Off The Grid Radio host Bill Heid and guest Brian Godawa discuss the “off the grid” narrative in Brian’s new book, Noah Primeval. Brian Godawa is the screenwriter for the award-winning feature film, To End All Wars, starring Keifer Sunderland. Brian has also adapted Frank Peretti’s novel, The Visitation to film. Bill and Brian get so far off the grid you’ll wonder if they’ll ever get back to Kansas again.
Off The Grid Radio
Released: December 2, 2011
Bill: Welcome, everybody, it’s Bill Heid, your host today with Off the Grid Radio. I’ve got a great guest today. I’ve got Brian Godawa with me today. Brian’s been a professional filmmaker, writer, visual artist for many years. He’s a creative guy that has a passion for both intellect and imagination, both left-brain and right-brain. The result is that Brian is an artisan of word, image and story that engages heart, mind and soul. When I think of Brian I really do think of a renaissance man. He’s also the screenwriter for the award-winning film “To End All Wars,” starring Kiefer Sutherland, as well as “Alleged,” starring Brian Dennehy as Clarence Darrow along with Republican hopeful Fred Thompson as William Jennings Bryan. He’s done an awful – Brian’s written some books – “Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment,” which is one that every family should have, and also “Word Pictures: Knowing God Through Story and Imagination.” Brian, welcome.
Brian: Thank you, Bill, for having me, man.
Bill: It’s great to have you hear. I haven’t talked to you since you had sent me the script for “Cruel Logic” years ago.
Brian: Oh, man, that’s a while …
Bill: It’s been a while. I always thought that would be the best movie ever. The script was incredible. You were being an artisan. Let me tell you, our listeners – a lot of times with Off the Grid Radio and with our website, Brian – we really talk about stewardship, almost like a Christian, Mother Earth news, if you will. But it’s not just about the soil and stewardship of the land, it’s about all kinds of ways to be stewards. I consider you a steward. What you do is stewardship of the narrative. Does that sound like what you’re doing?
Brian: Well thank you! I consider that a compliment and a high honor, actually. But, yeah, that could be a good way to put it. I’ve certainly become that over the years. I think in my own personal life I started out as very much more intellectually oriented. I’ve always loved philosophy, apologetics and things like that. But I’ve always been an artist as well. Over the years, I started to realize that I had become intellectualized in my spirituality and I separated it from my imagination. I was having a hard time putting the two things together. But through reading of Frances Schaeffer and then over time through some other readings, and in more recent years I’ve started to put my imagination back into my faith or my spirituality, appreciating it through those lens. I think as human beings we are holistic in the sense that, yes, rationality, reason is part of who we are. But, just as equally, not just a little bit or not “this too,” but just as equally we are creatures of imagination. I think that God himself ends up communicating a lot more, sometimes, through imagination than through rationalities. I’ve picked up that calling and have pursued that, as you said, in these many – everything from novels to screenplays to graphic design, visual arts and all that kind of stuff. In these more recent years, I’ve been focusing on the writing. You mentioned the “Cruel Logic.” Yeah, I agree, I thought it would be one of the coolest movies ever get made but, unfortunately, in Hollywood – and I’m in more of the independent filmmaking world, not as much in the big studio world, although I have some contacts there. I’m more independent, but it’s so hard to get a movie made. It literally requires miracles to get a movie made. So unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get the movie made but what I did in the meantime was I went ahead and shot one scene out of the movie, which is a debate scene between a philosopher killer and his academic victim …
Bill: It’s a great scene. I love it.
Brian: Yeah, it’s all over the internet. It’s on YouTube. It’s also at my website godawa.com. I did that to try to paint the picture for people to sell the idea. But like I said, there are lots of good ideas that don’t get made into movies because there’s a lot of things that have to happen together all at once. You have to hit the right person at the right time and get the money for it. Unfortunately, I’m still working on that. That might actually become a novel in the meantime. I’ve been thinking about that lately.
Bill: Maybe there’s a story – maybe there’s a method to having a novel before and building a base before you go to a movie. I think you may have something there.
