Welcome to my blog John. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about yourself, your book written by Drew Tapley, and your foundation.
Q. John please tell us about your latest work—title, genre, etc. — and why you wrote it?
A. Utopian Frontiers (originally called “The Canpro Project”) is a story about a family that inadvertently stumbles upon a secret, clandestine research city situated on the fringes of national parkland, somewhere in the Americas. It is a story of hope for the future well being of humanity.
The UF title was determined by Bruce Rosenberg and myself, Bruce being one of the initial members of the board for Utopian Frontiers Foundation, the non-profit entity we set up to channel resources through in an ongoing effort to bring this myth to life.
Through their journey and interaction with the residents of the city, the family comes to terms with future shock and the related social/political/economic realities of this unique urban environment, run by a transnational research corporation with deep pockets and even deeper connections. Want to know more? Read the book!
The initial writing format was a screenplay, intended for development as a full length motion picture film. We described the document as “a science fiction documentary”, seeing as we were following the adventures of the family within the community. The intention was to create the illusion that the city may indeed exist in the here and now.
As to why Mike Parsons and I initially started work on the project, well, we were compelled…
Read more about that here below.
Suffice to say we were concerned citizens, cognizant and sympathetic to the prevailing counter culture that emerged through the 60’s and 70’s.
That compulsion was passed on to Drew Tapley, the author of the book, who came onboard, connected with and wholeheartedly devoted time and effort to the project. Fortunate for Drew he has an understanding and supportive significant other!
Q. Why is this story compelling to you?
A. Does the current social/political/economic world condition/reality unsettle you in any way?
Does it make sense that someone who is one of the best at throwing or kicking a ball, shooting a puck, or swinging a club, makes a fortune while the woman who comforts your aged mother and wipes her butt as need be gets minimum wage?
A fire fighter who risks his life many times through the span of his career and potentially dies prematurely due to one version or other of breathed in poison earns a six figure income at best while the actor pretending to do the same may earn millions for performing brave acts in one film.
How about being good at playing with numbers on a page, being so good that you can afford to float your own luxury hotel, own your own South Sea island, assisted by the efforts of local residents who are depending on your wealth so they can feed their family, that is if you haven’t forced them off the property? And that’s just a glance at how monetary economics impacts on the real world…
Politically corrupt dictators, some posturing as pseudo freedom fighters, terrorize and impoverish their own people yet get the support of so-called democracies in the interest of securing favorable trade contracts, access to resources and markets, perhaps the right to establish a military presence, all in the interest of supporting freedom and democracy. The brazen hypocrisy is mind numbing…
Meanwhile, much of our technology is devoted to what I will call toys, although tools make a respectable presence.
Mother Earth herself is parceled out, gutted, used as a garbage can, a toilet, while species vanish.
Is nothing sacred?
Begs the question: Are we a species of idiot savants? How is it possible for a seemingly intelligent life form to create marvelous works of art, travel to the moon and back, explore the cosmos and yet allow the ongoing systemic denial of the potential and development of the majority of our children?
Q. What is your writing process like? Do you map the whole thing out or do you just let it unfold?
A. The process, initially, was socially, experientially driven.
Mike Parsons and I both lived on Yorkville Avenue in Toronto at the time. This takes us back to the 70’s…
I had just returned from a 2 year HR stint, working for a mining conglomerate in Northern BC. While there, I lived in a semi-isolated environment, a kind of a city in the wilderness.
Mike, my writing associate, had contacts in the Yorkville area and helped secure a bachelor pad near where he and his family lived on the street.
Mike and family lived on the third, top floor of a building, with a large balcony overlooking Yorkville Avenue. The street had undergone a transformation from a hippie haven to a mixed zone commercial residential area, which was a way for the city to clear out the drug culture, do some minor renovations, slap some paint on and double the rent, much to the benefit of cooperating property managers/developers.
