The premise for J.D.G. Perldeiner’s Haven was fascinating: a post-apocalyptical story set in a medieval-like society. Unfortunately, due to my evermore threatening TBR-pile — one day it will topple and crush me — I couldn’t commit to reviewing the book, but I did want to highlight it, so I asked whether I could interview J.D.G. and he agreed, even after I made the mortifying mistake of mixing up his initials. (I’m so sorry about that, JD!) Enjoy the interview and do check out Haven if you can.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is J.G.D. Perldeiner?
Well, as a pedant it’s impossible for me not to point out that it’s J.D.G., but as for who I am… I tell people that I’m a medievalist-in-exile. I pursued advanced degrees in medieval studies, but now I’m working on my J.D. because you have to make a living somehow. I suppose I’m an escapist first and foremost: I run an inordinate number of pen-and-paper roleplaying games, I’m always writing, and always dreaming of far away and nonexistent places.
How would you introduce people to the world of Haven?
The world of Haven is quite small: it’s the Province, a land in the shadow of the ancients, where people struggle to meet their day-to-day ends against unpredictable weather and waves of disease the ancients left behind. It is a world where much that was beautiful, and wise, and good has been lost, leaving folks to scramble with whatever they can find in the ruins.
Haven is a post-apocalyptic story with a medieval feel, something that is most often associated with fantasy. What inspired you to take this approach to what is essentially a subgenre of the science fiction field?
One of my favorite books growing up was A Canticle for Leibowitz, which I think shows in this work. The parallels with the collapse of Roman Britain and the potential collapse of the United States were too tempting for me to ignore. With the loss of assembly-line production after the disappearance of the government, the sort of degradation knowledge suffered in Roman Britain would be the same kind we would see here. No one knew how to make a whole pot, for example, just how to throw it, fire it, or whatever their one job was. In the same way, no one today could make a whole computer, or a whole car.
Why did you choose to centre the narrative on members of a monastic order?
Monks are the best! But really, they’re our source into the past for most of the Middle Ages. They were the ones who wrote and kept records. As such, they tended to be the people through whose eyes I was able to see most of the Middle Ages when doing my research as a medievalist. I have a special affinity for monks. Plus, I mean: Cadfael.
You’re trained as a medievalist and historian, would you ever consider writing an alt-history science fiction story set in the past? Or even branching into fantasy?
I have a number of fantasy manuscripts that have never been published for which I’ve been seeking agents for a long time. I’m writing a new fantasy series now, with a complete first book and a 1/4th complete second. I’ve written alternate history as well! A story called Heavenly Devices about a revolution in clockwork machinery taking place during the Renaissance.
If the apocalypse comes, what for do you think it will take?
If the apocalypse comes, it won’t be any one earth-shattering event. It will be the slow centripetal spin that leads little by little to ultimate collapse. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.
What’s next for you? Any appearances or conventions planned?
I have a few interviews lined up. I haven’t planned on going to any conventions, but I certainly would do so if the opportunity presented itself.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
Roleplaying. It is the most interactive form of storytelling, the one that most mirrors real life. And, at this point, the law. Particularly in the form of criminal defense, because the State is very powerful, and individuals are not.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
Oh man, good books? I would say the best fantasy series in a long time is R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing/Aspect Emperor. I also love Glen Cook’s Black Company series, and I would recommend his Instrumentalities of the Night. On the non-fantasy front, Fall on Your Knees is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I’m not ashamed to say that it made me cry. As for historical books, everything Umberto Eco ever wrote is excellent. When he died this year, it destroyed me. He is my all-time favorite author. See, I even instinctually wrote that in the present tense. A good jumping-off point to get into Eco is Foucault’s Pendulum, which is everything that Dan Brown wishes in the most elaborate flights of fancy that he could be.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
Oh, I have my own system, lifted as best I can from The Name of the Rose. Books are filed by region and time period, with the topic or author’s place and time of origin guiding the system, depending on which is more important. A plaque designates Europe (“Whither with me, portentous bull?”, Europa’s response when carried off by a bull from Greece), and then I have shelves for the New World, Africa, and Terra Incognita (mostly sci-fi and fantasy).
Bio: J.D.G. Perldeiner is a medievalist and historian, who is currently pursuing a JD. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and a posse of incredibly cute cats, at least is his instagram is anything to go by! Haven is his first novel.