Brian: A lot of big writers have done that. There are some writers in Hollywood who can make very good livings being just screenwriters. Most of their movies don’t get made but a few do and they get enough name recognition. But there’s a lot of really good writers that have really turned to novels as their primary origin for their stories because they know most movies don’t get made so if they spend all this effort trying to work out a story for a movie and it doesn’t get made they feel wasted. They’re actually smart and – of course, the biggest one in that category for me is Michael Crichton. He’s dead now but he would write these awesome novels about modern science and the near future and then try to get them made as movies. He would write the novels as if it was a – like you’re watching a movie when you’re reading the novel. It was very, very movie-ish. He was smart in doing that. Now, I’ve heard recently, Randall Wallace – the guy who wrote Braveheart – he’s also a movie director, he’s been writing novels first because I think also he realizes most of them aren’t going to get made so at least I can get a novel out. That’s what I’ve been doing. My latest foray, my latest offering, is this novel I’ve written called “Noah Primeval.”
Bill: Let’s build a little bit of a base. I think that folks listening to this, they’re a cross-section of America, generally Christian, maybe not, but a lot of folks, Brian, listening may not be tuned into what you’re trying to accomplish with respect to the narrative and with respect to storytelling. Before we even start talking about it, why don’t you lay a little base? You talked about it when we first started chatting here – how can we communicate this creation/fall/redemption motif? What’s the guidelines for doing it? You’re a teacher too, I forgot to mention. You’re a teacher and you love to teach filmmaking and storytelling. Christians, and especially my fundamentalist friends, sometimes really start to tense up when we’re going to talk about some of the stuff that we’ll talk about today. I want to disarm that first by – you’re not going to give one of your courses in 10 minutes that we’re talking, but is there some stuff you can say to help us realize that what we’re doing when we tell a story and communicate a message that sometimes fiction is closer or a novel can be closer to the truth than the truth itself? How do you do that when you get into the crowds that I’m discussing?
Brian: That’s a really good question. I think there’s a lot of suspicion of imagination in the Christian world, at times, or even in the spiritual world maybe. Yeah, you know, like I say, there’s … humanity is multi-layered. Those who would have suspicion of story or fiction are usually people who tend to be a little bit more rational-oriented, tend to think more like scientific, empirical and reason. Those are the high orders of truth. If you want to know what’s true, you’ve got to subject it to empirical observation, science and reasoning and that’s how you ferret through to get down to the “what is reality? What is really true?” Of course I’m not denying that. I’m not post-modern in saying “rationality’s no good.” No …
Bill: Sure, but what you’re saying Brian is what they want to do is say “2+2 is 4,” so as we move into that … but as Christians, and maybe this helps and you can play off this, maybe as Christians if we say God is one yet three, that seems to defy that empiricism that you’re describing. If you were an Orthodox Christian you would embrace that idea, that God is three and one at the same time. But you can’t hold that little fact – that concept – up to a law of mathematics.
Brian: That’s step two. Step one is realizing that there is a rational way to understand truth. There’s a rational way to live out your faith or your spirituality and that that’s good, but reason has its limits. Reason has its limits. This is where story is the other side of who we are. I’m not saying one’s better than the other, I’m saying there’s both part of who we are, but it’s been highly neglected. Story connects to our humanity in a way that rationality or reason cannot. For instance, you might say – like you said, you can have a rational discourse on a doctrinal truth, but what – I’m a follower of Jesus, so what did Jesus use? Did he go into philosophical discourses? He certainly could have, he was in a Hellenistic culture and he probably knew that, but he didn’t – no, he chose parables. Here one of the greatest teachers of all time, he’s using parables to communicate truth. It’s not just because a parable is like this shell that embodies a truth and “this is the story, now you’ve got the truth so you can throw the story out.” No, story is an essential part of who we are and our reality so that we live truth and reality through story is what I’m saying. I don’t want to get too abstract here, I want to try to make it as connecting as possible to our lives. Look at yourself. You live your life as a story. You’re the hero of your own story. All of us are. As we live our life and as we live that story, we interact with other people. In terms of understanding truth and this kind of a thing, story is – I put it this way – story incarnates world view. What I mean by that is world view is like – it’s the way we understand the universe, it’s the interpretive grid through which we give meaning to our lives, or we interpret meaning out of our lives through our world view. But world view is really a story. Everyone has a story of how they interpret reality. For instance, the Christian story is that there’s a creation, God created man perfect and holy but man fell in the Garden. We are all born of that and now a Messiah comes along who dies and redeems us and brings us back to a right relationship with God. That would be the example of the Christian story. We interpret life and reality through that story, just like a humanist might believe here’s his story – man was created as molecules and evolved up to be an animal of higher order. Religion came along, that’s the fall, religion came along and religion plummeted man into evil and oppression, because that’s what religion does. Then redemption is found by freeing us from religion and realizing that everything’s just materialistic and religion is oppressive. When you free yourself from religion, you’re free, then you return back to your humanistic state. That’s the story of humanism. Everyone has that story, right? Once you understand how story is and how it connects to us, you can also appreciate, for example, fictional stories. How fiction – yeah, it didn’t really happen, but is it a waste of time? Is it a waste? No. It’s certainly not because it can connect to us in deeper ways than a book on, like you said, mathematical reasoning or philosophical discourse. It can connect to us. Why? Because it makes the abstract world of ideas concrete, by embodying them in human experience. A story is basically a series of events lived by through characters. When we see it lived out, it becomes much more connective to us in a deeper way. That’s why I think parables are so important, because I would argue that – for example, if you listen to or read a parable like the “Good Samaritan,” there’s more to it than just “here’s what the doctrine is. Love your fellow neighbor. That’s what it means.” No, if you try to dissect a parable and pull out the truth and then throw away the parable, now you’ve got the truth, what you’ve done is very similar to what the scientists in the 19th Century would do. They think that by dissecting the frog they’ve figured out the frog. Guess what? You killed the frog so there’s a very essential part of the frog you no longer understand, because you’ve dissected it. That’s how story is. The story itself embodies the truth. It does so through multiple things, one of which is story structure – the way the story is structured, the way the characters make their choices – all these things are connected. That’s why I think … that’s one of the reasons why I’m in movies, because I love movies and movies are very popular and novels are popular – “Twilight” and Harry Potter – these huge-selling things, why? Why are people connecting to these? Some might believe because they’re actually evil and people love evil. I don’t think that that’s the case. You could make an argument that some people do connect for that reason, but by and large, these fictional stories are so popular because people are connecting to the truth that’s being communicated – values …
Bill: Sure. If you, for example, Brian, if you very simply – we’re going to take a short break here and we’ll come back and talk about why a story about Noah – but if someone said “Brian, tell me about your grandpa.” You’re not going to say “he was blood type B– and he used to go hunting and he shot 2.4 pheasants per year …” But when we come back – let’s take a short commercial break here – when we come back let’s segue back off onto this book because this is the book I started reading. As I said, it’s got me excited. We’ll come back and start talking about why a story about Noah, right after this.[0:15:08 – 0:19:33 break]
Bill: And we are back. It’s Bill Heid and today I’m talking with Brian Godawa and we’re talking about Brian’s new book, “Noah Primeval.” We had just been discussing why story, why narrative, how do we communicate a message. The natural question becomes, Brian, why a story about Noah? We don’t really know that much about Noah, do we? We start in Genesis 5 or so, we start to get the idea of what God doesn’t really like what’s going on. But your book starts a little earlier than that maybe?
Brian: That’s a good question – why Noah? Interestingly, Hollywood, right now, has a big interest in Bible stories. All over town, studios are developing stories about David and Goliath, Moses, even a Noah one, I found out, unfortunately. There is a renewed interest in our culture, I think, in Bible stories. I think because people are becoming … because of the post-modern milieu, they’re interested in spirituality. They often don’t like the fundamentalist or the evangelical or anything like that, but if you can connect with them on a universal level, they’re a little bit more open in some ways. I think Noah is one of those stories. He’s one of the most universal, religious heroes of history. Think about it, every religion has a story about him – Islam, Judaism, Christianity – but also, every culture has a flood legend. Obviously, they’re different in many ways, but all over the world, he’s the most beloved religious character and he doesn’t have controversy around him – like Jesus or Moses. That’s one of the reasons that drew me to this story, because it has a universal appeal, it’s also a very well-known story, which makes it difficult because everyone really – it’s a well-trod story. But what happened was, I started doing some theological research into the most bizarre passage of the Bible. I’d always considered Genesis 6:1-4 to be the most bizarre passage. It talks about the sons of God, came down from heaven – these are divine beings that come down from heaven – saw that the daughters of men were beautiful and married them and they bore Nephilim or giants. It’s like “what?!” I’d always go “that’s just freaky.”
Bill: That is freaky. You mean these sons of God didn’t look at these women and say “who would make a good wife for me?” No, they just sort of did the raw lust thing. Isn’t that the way it looks, just on the surface?
Brian: Yeah, absolutely. But there’s so much more behind it. I also thought, “is this just one of those bizarre things …” – the Bible has things that we don’t understand and maybe we will in the future but they’re there and you seek to figure them out. Maybe this is one of those weird ones that we won’t know.
Bill: Let’s move on quickly past those, right? Isn’t that what we do in Bible studies?
