Gays Reading

Stephen Markley (The Deluge) on Climate Not-So-Fiction

December 07, 2023 Brett Benner, Jason Blitman, Stephen Markley Season 1 Episode 30
Stephen Markley (The Deluge) on Climate Not-So-Fiction
Gays Reading
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Gays Reading
Stephen Markley (The Deluge) on Climate Not-So-Fiction
Dec 07, 2023 Season 1 Episode 30
Brett Benner, Jason Blitman, Stephen Markley

Jason and Brett talk to Stephen Markley (The Deluge) about writing his climate fiction epic over the course of 13 years, scaring Stephen King,  differences between writing for television and novels, and growing up in Ohio. 

Stephen Markley is the acclaimed author of Ohio, which NPR called a “masterpiece.” A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Markley’s other books include the memoir Publish This Book and the travelogue Tales of Iceland

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Show Notes Transcript

Jason and Brett talk to Stephen Markley (The Deluge) about writing his climate fiction epic over the course of 13 years, scaring Stephen King,  differences between writing for television and novels, and growing up in Ohio. 

Stephen Markley is the acclaimed author of Ohio, which NPR called a “masterpiece.” A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Markley’s other books include the memoir Publish This Book and the travelogue Tales of Iceland

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Jason Blitman:

How are you today?

Brett Benner:

I'm pretty good. I'm feel like I'm going to hit a wall a little bit later because I. I woke up very early with a lot on my mind. And so I woke up on one of those like 4 a. m. Kind of staring at the ceiling and had a hard time falling back to sleep and then got up at 6. Other than that I am fantastic. I'm going to my daughter's basketball game the first time I'm going to see her play basketball this afternoon. So I'm really excited to see that. And I said, how about you?

Jason Blitman:

was there just not a game for her to, for you to go to, or this is the first one you're making it

Brett Benner:

This is the first one I'm making it to. There was one last week, which I couldn't make it to, was it weirdly, most of these are like kind of school hours. Like today it's at three o'clock, but generally like this one last week was at seven o'clock at night on the West side. And I just couldn't get over there. It was a hall. And she came into the team late. She didn't start in the fall. She originally started swimming and then it was like, you know what? I really want to try basketball out and she used to love basketball as a kid. So I think she's again, got re energized and really found this sport that she loves and she loves the other girls and so yeah, she's excited. So that's this afternoon. So we'll see. How are you?

Jason Blitman:

I'm okay. Hanging in, right? It's that time of year, I feel like, when everyone is their heads are in a hundred different places.

Brett Benner:

Certainly. Holidays are perhaps approaching like a freight train.

Jason Blitman:

Exactly. New year what are our resolutions? Do people do resolutions? What are we thinking? What are we feeling? Anyway. Books, books, Books. Excited about the books. A quick shoutout to a book that came out on Tuesday, which I haven't read, but it's on my radar, and I think because of the fourth wing of it all, I'm like, curious about it. But it's called A River of Golden Bones by A. K. Mulford. And it's, it says, a sleeping curse, a fallen court, a secret twin, full of adventure, love, gender exploration, and self discovery, a river of golden bones follows Kala's journey through treacherous wolf kingdoms, monster filled realms, and the depths of their own heart in this thrilling romantic fantasy, which like, generally would not be my jam at all, but I'm ready to dip my toe into another fantasy. It's a little queer, the cover's great.

Brett Benner:

cover's beautiful.

Jason Blitman:

and I'm like sort of into it. So it's one that I figured I'd give it a shout out cause why not?

Brett Benner:

Why

Jason Blitman:

a book podcast.

Brett Benner:

And you know what else? It looks like this could be the perfect kind of book for the holiday season for people who don't want to get stuck on Netflix, watching 365 days of holiday movies. It looks really good. And I like, yeah,

Jason Blitman:

it's also on the back. It says, if you were Sleeping Beauty's twin, lusting over your sister's big bad wolf fiance, forced on a journey in Howl's moving castle in order to kill the Wicked Witch, would you be brave enough to figure out what kind of hero you are?

Brett Benner:

to go to the festival,

Jason Blitman:

I know. I'm like, what is this into the woods shenanigans going on? I'm

Brett Benner:

little beauty And the

Jason Blitman:

like itching to read it. I'm so excited.

Brett Benner:

I want you to start and then tell me to start immediately too.

Jason Blitman:

And it's interesting, too, because we're talking about Stephen Markley and his book, The Deluge which just recently came out in paperback, but it's You know, speculative fiction not even, it's it was speculative fiction that I needed to rewrite because it was too busy, it was too quickly coming true,

Brett Benner:

should be called soothsayer

Jason Blitman:

I know, literally but A River of Golden Bones, and just like fantasy in general, I'm like, take me to a different world where I know that this isn't gonna happen so anyway, I'm excited for

Brett Benner:

What do you mean? Your sister's not going to end up with some wolf bro?

Jason Blitman:

listen, never say never.

Brett Benner:

Yeah, maybe it's just a bear.

Jason Blitman:

So we do, we have Stephen Markley on today and his book, it's it's scary looking.

Brett Benner:

It's huge. Look, let's not lie. It's big. It's intimidating that said that should not prohibit you from picking up this, really character driven story that is so phenomenal and frightening at times. It's really frightening because a

Jason Blitman:

the deluge in one hand and the Barbara memoir on the other hand, and that's your exercise for the

Brett Benner:

You really could. You could do curls. You could do presses the

Jason Blitman:

But yeah, super character driven, very interesting and thoughtful, and really a page turner. And really great on audio as well. Stephen Markley is the acclaimed author of Ohio, which NPR called a masterpiece. He's a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop. Markley's other books include the memoir Publish This Book and the travelogue Tales of Iceland. Something I forgot to mention on Our last episode, which came out the other day, our cozy season book recommendations, is that everything that we recommend and everything that we talk about, all the books can be found on our bookshop. org page, which is linked in our show notes. So you can also get your copy of The Deluge or Stephen Markley's other books in our bookshop. org page. And as always, if you're liking what you're hearing, share us with your friends, like us, review us wherever you listen to your podcasts, check out our Patreon. As we've been talking about the last few episodes, we have some fun stuff up on our Patreon, including like cut content and a video of our conversation with the old gays, which is super fun. And as the holidays are coming up, we have our merchandise. We're like, full

Brett Benner:

are going on,

Jason Blitman:

things are going on over at the gays reading.

Brett Benner:

sir.

Jason Blitman:

And All of that said, I'm Jason

Brett Benner:

I'm Brett.

Jason Blitman:

and enjoy this episode of GA

Brett Benner:

reading.

Music

Brett, Jason, and Stephen Markley:

