Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). A college teacher by day, he has published numerous works of fantasy and science fiction, including the two-part Survival Colony series (Survival Colony 9 and Scavenger of Souls), the deep-space adventure Freefall, and the short story collection Ten Tales of Terror and Terra. The Ecosystem series—Ecosystem, The Devouring Land, and House of Earth, House of Stone—is his latest foray into speculative fiction. In his free time, Josh likes to read, watch movies, and take long nature hikes with his kids. Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.
Can you tell us about your new book?
House of Earth, House of Stone is the final book in the Ecosystem Trilogy, a series set on a future Earth in which the environment has mutated into a collective sentience called the Ecosystem. It doesn't like human beings very much (no big surprise), and it has forced the remnants of humankind to take shelter in small villages of stone that the Ecosystem can't penetrate. Only people with a psychic power known as the Sense, which enables them to read the Ecosystem's "mind," can survive in the wild, so Sensors are responsible for supplying everyone else with food, water, and fuel. My narrator, a seventeen-year-old Sensor named Sarah, holds a special grudge against the Ecosystem--because it killed her mother when Sarah was only two years old. When she hunts, she hunts not only for her people but for revenge. But during the course of the series, she discovers truths about the Ecosystem, about her society, and about herself that she never imagined.
What inspired you to write this series?
I've always loved fantasy fiction—I grew up reading Tolkien, Le Guin, and other classic writers—and I've always loved the natural world. But as I've gotten older, I've become aware of how much damage human beings have done to Nature, so my thought turned to the idea of telling a story in which Nature is conscious, intelligent—and angry. This gave me a perfect opportunity to tell a dramatic adventure story, full of mutated creatures and hairbreadth escapes, while also reflecting on our relationship to the natural world
Which character do you relate to the most?
I'd have to say I relate to Sarah, my narrator. She starts out the series angry at what the Ecosystem has done to her family and her people, but she grows to understand the world in ways that make her come to some hard realizations about herself. I feel as if I've undergone a similar growth path myself--from being upset about the state of the world to recognizing my own responsibility and, more important, acting to try to make a change.
I know you love monsters. Which one is your favorite?
There are so many monsters in the Ecosystem series, it's hard for me to choose! In each case, I took a present-day creature and twisted it in some way to make it more threatening. So, for example, snapping turtles become snatching turtles, which pull people into their shells and devour them there. But I love frogs, so I think I would say that my favorite creatures in the series are poison arrow frogs--which are similar to poison dart frogs, except they can spit their venom over fifty feet with the velocity of an arrow. My son helped me come up with this monster when he was younger, so that's another reason I like them.
If you could meet any character from a book, who would it be?
Definitely Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings. The man is just too cool, too wise, and too awesome. If you go to my website, you'll see a picture of me in the homemade Gandalf costume I pull out of the closet every Halloween!