If you’ve flipped on NBC10 in the last 25 years, you’ve seen Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz sweeping his arm over satellite images and telling you whether you’ll need an umbrella. But like any meteorologist, he can’t get ‘em right 100% of the time, as much as he’d like to.
But what if he could? Or better yet, just make the weather himself?
That’s the premise of Schwartz’s first novel, “The Weathermaker.” The book details the exploits of Neil Stephenson, a weatherman whose power to control the weather presents him with pressing moral questions. Schwartz spoke about climate change, the writing process and “Mad Max.”
When did you decide to write this book?
Back in 2006. During a lunch conversation, a friend said, “Why don’t you try fiction?” (I had recently co-authored a nonfiction book). I had the idea for “The Weathermaker” that night. Looking back, I was first interested in the idea of changing the weather as a kid who loved baseball. After a bunch of rainouts in a row, I decided that, when I grew up, I was going to build a machine so I could turn off the rain. It helped my decision to become a meteorologist. Later, a great teacher in fifth grade made the subject of weather even more interesting.
What was the editing process like? Who did you trust to read the drafts?
I had a couple of colleagues read the first draft and other early versions. Dr. [Jon] Nese was a natural choice — a great meteorologist and communicator. Another was TV meteorologist Doug Kammerer, who is one of the people I patterned the main character after.
Were there other books of a similar sensibility that you read to try and find some pointers?
I try not to read “similar” books, since I don’t want to unconsciously copy anything from them. I was certainly inspired by Michael Crichton and his greatness in explaining science to the general public. “Jurassic Park” was my favorite novel. Where else could you write about chaos theory in a popular book?
How do you think Neil Stephenson’s Judaism shapes him as a character?
He may not have been brought up in a strict religious atmosphere, but he was exposed to (and appreciated) the morality and ethics taught in Judaism. A recognition that God has the ultimate control, and that we should use our talents for good, not just personal satisfaction. He is not just using his gift to become famous or get rich, but wants to know how to use it. That’s why he seeks out a rabbi for advice and counsel.
How can fiction writers make climate change interesting?
This is where it becomes important to me. There are lots of great books on climate change, written by experts, but they are nonfiction. Their readers already accept the science (probably a large percentage of them). I want to reach the broadest audience possible.
Fiction such as “Mad Max” and “Waterworld” deal with future worlds severely impacted by the climate change, but the science itself is not addressed. The most recent movie I could think of that deals with climate change was “The Day After Tomorrow”, but that was 15 years ago. And the science in that was pretty bad. I have tried to get the science as right, and current as possible. And I’m hoping that Hollywood sees “The Weathermaker” as a movie to get this science and these messages to the largest audience possible.
Did any of your beliefs about climate change — the science itself, or the way it’s discussed, or potential policies — change over the course of your writing?
My first draft had a spirited debate on climate change between Neil and his mentor, with the older one being the skeptic. But in recent years, meteorologists have become much more in agreement about the basic science, and argue more about the details (like how much worse climate change made the flood, or hurricane, or …). Every time I’ve rewritten or updated the book, I’ve had to strengthen the language on climate. It proves how much the science has evolved in those 14 years. And most of that change has happened in the last five or so.
What do you want readers to get out of this book?
First, I want them to be entertained by an interesting story about an interesting subject. And for people with a variety of views on climate to read the book. But I also would like some of the more skeptical readers to open their minds to how the science has evolved in recent years. And for everyone to realize that there could be a time when we become desperate to “fix” the climate, and how dangerous that could be.
Will you write another?
If “The Weathermaker” is a success, of course. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and trying to explain science in ways the general public can understand and enjoy.
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