Hi Steven. And I'm Brett wait, are you in Ohio right now? Yeah. I'm back home in Ohio. Yep. Childhood bedroom. You have to. This is not, you're not the first person to come to us from their childhood bedroom. It's cozy, oh my God. My son is at Kenyon. Oh, no kidding. Very close. I'Ve been in your neck of the woods more than I ever would have anticipated in the last two years. Have you read Ohio? No, it's funny because I just posted on Instagram, I just posted today. I'm reading it this weekend because I had wanted to read it before this and I just didn't get to it. But I know, but it's part of this conversation because I think it's so fascinating that was your previous book and then ground zero by the end of the deluge is Ohio. It's funny. I, when we arrived, to go visit the school. It was at night and we were driving, um, out of Columbus and all you could see, like it was Google Maps and it was like the night of Google Maps and it was just cornfields and. Ryan was like, where the fuck are you taking me? And then that morning coming in, there were literally, I remember this one house with the wraparound porch with the huge banner that said, Biden's not my president, Trump 2020. You know what I mean? And I was like, he was so wigged out. And then of course we walked onto campus and there were like pride flags and kids, all races and colors. That banner is tame. I feel like I've seen more hardcore banners than that. Just going to the grocery. I was up, I was speaking at Kent State the other day, and so I drove up drove up there and I just you always forget the fall colors in Ohio are just one of the most beautiful things. So I'm allowed to shit on the state because like I'm from here so I can do whatever I feel like. But I do truly love, I love it, and I love coming back, and man, that I couldn't believe how beautiful it looked and the weather was perfect, and it was just so lovely. Ohio, really, I like, I have to ride for it a little here. It is a blast. And, uh, I just think it has some of the most underrated, uh, sort of funds. Like Columbus is a lot of fun. Cleveland's a lot of fun. Columbus is amazing. And Columbus is, Columbus is, I'm telling you, it's exploding right now because of all the Intel, all the tech stuff that's coming in. But also, I have to tell him, he knows. But I don't also know if you've seen in Los Angeles, there are billboards in LA saying come to Ohio, move your business here, which I think is fascinating. Yeah, well, you can come and help un gerrymander the state. So yeah, uh, that's, that's sort of the next project right now is, is that it is a, it's a much more. progressive place than it lets on, uh, because the political situation here has gotten so insane. Um, and sort of the, the right wing like deadlock on state politics has become just a, like a totally catastrophic problem. Um, but so that's a story for another time, I guess. You love talking about catastrophic problems, don't you? Yeah, it's my beat. This will be an interesting conversation in a way because, the book has been out for almost a year and your paperback is just come out. But just to launch in, I wondered if you could just for our, for anyone who has been under a rock and does not know, if you can give, your log line of what the book is. That would be the de deluge. Yeah. So the deluge is a it's a near future epic of the climate crisis. And so it starts in 2013 and ends in 2040. So it bridges our recent, recognizable past with the future we. Potentially will inhabit, right? And it's about how the climate crisis will metastasize, how it will feel to live inside of it and all the ramifications that we'll have, not just on our environment, but also our economy and our culture and our society in broader strokes, right? So I like to think of it as like It's if you could live inside a climate model and look at it through the eyes of these seven characters and what they're seeing and what they're feeling and how they're experiencing this. I had a conversation with Emily St. John Mandel about Station 11 and how she wrote a pandemic book two years before a pandemic. Obviously I think like we all know that global warming is a thing is getting worse we've seen disaster movies, but are you, because you're sort of it in a way that most people aren't. Do you feel like you're becoming a weird spokesperson for? Absolutely. You're like, I'm a writer y'all. Yeah. But you don't write a book like this and then not have to answer questions about, the science and the economics and, The energy transition and a million other subjects. So I've had to become a Dante in a lot of different subjects and areas just to answer basic reader questions at bookstores. Did you anticipate that going into it? Okay, I'm gonna become an armchair expert on this for this moment? Yeah. Look like the purpose of the book is to. Is that it's hyper realism, right? It is set in the future, but it's not there is no day after tomorrow super storm that engulfs the earth. It's not geo storm. It's not any of these sort of big budget disaster movies. It's really about staying as close to the science as possible and guiding the reader on a tour of what that's going to feel like to live there, even though we're pretty much already living through it right now. And that's been the really insane part about the response to the book is it's so tied to book. Oh my god I looked out my window and the smoke from the wildfires in Canada were engulfing New York City. And people writing to me about these experiences. And so the book is coming true, and was coming true, faster than I could write it. Yeah. You were writing it like, slightly far, you say, in the future, it's said in the near future, but it was actually happening a lot faster than You've been made up in your book. There were so many times in the process of writing it where I'd have to literally revise a chapter, revise a paragraph describing this future event that was happening right now. And there were so many examples of that. And then at the end I had to go through and like all these terrifying temperatures I was putting in the future were suddenly no longer as terrifying because they were all being broken in real time around the world. And so it's just, it's been. This process of feeling like acceleration at all times. You're suddenly like the the lit version of Al Gore, it's so crazy. I was watching him prepping for this yesterday and he was on, I didn't even remember the website I saw him on. First of all, I hadn't seen Al Gore in so long that I was like, good God, he's gotten old. But he was saying, and I wrote this down, he just said If we eliminated dependence on fossil fuels today, we could begin to see reversal in the current climate crisis in three to five years, which just that amount of time. I was like that long, but okay, but we could all go probably go through. We're going through. He said, if we kept up in place for 25 to 30 years, we'll have wound back a hugely significant part of what's now taking place. But also he was just talking about what else is happening now is just the climate refugees that are, did inevitably it's going to start to happen. I did a group read along with this book, and one of the things that. Is so intimidating for some people. It's just the size, right? Because you're making a big commitment So we read it over a month and there were about 13 of us on this zoom afterwards we all were positively Scared shitless and then proceeded over the next six weeks to be sending each other news articles as the stuff kept coming out that