Maximus Groves and Evan Fowler interview Ira Nayman, award-winning comedy writer, satirist, and author of the book series Transdimensional Authority and The Alternate Reality News Service. In this hour, we discuss how to write comedy, political satire, the value of humor to society, and the doublespeak of wartime news broadcasts. Keep up with Ira on his website at http://www.lespagesauxfolles.ca.
Crowdfunding publisher Inkshares and all things geeky Web site Nerdist are running a contest to determine which science fiction and fantasy books can get the most pre-orders by September 30. The five books that come out on top will be published by Inkshares under the Nerdist imprint; they will be placed in American bookstores and given some attention in American media, and the companies even hold out the possibility of a TV or movie deal. Ira Nayman’s new novel Both Sides is in the running in this contest; you can visit Inkshares to pre-order a copy of the novel.
IN: I promised myself as a guest in your house I wouldn’t comment on anything like that. You can’t see me but I’m nodding appreciatively. [7:50] IN: One of the questions that often comes up is do you feel bad as a satirist exploiting the suffering of others. [8:10] IN: Look, I didn’t create human greed and stupidity, can I help it if it gives me job security? [8:30] IN: If I were a serious writer that wouldn’t be an issue, but as a comedy writer, some people read that as trivializing the suffering of the people I’m writing about. [9:05] MG: A modest proposal is a free market solution to world hunger and population control. The Catholics won’t limit their breeding and the British don’t have enough to eat; how are we gonna fix this? [11:45] IN: Before I was a prose geek, I was actually a script geek. [12:35] IN: Laughing is a natural high. The more often you do it, the better your immune system is. This is why people joke about horrible horrible things. [13:00] IN: It helps them cope with terrible realities. It is never too soon. People should start laughing right away at the worst things. [13:30] IN: If I can help people laugh through some of the horrible things they have to live with, my life has actually served a useful purpose. [14:00] IN: My dad laughs at funerals. Most of his family died in concentration camps and he’s been dealing with death his entire life. Laughter is actually a release of tension for him. [16:30] IN: I have 2 creedos from which I live. The first from William S. Burroughs is exterminate all rational thought.
EF: It might have been Burroughs’ way of rationalizing shooting his wife in the head. That man had a lot to rationalize. [17:20] IN: Life is too serious to be taken seriously. [18:20] IN: Eddie Izzard and Richard Pryor both knew they wanted to be stand up comics when they were 4 years old. I thought I was being precocious when I chose to devote my life to comedy at 8. [18:50] IN: Canadians kind of sit at the nexus between British and American humor. [20:20] IN: We’ve got to remember that British humor includes Benny Hill and a lot of low brow stuff as well. [21:00] IN: Much of what I write is humorous science fiction. I get compared to Douglas Adams a lot… my comedic voice is substantially different to his, I don’t want people coming to my books looking for another Hitchhiker’s Guide when it’s really something else. [21:35] IN: I have two main influences: the Marx brothers and Monty Python. [22:00] IN, about his favorite review: “He said my sentences are too long.” [22:35] IN: If you’re going to have volume, you have to have variety. If you’re always in the same voice, the reader will catch up to you eventually. [24:50] IN: Everything you know about the multiverse you learned from Star Trek? [25:10] EF: What are major differences between the universes? MUSTACHE! [25:40] EF: So what I’m gathering is you are the James Joyce of satirical comedy?