Brian: Absolutely! It’s like “I don’t know … I’ll just keep going on the rest of the story that makes sense.” Absolutely. So I started reading Michael Heiser’s material. Michael Heiser is a biblical scholar. He’s on the internet. He deals with – his PhD dissertation was on the sons of God and the Divine Council and the interesting stuff in the Bible. He’s a Orthodox Christian. He’s the head editor of the academic part of the Logos Bible Software. He’s a really fascinating guy. I started reading his material and I started learning more about these sons of God. It fascinated me and I saw a story in the Bible that I had never seen before, all these years. This old, worn out story of Noah, suddenly became alive because I realized there is a thread – it’s not just one obscure passage. There’s actually a thread connected to these giants and the Nephilim and the sons of God that goes throughout all the Scriptures, even into the New Testament era. Again, these were other passages that were like – every once in a while you read in the Bible, you see these statements “and Og had a bed of 13 feet,” or so-and-so “is a giant,” “they killed this giant.” Again, same thing that you said earlier, you’re just going to go “that’s weird, but just keep reading,” because it doesn’t make sense. Now I started realizing there’s all these things – all these verses are linked in this thread. As I discovered the thread, I saw a fascinating story. It made Noah’s story come alive and I said “I’ve got to tell the story.” I’m a filmmaker so I thought “I’ve got to write a screenplay. I want to sell this movie. Make a movie – it’d be cool! It’d be big!” So I did that, I wrote the screenplay. I’m really excited about it. A really unique take, dealing with these giants and these sons of God and all this stuff. It’s all the stuff that happened that led up to the flood and then it ends with the flood. It’s a real wicked world and all this kind of stuff. I finished the script and I realized “this thing’s going to be so expensive,” that I thought the chances of it getting made are, of course, almost zero. I wanted the story to get out so I said “I’ve got to write the novel. I’ve got to write the novel.” At least the novel can get it and in today’s world, even if a publisher doesn’t take it, you could self-publish it. I wrote the novel and that’s what I’ve released. In the course of writing it, I realized that it’s part one of a series. It’s a series of four books called “The Chronicles of the Nephilim.” This is the first book and it starts out before the flood. Here’s the take I took. Conceptually, here’s what I did – we don’t really know a lot about Noah, from the Bible. If you really think about it, a lot of what we think we know comes from well-meaning Sunday School teachers. But a lot of it’s our own cultural bias. For instance, let me give you an example, it really doesn’t say – other than the description of the flood, there’s a chapter on that whole flood thing – but about Noah himself and what he’s like, it really just says a few things about him. It says he was a righteous man and he walked with God. He was blameless in his generation. That’s about all it says. It doesn’t say what he was, like was he a farmer? Was he a nomad? After the flood, it said he started to become a man of the land, but not before the flood.
Bill: Brian, I’m embarrassed, I can’t remember where the passage is – I’m embarrassed for myself – doesn’t Lamech give a prophecy about him though? Just before? I think he says something about him that he’s going to do something. I think there’s a redemptive thing there that I’ve never really unpacked exegetically but it’d be fun to go back and look at that too. But you’re right, there’s not much going on in terms of him. That gives you some room, doesn’t it?
Brian: Yes, it does. Lamech – it’s actually Noah’s name, is that he would be called Noah because he will give the land rest. That’s pretty much what it is. That’s, of course, a metaphor of God cleansing the land.
Bill: Rest form wickedness, I would say.
Brian: Exactly. So here’s the thing, I thought, imagine – this world must have been really wicked. We don’t realize how deeply wicked it could be. That of course makes good fodder for a movie or a book. Here I am thinking – when you think of Noah, what do you think of? This old, white bearded man, because of course he was 500 years old. Probably a farmer and he gets this call and he gets his sons together and builds this boat. You know what? He could not have built that boat alone. That boat was so huge. Man was tribal back then, so he probably had a tribe. He probably had a tribe to have to help with it because there’s no way him and his three sons could build that huge edifice. There are all kinds of assumptions that you have to probe to consider the way things might have been. One of them was, if we don’t know what he was – a farmer or a nomad – he could have been a warrior, for all we know. A lot of righteous men in the Bible were warriors so my premise was, what if Noah was a warrior? He was a tribal leader who is back in this ancient time who refused to be a part of the wickedness and the wicked men come after him. It’s kind of like a Lord of the Rings, Braveheart type thing, but there’s romance in it. That was one of the premises. The other premise that was creative and imaginative yet, based on theological connection to the Bible, was back in the ancient world, Pagans worshipped the pantheon of gods and each city had a different god that it worshipped. These gods were all part of a pantheon together. We see all the ancient carvings, from Mesopotamia, of these deities, with their bird heads and all this. I said “what if the ancient gods of the ancient world of Mesopotamia were real beings, with real powers? Only they weren’t gods, per se, like we’re thinking, but they were these sons of God that the Bible says came down from heaven, called all this wickedness.” They were these fallen angels, so to speak. Of course angels would have powers, right? And they could act like gods and get people to worship them. That would be idolatry. Then they would reveal secrets … I started thinking, that would be really cool, and it’s certainly imaginative, but it certainly is consistent with the Bible, at least theologically, because essentially the Bible talks about these fallen sons of God and God allotted control of certain nations to these sons of God. They were disobedient sons of God. There’s this whole story that started coming up and that’s what I read about. There’s a few other things I can bring in too, but that at least gets the ball rolling.