was in the book right down even to airplane turbulence, which of course I always think of every time I get into a plane about how, airplane turbulence is just going to increase because of what am I trying to say? Drafts and the updrafts and all of that. So it is a. It is a book that, it's no surprise that Stephen King has blurbed it like it has. And it's one of the most terrifying things because we are living it right now. I'll tell you a couple quick stories. And one is, the first is that I was so fortunate enough, like Stephen King was a childhood hero of mine. Like I read everything he wrote in a matter of years, when I was in my teenage years. And so we have A loose pen pal email correspondence, but when he was reading it He would email me a link to something and say you called it and I was like This is great. I've like scared stephen king. That is quite the accomplishment. And then the second one is I was at a reading in cincinnati. This was When the hardback came out and I was going on, talking about climate, talking about the science, talking about what we should do. And my mom was there and she put up her hand and interrupted and just goes, he's making it sound quite scientific and a little boring, but it is quite a page turner. So gripping. And then she just goes on to describe all the gripping parts of the book. And I was just like, she just had the floor for five minutes. So did she identify herself as your mother or was she just rando in the audience? No, she, I, yeah, I was like, thanks mom. And going up to her in the audience after asking how they could make their kids novelists, like things like that. Exactly. I'm surprised you, I'm surprised you just didn't take her along with you and just use her as a plant in every single, all your readings. She would love that. She would love that. It seems obvious for us to talk about the immediate ness of the book. It feels obvious for us to talk about the length of the book. What are things that you don't get to talk about the book, or that people haven't talked to you about? Because the There's a lot of book to get through and a lot, I think, to talk and the world is crumbling around all of us. It's like easy to get there. But are you craving to talk about something else that you've not gotten a chance to? I Get asked about almost every angle I could think of. But I think like what I mean, I know the book is scary as hell because it keeps coming true faster. But the book is also. It's not just about the terror of the crisis. It's also about the people who are resolute in their commitment to doing something about it. And I feel like that is often lost in the discussion of climate change is that we know exactly what we should be doing. We have every technology we need. We know exactly the policies we should have in place. And there's this enormous political obstacle in in the guise of the fossil fuel industry which is, still propagandizing and fomenting denial and trying to stop progress on this energy transition that is going to happen one way or the other. And so I just think that is what the book is actually about is, uh, American democracy's interaction with this crisis. And what the obstacles are and how we either get around them or blow through I feel like you can write a 900 page book about all of the obstacles that American democracy is like not. tackling that we all, that we see right in front of us, like gun control is a perfect example. Like here we are today having this conversation. We can all read your 900 page book on that next, bUt right. It's like the book itself is also it's a rally call. It's So you are, you're an armchair scientist. Can we take a moment and be like an armchair philosopher or sociologist and like, why do you be an arm, why arm chair, whatever you want, why do you think we're not fucking doing anything about it? I think that's another thing that people are frustrated by. It's like the world is crumbling. We're all looking at each other. Are we gonna, are we gonna do something? What's going on here? Yeah. And let me say this, though. I think we are doing something. It's just it's the speed with which it has to happen, right? There's 40, 30, 40 years of serious activism around this issue and a lot of very. dedicated and brave people who've done a lot to push the world in the right direction. I got to, in the course of writing this book, I got to meet with James Hansen. Hansen is known as the grandfather of climate change, quote unquote, because in 1988, he testified before Congress Great detriment to himself and his career, it turned out, but to basically say look, this is happening and we have to do something about it right now. And if we had done something about it in 1988 1992, we would not be in this situation. It's the fact that we've waited so long that's making everything, much more dangerous. But like I said before, it's a lot of like very dedicated people are working on every element of this crisis. And as I said, The book in motion, it builds up to this sort of economic and ecological catastrophe in the last section, right? And so I had set all this in motion and scared myself out of my mind because I was like, oh, this is so plausible and it's already happening right now. What would we actually do if all this comes to pass? And at that point, I began to talk to, every person I could think to who would answer my email, basically. And that was reassuring in a way because There are just so many people who have, they're nerdy and they're boring and, they're not great cocktail party conversationalists, but they have dedicated their lives to figuring out. What to do about sea level rise to figure out what to do about, firm baseload energy when we're using mostly wind and solar, what we should do about industrial emissions about airlines, like all these people who are looking at every facet of this crisis and in doing that, I'm like, okay this is all here. It's all in front of us. All we have to do is the work. You guys don't have the most quizzical looks on your faces. No, but you're right, like we do. So why do you think we're not doing the work? Why do you think, what, Well, the, You did say, you did give credit where credit is due and some of the work is getting done, but not fast enough. We're all sitting around saying we know it needs to happen faster. What, why isn't it happening faster? No, it's simple. It's, We, the fossil fuel industry, like we all use gasoline to get everywhere we need to go. It's it's built into our entire economy runs on this, right? So this industry is incredibly powerful and it's been powerful for a long time, but. That power, I really do believe is on the wane. Electrifying everything is coming. It's happening right now. It's probably not happening fast enough for my taste, but there's a reason. I'm back home in Ohio, and Issue 1, the abortion amendment, is like a very big deal right here. But you see those yard signs, yes or no on Issue 1, and then the other yard sign you see all over the place, Is no industrial solar. So I'm guessing there's a, probably the utility here is going around like funding, the campaign to stop solar panels from being built on farmland and stirring everybody up against it because they know it fucks up their business model, right? If you're giving people cheaper electricity that you don't need a fuel input for. It's, it's to their benefit, but not to the utilities benefit. So there's going to be an awful lot of resistance to this. There's going to be an awful lot of sort of propaganda and frankly, like filling