erewhon, published way back in 1872, had three chapters titled, “The Book of the Machines”, in which Samuel Butler raised the issue of mechanical consciousness. Fast forward to today where movies such as Terminator raise the specter of AI dominance. Genetic engineering is another area explored as a social theme. Brave New World comes to mind. Examples in many of the other sci-fi sub-genres are plentiful.

I intentionally used a movie as one of my examples above. Often movies follow as book adaptations. One particular recent standout movie about corporate greed exploiting the mineral wealth of another planet in disregard to the technologically inferior indigenous species came as a movie first. Here I am talking about Avatar, a movie calling attention to these and other issues such as militarism and imperialism along with social justice.

This post is not meant to give a comprehensive overview of socially conscious science fiction in film and literature. I simply want to get you thinking about how these art forms incorporate social themes. Lets not lose sight of the fact that lots of great science fiction books and films do not include social messaging. Nothing against pure unmitigated entertainment, but I want my writing to convey something more. In this regard, I am trying to emulate one of the best sci-fi authors of all time, a man referred to as the “dean of science fiction writers”. Here I am referring to Robert Heinlein (of course); I dedicated Sentient to him in memoriam. The Wikipedia reference states:

Within the framework of his science-fiction stories, Heinlein repeatedly addressed certain social themes: the importance of individual liberty and self-reliance, the obligation individuals owe to their societies, the influence of organized religion on culture and government, and the tendency of society to repress nonconformist thought. He also speculated on the influence of space travel on human cultural practices.

What social themes am I raising in the novel Sentient? Isolation/separation and how this contributes to competition over cooperation, how we treat people with mental illness, and individualism vs. collectivism are just a few of the issues I touch upon. You would have to read the book or who knows, watch the movie someday (hey, a man can dream, right?) to get the complete gamut of social issues I am trying to raise awareness about. All of these enmesh in telling an engaging and thought provoking story. One of my readers said it all with the simple comment, “Great story! Somehow, I feel as though reading it has raised my consciousness.” Bullseye!

*****

  On February 19th, sci-fi author, Victor Acquista joined fellow authors Laura Mixon and Steven Gould at the Writer’s Series panel discussion hosted at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe. This monthly author spotlight series focuses on the art of writing. Dr. Acquista signed copies of his epic sci-fi novel, Sentient, following the panel discussion. The Jean Cocteau Cinema is the hub of science fiction and fantasy in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Jean Cocteau Cinema is a historic movie theater located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States. It is owned by American author George RR Martin. In addition to films, the cinema hosts author talks and book-signings, along with a small display of signed books for sale; burlesque, magic and variety shows; art exhibitions and concerts.

Sentient by Victor Acquista

Survivors from an almost absolute genocide flee through space/time to make an attempt at propagating their species.

The architects of their race’s destruction realize that their mission was incomplete.

The resulting conflict will be waged on our home planet where a troubled physicist, his young neighbor, and an artificial intelligence may prove to be key in deciding the outcome.

************

Sentient tackles the tough issues, such as homelessness and society indoctrinating violence, but it handles it with such humor and kindness that it is easy to digest. There were several times I had to put the book down just so I could ponder the questions and feelings that it had brought up. The best and worst of humanity are highlighted, but yet it does not feel as though it went too far to the extremes. This debut novel is witty, intelligent, saddening, and beautiful. This book is amazing, and I truly would love to recommend it to everyone. I look forward to more by Dr. Acquista in the future.

Reviewed by Lauren Stafford, San Francisco Book Review Star rating: 5/5

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Pulling Teeth with Victor Acquista

Pulling Teeth with Victor Acquista

Sinister Grin Press now has Science Fiction and Fantasy available. Dr. Victor Acquista has a wonderful science fiction story, Sentient, on Amazon Kindle and Paperback. Sinister Grin Press welcomes Dr. Acquista to the family… so let’s pull some teeth.

 

Where are you from?

I was born in Brooklyn, NY, spent most of my adult life living in New England, 

and moved to New Mexico in 2009.

Tell us your latest news?

Have been writing and speaking these past two years since concluding my work for the New Mexico Department of Health. Gave a series of workshops in Denmark last year. Finished another novel and am half done with my fourth book. Have a second grandchild and another on the way.

What inspired you to write your first book?

Sentient is actually my second book; my first was non-fiction. I had this story in my head for over twenty years that had several intersecting elements—telepathy genetically engineered out of our human capabilities in order to evade total genocide by a telepathic warrior race.   What kinds of problems would result from blocking our collective consciousness? What if schizophrenia represented a partial or incomplete block to sharing other people’s thoughts causing this to be mistakenly labeled as mental illness? I thought there were many good social and philosophical themes to incorporate in an epic tale of struggle and survival. Although 20 years is a long gestation period, I finally reached a point where the story had to come out of my head.