Bill: What you’re drawing on – what I like is – and I’ve read some of Heiser’s material as well, the Divine Council blew me away the first time that I went through that. It’s hard to sleep, because it jerks your paradigm, until you realize that if you go into Job and you read Job – Job starts out by … the section in there “and God and Satan were talking one day …” Heiser reminds you of that and you have to say “wow – maybe the paradigm isn’t the way the Sunday School literature had painted the paradigm.” As you said, if you were going to paint Noah at 500 years old, you’re going to give him a beard and that’s how you’re going to make him be 500 years old. In our paradigm, wouldn’t he be worse than that? Think about it, why couldn’t he be … I notice you have him kind of buff, he looks like he’s been at Gold’s Gym.
Brian: If you’re a nomadic tribal warrior, you’re going to have to be strong.
Bill: You’re going to have to be. I was thinking as you said that, too, during that period of time, you had this element of wickedness. You probably were a tribal warrior or at least you were attached to someone who was. That would describe almost everybody. You were part of a fiefdom, a group, a tribe, whatever it is you’re describing. I don’t see painting him as that picture as walking very far out the lines at all, given what we know about Sumerian literature and how you’ve got it painted. I think you’ve drawn on Heiser quite nicely to create that. I was thinking about Ghostbusters when you … weren’t they always reading some of the Sumerian literature and some of this stuff to try to come up with …
Brian: Yeah, Gozer – that’s a whole ‘nother paradigm thing, the whole alien thing. We’ve got the alien subculture believes in the alien conspiracies and stuff these days. I’m trying to think of that TV show – what was the TV show about that government and aliens …
Bill: There’s a lot of them at Roswell. As a matter of fact, that’s where I … I was going to go to Roswell, to Area 51, because Heiser was going to speak at one of these Christian conferences out there, where he’s demystifying, in his opinion, what this is. There’s some other good speakers as well that put on a conference on the 4th of July. He really speaks well to that, not that we want to get on that tangent, but he speaks well to that as well. I think that’s important to think – you’re drawing on this other literature. The Sumerians had a flood – a view of the flood as well – probably a little differently than our Bible version …
Brian: Here’s the thing. I go back – I love ancient storytelling – Mesopotamian and Sumerian literature. I also love ancient Jewish literature that’s non-canonical, that’s not in the Bible. I discovered that the ancient Jews had their sacred scriptures, same as mine, but they also wrote a lot of other books where they retold the Bible stories. There was a whole corpus of literature, some of it we call the apocrypha, some of it we call pseudepigrapha and they include other books. There’s the “Book of Jubilees” and the “Book of Enoch” and some other books that deal with biblical stories but they embellish them. There’s a lot more material in there. You think, does this mean they’re trying to write new scripture but it just didn’t get in? No. They knew it wasn’t scripture. Were they lying and pretending “this is also true”? No. What they were doing, I think, was – as I’ve been studying it – they were retelling these Bible stories to their own generation to make them relevant. A lot of times there is a lot of moral equivalencies going on. For example, one of those books was the “Book of Enoch” – the first Enoch. That was written probably around the 3rd Century, BC. Some of it was written later, in later years. For example, there’s a lot of talk in the “Book of 1 Enoch” about corruption and holiness and all this. Some of that is connected in history to a time period called “the time period of the Maccabees.” Maccabees was a time where the Hellenistic culture was controlling the Jews and the Jews were corrupted. Some holy men led warriors to fight and get out of under the thumb of the Hellenistic powers. It was all about corruption. They were retelling the story of Noah in the “Book of 1 Enoch” and the flood, in light of some of that context. But that was a book that I actually drew upon for my story. I found out that the “Book of Enoch” talks in much more detail about these fallen sons of God, the giants and all this stuff before the flood. It’s not scripture, but in the history of the Christian church, it’s always been a respected book and also, I found out, that the New Testament itself actually quotes and paraphrases from Enoch, from “1 Enoch,” in the “Book of Jude” – New Testament “Book of Jude” – the “Book of 1 Peter” and