up the public sphere with bullshit as big corporations are want to do. But at the end of the day, we absolutely can win this. It's like we have to, because we don't have a choice, we're not going to be here. My only concern ever is, at what point is it too late with something like this when we can't come back from it? And there is to your point earlier, the book does end on a hopeful note. There is a survival element. You certainly managed to wipe out a lot in your book, but I feel as someone who, read something and reacts to something emotionally. And I remember reading this and one of the reactions I and I think a lot of people have going through is what would I do in this situation? How would I respond in this situation as things begin? To get more extreme. And, I just have to say on a side note, I always anticipated that I was going to die under rubble after a major earthquake. I never imagined my demise would be from a fire tornado that was going to come tearing down from Los Feliz. So thank you so much for that. Maybe it'll be both bread. And it's interesting, just to the point of the tools are there. It's also the, all the information is there. I, there was a book. earlier this year called the earth transformed by franco pan and he's a historian and the book is it rivals the size of yours but it's the history of climate change from literally the first chapter is called the dawn of time yeah so it's how the, how global warming and climate change has been a thing, literally always. And it's inevitable and humans are going to get wiped out. We just need to decide how fast that's going to happen or not, but the earth will be okay, right? That's what's so interesting. It's like the earth is still going to be there. So we need to navigate. How much longer we want to be, so it's you give us the fictionalized companion piece of what can happen. I think what is so frightening to me is that it's, is that the crisis will not be a very pleasant, like asteroid hitting the planet and getting us all at once, right? The most terrifying part about it is that it's going to be. Grueling centuries of reactionary politics and, horrifying weather and, losses of food production fires, storms, and droughts that humanity has no experience with. It's, I think that's what's scary about it, is that it's actually not like the total turn the switch off on all human beings. Bring on the asteroid. Yes, exactly. We're all the lobsters in the pot just sitting here as the heat gets turned up and literally the heat is getting turned up and I'm most of you guys, speechless, most important question of the moment is tomato tomato deluge deluge. Deluge. This, and this is goes to hopefully I'm an autodidact and not an idiot, but I always said the deluge. And then the first time I talked to my editor, he was like, the deluge. And I was like, Oh no, have I been pronouncing this word wrong the entire time? I think you're allowed to say it either way. That's what I've been going with. Okay. Yeah. Just in case anyone is concerned. That's what I was thinking too. On a very different note. This is going to come as no surprise to Brett, but there cannot be a reference to this in a book and me not bring it up. One of my absolute favorite television shows of all time is Friday Night Lights. And I was thrilled to see a Friday Night Lights reference in this book. I'll be honest, but it was there. There was almost two and then the reference was such a Friday Night Lights deep cut. It's such a key emotional moment. I was like, I don't think I can hang this whole emotional moment on this. Friday nightlights Deep cut. So what was the Friday nightlights? Deep cut. Someone said clear eyes, clear heart can't lose. No, that, I think that happened in the book already, Brett. Yes. I know that's not even that's not a deep cut. Even if you've never seen the show, you know that's the catchphrase. No, I think Kate said something to Matt we've, you've always, we've always got one more in we, in us, don't we? Sarasin, like referring to Matt Sarasin. Oh. And I was like this is pretty in the weeds for, that is so funny. Yeah. I I had that experience of watching Friday Night Lights with a very nice young lady I was seeing at the time. And it's It is the most romantic show to watch with somebody. It is like just such. A tearjerker. Oh my God. So that's. People think it's so funny when I tell them it's one of my favorite TV shows. They're like, you're gay and you don't like sports. And I was like, I'm telling you, it's one of the best TV shows. It really is. It really is. And it causes for me, the last episode, I, it was ugly crying in front of the TV with the two of them standing on a ball field God, that show. It's such a testament to how incredible that show is that all of its diehard fans. are so totally willing to forgive this insane second season. Second season! I know what you did last summer. We're all willing to forgive it. Nobody cares. Yes, because you know why? Steven, this came up again on a recent interview, and our, the guest said the exact same thing. It's, we don't, nobody cares. It's nobody will ever forgive the end of Lost. Everybody will die hating that show. But like with Friday Night Lights, we're all like, yeah, whatever. Yeah. Jesse Clemens killed someone. But you're right when a show is that good, a massive plot disaster is forgivable. Minka Kelly even was good. All of it, it really was good. Wait, why we're in this world? I have to, cause it's like circuitous, but how is the going from this, how is the experience then doing only murders? Oh, it's such a different yeah, but only murders was the first ever TV show I wrote on. So I got that job because the executive producer Dan Fogelman read Ohio and really loved it. And so hired me for my first TV gig and it's like when you're writing a novel, you're emperor of the whole world, all the decisions are yours. You're working with an editor and maybe a couple of readers you trust. And it's. Easy to echolocate, right? What you want to do with everything. On a TV show, you're having like an endless, hilarious, frustrating, insane, crazy, wildly fun meeting the whole time, right? And we were all on zoom cause it was the pandemic, it was extra bizarre. And so it's such a different process where you're talking through all of these components that normally you're just, I'm just sitting by myself doing it all. And so letting go of my control freak nature, that's a challenge, letting go of like my, I have a very sort of decisive attitude towards work, where, working on plot or character or whatever, which is I make decisions quickly, and then if it turns out to be wrong, I go back and amend later, but I don't like stew a lot on details, and writing television is all stewing on the details first. So it's just a totally different set of muscles. But I enjoyed the hell out of it. Now I'm writing on a new show that should be a lot of fun as well. So what are you doing now? It's Fogelman and Sterling K Brown's next project together. Oh, and it's, I'll say it's going to be really different from this is us, I'll just say that, but I think it's like the plot itself is under wraps for now. That's awesome. And he's amazing, Sterling. And Dan's not bad either. Oh, he's incredible. He's incredible, yeah. Circling back to you talking about Friday Night Lights and watching it with a girlfriend and it being so romantic. Brett, I feel like Steven is the first, we've had other straight people, straight men on Gay's Reading before, you're the first dude. Yeah, you are, yeah