TIME.com Home
From TIME Magazine
Magazine Archives
Web Features
Online Polls
Photo Essays
Boards & Chat
Latest CNN News
TIME Digital
TIME For Kids
LIFE Homepage
Search TIME.com
Subscribe to TIME
Subscriber Services
Write to TIME.com
Free Product Info

Other News
spacer gif
spacer gif
Check the New 2000
FORTUNE 500 Today!


spacer gif
Sivy On Stocks,
By E-Mail


spacer gif
The 'X-Men' Cometh
And EW's Got 'Em!


spacer gif

TIME Book Selections
TIME Annual: 1999-2000
TIME 100: Person of the Century
TIME Almanac 2000
TIME 75th Anniversary
TIME Great Images

Visions of the 21st Century:
Novelist Caleb Carr

Transcript from Nov. 3, 1999

Timehost: Thanks for coming to our chat tonight with author Caleb Carr. Mr. Carr is here with us now! Thanks for joining us.

Caleb Carr: Thank everyone for coming!

Timehost: Now let's take the first question from our audience...

dolsen00 asks: JUST finished reading the story in TIME, and now I have to WAIT for the rest?!? Anyway, have you ever been to Central Africa? Do you base your characters on people you have met?

Caleb Carr: I haven't been to that part of Africa exactly, no, and I have no interest really in going anyplace that volatile. I don't make any conscious attempt to base characters on people I know- it's a very subconscious process.

djknj asks: Your books on "The Alienist" were the best descriptions of New York at the turn of the century since "Ragtime." What research did you do to come up with the scenes?

Caleb Carr: A lot. The main places were the NY Public Library, municipal archives, the New York Historical Society; but really, most of the research was not too hard since I grew up here. The research that was hard was the medical research.

superherojim asks: I was wondering what effect you think the Internet will have on publishing- will a lot more people self-publish instead of going to large, traditional publishers?

Caleb Carr: Probably not, because of the desire most of the public has for well-made books.

Timehost: Here's a kind of follow-up...because the Internet is not presented as a totally positive place in your story for TIME...

books999 asks: Isn't the internet sad sometimes, Mr. Carr?

Caleb Carr: Oh I think it's very sad! I think it sells itself as a place that brings people together - yet often it separates people and takes them away from each other. For example, this interview, which once upon a time we would have been doing in a large lecture hall, face-to face.

Timehost: Another follow-up...

cleverlyenoughnumber41 asks: In your story for TIME, you present the Internet as a force not altogether for good. That information is not knowledge. How much does this correspond with your actual view on the Internet revolution?

Caleb Carr: It's actually exactly my view on the Internet revolution. Not all revolutions take people forward, and not all technology is an advance.

Timehost: Here's a question about a character from "The Alienist" ...

Arsesta asks: Mr Carr, do you think you will write another novel, but this time from Sara's point of view?

Caleb Carr: It's possible, but I've never seen a man write successfully from a woman's point of view. It's more likely that I'd write a book about Sara, perhaps from someone else's point of view.

hitaxman asks: Have there been any attempts to make movies from either the "Alienist" or "Angel"?

Caleb Carr: Only "The Alienist," and the attempts have been so bad that I have not yet sold "Angel" to the movies. What happened was that a producer bought the rights and then decided he had to completely change the characters in the book. We got into a huge conflict, one that is actually ongoing.

joejoe_10017 asks: Does the author think we can learn similar lessons from the past and the future?

Caleb Carr: I don't know that you can learn lessons from the future, since it hasn't happened yet. But if you mean "can we apply lessons from the past?," yes, and that's why I'm writing the story that appeared in TIME.

art_model asks: What do you see as the biggest challenges for the future?

Caleb Carr: Probably the most fundamental challenge for the future is whether or not people everywhere can attain some kind of genuine acceptance and tolerance of one another and that's, of course, an eternal question which is the kind of question that helps us predict the future based on how that issue has been addressed in the past. The short answer is: it's not very hopeful, but still possible.

fw482w4 asks: What authors do you personally read?

