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The man who landed in the Middle Ages

1. December 2022

Imagine you woke up one morning and found yourself in the year 1022, without electricity, sewage systems or modern medicine – and as a modern human being were exposed to all the dangers and threats of that era. Would you survive? Rheinmetall engineer Dieter Bohn – a passionate amateur author in his spare time – just created an entire novel based on this idea.

Der Zef’ihl, der vom Himmel fiel was published in 2021 by the publisher p.machinery.
(image source: p.machinery / image on top: Henning Ross)

Civilized in a distant future and trapped in a world of the past: In the sci-fi novel Der Zef’ihl, der vom Himmel fiel (“The Court Magician Who Fell from the Sky”), protagonist Adriaan Deneersen finds himself in this very predicament following an emergency landing on the planet “Shi’ialla”, where progress, habits, and customs are all stuck in the Middle Ages. As a “Zef’ihl,” a kind of court magician, he is forced to mount a military defence of his new homeland – armed with lots of superficial knowledge but no exact instruction manual. All he has is the knowledge in his head that he learned long ago. It’s no surprise then that the heroes of the novel fail spectacularly. For example, when “Project Cannon” literally blows up in their faces.

But ultimately, of course, the novel is all about working things out, meaning that many things are reinvented – from the water pump to the catapult. “When I was writing the novel, to begin with I would deliberately avoid looking up any technical issues,” says Dieter Bohn. Instead, he asked himself how he would approach a particular problem if he were in his characters’ shoes before going on to do the research. Despite all the make-believe, someone like him would never want technical inconsistencies in his novel. After all, the author is too wedded to his engineer’s ethos for that – every bit as much as in his full-time job at Rheinmetall subsidiary MS Motorservice in Dormagen, where the aerospace engineer is responsible for information services and technical videos.

Dieter Bohn created a whole new world with Shi’ialla, one with its own unique geography, flora, fauna and, not least, its own language – and all after hours. t wasn’t easy to keep to track of his own imaginativeness: “I created several dossiers and data collections with timelines, glossaries, lists of names, maps and plans,” the author reveals. And unlike his protagonist, Bohn of course had recourse to digital tools. He had a character database running in the background while he was writing – one click on a name and all the information would be displayed.

It took Dieter Bohn 15 years to complete his first novel. But – perhaps for this very reason – shortly after publishing, the author plunged straight back into his fiction universe. He found his work progressed much more quickly after that. “The Court Magician Who Fell from the Sky” is currently being edited and is expected to be released next year. The protagonist Adriaan Deneersen fares well in Shi’ialla. For his creator though, this only partially holds true. Dieter Bohn laughs: “Let’s be honest: How high was life expectancy in the Middle Ages? Filth, disease, draconian punishments – I don’t think I would survive for very long there.”


Dieter Bohn, born in 1963 in Trier

He studied aerospace engineering at RWTH Aachen University. A mechanical engineer, he has been working at MS Motorservice in Dormagen since 2002. Science fiction series including “Raumpatrouille Orion” (Space Patrol Orion) and Star Trek fascinated him as a child. He has guest-authored six Stellaris novels starring another of his childhood heroes, “Perry Rhodan,” and has written around forty stories that featured in various anthologies. An avid science fiction fan, he loves classic writers like Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and, especially, Isaac Asimov, but also drew inspiration for his novel from the drawings of the great universal genius Leonardo da Vinci.

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