IN: Can I quote you on that? [28:00] EF: Jack Handy wrote a novel that was the most tightly packed joke novel I’ve ever read. [29:20] IN: What you find with a lot humorous novels is that, about half way through, the mechanics of the plot take over. I made a point of larding the last page of my novel with more humor than any other page. I’m not going to fall for that plot. [30:00] EF: A lot of the time, by the end of the movie, it’s no longer a comedy. [30:55] MG: In my mind, I think any time someone tells a joke in Canada, everyone has to stop and think: Who was that at the expense of? Are we allowed to laugh at that? [31:50] IN: You always have to be on the side of the angels. If you’re doing satire, you have to know exactly what you’re making fun of. [32:20] IN: If you want to get mad, get mad at the person I was mad at when I wrote that joke. [33:10] IN: Never explain, never apologize. If somebody doesn’t get the joke, screw ’em. [34:30] EF: I think it’s impossible to convince certain people of anything at all. You might not have the same thing in Canada if you don’t have FOX News. [35:20] MG: Canadians just have thought police forcing everyone to be nice instead of afraid. [36:30] IN: If you talk to people from Calgary, they’ll tell you the Prime Minister isn’t doing enough. [37:00] MG: If we’re going to kill all these people to exploit this resource, are we getting the benefits of it? Shouldn’t all that death pay for some kind of improvement? [38:00] EF: Do you ever think about how the plan is to drain the earth dry? That’s the long term plan. [38:35] EF: We just have to get Tesla’s research out of the secret vault! It exists! [39:20] MG: It does give me some resolve that there’s an infinite number of alternate universes where all of my enemies are already dead. [40:00] IN: If you’re allowed to go wherever and whenever you want, timelines start backing up on each other, and you get a deranged universe where linear causality doesn’t hold up. [40:50] IN: The antagonist of the first novel is basically a bored housewife mucking about in other universes because she wants something fun to do in the evenings. [41:00] IN: I’m not a big fan of stakes inflation. In some circumstances, it’s kind of lazy writing. [42:10] IN: In my universe, all matter, from every subatomic particle to the universe itself, has become conscious, and the main character is an object psychology. [42:45] MG: Does Canadian politeness become too much when you have to care for the feelings of every particle in the universe? [45:45] IN: Are there new stories in science fiction? Hell yeah! The question is do publishers want to let writers pursue them. [46:40] IN: There is a certain conservatism to a lot of fandom. Not all fans for sure, but there is a definitive conservative streak to it. [46:50] MG: I’ve met some post-humans out there who want to shed the fleshy boundaries of us all as data interacting and exchanging identity.
EF: Hell yeah! I’m down with that! [47:30] IN: If you look at William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy, he very much comes down in the end on the side of embodied experience. [48:10] IN: Human experience doesn’t really change all that much. For all of our wonderful modern tech, we still want to feel like we’re contributing to the world, to make connections with other human beings. [48:35] IN: Regardless of the genre you work in, you do want to reflect back something of what you understand humanity to be.
MG: To grok it. [48:55] IN: Essays try to make the point intellectually; art makes the point emotionally. [50:45] IN: As long as you’re laughing, I’m good. If you can get any other perceptions out of what I write, even better. [53:25] IN: People crisscrossing timelines will eventually destroy universes. [56:45] EF: There’s such a huge gap in exploratory, non-genre based fiction and satire; it’s awesome. [57:40] EF: I have really mixed feelings about Donald Trump. Because on the one hand he’d be a horrible president and a horrible human being, but on the other hand he’s a gift from god. [58:00] IN: I feel the same way about Steven Harper in Canada. As a writer, I’ll be sorry to see him go, but as a human being who lives in this country, I’ll be dancing hosannas. [58:20] IN: Whatever’s good for the world is kinda bad for me as a writer. [60:05] IN: Donald Trump is the most amazing example of chickens coming home to roost that I’ve ever seen in American politics. [60:25] IN: The Republican establishment have been pandering to the same people Trump is pandering to now, and they don’t want to come down on them too hard in fear of losing those voters. [61:30] IN: The low information voters are not entirely stupid. They know that even though politicians are saying what they want to hear, that they’re not one of them. [62:15] EF: I honestly don’t think that a majority of people realize that Trump comes from inherited money at this point. He’s talked about lifting himself up so many times nobody even remembers. [62:30] IN: Nixon is probably the reason I started down the road of satire. I was 14 in ’74 when Watergate happened. The first piece of satire I wrote was a parody of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar called The Tragedy of Richard Nixon. [64:20] MG: The rationalization of war is always bullshit. Every war’s own end is just destruction and consumption. [73:10] MG: Ultimately, I’m not concerned with the opinions of idiots. [75:45] IN: Indie authors, we live and die by word of mouth.
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