Life on the Fringe
On the blog today we have guest blogger Anton Strout.
My Spirit Animal is the Fox (Mulder)
My author bio gets at the heart of what I get to gloriously do for a (partial) living: professional lieslinger, maker-upper of things… it’s a wordy job, but someone’s got to do it. Heavy is the head that wears the crown of being America’s Favorite Lower Midlist Urban Fantasy Author.
And although I am a professional liar, the subject matter of my books dances on that fine line between belief in the known and unknown world.
One of the heaviest questions invoked in my day to day writing is: Do you have to be a believer in the unknown to be authentic? Should there be some sort of prerequisite? And if there is, what is it and who the hell am I to even be writing about a paranormal world I’m not sure I believe in?
To give you a sense of my perspective here are just some of the things I have written about: arcana, ghosts, zombies, vampires, technomancy, post-apocalyptic living dead guitarists, werewolves on Valentine’s Day, sea monsters… the list goes on and on.
Lately my focus has been centered on the subject matter of my latest series, The Spellmason Chronicles. Book one, Alchemystic, focuses mainly on the return of magic to our modern world and its use in the creation of living gargoyles.
Clearly the unknown world is in my sandbox and many of my good friends firmly believe in magic, but do I? As a professional maker upper of stuff, does it even matter?
Every fantasy writer has their own approach to how they interpret magic in their work. Early in my education I fixed on that old Arthur C. Clarke chestnut: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. While that falls more to the science fiction side of the genre, those words got stuck in my head and twisted around until I came to think of magic as a science we simply didn’t understand… yet.
But it didn’t just stop there. I grew up with a deep love of the fantastical thanks to ghost stories and Dungeons & Dragons, but I’ve also always been drawn to imagining a science behind it all. The types of shows I loved best were the kind that played devil’s advocate exploring that line between science and the unknown. The X-Files summed it all up for me in the poster on Agent Fox Mulder’s wall: I Want To Believe. Lost became another show that struggled with the questions, one of my favorite episodes even called Man of Science, Man of Faith.
But is belief essential when writing? I don’t think so. If our genre asks one great question, it is:
Do I need the question of belief answered fully in my books? For me, the fun in writing about the fantastical is about that very exploration of the unknown. At the end of my writing day, I don’t need definitive answers to give you a book that hopefully leaves you entertained and maybe with a few more questions on your mind than when you came in.
As a child, Arthur C. Clarke had me looking for answers. Later, so did The X-Files and Lost. Now as a content creator myself, I realize that that all those experiences were just preparing me to pose similar questions within my own work.
In fact, when I was studying to be a better writer, this journey was summed up perfectly every day for several years by the motto carved into the stonework of my old college in the Berkshires:
To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.- Robert Louis Stephenson
Or as I’ve also heard it: It’s the journey, not the destination.
Or as the Taoists say: The journey is the reward.
Cliched maxims? Sure, but the important thing to remember about clichés is how they became clichés. At some point a thought formed into something so universal that its expression became an almost perfect worded and knowable truth.
So I don’t need the answers to the big questions. I’m enjoying the asking of them. But going back to my old friend The X-Files, the truth is out there… and I want to believe.
From my personal experience, I’ve seen nothing that I could truly label as paranormal, but that doesn’t mean I’m not open to it. I would love to hear your encounters with the unknown, your ghost stories, your things that go bump in the night… your reasons why you believe.
Anton Strout is the author of Alchemystic, book one of The Spellmason Chronicles as well as the Simon Canderous urban fantasy series for Ace Books, a division of Penguin Group (USA).
The Once & Future Podcast is his latest project, where he endeavors as Curator of Content to bring authors and readers together through a weekly news show format.
In his scant spare time, his is a writer, a sometimes actor, sometimes musician, occasional RPGer, and the worlds most casual and controller smashing video gamer. He currently works in the exciting world of publishing and yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds.