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Light On Light Through


You'll hear a little of this and lot of that on Light On Light Through - my reviews of great television series, my interviews with authors and creative media people and their interviews of me, my political commentary, thoughts about my favorite cars and food and space travel, discussions of my music, and a few of my readings from my science fiction stories. These are usually audio and a few are video.  In the first years, starting in 2006, I put up a new episode at least once a month.  More recently, it became more or less often than once a month, usually a lot less often.  But in the Fall of 2018, I began getting more in the mood to podcast, and you can expect new episodes now a little more frequently.  - Paul Levinson

The Lives and Times of Dr. Phil D'Amato

Aug 2, 2007

Shaun Farrell recently completed his podiobook of my novel, The Silk Code.   Shaun was the 4th Dr. Phil D'Amato ... Who is Phil D'Amato? Well, this seems like a good time to lay out some of his key biographical details...

Dr. Phil D'Amato is a fictional forensic detective with the NYPD, who has a penchant for getting involved in strange cases...

Here is his story...

The First Phil: That would be me - Phil D'Amato's author, and creator. I started telling his story in the summer of 1993, when I came across Stephen Hawking's "Chronology Protection Conjecture". Even if time travel were mathematically possible, Hawking thought that the universe would not let it happen. Because time travel could unravel the whole cause-and-effect moorings of the universe .... Somehow, in my mind, that became a great set-up for a metaphysical murder mystery. Phil investigates the death of scientists whose only link was that they were working together on a time-travel project, now abandoned.

The short story - actually, a novelette, "The Chronology Protection Case," at over 7500 words - was published in the September 1995 issue of Analog Magazine. It became an immediate hit, getting nominations for the Nebula and Sturgeon Awards, and being reprinted in what by 2005 would be three books (Supernatural Sleuths, Nebula Awards 32, and The Best Time Travel Stories Of All Time), as well one online magazine. I went on to publish "The Copyright Notice Case" in 1996 (Nebula nominee, and winner of the Homer award) and "The Mendelian Lamp Case" in 1998 (reprinted in Best SF#3, Science Fiction Theater, and The Hard SF Renaissance) - both featuring Phil, both in Analog - and then I turned my attention to getting Phil into the covers of novels...

The Silk Code, published in 1999, was my first novel and my first Phil D'Amato novel. It went on to win the Locus Award for Best First Novel of 1999 (a rarity for me - I usually get no further than nominations). The Consciousness Plague followed in 2002 and The Pixel Eye in 2003. (The Silk Code and The Consciousness Plague have also been published in Polish editions. And "The Mendelian Lamp Case" has seen print in Czech.)

But, by then, Phil was already leading a second life...

The Second Phil: In February 2002, I returned from a science fiction convention in Boston ("Boskone") to find a letter from Jay Kensinger. Who was Jay? I had no idea. Turned out he was a filmmaker in San Francisco, who had made a low-budget movie of "The Chronology Protection Case". Jay wrote the screen play, directed, and acted in his movie - right, he played Phil. We worked out all the legal details ex post facto and pdq. The movie is a little more than 30 minutes, and it's been shown to rave audiences at science fiction conventions around the country (I was only stirring up the crowd, from the back of the room, at some of them.) Jay recently made a trailer for the movie (scroll down the right hand column to see the trailer). You might also want to see some of Jay's other work (search on his name on YouTube). I really like it - movies by the second Phil....

The Third Phil: walked into my office at Fordham University, about a month after I'd first heard from the second Phil. I had The Chronology Protection Case movie on a tv screen in my office (now you see how hard I work at that job...) (no, really, I'm Chair of the Department of Communication and Media Studies, I was doing research, Your Honor...) But little did I know that the person who walked in was none other than Mark Shanahan - a gifted actor and voice-over pro. Mark liked the movie, asked what I thought about his writing a radioplay of the story.... Of course I said yes...

Fast forward to June, 2003, New York City... Zoom in to a table ... at which are seated Mark, Jay, and me! We're all in tuxedos (another rarity). We're at the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award gala dinner. The radioplay for The Chronology Protection Case has been nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Mystery Stage Drama of 2002! (You can hear it by clicking on the Odeo player in the right-hand column.  It's pretty close to the top.  It's free.  Enjoy.) Of course, it didn't win ... like I told you above, about being nominated and winning? But it was a great evening, anyway!

Here's how we got there: Mark's radioplay of The Chronology Protection Case was performed live at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York City, September 2002. That was what received the nomination.

Mark, of course, not only wrote the radioplay, but, like Jay, plays Phil! (Something about that Phil - anyone who writes him wants to be him.) Mark also went on to co-produce a studio version of the radioplay, available from Audible.

But if you like free, that brings us, ever so smoothly, to ...

The Fourth Phil: Who would be Shaun Farrell, who, as I mentioned when I started telling you Phil's life story, just finished a podiobook of The Silk Code.  It was #1, by the way, for more than a month over on podiobooks.com - hey, not winning an award, but I and the other Phils will take it.... 

The Fifth Phil: Ooops - ok, I'm getting ahead of myself here. But the Fifth Phil will be whoever plays him in the first Phil D'Amato feature-length movie, or TV show, neither of which has happened yet....
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Meanwhile, here are some other important facts about the Phils that I didn't want to get lost in the above:

A - Two Phils (me and Shanahan) are irredeemable New Yorkers; the other two (Jay and Shaun) are Californians.

B - I'm writing a new Phil D'Amato novel - but first I have to finish the sequel to The Plot to Save Socrates.

C - I got the name Phil D'Amato as follows: I have an old friend on the NYPD whose first name is Phil. I tacked on D'Amato, because Al D'Amato was Senator from New York at the time, and I thought every time his name was mentioned, it would be good publicity for me and my stories. Al lost the very next election. (But someone did tell me that Phil D'Amato means love love - true!)

D- Mark Shanahan starred in the Westport (Connecticut) County Playhouse performance of Journey's End.  He's currently performing in David Wiltse's Sedition in that very same playhouse.  I'll be joining him this Sunday - August 5 - on a panel to discuss the play (about the beginning of the 20th century assault on the First Amendment, in World War I).  Two Phils on the same stage ...

Stay tuned for more...