the “Book of 2 Peter.” They all make references to these … the “Book of Jude” actually quotes Enoch and the “Book of Enoch” where it says “the Lord will come with 10,000 of his holy ones” – this is the Divine Council – “to execute judgment on the earth.” That verse is literally quoted from the “Book of 1 Enoch.” Then also it makes reference to these angels who go after the strange flesh, which is angels going after human flesh. Jude and Second Peter talks about that. “1 Peter” talks about angels who were punished for their disobedience before the flood by being bound into the earth. That’s in “1 Enoch” but it’s nowhere else in the Old Testament. My point here is simply – does that mean I’m saying First Enoch’s scripture? No, but what I believe is, even the New Testament – even the sacred writers of the Bible – respect this literature of the Jews that wasn’t scriptural but it was the retelling of Bible stories. So, that’s my basis for why I went ahead and said “I want to retell Noah to my generation. I want to employ other ancient sources of stories,” like from Mesopotamia since that’s where it happened. There’s certainly some Mesopotamian influence on the Bible. What I wanted to do is I want to say “how can we understand – if my sacred text is the Bible, is Genesis, but I also believe there’s some truth in these other texts …” I tried to employ that into the story and say “this is where they went wrong … this is where they got the idea from.” Combined it all into an entertaining – I don’t want to get so heavy theologically, because the bottom line is I wrote the book to read like you’re watching a movie. It’s actually quite short. It’s a tale, it’s a chase movie, it’s a – Noah is this tribal leader, refuses to worship the gods of the land, so the gods send Nephilim assassins after him to kill him. He’s on the run. They find out he’s the chosen one who’s going to bring rest to the land and God’s going to judge the world, but they don’t know how. He’s on the run. Then his wife and kid become slaves of the bad guys and he has to go in and rescue them.
Bill: Brian, let’s keep talking about it. We’re going to go to a short break. Before we go to a break, I want to read something real quickly. This is high praise from Ralph Winter, the producer of the “X-Men” and “Planet of the Apes.” Here’s what he’s saying about your book and I think it’s important for our listeners to hear this. He’s making obvious reference to some of the other hits – blockbuster hits that are in movies these days. He says “wizard schools and teen vampires are child’s play. This is the origin of sorcerer and vampire tales. ‘Noah Primeval’ will keep you on the edge of your seat with its primal struggle for good and evil. Supernatural fiction, fantasy and biblical speculation as a cinematic novel. It reads like a blockbuster movie.” Again, from Ralph Winter, producer of “X-Men” and the “Planet of the Apes.” We’re going to go to a short break and then we’re going to come back and talk a little bit more about the story and about sanctifying myth and about how to use the story.[0:38:12 – 0:42:32 break]
Bill: And we’re back again. It’s Bill Heid, talking with Brian Godawa. We’ve been talking about his new book “Noah Primeval.” It’s a great book. As I just mentioned, the producer of “X-Men” loves it. I haven’t finished reading it, Brian, I just started because as soon as I knew it was out I downloaded it on the Kindle and wanted to have it.
Brian: It’s on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, everybody.
Bill: You can go to all the secular places and buy from secular people and get your book. It’s really worth reading. As far as I’m concerned, it would make a great off-the-grid, as we say here, Christmas gift, because you’re going to surprise somebody with a gift that, compliments of Brian, is actually really, really well written and it does keep you on the edge of your seat and you are going to get further and further into this story. Instead of sending your kids down the vampire trail, why not send them down someplace that has some basis in reality. Brian, I wanted to tell you, years ago my daughter Stephanie went to Hillsdale. Another guy – you had sent me the script of “Cruel Logic” years ago. Another guy that had sent me a script was Brad Birzer. Brad was one of Steph’s professors at Hillsdale. He had written a book on Tolkien called “Sanctifying Myth.” It was about Tolkien’s use of the same premise about trying to illustrate a story. What you’re doing is – not saying “what if Middle Earth was true, but what if this world of Noah was this crazy, ancient world submerged in darkness and submerged in all this stuff that’s so foreign to us that it makes you stop and go ‘whoa! What if that was the way it was?’”
