Author Scott Bly attended the USC majoring in Film and Theatre with hopes of winning his first Oscar by the time he was twenty-two years old. When Scott reached twenty-two with no Oscar in sight he realized he had to find a way to make a living which lead him to computer repair and networking. Here’s Scott’s story that lead him to write his first novel, Smasher.
Helena: How did the opportunity present itself for you to be able to write a book?
Scott: Smasher is my first novel, it’s coming out with Scholastic, Inc, and I had a background in writing by way of screenwriting. I started my own business, and that worked out reasonably nicely and has been a good living. I played music for quite awhile as well, and so I had the opportunity to write the book as a result of the computer business.
One of my longtime clients and his wife asked me to go address some computer problems a friend of theirs was having. Turns out she’s a book publisher from Scholastic, Inc, and she had some very sensitive information on her computer that she was really concerned was going to be destroyed. We got to talking, and I told her a little bit about my background, going to school for film and theater and writing and music, and recorded a couple of concept albums at that point in time. She asked had I ever thought about writing a children’s book? Now, many, many details later, here we are, and Smasher is a very exciting reality.
Helena: Did you have any previous experience with teaching kids about computers?
Scott: Yeah, some of my very first computer gigs were teaching little kids, kindergarteners through like 6th grade, computer stuff. And people would say, “Well, come on, don’t you think we ought to be just keeping it to typing and basic stuff?” I said, “No, absolutely not.” These kids have a really remarkable ability to learn this stuff; you just have to find out what the common language is. And that’s the same for little kids – they actually absorb it faster than adults. You just have to find the common language, and then you build from there.
Helena: How did you come up with the title of your book, Smasher?
Scott: Smasher is referring to a couple of things. Primarily, it’s referring to one of the main characters. There’s a character that has the ability to travel through time, and she can do this – I don’t want to give away too much – but she can do this because she has a particle accelerator inside of her. And when she puts her arms around in a big circle and touches her fingers together, that completes the circuit.
A particle accelerator is also referred to as an atom smasher, and so when she does that, it actually opens a black hole in the fabric of space/time, and because she’s special and has certain things that I don’t want to give away, she can then open a portal into time traveling. So “smasher” is what she calls that affectionately, as her little pet name for what she’s doing, and it plays a key role in the book.
Helena: Tell us about your background in music? What role did music play in you becoming involved with computers?
Scott: Absolutely. In fact, math and music are extremely similar. A lot of people don’t think about it that way, because you go enjoy music, you listen to music, or if you’re just playing music and enjoying the emotional experience of it, it feels like it’s a very organic, creative process – and it certainly is. But it also ties very much into the logical part of the brain, because music and the way that the notes are structured and scales and chords and intervals and timing and different rhythms, it’s all math. It’s 100% mathematical.
Being a kid and learning to play viola, because I was interested in music, and being good at math and stuff like that, was just part of my development process. Later on, when I was in high school and trying to decide what I was going to go do in college, I got a scholarship to USC for computer engineering. But I realized at that point by then, the acting bug had bitten me, and so I was doing some theater and whatnot. I’d gotten accepted to USC, and I found out about their film school.
So I switched my mode of creativity from music, mainly because I moved into the freshman dorms thinking I was this awesome guitar player, and I hear somebody listening to an incredible jazz CD next door. I was like, “Wow, that’s awesome. I’m going to go find out what that is. I’ve got to learn who’s that musician that’s being played next door on a CD player.” I go next door, and it is not a CD; it is the random dude playing guitar in the dorm room next to me. That was such a humbling experience; I realized that I was now in a very different pond, so to speak. I actually stopped playing music for a while, switched gears to filmmaking and whatnot.
Now, your question is music and computer technology tied together? Yeah, I think at the logical level, they are. But I also tie the music into the physics level of what we have going on in Smasher. There’s a mysterious power called the Hum, which is akin to the Force or magic, but in physics, there are lots of things that happen at the very edge of our ability or of scientists’ ability to understand, and that’s things like quantum mechanics, which is this really, really mysterious stuff that happens at a very, very deep level inside molecules, inside atoms.
