Monster Gods and The Terran Condition

One of the reasons I chafe under the “comic fantasy writer” label is that it usually comes with a sense of dismissiveness, a “good for what it is” qualification.  I hate complaining about this because I’m lucky to get paid to do this at all, and complaining about some people not liking your books because they’re “fun, fluff” is like complaining that people are nice to you because you’re attractive.  It might not be your preferred reason, but the end result is the same.

This is why I’m working on my mind-control top hat.  If it gets people to like me, I’m not above a little superscience.  And if it’s good enough for The Ringmaster & the Circus of Crime, it’s good enough for me.

But until I get that hat to work, I’m stuck trying to get people to like me the old fashioned way.  By writing good novels and being generally delightful.  It’s not easy.  I may not always feel like being delightful, but I still persevere.  Because that’s me.  That’s how I roll.

But this isn’t about me, delightful as I may be.  This is about my books.  If you think they’re just goofy little stories that bring you a few hours of joy, I’m not going to complain about it.  But I will say that I think I have more to offer than that.

Maybe it’s just the way I look at the world, but I think we all share the same joys, the same pains, the same fears, and the same questions about the universe.  I believe that, when you peel away all the layers of crap the world and society throws on us, underneath it all, we aren’t very different at all.  

I’ll admit I don’t write novels steeped in symbolism and metaphor.  I’m not terribly poetic (though I do have my moments), but it doesn’t take poetry to speak about the Terran condition.  Most of my stories involve tentacle monsters or slime beasts or things of that nature with a dash of armchair metaphysics that help to keep the plot moving.

It doesn’t mean I have nothing to say.

One of the reasons I tend to dislike “literary” fiction is that it tends to throw itself in your face.  It grabs you by the shoulders and says, “This is important!”  It might very well be, but I find the lessons in life aren’t only to be found in stories about the Holocaust or meandering tales where an author composes detailed treatises of how the ocean is like hope.  A story with humor, told well, with maybe a raccoon god or zombie cow, can say something about Terran nature.  Plus, it can be awesome.

I harp on this every so often, so I’m sorry if I sound like a broken record.  But just because I don’t feel the need to sacrifice characters to the gods of literary seriousness or create extraordinarily complicated plots that doesn’t mean I don’t care about what I’m writing.  Or that I don’t believe it has some social value.  I’m not just talking about a few hours of distraction from this muddled confusion we call life either.  (Although I can’t really complain if that was all I managed to do since that’s a worthy goal in itself in this world.)  No, I think you can find something relatable in my novels.  Something that just might help you think of the world in a different way.

Maybe that’s just the way I think.  I believe enlightenment can be found in just about anything.  Wisdom is discovered in the strangest places, and I’m not suggesting there’s something special about my books.  I think when we’re in the right mindset, anything can help us on our personal journeys.

I learned a lot about love from Wall-E.  I love zen, and Kung Fu Panda helped me to love it even more.  And I don’t know if anyone but me even remembers the animated The American Rabbit movie, but there’s a moment at the end, too complex to get into, that shaped my personal philosophy since I first saw it.  (So if anyone out there happened to work on that obscure little film, know that it touched my life in a very real and personal way.)

That’s me.  I’ll admit my personal philosophy has been shaped as much by cartoons and comic books as anything else, and while some might find that absurd, they’re confusing the medium with the message.  And they’re not even really giving the medium a fair shake.

At the end of the day, all our media, our stories, our movies, our books, our politics, our religions, our philosophies are by Terrans, for Terrans.  We’re all wrestling with the same questions, and it’s impossible not to write those questions into most stories.  It just can’t be done.  Everything speaks to somebody, somewhere.  And I’d like to think…no scratch that.  I know that somewhere out there, someone has found something worthwhile in something I’ve written.  Something profound that I can only hope has made their life more interesting, thoughtful, and, hopefully, beautiful.

It’s not because of some amazing confidence in my own writing.  It’s just logical.  I’m human.  My readers are human (most probably).  And that gives us a lot in common.  So from one befuddled human to another, I wish you the best of luck.  And if you happen to find something worthwhile in my books, let’s not act as if it’s surprising.  Because it happens.  Sometimes even in stories about giant monster gods who want to eat the moon.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,


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  1. Rippley
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    A. Lee Martinez,

    I have found profound, awe inspiring and thought provoking sentiments in one of your books. But you never published that book! You refuse to consider THAT book. I’m simply waiting for the ideologies I found in your earlier, unpublished writings to manifest in future writings. It seems as if your heart isn’t in your newer writings as much as it was in the unpublished epic that you wrote ten years ago. In fact, ‘Monster’ seems more heartfelt than ‘Divine Misfortune’ as far as your published writings go.

    Sometimes, my friend, I wonder if you intentions are the same now as they were then. You’ll probably dispute the idea that something has changed, but please, for the love of Todd, reread your earlier stories and try to remember what was going on in your mind during that time. I want you to blow my mind!

  2. Jane Cooper
    Posted September 18, 2011 at 3:19 am | Permalink

    At your age, yes, comic books can have such an effect . But think of it from the perspective of a youngster… how would they construe comic books and cartoons?
    -Jane Cooper from BMW Specials

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted September 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think of kids as dumb. And I know when I was a young’un that fantasy stories shaped my perspective immensely. And I will say they did so in a very positive way. The notion that young people can’t learn positive values and ideas from fantasy (even absurdist fantasy) has always struck me as ever-so-condescending.

      As a person who was raised on a regular diet of monsters, superheroes, and cartoons and who still finds them to be worthy entertainment, I have a hard time dismissing them as kid’s stuff just because kids enjoy them. And I also believe that they can be every bit as important and worthwhile for all ages.

      The notion that we must protect out children from media has always been unsettling to me. Especially as with each passing year that this becomes more and more impossible to do. Parents and guardians should certainly have some say in what they’re children see, but at the same time, I think it’s fair to say that children aren’t so stupid as to not understand many of the important lessons I’ve learned. Just as it’s far to say that many adults are too blind to ever see more than guys in rubber monster suits or spandex.

  3. Posted October 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    I’m certainly with you on this one – good literature is good literature, regardless of the genre, and anybody who looks down their nose at any particular writing style doesn’t deserve being given the time of day. There are few people who can genuinely create good works of literature, so those who can should be lauded.

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