Hello, Action Force. Been a while since I’ve posted a Q&A Friday but received some intriguing questions so here we go.
Here’s a question i’ve had bugging me forever. What the f$%&^ is Steve Rogers’s (aka Captain America) motivation?
Seriously, that’s basically it. The guy believes in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So much so, he’s willing to undergo dangerous experimentation and then put on a flag and fight Nazis. I could lie to you and suggest it’s more complicated than that, but it just isn’t. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
I know that it’s unfashionable to suggest that a character is genuinely heroic and that his heroism stems from a sincere Good Guy cliche, but such characters don’t have to be bland or unbelievable. It bothers me that we have become a culture that outright dismisses heroic characters as unrealistic or uninteresting. Granted, this happened for a reason. Many old fashioned heroic characters are unrealistic and uninteresting. I love the John Carter of Mars stories, but the character himself is pretty much a heroic blank who fights Bad Guys because he is a Good Guy.
But I happen to enjoy sincere Good Guys who are here to help if they’re done right. I don’t mind a character who is Admirable with a capital A. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the era of The A-Team and MacGyver and a hundred action movies featuring brave souls who fight for justice. Or maybe it’s because I also lived through the 90’s featuring overwrought anti-heroes like Spawn and Angry Batman. Either way, I don’t find more conflicted characters to automatically be better.
This is why I am not looking forward to Man of Steel. The question Superman faces isn’t WHETHER he’ll help people. It’s HOW. Clark Kent is a genuinely good person. He likes people. He wants to make their lives better. And he knows he’s been blessed with tremendous power to do so. The conflict at heart of a nuanced Superman story isn’t about fear or hesitancy. It’s about deciding how Superman could best use his abilities to improve the world.
Such stories of power and responsibility speak to human nature because it is often only when we seek to view the world outside ourselves that we become worthy of the mantle of humanity in the first place. Otherwise, we’re just a bunch of self-centered animals who happen to be smart enough to make machine guns and the internet.
This is also why I hate many modern comic book versions of Batman because in order to make Batman “interesting”, they transform him from a wounded man who has dedicated himself to helping others avoid the very pain he experienced to a crazed vengeance-seeking, emotionally-stunted man-child. That is certainly part of human nature too, but it is a part that we glorify all too often even as dismissing genuinely thoughtful portrayals of the best of our natures.
Also, Cap likes to punch Nazis. But then again, who doesn’t?
How many ideas do you have rolling around in your head for books? What I mean is do you even worry about the next book while you’re on the current one? Do you ever have that point of “oh crap what next?”
A very smart person once said, “Ideas are the most overrated part of writing fiction.”
That person was me, although I’m sure many other writers have said it as well.
I don’t have a running count of how many ideas I have at any one time because ideas are not discreet little packets of information that can be easily separated. It’s not uncommon for two or three ideas to merge into one final idea or for one idea to split into smaller pieces. That’s how the human brain works. Or maybe that’s how my human brain works. I haven’t tried using any others.
I never worry about the next book. It’s hard enough to stay focused on the current one, and thinking too much about the next is only a distraction. Part of me is convinced this novelology business is going to fall out from under me any day because writing fiction for a living is a sweet gig and someone is going to catch on that I enjoy it too much and should be made to work a job I dislike. Guess that’s just the pessimist in me.
Near the end of a book, I’ll often start having new ideas for another story, but even these tend to be half-formed thoughts. I believe in giving myself permission to write even without solid ideas because sometimes not knowing what you’re going to write is how you find new ideas. I never worry about finding my next idea though. Ideas are all over the place, and the real work of writing is just sitting my butt down and doing it. So that’s what I do.
If you did it over again, would you still opt to not include Teri and Phil’s race in Divine Misfortune?
For those of you who might not know it, Teri and Phil from Divine Misfortune are the mortal protagonists of Divine Misfortune, my novel of modern gods and the lives they lead. Think of it as Seinfeld meets The Odyssey. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. But of course, you’ve read it. It’s a modern American classic.
In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that Teri and Phil are African-Americans though this isn’t mentioned in the book itself. My reasoning was that they are not very “black” as our culture tends to define it, and I feared the criticism that might come from that. It is our nature to shove people into boxes and expect them to conform to the rules of those boxes. So I didn’t include their ethnic origins in the story because, ultimately, I didn’t want to deal with the headache.
But, yes, thinking about it now, I would mentioned it. Not only that, I would’ve used it as a springboard to discuss those expectations and how Teri and Phil dealt with the problems they often created. It wouldn’t have been hard to link to the story itself because the gods themselves deal with expectations and stereotypes just as much as the humans do. At the time, I guess I just wasn’t confident enough to explore the issue, and while I still stand by the book as an American classic, it could’ve benefited from opening the discussion a bit.
This is why Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest (my upcoming novel, out in July) does address those issues. Helen is a minotaur. (She’s actually Greek with a family curse of minotaurism, but the minotaurism is what everyone first notices about her.) And Troy is a Japanese American. Both characters struggle with their baggage. Helen more than Troy. And both characters are about the expectations placed on them, not just by their appearance, but by their reputations and abilities. I wouldn’t say it’s the heart of the novel, but it certainly comes up, informs the characters’ actions and how they are often viewed by others.
Interestingly, I stumbled across a long post on another site where someone suggested that one of my recurring themes is that of “Identity independent of cultural origin” and considering how often I’m writing about vampires who aren’t cool, robots that are trying to be good people, and monster gods who seek NOT to eat the universe, it’s hard to argue against that. Teri and Phil could’ve explored that issue as well as any other characters I’ve created, and sometimes, I wish I had.
But, hey, there’s always next book, right?
When are you going to write a kaju book?
It’s on the To Do List.
Although, given my druthers, I’d prefer to create a kaiju animated TV show or movie. I have an original character I draw regularly that is a giant duck monster. Think of him as living in that strange universe where Godzilla and Duck Tales intersect. I have a lot of the framework in place, characters, stories, etc. It’s just a matter of finding someone interested enough to pursue the project.
But I’m sure a book will be in the works some day soon. Stay tuned.
So the A. Leegion was disbanded? but I was up to Major General in my head!
Rest assured, the A.Leegion remains. The ALM Action Force isn’t a replacement for the A.Leegion. It’s merely another name for it. Officially (as decided by me just this moment, but it’s my idea so I get to decide what’s official or not), every member of the ALM Action Force is an A.Leegionaire. So feel free to use this knowledge as you see fit.
That’s it for this week’s Q&A. Hope you found it as enlightening as I did.
Catch you next time, Action Force.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,