As a writer with a wide variety of characters and worlds to my credit, I’m often asked what are my favorites? My favorite characters? My favorite stories? My favorite settings? I have nine novels out there, and while that’s not a lot compared to many writers, it’s a heck of a lot of characters and stories to choose from because each book is its own standalone story without any connection to the others. And even under the umbrella of fantasy, I’ve explored various sub-genres in a way not everyone does. (No slight on them. Different strokes, as they say.)
It makes picking favorites hard, not because I’m reluctant to do so, but because each story fits a different need for me, fills a different role. They might all have similarities, but they aren’t meant to be the same stories in terms of theme and execution. I’m not breaking new ground with every book, but I am trying to do something at least a little bit different even while hoping to keep that A. Lee Martinez style in place. When I write it like that, I realize how ambitious it sounds. Funny, because it isn’t a product of ambition, but of a love of creating and exploring new worlds and ideas.
But, heck, I can play along. I can go ahead and play the Pick My Favorites game. For the record, I can change my mind at any time on this, so don’t consider this an official list so much as a general guideline. Martinez ON Martinez, though don’t feel bad if you disagree. You’re certainly allowed.
This one gets harder and harder every year, not easier. The more I write, the more I realize how difficult it is to find a “definitive” A. Lee Martinez book. Gil’s All Fright Diner would probably qualify in terms of sales and recognizability, but I’m not so sure I’d agree that it’s definitive. Maybe that’s just because I’d hate to be defined by my first book when I’ve written eight others, and hopefully, with many more stories ahead of me.
Sigh. This is tougher than it looks.
Okay, if I were to pick a favorite book, I’d probably go with The Automatic Detective. I love Mack Megaton. I love Empire City. And I love getting to write noir-ish dialogue while still getting to have an indestructible super robot as a protagonist. I also think Mack’s one of my best characters because he is so unusual. He’s a robot who neither hates nor loves humanity. He sees the world from a thinking machine’s perspective, but he also has an underlying humanity (for lack of a better term). Mack bears a passing resemblance to one of my favorite superheroes, the Thing, who, despite his inhuman appearance, is probably one of the most Average Joe superheroes around. And when you get right down to it, Mack’s just a regular palooka trying to make the world a better place and find some semblance of purpose.
And Empire City is just a keen place to write about. It’s bristling with mutants, rayguns, weird science, classy dames, shady mobsters. It’s a setting that I continue to adore. So, if push comes to shove, that’s my favorite A. Lee Martinez novel. For the moment anyway.
I will cop out on this one and say, I don’t have a stand out character I love especially. But I do have characters that stand out in my mind because they’re characters I feel like not many writers would have created.
Penelope the broom from A Nameless Witch still holds a special place in my heart. She’s a great character even though she doesn’t have a single line of dialogue in the book and her body language consists of floating and flying. She can’t bend or twist or do any toon-ish things. She’s a flying broom. But somehow, she still manages to have genuine heart and soul.
Then there’s Snarg the ultrapede from Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain. Emperor’s loyal pet and boon companion is a deliberate combination of gruesome and cute. No effort is made to soften her insectiod qualities, and she communicates in a series of shrieks, squeals, and chirps. Her chief method of demonstrating affection is to drool a hardening mucous. And in most other settings, she’d be a terrifying monster. She is, but she’s also as loyal and reliable as Lassie. Just a lot bigger and with a tendency to decapitate Emperor’s enemies.
Finally, I’d say Nessy from Too Many Curses qualifies as a unique Martinez character. She’s small, furry, and the polar opposite of intimidating. She has neither awesome physical or magical might, and her greatest strength is her sensibleness and her ability to see the best in everyone. She’s no fool, but she refuses to allow herself to by cynical. And her compassion is played as a commendable trait, not something that weakens her.
“Compassion isn’t earned. It’s given.” Technically, I wrote that. But really, Nessy said it as sure as if she’d dictated it to me. And in my darkest hours, in my worst moments, I try to remember those words of wisdom.
And that’s why I’ll always love Nessy.
While I do indeed love Empire City, I think my favorite setting of all my stories is probably the world of Divine Misfortune. I enjoyed creating a world where ancient myth and modern day life intertwine. I love that it’s a setting with gods without having to be a story about faith. And I really love that the gods of Misfortune are so classic in their roots while being contemporary in their outlook. In many ways, Misfortune is my most ordinary universe. It’s definitely the story where the least is at stake in terms of world-shaking cataclysm. It’s a modern myth about petty gods and the mortals caught between those gods.
While Misfortune often gets compared to that other book about modern gods, I just don’t see much of a comparison at all. That other book is about spirituality and cultural gestalt, the old versus the new. Misfortune is about growing up, about accepting responsibility, and about being a worthwhile person, even when you don’t have to pay for your mistakes. It’s about doing the right thing for no other reason than you should. It’s not a unique theme in my books, but Misfortune does it just right.
There you have it. Martinez on Martinez. Just one guy’s opinion and by no means the most important out there. But hey, now you know.
And knowing is half the battle, right?
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,