Everything that we see and feel and touch seems like it’s real, seems like it’s a physical thing, but at the regular level, it’s all electromagnetic. So we’re not actually touching anything. You put your hand on a table, you’re not actually touching something; you’re resisting an electromagnetic force with your own electromagnetic force.
If you get down to a small enough level, the entire universe is really just empty space. And then if you think about Albert Einstein and E = MC2, matter is really just energy condensed to such a high degree that it becomes a physical, tangible thing rather than just energy, like light or radio waves floating around in the air.
So the idea behind these string theory types of really, really subatomic things is that the vibration itself is what creates energy and then matter out of that. If that’s possible, if that’s what’s at the very, very fundamental core of the entire universe, then some magical power that we can’t understand could very likely be called the Hum, or have vibration as part of what makes it accessible to human beings and how we tap into that, and music, as is indicated in the book. Part of what happens is people are wondering when someone’s using the Hum; they’re like, “Oh, is he singing?” That’s part of the idea, is that as humans, we interact with this mysterious power through music, but it’s actually one of the fundamental deepest layers of physics and metaphysics.
Helena: What age range or grade level is your book catering to?
Scott: The target age is more toward the middle grade, school market. But I’ve had teenagers contact me and say they just absolutely love it. With the book out for such a short period of time, we’re really just starting to get the good reviews coming in, which is really exciting. The concepts work really well for adults, too.
Helena: What’s your opinion on kids reading e-books versus your traditional print books, with the way technology is nowadays?
Scott: Well, I’d like to reframe that just a little bit, because I think that the real problem is not so much kids reading e-books versus regular print books, as it is kids reading versus not reading. When you have things like video games, and just goofing around on the internet, social media and text messages – which isn’t quite reading; it’s something slightly different. Yes, it’s perhaps the English language, but it’s certainly not actual reading. I think making sure that kids are reading anything at all is the really important part.
Part of our goal with development actually was to make sure that we find something, a story that’s compelling and engaging enough for kids at an impressionable age, to find something that has a story that compels them to want to read, and particularly boys, because boys are more apt to skip the books. Girls are heavy readers anyway in general, but boys are going to skip it, and they’re going to go goof around and play video games or build things or whatever they’re going to do.
But especially with the STEM program that’s going on in education right now, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, trying to drive kids into those types of fields, especially when we’re finding such intense competition from foreign countries that are trying to make sure that their kids have an advantage – which is a fantastic thing, but our kids end up missing out on part of those advantages, because our education system isn’t keeping up.
Having a storyline that involves STEM-style education and creating a spark of interest for those kids, so that they can realize that there’s more to math than just doing problems, there’s more to the science class than talking about how to fill up a balloon with helium and how much does it expand, if you’re getting into physics, maybe they’re going to be interested enough to stick around until they take calculus – which, in my educational experience, was the first time I found that math applies to the real world. So while kids are learning about these things, they’re also engaging at a creative level.
To me, e-book versus printed book matters less than just the fact that they’re reading. But there’s certainly something to be said for the printed page holding the attention span longer. But I think that what we’re really dealing with is a technological issue overall, because all of our attention spans are diverted pretty heavily, in that with cell phones, GPS, social media and everything else, we’re all pulled in different directions.
So with the e-book concept, finding that the attention span is shorter, I don’t know that we can blame the e-book for that. We’ll find out what the research says, but to me, the important thing is that kids are reading and finding something that engages them and compels them to read.
Helena: Where is Smasher available to purchase?
Scott: Everywhere. Amazon, Barnes and Noble. I’ve gone into quite a few of the local Barnes and Noble stores here in southern California and signed copies that they have available. Most of the independent bookstores that I’ve been to have it, and certainly any independent bookstore or local bookstore that you contact will be able to order it.
Connect with Scott Bly and Smasher on social media and his website.
Albert Einstein, http://einstein.biz/
STEM Program, http://www.ed.gov/stem