Scott M. Sandridge

A Work in Progress

SMM Classic: Review of The Plot to Save Socrates + Interview w/Paul Levinson

(April 1, 2007)

The Plot to Save Socrates by Paul Levinson

An ancient manuscript is found that hints at a time traveler from the future going back in time to save the great philosopher, Socrates, from his death at the hands of the democratic Athenian government. When Thomas O’Leary shows his student, Sierra Waters, the manuscript, she finds herself in a time-traveling adventure in search of Socrates’s mysterious savior – who could be anyone from any time, even her. Of course, when historical figures like the warrior-philosopher, Alcibiades and the inventor, Heron of Alexandria, get involved, the threat of a time paradox becomes more and more dire.
Paul Levinson handles a complicated plot and a multitude of characters in a manner that can only be described as masterful. Certainly not something the average writer would even wish to attempt. And to top it off, he leaves you with a great tale both entertaining and meaningful. It also comes complete with discussion group questions for the philosopher in every reader.
I highly recommend this book, and I won’t be surprised if it wins several awards.

Best to read while listening to: anything from Classical to Gaelic to Electronica/Industrial.

Publisher: TOR
Price: $14.95
Trade Paperback
ISBN-13: 978-0-765-31197-9
ISBN-10: 0-765-31197-6
Genre: Science Fiction

(April 8, 2007)

Interview With Paul Levinson

I had the honor of interviewing Paul Levinson, author of The Plot to Save Socrates, President of theScience Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)from 1998-2001, and who was a guest on my favorite show, The O’Reilly Factor. So yeah. Stoked? Psyched? Words can’t even describe it.


How did you come up with a time-travelling tale about Socrates?

I’ve been bothered about why Socrates didn’t take Crito up on his escape offer since I first read the Crito in a freshman philosophy class at the City College of New York in 1963. As soon as I began writing and publishing science fiction in the early 1990s, I knew I wanted to write a time travel story in which someone went back in time to try and save Socrates. (Incidentally, I had this idea well before Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – in fact, I’ve yet to see the movie. I really should.) Since time travel provokes profound philosophic paradoxes (more on this below), it seemed natural to me write a time travel story about a philosopher.

What struck me most about the novel was the whole Free Will vs. Fate conflict that seemed to be going on in it. Was that idea intentional?

Yes. One of the prime paradoxes about travel to the future is that, if you see someone wearing a red shirt tomorrow, for example, does that mean the person has no choice but to wear that shirt? The truth is, if time travel existed, none of us would have any real control over our lives, because we’d be locked into everything the time traveler sees.

So in The Plot to Save Socrates, the problem the characters have to solve is: how can they know if what they are doing is the result of their free will, or of a pre-ordained fate. And, of course, it’s very hard to know this, certainly hard to prove what’s really going on … and that, to me, was a big part of the fun of writing this novel.

Sierra Waters is a very interesting character. She seems to be in conflict against her own interests at times.

Yes, because Sierra is torn in many ways (like the piece of paper she tears up in the very first paragraph of the novel). First, affection for and then guilt over Max. Love of some kind for Thomas. Passionate, romantic love for Alcibiades. Love of history, and getting things right. So she is in deep conflict, because she knows she can’t have all of these things. About the most clear-cut thrill for her, historically, is Plato’s life. And, of course, we find out at the end that her guilt about Thomas when she was with Alcibiades was … ironic, to say the least.

What type of music do you think is best to listen to while reading and/or writing time-travel stories?

I don’t listen to music while reading or writing – I love music too much, so it’s way too distracting for me. But to see what music I love, and listen to all the time, whenever I can (except when I’m reading or writing), just look at the Music part of my Profile page here on MySpace.

How much of an advantage can podcasts give writers?

Podcasts are wonderful if you have the voice and technical savvy to do them. I love them. They’ve really helped my book sales. You’re talking to your readers – what more can you ask for? So I really recommend doing them to any writer who can.

What other things is your billiant madness cooking up in the near future?

Well, thanks – I’m definitely mad, that’s for sure…I’m writing the sequel to The Plot to Save Socrates right now. When that’s done, I’ll be writing another Phil D’Amato novel (he appeared in my previous novels, The Silk Code, The Consciousness Plague, and The Pixel Eye). And then maybe a sequel to Borrowed Tides.

I now have four podcasts – I may add one or two more. I’ve also greatly expanded my blogging from just MySpace to now paullevinson.blogspot.com and paullevinson.net – and I’ll be doing more of that.

I’ve been writing 2-3 television reviews per week – of 24, Rome, andLost – and I’ll be reviewing The Sopranos when it resumes (and concludes) next month.

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August 16, 2010 - Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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