What books have most influenced your life most?

I have read so many great books over the years. Many of my favorites are loosely aggregated into personal growth, spirituality, transformation, and the evolution of human   consciousness. Ken Wilber and David Hawkins are two standout authors for me personally.

In the realm of science fiction and fantasy Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress are two of my all-time favorites.  Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy and Frank Herbert’s Dune are the kind of classic epic sci-fi novels that inspired me and still do. When I read George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones back in the 90’s, when it was first released, I was totally hooked, even more so than with Tolkien, whose books I absolutely love.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I recently discovered Kirt Hickman and Melinda Snodgrass and am enjoying their writing.

Can you share a little of your current Sinister Grin Press work with us?

Sure. Sentient has three intersecting story lines following the near genocide of our parent race by a warrior species intent on being the supreme sentient race in the galaxy. Both our parent race and the alien warriors have telepathic powers and a collective consciousness. While our race focused on cooperation, the aliens are extremely competitive. We established a colony (on earth 168000 years ago) and intentionally blocked telepathy to avoid detection and allow a re-population on a new host planet. The genetic block preventing telepathic ability is designed to eventually come undone.

While the colony struggles to survive, the alien race is stagnating and decaying due to internal competition. The discovery of modern earth provides a chance for their society to reinvigorate itself with a new conquest. I don’t want to reveal too many plot details, but individuals suffering from schizophrenia have a faulty telepathic block. A group of schizophrenics in an experimental drug program is instrumental in helping to uncover the basis for the genetic block and the means to overcome it.

 How did you come up with the title?

Sentience refers to the ability to think, perceive, feel, be aware. Taken to its extreme, awareness fully being aware of itself represents enlightenment. I wanted to posit a race driven by the desire to be the highest evolved species in the galaxy at the level of consciousness. The title evoked many of these concepts.

Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing naked while eating peanut butter)?

Are you telepathic? Just joking. I often come up with ideas, snippets of dialogue, etc.. Usually at way inconvenient times such as while driving, showering, trying to sleep at night. I keep pen and paper handy or dictate a voice memo into my phone so I don’t lose the creative muse. In speaking with other writers, I don’t think that is very unusual. I am a bit streaky. When I get in a writing flow state that I call the zone, I am like a possessed man.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

Never say never. I think if a subject is in the realm of human experience, real or imagined, it is potentially something to write about. There isn’t anything absolutely taboo about any particular subject, provided I felt I had something to say on the topic and felt compelled to write about it.

What is your favorite movie adaptation of a novel? Or just favorite movie? Why?

That’s hard. Favorite as a singular sounds so exclusionary. I don’t watch many movies but I have thoroughly enjoyed the TV adaptation of Game of Thrones. The characters,  story lines, complexity, and humanity present in the books are brought to life in the film adaptation even though the story lines do not always remain true. I enjoyed Avatar for both the social messaging and the fantastic cinematic experience.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

A Man of Integrity

Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?

I certainly do dream. Nothing recurrent or nightmarish beyond failing to properly drop a course with the registrar and realizing there are finals coming on a course I thought I had dropped. That and having some loose teeth that I wind up pulling out in my dreams.  (Hehe…We like that one.)

Sentient

Survivors from an almost absolute genocide flee through space/time to make an attempt at propagating their species.

The architects of their race’s destruction realize that their mission was incomplete.

The resulting conflict will be waged on our home planet where a troubled physicist, his young neighbor, and an artificial intelligence may prove to be key in deciding the outcome.

Simply out of this world! Sentient by Dr. Victor Acquista is a marvelous work of science fiction at the highest level. Sentient was a delight from the very first sentence,gripping you all the way to the surprise ending. Dr. Acquista immediately draws you into his world, using alien words and beautiful descriptions, which paint us a dramatic picture of survival, triumph, and humanity. ….This debut novel is witty, intelligent, saddening, and beautiful. This book is amazing, and I truly would love to recommend it to everyone. I look forward to more by Dr. Acquista in the future.

Reviewed by Lauren Stafford, San Francisco Book Review Star rating: 5/5

 

Dr. Victor Acquista has become a successful international author and speaker following careers as a 

primary-care physician and medical executive. He previously helped to co-found The Collaborative for Community Health, a non-profit, is a founding member of Rivervalley Market, a food co-op, and authored a syndicated Health and Wellness column.

His non-fiction and his workshops focus on personal growth and transformation, especially as pertains to health and wellness. His fiction includes social messaging intended to get the reader engaged in thought provoking themes.

Dr. Acquista has a longstanding interest in consciousness studies, is a student of Integral Theory, and strives to do his part to make our planet a wee bit better. He lives with his wife in New Mexico.

More info at www.victoracquista.com.

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