Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Jochanan Stenesh, author of A World at Risk
FQ: A World at Risk is quite a believable read. Obviously, something must have been stirring within you to create your unique storyline. Being a retired chemistry professor, I can only assume that you've seen and experienced enough historical moments over the years to bring you to this poignant point in time. Why write such an alarming narrative?
STENESH: You are quite right in assuming that my background has been a motivating factor to write this book. Having lived through, and personally experienced, two existential threats — first the rise of Nazism and its persecution and extermination of the Jewish people, and then the birth of the State of Israel against overwhelming odds — I am keenly aware of gathering political storm clouds and imminent dangers to liberty and survival. Today’s world seems to me to have many of these; it strikes me as indeed being a world at risk. This prompted me to want to sound an alarm, a warning, a wake-up call, if you will, about what I saw as looming threats on the horizon. In writing the book, I had two goals in mind. First, I wanted to provide readers with enough background to be able to comprehend the intricacies of these flash points and controversial issues. Second, and most importantly, I hoped that the imagined scenarios would, in some small measure, contribute to a much-needed effort to make sure the fiction does not become reality.
FQ: You chose to design your narrative in an epistolary format. Why did you choose this?
STENESH: Because the book deals with disparate events and issues, I felt that covering these by means of newspaper dispatches would not only constitute a unique presentation but would also serve to tie all of them together into one work.
FQ: There is a great deal of meticulously researched factual data amid your fictional account. How long did it take for you to gather this needed info?
STENESH: I can’t give you a precise answer except to say that it took a number of months to research the factual parts.
FQ: How apropos for your book to be coming out at such a time as this! With 2016 election results, in what ways do you feel your informational narrative—even though it is set between 2020 and 2040—lines up with current history?
STENESH: As it turns out, the book is very timely. In fact, as it was in the process of being published I told my wife repeatedly that I hoped it would come out soon because actual events were almost overtaking the fiction. As to the book’s relevance to the post 2016 election period, one only needs to note that many of the book’s fictional vignettes, both domestic (e.g., separation of church & State, evolution versus creationism, abortion) and international (e.g., Iran’s march toward the bomb, China’s saber rattling in the Far East, the rise of global antisemitism) appear to be well on the way of becoming real issues in the new administration.
FQ: You've chosen to view your storyline through a journalistic approach. How would you compare the news reporting of your narrative to what is presently happening in regards to Fake News and the mainstream media's misrepresentation of, as well as lack of coverage of, news?
STENESH: An interesting question. I hope that my dispatches show meticulous factual reporting, something that is all too rare with our current mainstream media. With the exception of a few stellar newspapers and a few substantive TV and radio programs, we are awash in what have become more entertaining and less nformative media. For well over a year we have been exposed to a barrage of sensationalism with facts bandied about coupled with a dearth of intelligent discussion of issues. Moreover, the focus on the election was so intense that the coverage of events and issues in the rest of the world was largely relegated to a backstage. In that, journalism failed in its obligation to properly inform the public.
FQ: How would you compare news reporting back when you were much younger to current news reporting?
STENESH: I think in the past news coverage was more substantive and better researched than is the case today.
FQ: Following 2016 election results, hate crimes increased exponentially. Were you surprised by the sudden vitriol, especially since you incorporate hate crimes in the form of extremist groups targeting Jews in your narrative.
STENESH: I was not really surprised to see an increase in hate crimes considering the fact that we have a large number of hate groups in the country and the fact that the campaign was so replete with inciting rhetoric and veiled references to violent actions. Hate crimes and atrocities always have their beginning with the issuing of words. One should never assume that words do not matter. They matter very much. The Holocaust is a prime example. It all started with words, namely the demonizing of Jews.
FQ: In light of current events, do you foresee writing a sequel or another novel in this same apocalyptic vein?
STENESH: At the moment I am concentrating on the marketing of A World At Risk. I would like to see the book gain exposure and, hopefully, lead to some constructive thinking and deeds to bring about a more peaceful world.
FQ: If not, do you have any other literary projects lined up?
STENESH: Right now I am in a thinking mode.
FQ: In light of current events, what message would you like to leave your readers, particularly younger generation readers?
STENESH: I would like to urge readers to be aware of what is happening in the world, both domestically and internationally, to be critical of both oral and written commentary, and to speak out when wrongs are committed. We must all do what we can to prevent dire scenarios — like those described in A World At Risk — from becoming reality. The following saying, attributed to Edmund Burke (1770), puts it well: “The only thing for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”