Thursday, September 3, 2020

Interview with Joe Basile, author of The Last Qumranian

Today, it gives the Speculative Fiction Showcase great pleasure to interview Joe Basile, author of The Last Qumranian.

The Last Qumranian is the first book in a new series called The Infinity Chronicles. Can you tell us about the series and how you came to write it?

The idea for the series started with the first book. I was a youth pastor on a bus ride with students and I was bemoaning the lack of quality contemporary re-tellings of the story of Jesus. I love time travel and theorized that to have an accurate modern depiction of the Messiah you would need to go back in time and murder Jesus and his family… Yeah, I was talking about this with church kids. I was a legend as a youth pastor. (Insert crying laughing emoji) From there it became a journey of processing how that could be done and what would be the impact. I see everything in my mind as a movie, so my first drafts were screenplays, then a graphic novel, and eventually a novel. The novel was the first depiction to go public when I was published by Odyssey Books. You will notice when you read The Last Qumranian (TLQ) and when the sequel, The Last Prophet, comes out, that my books read like film. I am watching it happen in my mind and then just describing it on my laptop. It is a super enjoyable process. 

The Last Qumranian features a daring plot gambit - a timeline in which the birth of Jesus has been prevented by time travel. This is an audacious idea - how do you as a writer interweave the religious aspect and the concept of parallel worlds? 

In book two we explore four realms in depth, and I say that because I have always seen our world as the Matrix. There is more at work around us than we see and when we die we see the bigger happenings of the spiritual world, but we don’t have to wait until then. I now see that as a bit juvenile, but only its simplicity to the premise. There is our earthly realm, a spirit realm, a heavenly realm, and the waiting realm split into the pit and Abraham’s bosom. This concept along with God not being bound by time and space, meaning he sees past present and future happening in three windows simultaneously, made it easy to alternate timelines, but more fascinatingly, to alternate realms. 

Does the name "Qumranian" refer to the Qumran Scrolls – and can you tell us what part if any those play in the story? 

Yes. Otherwise known as the Dead Sea scrolls, found in the region by the Dead Sea known as Qumran. I had to determine who would not be affected by the coming and going of Jesus. In TLQ I use the real people known as the Qumranians who were Jews that were disillusioned with Jewish society and so decided to break away and await the Messiah on their own. In real life, they disbanded, leaving scrolls that were found thousands of years later, but in TLQ, they remained hidden beneath the Dead Sea in a scientifically advanced compound completely hidden from the world above.

As well as a writer, you are also a rapper and a Christian pastor. Please tell us about your history and what brought you to this point? 

I grew up in Chicago and fell in love with the Hip Hop community and always enjoyed punning, rhyming, and testing the quickness of my mind in a battle of wits. Rap gave me an opportunity to explore my love for language and apply it in clever ways. While rapping I became a follower of Jesus and eventually got a degree and became a pastor where I explored the historical aspects of Jesus, and then the supernatural ones. Being a Christian and a pastor has allowed me to think, challenge, and reason while being completely surprised, humbled, astonished, and loved by God. God has shown me that every person on earth is my brother and sister and that he loves them, so as much as I write books for God, I write them for the world, my family.

You have made a documentary for The History Channel in cooperation with Oxford University geneticist George Busby about the search for the DNA of Jesus. This sounds a fascinating - and tantalising - idea. What inspired you to pursue this quest? 

Well, I was their twentieth pick as the host, LMBO. They could not find a biblical scholar who actually believed. For every other bible expert it was just an academic pursuit, but for me, the academics increased my faith. I actually thought I was being whisked off to be an off camera expert on a fascinating concept, but on day one I was the only one who knew anything about the nineteenth century lectern Bible, the Kennicott Bible, and the Wycliffe Bible and was willing to articulate it on camera. I was studying the night before and felt led by God to memorize very specific details and dates regarding these three bibles, not knowing I was going to be on camera. I listened to the Lord and those dates and details were exactly what the director was interested in. That happened every night for 25 days. 

As well as investigating bones said to be relics of John the Baptist discovered on an island in the Black Sea, you were also permitted to analyse samples from the Holy Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo. Please tell us and your readers more about that. 

I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say there was some very compelling data. I went into this project very sceptical of venerated objects, but to give you a small tease, it is hard to not see the Shroud and the Sudarium connected scientifically. That only matters because in John it says that there were two cloths that covered Jesus’ body. These two cloths that had completely different journeys through time and ended up in different cities are carbon dated to the same time period and are made of the same material. We took actual DNA from the Shroud and the results were fascinating. I will let you watch The Jesus Strand: A Search for DNA to find out the rest.

You have just finished the next book in the Infinity Chronicles series, entitled The Last Prophet. To what extent have your real-life historical and biblical investigations influenced your writing? 