On weekends, remnants of the hippie movement would surface, some as street performers. Mixed in with the Gucci shoe tree crowd, the scene was surreal, accented now and then by an open-topped double-decker bus with a man in a gorilla suit chasing a fair damsel in distress from one end of the bus to the other, up and down, much to the bemusement and entertainment of the street crowds. The bus added a carnival, burlesque-like air to the evening, a tinge of the absurd that we found quite fitting.
Between guffaws and laughter, we’d wonder out loud if that was the cultural expression of the day: Do your nine to five, put on your club gear, dance, prance, sit, chat at the outdoor cafes, drive the one way circle along Yorkville Avenue and Cumberland Street, again and again, seeing and being seen… Oops! It’s Monday morning! Time to get back to work! And so it goes…
Watching this circus from Mike’s balcony, we started to play “WHAT IF?”
WHAT IF a group of concerned citizens banded together in the interest of establishing a research entity that would explore the relationship between humankind and technology, specifically options that would benefit the future of humanity?
From there, Mike and I decided to write a screenplay, thinking that a feature length motion picture film would best serve as a vehicle to explore and demonstrate some of the concepts and ideas we were discussing.
We researched available materials on screenplay writing while delving into alternative cultural values.
Skip forward 35 years or so. Enter Drew Tapley, who was brought in to update, refine, develop the seminal writings into a book, adding his creative contributions while staying true to the initial concept and base storyline.
The rest is an ongoing, evolving history.
Q. What kind of research was involved in writing your book?
A. Mike Parsons had a lifelong interest in substantive law, economics, history, technology… I had an ongoing interest in the social sciences, psychology, anthropology and emerging communication technologies as well, such as optical laser technology when it was initially researched and brought to the market by NV Phillips. Mike was very keen and on the crest of the wave of that technology back in the 70’s. He brought emerging details to my attention. Mike is deceased, unfortunately, and I am left to carry the torch, with the help of others such as Drew Tapley, author of the book, and Ashton Price, music producer at Morph Productions and member of the board of directors for Utopian Frontiers Foundation. Research is ongoing, change is a constant.
Regarding KIND of research:
Life itself should be lived as a journey of discovery. We are all researchers, or at least we should be. The modern world makes it possible for any literate person to look and look again. Isn’t that what the RE in research IMPLIES? To look and look again.
So if the question is what KIND of research, that depends on your goals -
What KIND of research does a bomb maker do? I’m just not interested. Are you? I’m sure the military, police forces and security agencies are…
What KIND of research does a con artist do? Again, I’m not interested unless I intend to write about con artists.
What KIND of research does a pollster do? Possibly interested. Depends on the topic, the focus, the intentions…
Our research is done in the interest of the betterment of humanKIND!
Q. How much of YOU makes it into your characters?
A. Mike and I created the initial outline for all characters over time and it’s difficult to say where one person’s influence ends and the other begins. How much of ME? It took both of us to make a concerted effort to create the basic personality types we want to portray through this project. We played with archetypes. We allowed for, invited creative evolvement.
The challenge was to leave details open ended to the point where a writer could make a contribution to developing the characters without being restricted, yet respect the seminal ideas Mike and I began with.
Enter Drew Tapley, the author of the book, who was brought in to convert the initial screenplay into a novel. Drew brought a ton of creative ideas to the project while staying true to the core myth, not an easy task.
Q. How do you balance the need to have time to write with the needs of family, society, etc.?
A. Not very well, judging by my personal history (2 divorces, arms length relations with most people). Not much time for trivia, though I enjoy meaningful discussion. I tend to do a disappearing act, much to the chagrin of family and friends. I hold down a demanding full time day job as a Program Manager for a communications company so making time for tasks such as this interview means something has to give, and typically it’s my social life. Wait… This IS an aspect of social life!
It helps that I’m a loner at heart, yet I believe in the collective. Through the help of others, this project just may get the attention needed to bring about discovery, and eventually development of the book as the motion picture film Mike and I initially envisioned.