Brian: No, really, that’s exactly right. I thought the world before the flood must have been so different from ours that it would seem like magic to us. One of the things I did was I said “I’m going to tell this story and I’m going to try to stay true to the basic facts that are in the Bible, but I’m also going to bring in some imaginative elements.” The imaginative elements are based on other images and concepts that are in the Bible. For example, Sheol – the underworld where the dead are – there’s a lot of references to Sheol. By and large, there’s a lot of metaphors about the mouth of Sheol is never satisfied. The dead are – a bed of maggots is your bed. The worm never dies. I thought, I’m going to use this imagery but I’m going to make it come alive. I have Noah, literally, being chased down and he ends up going down into Sheol with the help of his sarcastic archangel sidekick, Uriel, who’s sent by God to give him the calling and to try to protect him. He ends up going in Sheol in order to escape from the Nephilim because, of course, the Nephilim are so bad and so wicked and you can’t escape them, they’re so good. A handful of Nephilim could take out all the nine Black Riders in Lord of the Rings because these guys are giants. They don’t even have to ride horses because they run so fast themselves. They run faster than any beast of burden. They’re 15 feet tall. They’ve got tattoos over their whole body because they’re occultic. They know how to kill. If they’re after you, you’re going to be a goner. But there’s one place they won’t go and that’s Sheol because they’re afraid of it. That’s where Noah has to jump into the abyss and go to Sheol and he’s guarded by his archangel. When you’re down in Sheol, all the things that are down there are based on these images in the Bible. I made them come alive. That was my premise. But I also thought, I actually think there’s something to some horror movies. You mentioned vampires and zombies – I actually think that there’s something rooted in our consciousness. I wrote this story as “this is the origin where a lot of that stuff came from.” It’s not a horror story book, by any means. Like I said, there’s romance, it’s an action adventure. But there are some of those scary elements in there. It’s like this is the origin of where all those myths came from – the myths of vampires … you find out the need for blood was based on these sons of God wanting human sacrifice. The human sacrifice is blood so there’s blood sacrifice, which of course we’re familiar with if you read the Bible. That shows that’s where the vampire taste came from. These sons of God are like the original vampires. I have some of that element in there, not real detailed. It’s not a horror book, but it’s definitely got those cool elements in there. I think there’s a little bit for everyone. There’s some romance between – Noah and his wife have this wonderful marriage but they’re split apart and he has to save her. She has to remain true to Noah because the king of the city that has captured made her think he’s dead and he’s wooing her and trying to get her to fall in love with him. He actually wants to marry her. That’s going on and she’s trying to remain true to the memory of her husband until she realizes he is alive. There’s all this cool stuff going on in a world of ancient sand dunes and sand cities in Arabia as well as Mesopotamian cities, but also mountain world and I’ve got a little paradise – not Eden, but it’s like a paradise valley where they build the ark. There’s all kinds of wild worlds that you’re going into. In fact, it was so interesting to me that I made a website noahprimeval.com. You can go there and you click on the novel part and I have a bunch of pictures of all the locations, so to speak, that occur in the novel, whether it’s Mesopotamia, Sheol, the desert. It shows you the feel of the world, the environment …
Bill: Sure. Is this on the site? I’m on the site right now. Is this where – you go to noahprimeval.com and then where do you go from there?
Brian: Click on the novel and then it says … I’m going there too now. I should have been there. Then you see “story locations.” You click on “story locations” and then it lists a whole bunch of them – the Great Cedar Forest, the city of Erech, the temple and the palace. It gives you this whole cool picture. I did that to help give a feel for the ambience and the environment of the novel. Something that fans would love, I think.
Bill: Is there an age group that you were targeting? I’m pretty comfortable with the writing style.
Brian: There really wasn’t. I did keep in mind that – one of the things I learned in my world of Hollywood – Hollywood movies are the best storytelling in the world, in my opinion. Yeah, there’s a lot of bad movies, I know. But they’ve got to make a lot of money, so they’ve developed storytelling to a great height. I think a lot of novelists could learn a lot from Hollywood storytelling.