The Last Qumranian eventually intersects with the last ten days of the Messiah’s life as told in the Book of Luke in the Bible, only in a different timeline. One of largest pieces of historical data in the New Testament is also written by Luke, titled the Book of Acts. It is the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I had read that book a thousand times and if I wanted to capture its essence in my new timeline I had to think critically versus romantically. An essential component of both Luke and Acts is the use of supernatural power and I wanted to do my best to communicate that accurately but through imagery. It took a lot of work to feel good about how I was communicating the shift of the supernatural elements revealed in book one which were powers primarily used by the heavenly beings to their transformation into gifts that humans now possess. How I illustrated that, along with the growth of my new world, the relationships, the supernatural activity in the other realms, along with using the historical timeline as a guide to carry the story, took all the skills I had as a writer and all the surrender to God’s Spirit leading me that I could muster.

The Da Vinci Code and its “factual” predecessor The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail proposed an alternative version of history in which Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had children. Ignoring the probability or otherwise of the story, why do you think it was so popular? 

Anything that challenges power that has been wielded to oppress people will most likely be embraced. I spoke publicly often on this book, movie, and theories connected to the Gospel of Mary and simply said, use good science and historical criticism and accept the results. Using poor historical concepts and bad science to challenge the powers that be only makes your oppressor’s position stronger. If you have issues with the ruling religious authority, make sure you challenge them with truth. Simply put, Jesus could have been married. Marriage is not sin. There are plenty of historical ways one could speak into Jesus’ marital possibilities as a rabbi and even into his mother’s supposed perpetual virginity, but The Da Vinci Code and even the Gospel of Mary itself does not give you any reliable evidence nor reasoning to suggest that Jesus was married. 

To expand on this theme, and considering your own writing, why are people fascinated by alternative versions of history? 

I think we are first fascinated by alternative versions of our own history. The “what if’s” can haunt us or elate us. So, when someone tackles the “what if’s” on stories we all know, we are immediately drawn in.

How do you see the Infinity Chronicles progressing? 

The Last Prophet is a large piece of literature that opens a thousand more doors and stories, and the ending of this book reveals where book three will begin. You will have to read The Last Prophet to see where things are headed. It is fun. But, I will tell you that book four will be a prequel called The Accounts and then I plan to write two more spin off books somewhere in the series about the two most action packed and wild stories from the Old Testament. One has to do with angels having sex with humans…that is actually in the Bible. 

It’s interesting that writers of Fantasy and Science Fiction include many people of faith - most famously J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who you mention as among your influences. What do you think of the difference between their styles and the fact that Lewis is more allegorical than Tolkien? 

Lewis was on mission to communicate deeper truths through fiction whereas Tolkien was a man of faith who just liked to dream and pondered with limitless possibilities. I find myself as a writer in the middle of those two. 

Tolkien and Lewis continue to be widely read and loved. Why do you think that is? 

When truth is your basis, no matter how you package it, people find it familiar and comforting. It is awesome to see the bravery of a young girl in a dangerous world, but now make her into a Hobbit and we have truth with curiosity.

What other writers have influenced or inspired you? 

Edgar Rice Burroughs. I love a good hero. I want my villains evil and my heroes good. I have never seen anyone write a better hero than Burroughs. 

How do you combine writing with your ministry and other activities? 

I try to approach writing, ministry, and my TV projects with a cerebral supernatural approach which opens the door to a well reasoned opportunity for the impossible to become possible. Sharpening my mind makes me more aware that this world is not all there is, so I look for and expect miracles from God while loving people and inviting them to join me on this journey with Jesus.

What are you planning next? 

I have a few TV projects in the works that I cannot say much about, yet. I will begin book 3 in the series when The Last Prophet is released. That gives me a little break between books. I will continue writing my story blog on Goodreads called Tin Cans, about a girl and a robot. I lead a large cigar bible study called HolySmoke that I am currently helping bring global. Lewis enjoyed a pipe, a pint, a pen, and a powerful discussion on God. I enjoy a Liga (Privada), a label (Johnnie Walker Blue), a laptop, and a loving experience with God’s presence.

Amazon | The Jesus Strand: A Search For DNA

About Joe Basile:

Joe Basile grew up in Chicago as the youngest of ten siblings. Much of his life was shaped by the death of his mother at a young age. He dropped out of high school and became a rap artist. As that evolved, his Christian friends' love and fearless sharing of the gospel gravitated him to Christ. After he gave his life to Christ, he shifted to rapping about Jesus, but eventually felt called to become a pastor. Joe is best known for his work on the HISTORY Channel's documentary, The Jesus Strand: A Search For DNA. The first book in his new science fiction series, The Infinity Chronicles, is set for release in October 2019, soon to be followed by his highly anticipated graphic novel, Lukas, partnered and designed by artists from Marvel, DC, and Image.

Blog| Goodreads History Channel | USA Today

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