Until then, if nothing else, efforts are considered therapeutic, a balm for the soul.
Q. Have there been any authors in particular, that inspired your writing?
A. Everyone who I have read has had an influence, and believe me, over the years, I have read lots of books, articles, jokes, commentaries, writings on public washroom walls…
You want names?
Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood, Isaac Asimov, Umberto Eco, Barbara Tuchman…
All of the above and more. On a consciously aware level, I forget many of the people who influenced who I am now as a person and writer. Well, I forget their names…
During high school, I used to cringe at the thought of forgetting names, dates, places for upcoming history tests, just because of how teachers would “grade” me. There are different types/kinds of intelligence, such as the wisdom of the ages accumulated in the mind and soul of an illiterate farmer, who could tell you more about the land than a PHD agri-specialist. Just don’t expect the farmer to write a paper on the topic.
Q. Is there a story you want to tell behind or about your work(s)?
A. My mother. That’s where I would start. She was a prime motivator.
My mother was farmed out as a child laborer by her parents due to the inherent poverty of the times. Lucky for her, the family she worked for had a heart. They were kind and loving. All the same, she had to do all of the housework, including washing and mending clothes at a time when it was all done by hand.
Then, married young, she had to do the same for my father!
When you come from a male dominant, Catholic culture where, as a woman, you’re expected to be open to your man’s needs (go forth and multiple – men cheer, women groan), it should come as no surprise that eleven children later, much later, when you meet European matriarchal women, the thought comes to mind: If I had only known! That was my mother’s semi literate coming to terms with the modern world.
I was constantly reminded how lucky I am to be born at a time that allowed me to escape the poverty and limitations of the rest of my immediate family.
I come from a working class family, a family that made sure I would never forget my heritage. The only challenge they put to me was to make the best of my life, and to that I am devoted.
Q. What other projects are you currently working on or about to start?
A. Blog entries are ongoing at www.utopianfrontiers.com with postings being made weekly. I try to do the research weekday evenings and do at least one posting on weekends.
Once I get the time to invest more efforts into research, the blog experience will be more frequent and extensive.
Q. Could you share some of your marketing strategies? Which ones are the most effective in your opinion?
A. Too early to say what’s effective or not, however –
In truth, the book was generated to promote the ideas behind the initial project/screenplay and hopefully get attention from film producers.
A publicist and social media expert were brought on as well to support and promote the book and project in general.
It takes time to gather momentum and a following.
I personally do not believe in charismatic personalities, preferring instead to allow ideas to take hold as the prime focal point. There are too many people who look for a leader rather than empowering themselves. We (in support of the myth of Utopian Frontiers) don’t believe elitism has a place in future human endeavor, unless you’re prepared to accept the notion that everyone should have the opportunity to develop their potential. That would make ours a truly elite community, or should I say a community of true elites, and I say that in the humblest of ways, because if we’re going to tap the true potential of humanity, then one and all must be developed as researchers of sorts. Even a mechanic can research better maintenance procedures…
How does “marketing” the true potential of every individual sound? Mythical? Can we work at making that a living, evolving myth?
Q. What would be the top five, (or 3 or 1 or however many) things you would tell aspiring authors?
A. Always be and do your beast!
By that I mean we must come to terms with our animal instincts, our basic needs and drives before we can properly tend to loftier goals, especially intellectual pursuits.
If we are not true to ourselves in the most basic ways, how can we truly be healthy, happy and content? Too often, ideology, morality, rules, expectations demand our attention while we are forced to deny baser instincts and intuition. Through a proper upbringing in basic human psychology and emotive, empathic therapy, we connect with ourselves, then our community.
Writing for me is a form of therapy, so if you take my advice, connect first with your basic self. Come to terms with your animal instincts, start from the beast within.
