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A Conspiracy of Kind
An Author-to-Author Discussion with VJ Waks
© 2013 James LaFond
Over the past six months I’ve had three strokes of luck, in that a dialogue with three very different authors, whose work overlaps mine in different ways and genres, has enhanced my output, and is helping retool this old brain. These folks are a blogger, a novelist and a comic writer. I am lucky to have made their literary acquaintance.
The aspect about this that I find interesting is that we are nearly to the point of giving each other ‘assignments’. What has emerged is a kind of review process, concerning commonly read core material in our fields. Let me use the discussion between the two novelists among us as an invitation for our readers to get involved. I have no idea how many writers there are among you. And also, there is the ultimate role of the reader and bibliophile to consider; without whom the writer is nothing.
The novelist is VJ Waks, who confided in me that her shorts tend to horror, through no conscious mechanism, just as mine do. Ironically, our phone discussions [which occupy 10% of our correspondence] have triggered horror stories inspired by these conversations. That is the serendipitous aspect of the writer-to-writer relationship. The other aspect is much less expected. At the core of it is the duty of an author of speculative fiction to cultivate an ‘other’ or ‘alien’ viewpoint.
Not surprisingly, when we find a variant of that quality in another writer, we began asking questions. VJ, for instance, finds my ‘persistently martial character’ anomalous in this day and age, and came right out grilling me about my literary influences. I joked, forty e-mails ago that we might be the postmodern equivalent of Lovecraft and Howard fencing with letters. This type of thing helps you spot holes in your writing game, compels you to reexamine your influences, enables you to discuss all of the publishing hassles and strategies for dealing with them with someone who is going through the same process, and suggests new avenues of expression. If you are a writer I hope you can find the same thing in another writer. I did not realize how productive such a relationship is, though, based on my fighting and training experience, I should have.
As soon as you begin corresponding with another writer you begin questioning them for insights as to material that may have inspired the both of you years ago; material which perhaps you do not grasp as fully as you would like, having, like me, read much of it as a youth. Perhaps you are simply curious as to what an alternative viewpoint would glean. Ironically Ms. Waks and I have both independently decided to reread and review Bram Stoker’s Dracula at virtually the same time. On another front we have both suggested that the other look into other inspirational works.
I read every Tarzan novel as a boy, and a few as a young adult. It goes without saying what a male youth would see in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ naked hero. When I found out VJ was a fan I suggested she take another look, as her perspective as an adult woman would be worlds apart from that of an adolescent jock. She is already reporting more interesting observations than either of us expected.
Keying off of her Tarzan experience she had a question for me, “Although I do not know your leanings, I see a significant knowledge of religious matters behind your work.” She went on to suggest I do a comparative study of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in regards to their handling of warfare, in light of Lewis’ overt Christian perspective. She continued, “Surely scholarly comparisons have been done here. But your martial propensity and religious curiosity positions you well for it.”
That’s what I get for sending the Lady into the jungle after a 24 novel series; a trip to church. VJ went on to suggest that I might apply this comparative model to any two authors. So, since I have not read enough C.S. Lewis, and I am already heading into a comprehensive exhumation of Robert E. Howard’s work, and with Howard being a far more virulent—i.e. modern—pagan than Tolkien, I will be putting those two venerable old geeks under the same 21st Century looking glass. Thanks VJ.
If any of our readers have an author suggestion to throw into this comparative review mix, or specifically a request to look at a certain Howard or Lewis title, a posting here, at the foot of this piece, would be much appreciated.
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