In many ways, Donald Ray Schwartz’s latest novella is a culmination of a lifetime of education and experiences.
“Deeptide: Vents of Fire” (GoToPublish) is a science fiction work telling the story of two female oceanographers who believe they can find the answers to the origin of life deep in the volcanic vents of the Pacific Ocean. The pair receives funding for the endeavor from a billionaire benefactor.
However, they soon discover that the U.S. military, along with Russian spies, also are interested in their research, believing the discovery could lead to the ultimate fighting weapon.
Given the complexity of the manuscript, Schwartz, 76, a Mount Washington resident, could not just simply make up things along the way throughout the writing process. Instead, he leaned on more than 40 years of experience in everything from creative writing to serving as a college professor in speech, theater and mass communication at the Community College of Baltimore County, to the military for inspiration for his latest work.
“I read an article that talked about life forms deep in the ocean that were not anabolic in nature,” said Schwartz, who has published nearly 200 works, including short stories, essays, articles, reviews and criticism, another novella and non-fiction works. “The theory was that they may be so deep in the ocean that these newly discovered life forms may be the harbingers of life on Earth. I felt this concept would be great to explore as the premise for a science fiction novel.”
Along with his experience as a former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer for research, Schwartz collaborated on “Deeptide” with genetic scientist Steven Evans. Schwartz said Evans helped to ensure any mention of the early life forms and related theories were based on the most current scientific research.
“It was important for us that we had the scientific and military facts as accurate as possible,” Schwartz said. “While it may be a fictional work, I wanted to make sure that the book was as historically and scientifically accurate as possible.”
In many ways, Schwartz is a renaissance man. His previous published works include “Lillian Russell: A Bio Bibliography” and “Noah’s Ark: An Annotated Encyclopedia of Every Animal Species in the Hebrew Bible.” The latter book was named the Jewish Book Club Selection of the Month in 2000.
In addition, Schwartz has directed and produced more than 40 mainstage and laboratory theatrical productions, and co-produced an off-Broadway production with Meryl Streep. He also has won several awards, including the only Kennedy Center Ensemble Award for the CCBC Essex Campus production of “The Taming of the Shrew.”
As an actor, he acted in more than 40 principal and supporting roles in both academic and professional settings. His roles included Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire”; Horatio in “Hamlet”; and The Villain in “Little Mary Sunshine.”
A member of Pikesville’s Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation, Schwartz has taught classes in Torah and Talmud. He said he understands that his science fiction work highlights theories of evolution that greatly differ from teachings of the Torah.
“I know that to sections of the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities, the world was created in six days and that is the end of the story,” Schwartz said. “How does one reconcile that belief with those who wish to explore theories of evolution? The answer for me when I am teaching others is to explore both realms of thinking. You offer both theories and discuss that among the students.”
Ron Snyder is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
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