The latest novel from author and biblical scholar Dr. Michael S. Heiser was recently released. 'The Portent' is the second book in a series that began with the supernatural thriller, 'The Facade'. Heiser discussed the books today via email.
The evolving story takes characters Brian Scott and Melissa Kelley through life-changing circumstances involving such topics as UFOs, government conspiracies and mysteries of existential significance. Author Heiser cleverly and entertainingly used the story as a means to present authenticated documents, quotes from historical figures and similar factual circumstances.
He advised that the latest book, 'The Portent', is indeed a true sequel to 'The Facade'. Readers should therefore read 'The Facade' prior to reading the second novel. He went on to explain how, through his books, he expresses his thoughts on such subject matter as providence, science, biblical interpretations, a failure of authenticity in organized religion and much more.
Without spoiling any plot twists, can you tell us a bit about the latest adventures of Brian and Melissa?
"The main story-line of 'The Portent' picks up several months after the ending of 'The Façade'," Heiser explained. "Brian and Melissa have managed to maintain the anonymity arranged for them at the close of 'The Façade'. Readers of 'The Façade' know the circumstances of their pairing are anything but ordinary. That fact has served to solidify their loyalty to each other, but that’s about the only thing that feels secure. They’re uncertain about any future together, not only because of their fear of exposure, but also in regard to their personal issues.
"The artificial normalcy of their lives is quickly undermined from unanticipated directions, the result of events set in motion before the events of 'The Façade'. One of the things I want readers to think about in 'The Portent' is the role of providence (or synchronicity, if readers prefer) in our lives. The events of 'The Portent' come together by means of trajectories that have no natural relation to each other, but which nevertheless converge in both advantageous and deadly ways.
"Two more over-arching themes deserve some mention," the author continued. "The term 'portent' refers to something ominous looming in the future, an omen. As with 'The Façade', the role of intelligent non-human evil in what we think of as paranormal reality is an important component of the story. The twist here is that I want Christians to re-examine some of their presumptions, especially in regard to prophecy. As a biblical scholar, I know that what passes for 'end times' thinking in most of popular Christianity operates on a set of assumptions that are far from certain when it comes to biblical interpretation. 'The Portent' will pull the rug out from under people in this area, but also blow their minds with items swapped in.
"When it comes to ufology, many Christians have married prophecy assumptions to other assumptions about the 'truth' behind UFOs and aliens. The result is the erection of a counter-mythology that gets exploited in 'The Portent'. Put another way, 'The Portent' gave me the opportunity to put myself in the place of intelligent evil and ask how I might use common expectations to accomplish ends in which I’m interested. How might I simultaneously confirm and undermine what people believe and think—and to what end?"
In 'The Facade', you presented readers with a great deal of interesting and factual information, via authenticated documents and similar sources. Can we expect more of that in 'The Portent'?
"Readers can expect more of the same in that regard. As was the case with 'The Façade', every ancient text, every quotation from some historical figure, every academic study or journal article, every government document, etc. in the story is real. Since I’m interested in intellectual roots of ancient astronaut theory (philosophical, religious, occult), tracing significant threads in those areas is part of what propels the conspiratorial agenda in 'The Portent'. Technological achievements during the second world war and the Cold War era that are to those of us who read the 'fugitive academic literature' also come to light in 'The Portent'. The range of subjects and disciplines that factor into the story in some way is quite broad: biblical studies, archaeology, Vedic studies (Indo-Aryan origins), astronomy, Theosophy, Gnosticism, Ariosophy, Minoan studies, human migration, genetics, early (patented) methods of nuclear fusion without a reactor, Nazi survival, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology.
"The sequel took a lot of research, to say the least. I approach fiction like a thesis. Everything I put into the story derives from peer-reviewed scholarship and science. I’ve created a handbook to the sequel with full bibliography for readers."
One of the central themes of the ongoing story is that people have a very difficult time accurately identifying what they think they are observing, and such situations are further complicated by factions of the intelligence community intentionally manipulating the circumstances. Would you please describe these dynamics a bit further, and how they play into the plot?
"Such misdirection factors into 'The Portent' from three directions: (1) Cold War technology / the military industrial complex; (2) the psychological side of [Operation] Paperclip—intelligence experiments and programs aimed at mind control techniques (Artichoke, MK-ULTRA); and (3) propaganda / psychological warfare.
"In regard to the last item, your readers may be familiar with a briefing known as the matrix of UFO beliefs, created as part of the work of the Human Potential Foundation. This briefing reached President Clinton’s desk. The matrix outlines potential answers for the UFO/alien phenomenon, answers that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. 'The Portent' explores the notion that not only might there be more than one answer to any given sighting or case, but there are also competing agendas by those in the know. People interested in ufology and 'disclosure' often presume that those who are ultimately in the know are a collegial but deeply covert fraternity. I don’t."
What would you like readers to take away from your books, 'The Facade' and 'The Portent'?
"That when it comes to the UFO issue, you’re foolish to put all your answer-eggs in one basket. That applies to both religious (traditional or not) and non-religious enthusiasts. If you think that UFOs validate ancient astronaut theory—that there couldn’t be any other coherent explanation—you’re under-informed. If you think popular Christian approaches to the phenomenon have everything figured out, you’re also under-informed. Frankly, both human power-mongers and intelligent supernatural evil are smarter than you think. There’s nothing transparently obvious about the subject matter, its history, its roots, and where it might be headed."
Encouraged to express any additional points he felt relevant, Dr. Heiser concluded:
"Many readers will know that I’m a biblical scholar in a Christian context. If they know that, chances are good they also know that I don’t define what I believe by any Christian tradition. My loyalties are not to traditions or creeds. I focus on the biblical text, understood in its ancient context—not the opinions of church fathers, popes, reformers, and preachers. That irritates a lot of people, Christian and otherwise.
"The main character of 'The Façade' (Brian) was a person of faith who shared that outlook—ending his career in the process. In 'The Portent', Brian is still Brian. He’s my opportunity to subtly explore the failure of authenticity in organized religion. Without verbalizing it, Brian and other characters in 'The Portent' raise the question of how the sort of Christian community you actually see in the New Testament can operate outside the bounds of what we think of as church and denominations. In other words, what would faith look like if it simply focused on biblical theology, loyalty to each other, and a commitment to expend our resources, time, and security in service to anyone in crisis and desperate need? It’s a cryptic critique running through 'The Portent'."