Or cram your head with abstract knowledge and depersonalize. Go abstract. Language is an abstract form of communications anyway, so it’s your choice.
There are lots of ivory tower types who will be able to prove you to be lacking in depth of specific knowledge. We can’t expect to master any and all aspects of our world, our lives so what are you going to do as an imperfect being, crawl under the bed and hope nobody notices your blemishes?
Accept the fact that we’re imperfect by nature. Always do your beast. Just be nice about it.
And yes, the subliminal message is BEST!
Always do your best! What more can anyone ask? With luck, there will be other beasts out there you can connect with. Who knows? Maybe that’s the greatest gift of social humanity: living, growing, creating a better world, together as a community, all of us doing our best.
Q. Could you tell our readers a little more about your music and group?
A. I wrote the lyrics at the time Mike and I were working on the screenplay. It took a meeting with Ashton Price just a few years ago to feel comfortable enough to proceed with the creative efforts that resulted in the bringing together of session musicians. All were invited to make a creative contribution, in keeping with the values of the non-profit entity and overall mythology of Utopian Frontiers.
Q. How are things progressing with the movie? Can we expect to see it soon?
A. No bites as yet. It’s a unique business. We’re adamant about having a finger in creative input, and the non-profit entity must receive shares, points, if you know what I mean. It’s like owning a house, any property. We’re not selling. You want to rent and make use? OK, let’s make sure you stay respectful to the myth and underlying values. Change is inevitable. Creative, constructive change preferred.
Q. When you are able to take time away from your foundation what do you do for fun and relaxation?
A. I listen to public radio when alone, talk radio mostly, community supported, and I talk, meet with friends, the usual stuff. I’m not a party animal. I’m a private person.
I read books on the way to work and on the way home.
Q. What is the hardest part of developing this organization for you?
A. Developing a sense of community.
Q. What is the most positive experience in your development process?
A. Living up to a lifetime commitment.
Q. Do you have a favorite place where you like to work on the various and diverse elements of the Utopian Frontiers project?
A. I live in a family house located in suburbia. I wasn’t born here, but I spent much of my youth here, and it’s as much a home as I’ve ever know. I have a basement room where I can lock the door and comfortably say: “Go away! I’m busy!”
Oh, when I’m polite, first I ask “Who’s there?”
Again, thanks John for taking the time to share your knowledge with us. We appreciate you and your work.
Good luck with your current and future publications.
For more information on Utopian Frontiers and John Philip Roach:
For information about Utopian Frontiers, the book, the organization or the music, visit http://www.utopianfrontiers.com. To learn more about the book and to get your copy, visit http://www.amazon.com/Utopian-Frontiers-Story-Drew-Tapley/dp/1927005124/.
What if there was a secret city at work on finding answers to the survival of humanity? Technologies beyond your imagination; a city expanding, recruiting and evolving. There is no government, no money, no bosses, institutions, cars or roads; and age takes on new meaning.
This “facity” is one big research product in and of itself, and nothing else quite like it exists on this Earth. This is the city that Erwin Sharp and his family are drawn into on the fringes of a national park. They fall headfirst down the rabbit hole into a world of space probes, cancer cures, and a core myth that defies belief. They soon realize that some doors are only meant to swing one way. This is a parable of trust and hope–a flashing beacon of hope in a world hell-bent on destroying itself. It is ultimately a story of ambition, of owning up to life, showing up and trading up. In a story that is as controversial as it is reassuring, sometimes it is possible to find something you always hoped existed, and in finding it, you confront your own truth as much as that of the world you live in.
About Utopian Frontiers Non-Profit Organization
UTOPIAN FRONTIERS FOUNDATION is a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing multi-media works intended to educate and provoke meaningful discourse on global environmental concerns – including the relationship between humankind and technology.
To educate and increase the public’s understanding of the environment and its importance by offering courses, seminars, conferences and meetings and by collecting
and disseminating information on that topic.
and disseminating information on that topic.
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