A Playground for Authors Jason White and Michael Schutz-Ryan

An Interview with David Salkin

I had the pleasure of talking with author David Salkin today over Facebook messenger. We discussed mostly his new book, Deep Black Sea, and how he came to write it. David is the real deal here, guys. He has a degree in Literature from Rutgers University, he’s heavily involved with politics and, as you may have guessed, he’s been writing for some time now with  over six novels under his belt. 

Deep Black Sea is his newest and it is a ton of fun! You can expect a review here at Darkness Dwells soon. 

So, without further ado, I present to you, David M. Salkin.

Cover art for Deep Black SeaQ)  Tell us what sparked the writing of Deep Black Sea?

A)  I’m a scuba diver and a fish geek.  I have seven fish tanks in my house, including salt water reef tanks (for when I can’t get under water.)  In my reading about the ocean, I came across the articles on the deep sea thermal vents known as “black smokers”.  I was intrigued.  How’s it possible that clams and shrimp boil on your stove at 212 degrees, but can live and thrive in 700+ water, in total darkness, little oxygen and toxic chemicals?  It’s all about the bacteria.  I found that so amazing, I just kept reading about it.  the creatures down there are SO bizarre, it wasn’t a big leap to make a horror story!

Q)  So a lot of this is non-fiction?

A)  The information about the deep black sea is real.  Most of the sea life and the bacteria in the story is real.  I LOVED doing the research, it’s truly remarkable.  The concept of the infection and the ensuing horror story, however, is all from my imagination.  If you look at pictures of the deep sea creatures, it’s not a big leap to horror.  There are things down there that are truly terrifying.

Q)  The story takes place aboard a submarine research vessel.  It reminds me of Alien meets Sphere.  Did you see this as a movie in your head when you wrote it?  Because it reads like a screen play.  This would be an awesome movie.

A)  Yes, I think I write all my novels like that–describing the movie in my head.  And I agree, Deep Black Sea would make a great movie.  Alien was a great book.  Most folks only know the movie and it’s worsening sequels, but the original paperback was fantastic.  I’d like to think that readers would feel DBS has that “Alien” quality.  the deep ocean is certainly another world.

Q)  In the book, you mention the importance of exploring the oceans.  This obviously comes from your love of scuba diving and the ocean.  Is this you speaking about real life?

A)  Absolutely.  I love the ocean, and I’m worried about it.  The reefs are declining all over the world.  There are literally CONTINENTS of floating plastic trash.  people drone on about global warming, which I believe is the wrong topic.  The earth warms and cools over ions.  That’s a fact.  We shouldn’t be arguing over whether we effect global warming.  What we SHOULD be discussing is how we’re killing this planet and destroying our natural resources.  I think if we spent some serious money on researching inner-space and the oceans, like we do on outer space, we would learn so much.  The difference between planets circling the sun and electrons circling an atom’s nucleus is only a matter of scale–it’s the “same stuff” all over the universe.  We should spend some time looking inward instead of outward.  I think that could be said for us as humans, too.

Picture of David Salkin

Science Fiction Legend Ben Bova says, “DEEP BLACK SEA is science fiction at its best, a realistic tale of exploration and danger, written by a man who knows the details of deep-sea exploration firsthand. An exciting read.” 

When President Roberts was elected in 2020, his acceptance speech included references to exploring inner space and the oceans as a priority that could no longer be ignored. While his predecessor had promised a Mars mission that excited NASA, President Roberts immediately began making sweeping changes in the funding priorities of NASA, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the United States Navy. Within two months of taking office, Roberts had replaced the head of NASA with former U.S. Navy pilot-turned-astronaut Rear Admiral Thomas Antus, and unveiled his bold plan to see a deep-sea research station built to rival the international space station. Citing similar hurtles in both space and deep-sea exploration; Roberts announced that the deep-sea station would be a joint-effort between NASA, NOAA and the Navy. What it meant for the Mars mission was a huge budget cut that would delay the space mission indefinitely, but for those scientists that had been the pioneers of deep-sea exploration, it meant funding the likes of which they never could have dreamed.
With a budget of six billion dollars, (the cost of two Virginia Class submarines), the deep-sea research station quickly became a reality. By comparison, the Alvin, one of the most famous deep-sea exploration vehicles ever built, was constructed and later refurbished for under a million dollars. With six billion dollars, the new Office of Deep Sea Research could take deep-sea exploration to the next level—tantamount to NASA first going to the moon.

With a crew of seven, the Challenger submerges three miles below the waves for a one-year mission to study the hidden world of the deep black sea. One of the team members, Ted Bell, is a former NASA scientist with his own agenda. He is much more interested in learning about the Deinococcus radiodurans bacteria that keeps sea animals alive in seven-hundred-degree, superheated water that is full of heavy metals and other toxins that flows from the “black smokers”. Ted’s ultimate goal is a mission to Mars, and if it means sacrificing the deep sea crew to advance that mission, then so be it.

How is it that sea animals can live and reproduce in water that should boil them? Superheated water that is full of toxins and heavy metals, and contains almost no oxygen should be void of life on planet Earth—and yet it is teeming with it. The answer to the puzzle lies in the bacteria, and Ted knows it. Convinced that the same symbiotic relationship between the sea life and bacteria can be reproduced in humans, and then used to help humans travel to Mars one day, Ted intentionally infects a few members the crew.

Just as the bacterium forces a metamorphosis in the tubeworms and other animals as the bacterium take over their host, Ted’s infected crewmates also begin their rapid transformation. And while Ted is initially thrilled with his experiments, he quickly realizes that he has lost control. As his remaining crewmates realize that they have a traitor in their midst, the fight for survival begins three miles under the waves.
With two crew members transformed into “something else” and loose in the ship, the remaining crew must find a way to kill the deadly creatures that used to be their friends

 

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