totally. Probably that same girlfriend once said, you know what the most disappointing thing about you is? You're just a bro from Ohio. I know, I'm digging it, I'm like, alright, bring it on. That's so funny. I know you're giving bro from Ohio vibes and it's new for us. That's fine. Look, I'm just so glad I can bring that diversity to your guys podcast. Yes. Thank you. That's That's exactly right. That's exactly right. Speaking of, you are very self referential in the book talking about like a white person writing a book. Is that, I really appreciated that. That was something you mentioned. Can we talk a little bit about? What that representation means to you, what acknowledging that you're a white guy writing this book means to you. For me, it's it wasn't so much like I need to shoehorn this in to make everybody aware that I'm aware. It's more like looking at Kate, at the character of Matt through Kate's eyes, right? Kate is a real iconoclast in a, says her piece no matter what, even if it gets her into hot water. And so I came to this scene where, I Matt is like a mealy mouthed distant version of who I was when I was 19 years old, or 20, sorry, 22 years old, right? Which is an amorphous kid who wants to be a writer, basically, and Kate just points out to him what the fuck do you have to write about? And this, it just infuriates him, right? But I think it's her point is well, her point is well taken. And then, later in the book, she herself is challenged around this set of what Matt would call reductive thinking, or whatever it might be. And so I just want to take, with a big cast of diverse characters from all walks of life, which I think is necessary to create a novel like this in the first place taking into account the granular details of their feelings about, Where we are as a society, where we are as a culture right now, and all of those different arguments and debates around all these questions, and fitting it in not to like the didactic element of the book, but to character. Does that make sense? Totally. No, and I didn't read that and think, oh, Steven is winking at us, acknowledging that he's a white guy writing this book. So when you said you didn't shoehorn it in, that was very clear. I do think though that some writers would maybe their character would believe that, but they're not going to put it in the book to even draw attention to it. You know what I mean? So I appreciate that you like the character is going to say it. And so you're going to let him say it. And I become a total like, and this is the weird part. My friend Fatsima Mirza, this is her. Way of phrasing it that she wrote a great novel called a place for us, by the way she once said in a conversation we were in together that sometimes it feels like you're not even writing anymore. Once you get to know the character well enough, they're just talking through you and you're transcribing what they're saying. And I think that's like. One of the craziest and most pleasurable parts of writing fiction is that at some point when you know the character well enough, you stop thinking them and you're just transcribing them instead. It takes a little work to get there. It's not, it doesn't happen right away, but by the end of writing this book, It's just I had Kate and Ash and Tony's voices in my head just pounding in there. It was like, yeah, the last probably 500 pages of the book I wrote in the span of nine months. Wow, that's amazing. When you write this, do you do get attached to these people and you're with them for so long. Are there characters you start to feel more partial to than others? Hopefully if you're doing it right any main character they all buy for your love like Children, right? But I, like this book, it was such a seriously, emotionally challenging thing to get through in the first place. By the end of it when no spoilers, but let's just say like characters are meeting their fates and having to edit those sections over and over again. And yeah it's weird, it's exhausting because you're killing off people you care about and then reliving their deaths over and over again. And you do, you get so close to it that it's like. Becomes your reality for a while. And now that I've been away from it for a bit it's not as immediate, but certainly the editing process. Yeah. Lots of people talk about the editing process in general as being the most difficult part. Yes. I imagine finishing this book, which is, close to 900 pages and being like, shit, I need to read this over and over again. Yeah, totally. Oh, I was doing a lot of it in like 2020, 2021, when like the world was on fucking fire. Not that it's, really abated, but. It was just trying to balance one's emotional health of, living in this insane planet with all this stuff going down and then writing this book that's predicting the insane planet with all the stuff going down and trying to keep your head straight while, making sure the commas are all in the right places. The deluge deluge deluge took you what, 13 years to write? Yes. I wrote the first chapter in 2010. And so probably finished up the edits, got everything tucked away in like late 2022. Yeah. Yeah. That's the, yeah, it just, it's been a part of you for a very long time. What has it been like to release it? It's a long time. That's like longer than my husband and I have been together. Yeah. It's terrifying because it's so much of your life is wrapped up in this one thing. And luckily I honestly am grateful that obviously grateful that Seth Meyers that show had me on, but also grateful that because I was so fucking nervous about it, that it distracted me for like the two months up to the release. I couldn't like, I was just like, don't do anything stupid on TV that will be on the internet for all of time. The only thought I had leading up to the book's publication. So it's and what happens if the book didn't get bought? Like that, I would have been anxious about that. I would have been like, I just took so much of my life. I sold it right after Ohio came out, so I had like, yeah, when you're really uh, balling out as an author you sell the next book as soon as the book that's coming out comes out just to make sure you still have a life after it. Yeah. Um, And then you tell them it's going to be 900 pages about the end of the world. Oh, it was more than 900 pages. Trust me. iT was the first draft I turned into my editor was 1500 pages. Wow. Wow. I cut a third of it, wow. Crazy. They're talking about world building. Yeah, even for yourself, so what has the, what is the year since publication been like for you? Obviously a lot of touring and talking and whatever. What are some things that maybe you've taken away that were surprising to you? It has been a whirlwind and I think even more so because I obviously was in, I'm in the Guild, so like the five month strike that interrupted the show I'm working on. And so like now I'm working on the show back to work on the show, but also on tour for the paperback. And trying to accept as many offers to talk as I can. Yeah, look I, this is the one way I can contribute to this incredible problem that I view as humanity's the most important thing to happen in our history, right? And so if I can do my one little tiny thing to help change people's perspective on it I have to take this opportunity. I'm still relatively young, I'm healthy. I'm in the prime of my career and my writing life, and it took me so long to get here. And so I'm just trying to like, be grateful for that, but also remember that like I do have an obligation to try to