Here at The Guild we are always interested in having an array of culturally engaged people say their piece and therefore we invite the author Ani Fox to guest post today. Fox has recently released the book Autumn War, classified as a cyber-thriller, but more about him after a word from the man himself.
In Defense of Fun
I never thought I’d say this but… the Sad Puppies do have a point. Lost inside all that vitriol and under the carpet bombing emotionalism they managed to say one thing I found myself not entirely against. Fair disclosure – I know a lot of those authors personally. Or used to. We don’t talk much these days.
Literature should be fun, especially speculative fiction. I believe this. Not all literature is and we accept some awful journeys because the writer or the story or both are just that damned good. I’d rather drink broken glass than read Toni Morrison. Beloved just got cross listed as horror and rightfully so. Her works are soul stirring and profound. They also make me want to find a bell tower and jump. After electrocuting myself with a live grenade soaked in cyanide. They are anything but fun. They are painful but valuable work.
Boris Akunin on the other hand writes novels I blow through. He’s every bit as profound as Morrison and in translation his language can go toe to toe with the Nobel Prize winning master. He’s that good. Not a word out of place, not a phrase wasted. More than that, he can write in any genre he chooses. He’s the master of his own voice as well as the photo perfect pastiche. His stuff tends to be fun. Not only fun and sometimes fun comes last, but it’s in there. It’s worth the ride for the ride alone.
Morrison feeds you vitamin broth and brussel sprouts; Akunin pours you various kinds of coffee, some bitter and black, some sweet and mysterious. Now I like sprouts and have been known to drink veggie broth without physical threats. But I can distinguish them from ice cream and pizza. Readers can and do as well.
Robert Heinlein showed us how to sneak profound ideas under a canopy of action and adventure, to insert the philosophical into the fun. Like vitamin rich ice cream. Stranger in a Strange Land is the gateway drug to ontology and epistemology; Starship Troopers to political science and psychobiology. Students all around the world bitch and moan as Shakespeare and Homer are dusted off year after year in the English speaking world and rammed down their uncomprehending throats. But those guys knew how to have fun.
As You Like It, The Tempest, for you grimdark fans; Titus Andronicus. Genius and bloody good fun once you understand all the dirty puns and sly asides. Homer – whether a poet or a writer’s collective of poets across generations – ol’ H knew how to entertain. The Iliad and The Odyssey have vampires, gods, vengeance, sexcapades, disguises and reversals, boat and chariot chases (because car chases had to wait for Ronin), the antihero and lots, nay endless, arrays of naked women frolicking everywhere. It makes the Kardashians look the 700 Club Christmas Special.
Since we invented speculative fiction with The Epic of Gilgamesh (or Tale of Genji or Songlines of Red Belly Black…take yer pick), creators of the genre have buried the lead. We’ve wrapped up all the secret thinking and moral conversation in heroes, gods, vampires and demons, sex and murder, all the good stuff. Because these beings help us play out the situations we wish to investigate. The genre Speculates. It invents and interrogates a future of some sort or an alternate present, perhaps a better or worse or different past. As a way of making literature, it seeks to make history its bitch. And if we borrow from George Santayana, those who don’t end up being history’s bitch. Or you know, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Fun insulates the mind from the terrible pummeling it takes being exposed to ideas. Think fear of women in power ain’t relevant today. Then ponder Lady Macbeth and the 2016 election cycle. Literature holds us in its sway precisely because it entertains the whole mind from lizard brain and amygdala to the shiny blinking tips of the frontal cortex on maximum serotonin blitz. We still talk about the Scottish Play centuries later because Shakespeare injected that bloody little tragedy with adventure, intrigue, deception, faithlessness, lust and hatred. Trust me, we might dislike ourselves for admitting this, bit for humans that counts as fun.
Now I’m a writer and I like to think I sucketh not. But I’m no Toni Morrison. I know my limits and frankly I‘m nowhere good enough to get away with sticking my fingers into my reader’s heart, wiggling them around and forcing them to turn the page. I rely on props. Explosions, villains, hackneyed plots inverted, genres and stock characters twisted to make things interesting. So I emulate Akunin, who does all that but transcends the story. It’s a path to perfection one might reasonably follow.
Because given the choice, I’d be honored beyond comprehension to serve Toni dinner but I’d prefer to have Boris at the tale. I bet he’d be a lot of fun.
About Ani Fox:
Ani Fox lives in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg – the heart of ancient Europe. He’s published short fiction in Jim Baen’s Universe as well as in the Ragnarok Publications anthology Corrupts Absolutely? The Autumn War is his first published novel. In his spare time he holds down a day job, serves as Editor in Chief for the European Review of Speculative Fiction and does what his cat tells him. He holds a BA in History from the Rutgers University, a PhD (ABD) in World History from the Australian National University and a PhD in Indigenous Theology from ULC Seminary; none of which make him more fun at parties.
Nothing is as it seems. After the mysterious death of his family, retired operative Spetz has come looking for answers, using himself as bait. The shadowy Syndicate has made him a job offer that a deranged cadre of Nazi super-soldiers, the various global Mafias, and a ship full of eco-fanatics would all prefer he decline. By midday, the U.S. Government has declared him a terrorist, and an unseen adversary has offered more than a billion dollars to have him killed.In this covert global war, Spetz is forced to call in some favors from former associates: a rogue Artificial Intelligence, an ice-cold femme fatale, and a rescue team of former Soviet saboteurs. Among his enemies are Zeus, a genetically engineered soldier who styles himself a god; Mika French, the best assassin alive, and Hans Gutlicht, a mad scientist with a grudge…and the man who raised Spetz. From the icy waters of the Canadian North Atlantic to the burning sands of Las Vegas, Spetz must keep two steps ahead of everyone, outfoxing some of the most brilliant and dangerous operatives alive. To unravel the conspiracies behind the Autumn War, he does the one thing he’s always resisted: join ‘The Game.’ But can he win it in time to stop his faceless enemy? For Spetz, it’s gotten very personal. Game on.
E-book editions of The Autumn War are available now. Print editions are expected to hit the shelves any day, so keep an eye out for this title in the wild!
Publisher Website: www.ragnarokpub.com