By Sabina Mollot
Andrew Grell, a longtime resident of Stuyvesant Town, has made his writing debut with a humorous science fiction novel called Scapegoats: The Goat Protocols. The book was released earlier this summer by Golden Fleece, small publishing house in Virginia that donates portions of its profits to charitable causes, especially animal-oriented ones.
For Grell, who has a career in calculating fraud detection, the 134-page book was his first major writing undertaking. Though he wrote it recently, he first got the idea 20 years ago.
The inspiration behind it was the Scapegoats of Leviticus 16:21, that were forced to bear the sins of the camp. In the story, “the goats become telepathic as a result of their psychic overload.” They become sentient, actively pushing people to do good things to counter-balance the weight of the bad deeds they carry. The book takes place in the present day.
“It’s the only example of the Old Testament’s vicarious expiation of sin, so I played with the idea,” said Grell.
The goats, being organization-minded, have managed to be very effective and making real change in a number of ways, with the one major exception being on matters involving the environment.
“The goats have diligently worked on energy protections,” said Grell, However, “They’re up against 60 years of car commercials on TV that tell people their status and sexuality is tied up in what kind of car they have.”
The goats don’t give up, though, trying to deal with this issue on their own, after having failed with the help of humans.
That said, Grell said the book isn’t political although politics are involved.
“It’s anti-political,” he said. “It’s hard to see environmentalism as left or right. The situation today is (environmental protections) are on the left, but it was Richard Nixon who started the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the Clean Air Act. The key is the goats have a terrible burden and they want people to do nice things.”
The scapegoats include Cap, a degenerate gambler, albeit one who doesn’t waver in his mission. After encountering a scientist in need of grant money to do her project, “He gives her a lesson on how to handicap horses and she wins enough money that she doesn’t need a grant, anymore,” Grell. “They’re like people.”
Another goat, Chevy (short for Chevre) is tasked with motivating a gamer to complete an invention of his, a high-tech cane to alert blind people to traffic dangers.
Another character, Sigfried, is a mathematical scholar who tracks of major events chronicled in the book of Genesis, to calculate when they might have happened. The result of the analysis winds up correlating with actual known events, like a major flood in Montana that could have been Noah’s flood. With the need for blind faith suddenly eliminated, the goats find themselves on the outs with some of their human associates, missionaries they’re normally allied with. Meanwhile, the goats also have their own bureaucratic organization that runs their program aimed at helping humans pay it forward.
The author began writing the book in 2012, and is now working on the sequel to Scapegoats.
Grell said he got his publishing deal after heading to a writers’ convention in Washington, DC, last year and noticing Golden Fleece’s booth, which had a table for science-fiction books and a table for books about animals. Since Scapegoats had both, he submitted the first 30 pages, which he had with him, and heard from the publisher not long afterwards. “They said, ‘Give us the rest,’” he said, adding, “I understand that doesn’t happen.”
Grell said he’ll be matching the amount donated by the publisher from the profits of Scapegoats with his own donations. He has lived in Stuyvesant Town for the past 27 years. His wife, Melody Breyer-Grell, is a cabaret singer, who is also working on a young adult novel. The couple has a malti-poo puppy, Cyrus King of Persia.
Scapegoats is available for purchase on Goldenfleecepress.com, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, $10, paperback, and $4 for the ebook version.