go out there and speak thoughtfully and intelligently about what's going on. Yeah. So the book is like a rally call, but is there a call to action that you would say? What do you think the call to action is? I'll say this first of all, that I think calls to action in fiction don't necessarily go well together. I think the purpose of the book is to is to tell a great story and give people the perspective that I feel is necessary on the crisis, right? And I wanted to make sure not to layer in too much didactic go out and vote type. Oh, as you're speaking, is there something that you could be like, cool, read the book and now, and if you're, and if you finish reading and you're sitting there Oh, yeah. In a puddle in your apartment and you're like, wept all night. Exactly. The deluge is my eyeballs now, or my Depends. My depends. Now what? right as my diapers standing. No, I was gonna say that for my book recommendations. I was like, I have that answer. But yeah, I wanted to bring them on. What are your book recommendations? Oh see, so I, again, like I said, like one of the most frustrating elements of this catastrophe is that we know what we should be doing. And so after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which is this big climate bill that Biden passed Suddenly the outlook for clean energy, the clean energy transition is so much better. And the deployment of that technology is really going to be like the make a break moment, especially over the next decade. If we're going to turn the corner on this crisis, right? And so what that does is it basically turns. Everybody in the country into little foot soldiers of the clean energy revolution, right? The faster we're electrifying everything and crushing demand for fossil fuels, the faster we're going to be able to, again, turn the corner. And so just a couple of books that I think can really fix in people's minds how this can happen and how it would work. The first is Electrify by Saul Griffith. He's one of the architects of the Inflation Reduction Act and it's a super quick read and it's basically about The benefits of electrifying as much of our energy and transportation as possible, right? And that, and just doing that will cut our emissions by something like 80%. It will in fact clean up the air as well, relieve the mining burden on the earth, because we don't have to we're, we are mining for rare earth minerals and that kind of thing, but not for fossil fuels, which is the real mining issue, right? So there's all these co benefits for people's health. For their natural environments, for their homes, their communities, for jobs, for employment. So that's the first book. The second one is The Big Fix, by Hal Harvey and Justin Gillis. And that is what you could do, not as a consumer, but as a democratic citizen. Uh, Brett, you were talking about this group of people that you read the book with, and you're all like, setting your hair on fire, which I am for. Everybody should set their hair on fire about this, for sure. But also Metaphorically, please. Yes, metaphorically, we especially after reading the book, the deluge by Stephen Marker. Exactly. But we are all these political nodules and it amounts to more than just voting for president every 40 years. It really is like our local elections, living in Los Angeles. How Los Angeles electrifies is very important. It's a huge, obviously a huge city, a huge emitter of carbon. But California and the city council have been like working steadily to try to change that. And I think people anywhere can push this forward in their own specific way. And then finally the last book I'll recommend is Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet. This is by Thich Nhat Hanh. Who, Buddhist monk and peace activist, friend of Martin Luther King Jr. Passed away a couple years ago, I think now and this is his last book, and it's, I think for me, it's such a fantastic reminder that activism and caring about justice and equity is not something that you don't getting on social media and screaming about it is the exact wrong approach. We've all been fooled into believing that's what changes things, and I think that book really focused me on how actually the slow, patient work is the work we need, if that makes sense. Yeah. It's interesting that you say that, because I've been feeling a lot of feelings the last few weeks. I'm Jewish. I'm gay. I'm from Florida. my whole family is there. I, with what just happened in Maine with, there's just like a lot of fucking terrible things happening in the world and I haven't really said much on social media about that. I'm posting about books and I'm posting about this podcast and about, I don't do a lot of This is where I, what I had for lunch today. It's more, this is some escapism here. Read this book. But I do sometimes feel like, cause some people post Oh, if you're not seeing your friends share this and that and whatever, then like they're a part of the problem. And I'm like, no, me posting that I'm frustrated and upset and angry. Yeah, let me speak to that for a second, because this is something I've come to feel quite passionately about the deluge is also about the absolute disaster that surveillance capitalism has been for our public discourse, for our psychology, for the way we interact with each other face to face it is a serious issue. And I'm really somebody who I don't post anything political. I have an Instagram account that is just for promoting a book. And the book is political. I understand that. But I really think if you care about some issue, if you care about something deeply, when you go to these nihilistic Silicon Valley bullshit machines and post about it, what you are doing is immediately creating the backlash to the issue you care about, right? Because the algorithms don't Care about the success of your issue. They care about stoking controversy to keep your attention, to keep you focused on their platform, correct? thIs is something that really frustrates me about people's behavior online is that they don't understand what they're doing is feeding into the machine of bullshit. That just wants to keep us glued to those platforms. I'm having this conversation with so many people right now, and this isn't to you what you just said, especially surrounding the Israeli Palestine situation. And the amount of people, other people come into my DM saying, calling out other people, one particular bookstagrammer for being Jewish, and, I don't know, it's just bizarre, the narcissism that is preceding so many people to believe that we don't need your opinion, we don't, I don't, I feel so strongly about all this now that I'm like, not everyone needs to weigh in or should weigh in. Absolutely. You're not experts on any of these situations. Sometimes it's best if you believe in something like you just said, follow the source. And I don't know, it's also like sharing an infographic isn't actually doing anything. No, it's I didn't have a little black square. on my Instagram, but I bought books from three black owned bookstores and promoted them and shared them and talked about them and amplified them. And that was what was important to me in that moment and checked in on my black friends. And, so it's the performative element of it is It's scary. And it's disappointing. And one of the, one of our other straight guests talk about the algorithm too. iT's, if you think it's the commodification of our social, cultural, and political debate, right? If we're all going to be upset about something, how can this platform