Bill: They don’t always have a plumb line, do they Brian? They don’t always have the same plumb line that a Christian would have, but they need to know – it’s like reading these old detective – ever read some of these old detective books? You are on your edge all the time. Another thing that I was thinking about, just as you said that, in the old days, my Grandma Hess used to watch these shows on TV during the day called “The Edge of Night” and these things. These people on daytime television – the old soap operas – were masters, and maybe they still are, were masters of suspense because you were always wanting to know – you were willing to sit through the commercials because you didn’t want to go out and get some water or something and then find out that Donna didn’t die in the hospital and that her husband finally made it, or whatever goofy thing that it was. But you’re right, Christians need to look at what these folks are doing because they really do know how to tell a story. As I said, their plumb line is not – their antithesis is not a Christian antithesis, but why would you assume that it is? You can still learn from them.
Brian: I would argue – I would go a little step further and I would argue that the Western storytelling paradigm of beginning, middle and end and a lot of the things that Hollywood does is actually based, founded originally upon, the Hebrew storytelling structure. There’s much of the Western storytelling that actually is biblical, I would argue. And, story itself is all about a world view and communicating a moral values. It’s just you may have different moral values but it’s in the service of whatever moral value you have, but it definitely is the means of how you communicate those values. That’s rooted in, I think, Western storytelling is rooted in the Bible. That’s why I think it’s more interesting. We have a more interesting storytelling … well, this is cultural bias, but Hollywood movies are the #1 movie in the world. Everyone sees more Hollywood movies all over the world than anything else.
Bill: That’s our main export, is it not, Brian?
Brian: Yeah, just about. Or television. But my only point here that I’m making is that I bring that storytelling – screenwriting and storytelling to my novels because I think it does tell a better story and it keeps you more interested. It does make a point at the end, rather than some of these novels which are long, rambling interior monologues … Michener type, extended details – sometimes, some people like that, and that’s OK. But mine is more fast-paced, twists in every other chapter type of thing, and it keeps you on the edge. Ultimately, it’s a fun ride that if you want to go deeper you can. One of the things I did was on the surface it’s entertaining but there’s something below the surface for those who want more. What I did was, this theological stuff that I was learning was so fascinating to me that I said “I’ve got to put appendixes at the back of the book, like Michael Crichton used to do where he would have an appendix about the real science that the fictional book was based on.” I did the real theological study that my novel was based on for those who want to go further into this stuff. In other words, it wasn’t just made out of whole cloth, I actually based it on theological study and spiritual interests. There’s a little bit for everyone in there, whether you want the heady stuff or just want a great entertaining adventure.
Bill: It’s a great novel and a great piece. Brian, is there anything else that you want to say? I was thinking about – we’re warriors too. We have a culture to live in, we have a battle to fight. Again, the scene from the Ghostbusters – “aim for the flat top.” We have a battle to win. We have to engage. Do you want to speak just in your closing comments to the book and the battle that we’re in now? Because we’re in a battle now.
Brian: Absolutely. Especially your particular audience, I know, would really appreciate this because it’s very much so. It’s like the coming apocalypse is coming in Noah’s time so you need to be prepared and you need to have your ark to ride through those times. I think that your audience would appreciate that where some others might not. How that’s going to come, I don’t know. I have my own interpretation – everybody has different interpretations. The novel doesn’t go into that, this is about the ancient past. I think there’s the analogy there that we learn from it. There’s a lot of themes in this book that I think will resonate with people. There’s the themes of faith and doubt. There’s the theme of love versus lust. There’s the theme of righteousness versus self-righteousness. What does it mean to be a good person or a righteous person versus self-righteousness? And what does it mean to be prepared for justice when it comes? The only other thing would be that there is a website that you can go to – I have a real cool trailer, I have a video of me explaining some of this. There’s a lot of material on the website, if people are interested. The first few chapters you can get for free, to check it out before you buy it. Also, you can sign up at the website to keep up with – because like I said, it’s only the first in the series of novels and there’s a lot more information and a lot more cool links – I write free articles about this material and I’ll keep you in on that stuff. You can sign up for it at the website. There’s all kinds of cool stuff connected. This is not just a cool novel, this is a whole paradigm – it’s a long story, like a Lord of the Rings thing. It’s an epic and there’s definitely more to come.
Bill: You’ve done a great job. I want to say thanks for doing this and thanks, Brian, for not only doing it – for writing this book and all the work you’ve done – but also, I think you’re going to spawn a new generation of folks, of young people, that take your lead and start to think this way. I just wanted to say thanks for coming on the show and wish you a Merry Christmas, you and your family. Wish you the best with the book.
Brian: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.
Bill: You bet. Again, this is Bill Heid with Off the Grid Radio. We just want to say thanks. We know your time is valuable and we appreciate you spending it with us. Have a Merry Christmas, have a happy holidays. Take care.