Caleb Carr: Mostly non-fiction, and in terms of fiction, I don't have any one genre I tend to stick to. Mostly older authors- by that I mean authors from the past. Anyone who's a good storyteller first. I don't put any particular value on style or literary aspirations.

youuuuuwhooooo asks: Is there a particular time period you like best? A particular city?

Caleb Carr: Well, I do have the 1890s. But I do love speculating about the future. As for cities, no particular one - I do write about New York because it's where I grew up, but no one should mistake that for blind affection for where I grew up.

jondshep asks: Mr. Carr, how much research time was in involved with "The Alienist"? It is so detailed.

Caleb Carr: For both of those books, about ten months of research and ten months of writing.

djknj asks: Who do you see acting as the alienist in a movie?

Caleb Carr: It was based on an actor named Anton Walbrook, but he's dead. I have no idea what living actors would be appropriate, and I'm open to suggestions. It just happens that Walbrook had a big influence on me when I was young, and I developed him as a sort of alter-ego when I was a kid. I used to imitate how he talked. But I don't think of particular actors as I write, in general.

books999 asks: Are you a religous person, Mr. Carr?

Caleb Carr: Not if you mean organized religion- I have my own private spiritual feelings. I went to Episcopal school when I was young, until I was 13, and I would say that it had a positive influence on me.

msignore_99 asks: What about that guy from "Northern Exposure"? He's great.

Timehost: Msignore...who do you mean? Let us know!

sputnik_sally asks: What do you think of Stephen King?

Caleb Carr: Frankly, I admire his output, but I find most of his books, as a whole, boring. There are a few, like "The Stand," that I think are quite good.

Timehost: Here's another comment ...

johnhenry_59 asks: Just want to say to Mr. Carr.....I loved "The Alienist"...had great fun reading that one!!! Thanks!

Caleb Carr: Thank you.

wondercow1 asks: Why does death play a prominent role in your writing?

Caleb Carr: I hate to answer this way, but for quite a few reasons that are personal.

hillbillyhunka asks: How will you celebrate the start of the new millennium?

Caleb Carr: I will celebrate if there are no terrorist attacks, no major technological disasters, and as for where I'll be, I'll probably be upstate in a house I own in upstate New York. Celebrating quietly because I'm not sure the millennium is something to be celebrated.

sweatyteets asks: How do you forsee media in the 21st century?

Caleb Carr: Basically, there will be more of them, and just as little content of any meaning.

djknj asks: When I read about Clarence Darrow as a boy, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. Did you consult with any lawyers for your trial scenes in the "Angel" book?

Caleb Carr: Yes. I consulted with a friend of mine, who was at the time working for one of the justices of the Supreme Court.

hillbillyhunka asks: How would you illustrate New York City, the setting for so much of your work, if the year were 2099 and you had written something for TIME set in the 22nd century?

Caleb Carr: Unless there are some major public health advances, New York 100-150 years from now will probably be a ghost town because it's just too susceptable. It's just too prone to health risks- too many people. Assuming, of course, it survives terrorist attacks. You have to remember that New York City is an anachronism, an older way of living that's now exposed to every kind of 21st century danger.

Timehost: Here's another comment from someone who attended your alma maters...

alkriney asks: Caleb - Just checking in as a fellow Friends Seminary graduate and Kenyon college attendee. Love your work.

Caleb Carr: Thank you- who are you?

Timehost: alkriney...please let us know who you are!

msignore_99 asks: And now, we have a follow-up to the question we asked of the person who suggested someone from "Northern Exposure" be cast in "The Alienist"...

Tayio75 asks: asks: Mr. Carr has worked with Mr. Corbett in the past...

Caleb Carr: Yeah, John and I did a futuristic TV movie that I wrote and produced, and I think it was a very good experience, but I don't think he would be right for "The Alienist."

joejoe_10017 asks: How do you think we should deal with threats from terroists, i.e., biological warfare in the future?

Caleb Carr: By holding the countries that harbor terrorists responsible for terrorist activities. For anyone who's further interested, I wrote an article in the World Policy Journal called "Terrorism as Warfare" which you can look up. That was in the winter of 1996-97.

books999 asks: I was wondering if you got any strange responses from people for including Teddy Roosevelt in your work?

Caleb Carr: The reactions from the Roosevelt family were extremely positive. In fact, I was the first person allowed to read fiction in his birthplace and his home in Tagamore Hill in Long Island. That's because I make it a point never to rewrite the actual achievements of real people- I fit whatever I'm doing into the blank spaces in their life.

Timehost: Here's a follow-up to your comments about New York...

joejoe_10017 asks: Are you leaving New York then?

Caleb Carr: I already spend a lot of time in other places, and as New York changes, and becomes a more boring city, I continue to spend less time here.

Stamm444 asks: Have you read the Philip K. Dick stories of the near future? Have they influenced your expectations of the future?

dolsen00 asks: Any sci-fi writers you find particularly good?

Caleb Carr: I have read most of the Dick stories, I like him very much so they probably have influenced me, though I can't think of any particular influence. Among sci-fi writers wrting now, probably WIlliam Gibson, though we're very different. And P.S.- he shares my bleak view of the internet.

hitaxman asks: "The Alienist" and "Angel of Darkness" were just fantastic. When can we fans expect another?

Caleb Carr: I don't know- sometime in the next few years. Right now I'm devoted to the TIME piece, which takes a lot more research and work than may initially be apparent.

Timehost: It's a serial...do you know how you're going to end it?

Caleb Carr: Yes, I know how the story ends. The only question is exactly how I get to that ending since good stories always to a very large extent take you in directions you initially didn't expect and cannot really control.

maryhigher asks: This TIME series so far reminds me a little of "The Bladerunner"---that sort of world. Will we be seeing "replicants" is this story? It seems there are possible duplicates of some of the characters.

Caleb Carr: No, it's not far enough in the future for there to be any genuine artificial intelligence.

Tayio75 asks: dawnymarieeeee asks: What discovery in medical science will have the most impact in the future?

Caleb Carr: Well, definitely genetic medicine. That might play a part in the TIME series, but not necessarily in a good way.

wondercow1 asks: How did you become interested in military history?

Caleb Carr: It really grew out of my interest in adventurers and explorers when I was a younger kid. Really, for me, military stories are just adventure stories. I'm not really a military-techno-geek.

Louisk39 asks: Does the form of the story concern you? Would you rather people read your story as a printed-out copy, or straight from the screen? Does it make a difference?

brencovngtn asks: When is the book going to be availiable?

Caleb Carr: If people can absorb the same substance from the book by reading it off the screen, they are welcome to, but I don't think they can, so I prefer printed pages. And the book, of which the TIME story will be the first half, will appear in the fall of 2000, and it will be published by Random House.

msignore_99 asks: In the year 2025, will there still be sports teams, like the Knicks?

Caleb Carr: I certainly hope so, since I shell out a lot of money to watch their opening games. But seriously, yes, I suspect so. There will always be games of some sort. Whether they are such big business depends on the state of the economy.

Timehost: We're going to have wrap things up now...Mr. Carr, any closing thoughts?

Caleb Carr: My only closing thought.. . . I hope people will remember that I am not trying to write science fiction. I am trying to write future history. I'm not trying so much to look forward as to step forward and look back- a historical look on the future.

Timehost: Thank you, Caleb Carr, for joining us tonight...

Caleb Carr: Well, thank you.

Copyright © 1999 Yahoo! Chat and TIME. All rights reserved.

Search TIME magazine and TIME.com.
Click for more options or for help.