commodify it and make money off of it? And that I think is. It's something democratically, again, we have to get control of. There is no reason, people have conflated free speech and the public square with these Silicon Valley companies that are destroying our psychology and causing teenagers to kill themselves. And I was talking to this kid, my parents in Kent State, and he's couldn't we just go back to cigarettes? I know those tobacco companies were bad, but, if we all just smoked we could get our fix from that, and water under the bridge as far as those tobacco companies are concerned. Oh my god, that's funny. Wait, you gave us a list of great books, but they're also all related to climate change in some way, shape, or form? Yeah, you want other books? Do you, I you, this is not your only life, so what is something else that brings you joy that you would I wouldn't have known the Friday Night Lights reference in the book. Obviously I knew you were a fan, so I was excited to talk to you about that. But what's a book that you love that maybe is happy or at least isn't about the world prevalent It could be sad. I, the book Mind Colleen Hoover the most, that's most top of mind for me is, i, cause I just read it. I just finished it is a swim in the pond in the rain by George Saunders. I know everybody is recommending this book, but it's like his history class, basically, or not his history class, sorry his class on Russian short stories. And I just like his essays afterwards are some of the most fucking life affirming, wonderful things I've read in a while. And definitely a, yeah. A very good antidote for our troubled time. And that's what we need. Goddammit, adding to my list. My list is so long. It's, reading books is one of, it's like such a joy and also a curse because you just, I feel like I now own more books I want to read than I have days in my life left to live. Welcome to starting a book podcast. I would never. Oh my god, look at that. That is wild. I know. Thank you for taking the time to read mine. I do tell my friends, you don't even have to read it. Just buy it. That's it is all the same to me. It's also, I have to say for our listeners who may be intimidated and don't want to have, Their fingers fall off. It also is great on audio. It's a great audio book. And then follow along on the audio. Yeah. Yeah. No, absolutely. I found it cause I did both. But I found it a little difficult at the beginning on the audio book just in turn until I knew who exactly was speaking. Cause it's done with pretty much a full cast. But once I had down who it was, and you do some things like in the margins in the beginning with some sidebars. But again, the actor or the reader who reads Ash in particular, they still hear that voice in my head. It sounds like I have psychosis. I still hear that voice. I still hear that voice in my head, but no, but it does. It is a It's a truly, it's a fantastic book, truly one of the best, at least that I've read this year, if not ever. So thank you. So you clearly did your homework in terms of us asking your book recommendation questions, which means you also have probably thought about who you'd want to star in the adaptation. We've slowly stopped asking this question because we realized that so many of the people that we were talking to were actually having their books adapted into TV and film. And so it be, it's, it came, it started as like a fun exercise and really was like, wait, You don't feel comfortable actually talking about this, because this can be real life. Yes. I was just going to say, and it's all every book now is just grist for the IP content mill. So that's exactly right. In some form of being adapted. Yeah. But I have an answer anyway, if you care to hear it. Yes. Yes. It's just taking it a little different direction. I've, obviously the cast you want, I want all movie stars. I want just the biggest, brightest names. But. You're an apple. You're an apple right now. Exactly. They pay a million dollars. The the character that the story sort of revolves around, like a son at the center of all of the universe of the book. I would love it if it was somebody completely unknown who brought no baggage to the role and took it and made it her own and invented the character her own way. That's my one conviction is that whoever plays Kate, some young, unknown actress struggling in Hollywood right now, who's gonna step in and just become a phenomenal star based on it. In our last few minutes, are you allowed to talk about a book that you're working on next? Are you working on another book? Yeah, I am working on two books. I I don't stop. So the next one will be a short story collection and that is It's going to be a little more wild and a little less Heavy than my previous two because even I needed a break and I say that but like I'm on page like 67 of a short story right now and just like Still probably I'm like 73 pages to go so it's like that kind of thing at the moment There's still time to annihilate some people. Not called the short story anymore, Steven Yeah, I know. I know I have a problem And then another novel after that, which is I think probably going to be my darkest one yet. Just steal yourself, wow. Oh, I just, I'm not ready to say anything about it. Okay, that's okay. I'm gonna be precious. Yes, be precious. Yeah. Be precious. tHis has been so fun. It's awesome. I'm so excited for folks to read your book if they haven't yet, or listen to this conversation if they have read the book and get even more excited about all that's to come. Absolutely. Thank you guys so much for having me. This was so much fun. So glad. Thank you. That's what we aim for. We aim for fun. Even though Jeopardy's Amy Schneider called us. Yeah, that was the greatest. She said, she's this was really fun. I've done a lot of these and this was above average. And then we burst out laughing. She's no. I didn't mean it. We're like, we, we got it. We got it. We got it. I would also, I'll also rate it above average. Yeah. Thank you. Two for two. But I got it right. And like when you're a Jeopardy! Genius, like the term above average, actually means something very significant. So I was very, I was proud of that. I was like, great. Above average. That's a good thing. Well, good luck in Ohio. Yeah, enjoy the time at your folks house and all that goes there. Thank you. Great to meet you guys.

Jason Blitman:

Steven Markley,

Brett Benner:

Thank you so much, Stephen Markley.

Jason Blitman:

thank you for being here with the gaze

Brett Benner:

Thank you for

Jason Blitman:

our favorite Ohio, bro.

Brett Benner:

We're going to drink a brewski now to you, dude.

Jason Blitman:

Yes. And everybody go check out Steven's book, the Deluge.

Brett Benner:

out in paperback now, or like Jason said, it's also on audio and it's a, I happen to also listen to it on audio. It's a great listen, I think it's such an important book and it's this whole topic of climate change is like Steven said, it is the number one thing right now that we should all be paying attention to so we could all be here note, with that happy note.

Jason Blitman:

that. Happy note.

Brett Benner:

We only have two more episodes. We only have two more episodes of the season and we're done.

Jason Blitman:

And then we're done, and then we're gonna take a little break, and then we'll be back in January, but for now, we will see you next week. Have a great D!

Brett Benner:

Oh, great. D there you go.

Jason Blitman:

Have a great D! Bye!

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