Hi all! Thrilled to be here sharing a quick look at Songs of Thalassa by Dr. Brian N. Tissot, as well as a Q&A! This timely book written by a marine ecologist features pressing environmental concerns and a gripping story. Today is its second day of being out in the world, so congratulations to Dr. Tissot!
The Book and its Author
After a surfing accident claims her career and nearly takes her life, surfer Sage Thompson is at a crossroads. Still mourning her astronaut father's death on a mission to ocean planet Thalassa, a tragedy she might be able to put behind her with the help of her fans—if they still believed in her—she's not sure what to do, where to go, or how to move on. But when Milo challenges her to a contest on the ocean planet Thalassa, the asteroid- and tsunami-ravaged world that stole her father, she'll discover that she not only still has what it takes to win, but once she hears the songs of Thalassa, winning might not be the most important thing. Songs of Thalassa will appeal to fans of Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Martian, and Contact, and features a young woman on a journey of self-discovery struggling to develop a sense of place and connections between herself, her culture, and the universe on a virgin ocean planet.
DR. BRIAN TISSOT is a marine ecologist and professor living in a small coastal town in far Northern California. He is a third-generation Californian and has surfed for 40 years while living in California, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii.
As a college professor he has taught and mentored thousands of students at the University of Hawaii, Washington State University, and Humboldt State University over the last 30 years. He has taught over a dozen courses in marine biology, ecology, environmental ethics, and environmental policy.
As a scientist and explorer, Tissot has completed thousands of SCUBA dives and hundreds of submersible excursions across the coral reefs and deep seas of the Pacific. Through his research he has advocated for the conservation of marine resources through testimony and law creation. He has published 80 scientific papers and his research has been featured in major media including Scientific American, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, the Washington Post and several films. In addition to his scientific endeavors, Tissot (aka “Dr. Abalone”) also produces surfing videos on YouTube and blogs about surfing, marine biology, and environmental issues on BrianTissot.com.
Songs of Thalassa is his first science fiction book and the first of three books in the Songs of the Universe series.
Q & A
Question: As a career marine biologist focused on the conservation of coral reefs, kelp forests, and the deep-sea, one of the natural themes in Songs of Thalassa is the global warming effects on marine life. Why did you write Songs of Thalassa?
Brian Tissot: Wanting to draw attention to Earth’s plight, I thought the best way was to place someone who didn’t care about the environment on a virgin planet and see what happens. I believe they would see what Earth was like before we began to destroy its ecosystems, connect to its indigenous life and appreciate its beauty, and ultimately want to defend it. This is Sage’s journey on Thalassa.
Q: Songs of Thalassa chronicles Sage Thompson – a young Hawaiian surfer. Why is the book dedicated to your daughter and the young women of the world?
BT: As a professor I have observed thousands of women in my classes graduate from college and move on with their lives without a mission in life, despite possessing many remarkable gifts. Because we desperately need young women as leaders in today’s society, I created Sage’s journey to inspire those looking for a path to purpose. We know what the world looks like with men as leaders; I believe it is now time for women to lead us, with love, compassion, and aloha.
Although Sage’s character is not based on my daughter, as a young marine biologist and surfer with a beautiful aloha spirit, her love for the ocean inspired a lot of my writing about Sage’s early life and her relationship with her father.
Q: Why does Songs of Thalassa focus on big wave surfing and Hawaiian culture?
BT: Big wave surfing was both a hook to young audiences and a metaphor for Sage’s struggles with reconciling her emotions about her dead father. The setting on Thalassa is what scientists predict on a low-gravity planet, such as Mars on which it is based, and creates some really cool scenarios for surfing. Because surfing and my love for fhe ocean led to my career in marine biology, I also felt it was natural lead-in to what the early explorers of ocean planets would want to do.
Hawaiian culture has much to offer to the world, particularly as it relates to love, family, and environmental stewardship, or malama‘āina (nurture the land). Like many indigenous cultures, Hawaiian practices were almost exterminated by western culture. A resurgence of these traditions in the 1970s, and up to today, have been instrumental in reviving many practices, such the Hawaiian language and voyaging traditions, to name a few. I viewed Sage’s journey to Thalassa as an extension of Polynesian’s fantastic voyages and discoveries across the Pacific. Her reengagement with her culture and beliefs in the old ways was symbolic of Hawaiians discovering the power of their own culture and remembering their ancestors. I also hope my book will inspire readers to listen to authentic native Hawaiian voices and seek their wisdom, as I am not Hawaiian.
Q: Explain why music plays a big role in the book.
BT: Music plays a significant role in the book and as it helped tie the major themes of the book together and is at the cutting edge of scientific research. Whale songs and their sonar abilities are well known, which is why they were included in the book. But sound in nature is not as well known, and we are discovering it is prevalent among a wide variety of organisms and not well understood. As Bernie Krause has written in the Great Animal Orchestra, sounds in nature are as carefully orchestrated as the most beautiful classical score and were the inspiration for human music. Music was the motivation for the title of the book, Songs of Thalassa, and will be explored more deeply in the next two books as part of the Songs of the Universe series. Sadly, with the destruction of our environment, we are silencing these beautiful sounds and communications in nature before we even understand what they mean. It’s a huge loss and one we need to stop.
Q: Tell us more about the next book in the series.
BT: The next book in series, Songs of Hina, takes place in the future when a team returns to Thalassa to learn more about the inhabitants. Many of the mysteries in SOT will be explored more deeply, including the songs, and Thalassa’s moon, named Hina by Sage, will play a prominent role.
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