Michael Jeffery Blair is a writer, designer and media artist who is creative director for an award-winning design firm. His novels include Exit Point, The Architect Of Law and Sudden Rivers, and his editorial work has appeared in the New York Times and other publications. He has authored several stageplays and a collection of poetry. Educated at UCLA and the prestigious Art Center College, he has created communications for many of the world’s great companies. They say the strongest urge in the universe is to change someone else's copy–years of writing under extreme pressure contributed to his unique voice.
What role do you believe speculative fiction plays in society?
A culture is as great as its dreams. It was a long time before people had the leisure moments to speculate at all–they were too busy just trying to survive. History testifies to that. Great examples of speculative fiction fueled their forward progress from early sacred storytelling that survives to this day to the Norse sagas to Greek and Middle Eastern myth to Thomas Moore’s Utopia. It gave men ideas, something to strive for beyond hand to mouth and ideals to remember. The tellers of these tales were revered, their stories passed down verbally from father to son, written down by hand and preserved through the centuries as a testament to how much we humans value speculative fiction.
Today, perhaps the most important issue is our relationship with technology. This has been a classic theme throughout science fiction, but now that we live in that future world people are being swept away by technology as if the Asimovs and Bradburys had not warned us. Asking someone to read your book is asking for a big commitment–especially so in this hyperwired age. Consequently, I believe the best speculative fiction has a role far beyond just entertainment. A good story to me is a palette that embodies enough wisdom to encourage enlightenment. That is the value of reading–good writing has always been the tool of great ideas and the driver of great movements.
Perhaps the mission of the writer in this modern age carries a deeper and more profound responsibility to society. After all, if anyone can write and there are millions of stories being produced annually is it really valuable if it is so common? To me a writer must strive to do the impossible, to do what others cannot–that’s what makes him a writer. This is the tradition of the storyteller whose tales have been treasured throughout the centuries as priceless keepsakes of our cultural heritage.
Where do writers gain such wisdom? It’s a mystery, but somehow they do.
Why do you write in this genre?
I like to believe I’m carrying on that tradition. To me, real life is composed of what one envisions it to be. It’s imagination that is the breathing fire of living and not coming to terms and coping with “reality” as many would like us to believe. Dreams die long before a person actually does, so the revitalization of imagination is vital to life, and I suppose that’s why I write the genre. I am fascinated by the future, it’s possibilities and it’s terrors because we are all caught up in the inexorable flow toward what will happen next. We can have a great say in what that will be.
I spent many years doing creative work for the television networks in Hollywood. It is a vast landscape of almost unbelievable avarice and ambition. The true creative forces are so outnumbered and bullied that it is a wonder anything of quality happens at all and is why, with so many talented artists and writers, almost nothing of value comes from television. It gave me insights into the social and economic forces that spawned this gargantuan evolution of broadcast media that envelops most people’s lives overshadowing their own. Exit Point is a story of consequences and character told as an urban fable of the near future.
What was your biggest challenge in writing it?
Creating a story that was literary while at the same time being exciting and interesting. The story evolves from each character’s agenda and choices based on their inner workings. What I love about the written word and what I believe makes it superior to the dramatic arts is the ability to fully illuminate each individual spirit in its unique and fabulous complexity. Purpose and desire are always in conflict and survival depends on the outcome.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a novel about a burned-out, lower level diplomat stationed at the US Embassy in Cairo. It takes place again in the near future, but in a time when Islamic fundamentalists have gained full political power in the Middle East and the religious right have presidential power in the US. Against his will, the diplomat suddenly begins to gain mysterious powers by which he can heal people, among other things. The local people are convinced he is a prophet destined to bring peace to the world. This of course raises political and religious havoc between the East and the West. I hope to have it completed by the first of the year.
About Exit Point
An enigmatic genius discovers it. A woman obsessed with power exploits it. One man will risk everything to find the answer behind it, but he could never have been prepared for where the truth would take him
It is Los Angeles of the near future. People are dazzled by technology driven by an insatiable demand for virtual excitement. Secretly, network executives employ a fantastic new technology that causes people to lose touch with reality. This hidden influence suddenly affects everyone in sinister and unexpected ways. Soon the social services are overwhelmed with these mysterious cases not knowing what is happening or why. Exit Point is the odyssey of Nash DeCoucy into the dark landscape of the near future as he desperately tries to unravel the mystery while struggling with his own crisis in belief.
Together with a brilliant woman who has prescient powers, an illustrious emergency care physician and a cynical investigator from a cyber crime unit known as VOX, he begins to unravel the mystery. Even his friends become victim to bizarre, unexplained behavior.
But the forceful specter of Mostafa Al-Razio overshadows them all. The supreme network provider has a secret agenda–fueled by revelations. Roxanne, a ruthlessly ambitious network programmer feeds on his power and is key to his mission. The fateful crossing of their lives brings the city to crisis.
At the source of it all lies a rumored archive of unimaginable wealth hoarded by the last remaining church and a legendary golden disk with mysterious powers.