May 6th, 2005, 05:37 PM
Answers to Archren and Fitz.
Howdy, all. To Archren, who wrote: “1) The decision to write a few chapters in phonetic dialect form was an interesting one. I imagine you've gotten a lot of flak from it. Why did you decide to try that technique? 2) How much would you say the the comic book genre (if it can be called one) actually influenced your whole writing style? Do you feel any kinship with Michael Chabon ("The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay")?”
Thanks for the questions, Archren. I think it’s just the one chapter--that from Alpha Cat’s POV; I wouldn’t call the Mugatu’s chapter so much phonetic as simply misspelled. I haven’t gotten any flak; a few people have complained that they had a tough go, but mostly people who’ve mentioned it have said they liked it. Although Alpha Cat is not a Jamaican at all (he’s a Dutch Canadian), it’s still fair to call this use of dialect “Nation language,” a term used by various Caribbean literature specialists and pan-Afrikanists to describe the type of text written by the brilliant Linton Kwesi Johnson, among others. The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad is designed for many audiences--certainly SFF fans--but absolutely for fellow global Afrikans, especially pan-Afrikanists.
As far as the Mugatu’s chapter, I think this case has been misunderstood, with some people thinking I was being cruel to him. While I understand why, I wish people would give the text a bit more credit. The FanBoys are a cruel and misguided group, and such groups almost always maintain vicious pecking orders. The Mugatu is at the bottom of theirs. One of my favourite novels is Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon; in it, the mentally retarded protagonist Charlie Gordon (an unreliable narrator) comments on his bakery co-workers who (beyond his awareness) are constantly abasing him with their cruel references and practical jokes. Keyes pulls our heart-strings especially tight whenever Charlie describes these cruel men as his “friends.” That’s why the Mugatu’s final line of narration, in reference to the cruel Frosty (himself a victim of terrible treatment) is “hes my Frend.”
The book is primarily about male relationships, from friend- and brother- to work-related (in this case, the workplace is the turf of drug-dealing). I wanted to comment on the kind of cruelty that is rampant in abusive work environments and relationships based on hierarchy, competition and exploitation.
Archren also wrote, “How much would you say the the comic book genre (if it can be called one) actually influenced your whole writing style? Do you feel any kinship with Michael Chabon ("The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay")?”
Interesting. I have to confess I’ve never heard of Chabon or “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.” Maybe someone could send me some information or links. As far as my writing style and its influences, two comic book writers had a big effect on my prose--Alan Moore and Frank Miller. Alan Moore’s ensemble stories with careful attention to character and politics are dear to my story conception, but it’s his lush, lyrical diction that in part inspires my prose (mostly his work on Swamp Thing); Miller’s first run on Daredevil influence me when I was about 11 or 12 years old, insofar as I’d never read a story before then that employed multiple narrators; in fact, very few comic books had first person narration at all. I think it was around issue #180, and reporter Ben Urich began narrating in a hard-boiled fashion, picking up from Matt Murdoch or someone else; I remember reading the issues and loving them and then loving Miller’s comments in interviews in The Comics Journal.
Fitz wrote: “With the book published by a US publisher, has there been a good response from Canadians? Will we be seeing the Coyote Kings in any further adventures?”
Thanks for the questions, Fitz. The response from Canadians has been much more muted than that from Americans; partly it’s a numbers issue, there being about ten times as many of you folks as there are of us. But in large measure it’s because American media has done far more reviews and spotlights than have Canadian press (outside of E-Town, that is). In Edmonton I’m a hometown story, so of course I’ll get some media “hits” here, but outside Edmonton, Canadian media have done very little (the Space Channel and Montreal’s Gazette are delightful exceptions). I think that most Americans of all racial backgrounds take the concept of stories by Afrikans in North America as normal and natural parts of the literary scene; novels and other art by Afrikans in Canada, from my POV, gets little attention.
Despite the multi-century presence of Afrikans in Canada, many media types (and others) still can’t seem to understand we exist or that we're Canadian, too (as much as any non-Aboriginal invader or descendent of invaders can be). To provide you Yanks a little context--if I go to the United States, not only am I consistently delighted by how friendly Americans are, but I’m also never assailed by the question “Where are you from?” That’s odd, in a way, since my accent is Canadian; however, many Canadian and American accents are so similar they’re hard to tell apart.
However, in Canada, in my hometown where I’ve lived my whole life of 35 years and in the province where my family goes back a century, I’m frequently asked “Where are you from?” And the question doesn’t seek an answer like “the south side” or “Calgary.” The assumption is that I can’t “be from” the very place I live. I’m frequently told I have an accent (of course, EVERYONE has an accent) and that that accent is American. Huh? I’ve lived here forever and I sound like a foreigner? Dee-amn.
(Pant.) Sorry for the rant. Thought I’d share that with my neighbours to the south. Don’t get me wrong--I love my country... but that doesn’t mean I like everything about it.
Fitz also wrote: “Will we be seeing the Coyote Kings in any further adventures?”
I wrote the first version of the story in 1995 as a screenplay. I was 25 years old and so were the characters. Any novel or film says to readers and viewers, “Pick me! I will reward you with the single most interesting event that has ever happened to my characters!” A sequel says, “Uh... about that ‘most interesting’ thing... well, no, cuz actually *this* one is the most interesting.”
I’d consider writing a sequel when enough time has passed that the lads could conceivably have had enough other things happen that they might face something of similar gravity. I peg that at around age 50--them and me, when I could understand what it's like to be 50. So look for the sequel around 2020. (And no, I’m not being sarcastic!).
Thanks for your questions, all.
January 15th, 2007, 11:55 PM
I found this book a very quick and enjoyable read, well-written (downright poetic in many instances) and peopled with some truly unique characters, chiefest of all being our two refresingly atypical protagonists. They, and their various connections (Hamza's father, Ye's boss at the video store) were grounded and believable. And while the novel's antagonistists may have stretched credulity (Dulles for one), they were a colorful bunch (loved Digaestus). I'll even go so far as to say that I actually know a couple of Alpha Cats.
I also loved the myriad of pop culture references, in most part because - as a fan boy who grew up playing D&D, reading comic books, and watching anime - I got the references. And he even quotes Homicide's Frank Pembleton. How cool is that?
On the downside, I found the actual story involving the sextant, its workings, cream, and the jar so purposely obtuse that it really failed to capture my interest. I was interested in the characters and how story affected them, but the actual spine of the story just felt too out there for this reader. I also found a number of the stories sillier, cartoon elements off-putting (the character of Captain Crunch for one), as well as the way in which magical abilities seemed to spring up when convenient (like Sherem's seeming use of mind tricks to keep Dulles from shooting Hazma near book's end). I understand the book is replete with these magical elements, but I think these work best when set up early so that they can pay off later rather than being introduced out of the blue to, conveniently enough, help the protagonist.
Still, a fun read overall.
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