Cue the dramatic sci-fi music.
The year is 2028. ISIS has won. Twitter no longer exists. And World War III has actually happened.
Within the 500 pages of Gary Morgenstein’s book, “A Mound Over Hell,” the Bronx native finds ways to stuff baseball, politics and lessons on humanity into a novel filled with holograms and time travel — with some locales in Riverdale.
Morgenstein grew up six blocks from Yankee Stadium, and started writing short stories as a child. He used it as an outlet to create a world he could manage.
Today, Morgenstein not only is a full-time author, but a playwright as well. “A Mound Over Hell” is one of his many baseball-inspired novels. In the book, some want to start a war to take America back from ISIS while others only want to sustain the peace.
“When you read science-fiction, you’re supposed to scare the reader a bit.” Morgenstein said. “You’re supposed to say, ‘What if?’”
By this time period, just 15 people show up for baseball games held in the last stadium in the world — Amazon Stadium — which, before the conflict, was known as Yankee Stadium.
He also plants a few of the characters in Riverdale. Elisa Kenuda, the commissioner of sports and entertainment, lives in a fashionable apartment on West 238th Street. Another key character, Annette Ramos, owns a boutique shoe store on Riverdale Avenue in a very vulnerable New York City that is rebuilding itself from nothing within a dystopian world.
When Ramos was married to Morgenstein’s protagonist, Puppy Nedick, they too lived in Riverdale, choosing it because her parents wanted Ramos to reside in a nice place only Riverdale could offer.
“It’s a very flattering and a wonderful place to live,” Morgenstein said. As a child he would visit his aunt here, whom he considered “fancy.”
Puppy embodies Morgenstein’s love for baseball. The character is a baseball historian who happened to be a star pitcher in college. He’s heartbroken the game is slowly disappearing in this new world. However, Puppy strives to keep it alive.
In his younger years, Morgenstein himself once tried out for the Yankees.
“I was not very good, but at least I tried out,” he said. “It didn’t matter if I went to the league or not. I was hitting home bat at Yankee Stadium, and that was special.”
Baseball and science-fiction may not be a reader’s typical combination, but it can be expected from someone who used to work for the cable channel Syfy while adoring America’s favorite pastime. In “A Mound Over Hell,” Morgenstein creatively molds the two together in a way that explores the essence of humanity.
In his experience with science-fiction, Morgenstein finds the genre’s representation to be vicious, gory or some kind of “blood sport.”
“People don’t believe that something so simple is going to make it into the book,” Morgenstein said. “I wanted to explore that and create that future. The thing about baseball is you need a little sentiment.”
That sentiment is exactly where Morgenstein’s characters look to return to, and that sentiment, he believes, is lacking in the real world. Democracy has failed in this new world, and integrity and love is embraced. Structures like religion, social media, banks, lawyers, entertainment and patriotism are outlawed.
“Race, ethnicity and gender, none of it matters,” Morgenstein said. “If you work hard and raise your family, you’re a productive member of society.
“It’s a world of honesty, not communism. You can succeed as much as you want, and you can be successful. But you can’t do it by stabbing someone in the back.”
Morgenstein made an effort to construct diverse characters based on his view of America.
It’s part of the reason he made his main character biracial.
From classic films like “Blade Runner” and “Total Recall,” Morgenstein has learned that every world has its own rules.
As a writer, he believes it’s his duty to write in a way that adheres to those set of laws. Things like ethics and honesty are really important in his “Mound Over Hell” world, and as a result, Morgenstein has to consider a great deal when he chooses to make a character lie so it makes sense to the reader.
His book has been out a few months now, but Morgenstein already is working on a sequel.
Overall Morgenstein hopes people will take a page from his sporty sci-fi novel and realize hate begets hate.
“I’ve created a rough world, but I’ve also created a world of hope, and hope will always confront adversity,” Morgenstein said. “I’m not going to say that all you need is love, but it’s a good start.”