Photo by Carla DeMarco
He hopes through his latest speculative fiction novel, The Triumph of Resistance, to communicate his concerns through his characters, all of whom, he says, are parts of himself.
Keyes first became interested in technology's long term impact when he studied nuclear physics in military school. After college, he continued off-campus studies. "Aware and alarmed," he changed his lifestyle to minimize his personal impact on what he saw as a destructive societal direction.
He has lived his adult life traveling, camping, caretaking and playing classic guitar for a living. An active environmentalist, poet and songwriter, he recently turned his pen to novels in order to get his ideas before a broader audience.
Triumph, the second in a futuristic series, is a poignant exploration of the consequences of a nuclear disaster. The book's action begins in Silver City, N. M. and is set mostly in that state, which Keyes says is "the hub of new and nuclear weapons research" and harbors an inordinate amount of nuclear waste, with more depositories in the planning stage.
Main character Micah Danielson "becomes the main focus of a new and hopeful movement away from the compartmentalized and controlled society that the Western Hemisphere has become," said Lorin Emery in his review featured in Moongate de Homo Sentiens, a Silver City literary publication.
"No conscious plan has led these people from the depths of their individual prisons of concrete walls, self-isolation and incipient madness to a new life where a hurricane, decay, death, the complete collapse of society and even a nuclear holocaust are mere decorations, not players. In the end, which is undeniably a starting, Micah sees his world-pieces coalesce into one which triumphs.
"Keyes brings us a post-modern tale that has within it all the dreaded seeds of the future, yet finds in itself that the human spirit allows no permanent despair or defeat . . . Death becomes rebirth and control becomes opportunity," Emery said.
Keyes admits he doesn't have all the answers to dilemmas that plague humanity, but he makes suggestions. " I want to bring certain problems into people's awareness so they can take responsibility for their own destiny," he said. "We think that since we've got money in our pockets we can afford the 'suburban lifestyle,' but we're ignoring the real cost and the bigger question - can we afford it in the future? Technology has created more problems than it's solved. The good news is that there are alternatives. We can cope with the future by simplifying our lives."
"People are afraid of nuclear weapons but not nuclear materials," he continued. "They need to understand that the stuff doesn't have to explode to be dangerous. The big lie we've been told is that there are acceptable levels of radiation. There is no such thing."
Keyes suggests tackling the fissionable materials problem by setting up a "Manhattan Project" in reverse, a sort of antithesis to the development of nuclear energy. "As we did before," he said, "the United States should lead the world in assembling the best minds, only this time, we need to find a way to 'uncreate' the stuff or get it off the planet."
Keyes hopes it won't take a nuclear disaster to force humanity to live a lifestyle more compatible with nature. But, if an accident similar to "The Terror" in his book should occur, he predicts the ultimate outcome will have positive elements.
The heart of Keye's philosopy beats loudest near the end of his story when, after the catastrophe, Micah faces the annihilation of half the world's population and contamination of surface soil and water. As he confronts the future with apprehension, his mentor, NoMan, counsels, "The greatest task before us . . . is to bring unity and peaceful coexistence out of social and political chaos. I believe that this can be done by establishing a unified network of regional mini-governments, local villages, etc. . . . we can begin a new era of decentralized politics since super power imperialistic politics have led to the greatest period of over population, crime, warfare, economic instability and industrial pollution in the history of human kind.". . . our real duty is to love one another, forgive one another and learn to live simply. That is the basis for a peaceful social order."Warnings have been sounded before, but what gives Keyes' words potency is that they are offered by a living example of one who deliberately treads softly upon the Earth he seeks to save.
Triumph of Resistance is the second in a series called Millenial Chronicles.