Leg 4 of a blog tour for Ira Nayman organised by Mark Iles.
It’s my privilege to give this blog over to a writing pal over in Canada. I’ve long enjoyed his surreal books on alternate realities and the way Ira Nayman takes characters and pushes them over the limit is downright outrageous, hilarious and I’m envious.
His new book is titled: Bad Actors: The Multiverse Refugees Trilogy: Second Pi in the Face How can you not love just the title and be compelled to read it?
BIO Firstly a spot on who Ira Nayman is.
Ira Nayman is a figment of the imagination of a lawn chair named Francois le Granfalloon. Francois has imagined a rich life for his character Ira featuring the publication of seven novels by Elsewhen Press, the most recent being called Bad Actors. Francois’ creation has been updating a web site of political and social satire, Les Pages aux Folles, for 19 years. In addition to this, imaginary Ira has a PhD in communications from McGill University and was a regular contributor to Creative Screenwriting magazine. Ira was also the editor of Amazing Stories magazine for two and a half years, but Francois is thinking that that may strain credibility, so he may remove it from his imaginings. All of his friends on the patio have urged Francois to write this down before he forgets it, but, being a lawn chair, he doesn’t have the hands to do it…
BAD ACTORS a blurb
In You Can’t Kill the Multiverse (But You Can Mess With its Head), Ira Nayman’s second novel published by Elsewhen Press, a madman develops a machine which he hopes will destroy the multiverse. When he sets it off, nothing seems to happen. Not content with this state of affairs, Doctor Alhambra, the chief scientist for the Transdimensional Authority (which monitors and police traffic between universes) creates an alarm system that will alert him if any of the universes in the known multiverse should start to show signs of collapse.
In Good Intentions: The Multiverse Refugees Trilogy: First Pie in the Face, the sixth novel in the Transdimensional Authority/Multiverse series, the alarm goes off. The universe that is in imminent danger of collapse contains billions of sentient beings; the Transdimensional Authority develops an ambitious plan to help as many of them immigrate to stable universes as possible before their universe dies. Good Intentions follows the first alien immigrant’s journey to Earth Prime.
Bad Actors: The Multiverse Refugees Trilogy: Second Pi in the Face, takes place two years later. Tens of thousands of aliens have immigrated to Earth Prime, with mixed results. Some have been welcomed and aided by their human hosts. Others have been vilified, exploited and attacked. Just another day in the multiverse…
Reading a book by Ira “is like going head-to-head with an selection of thirty three and a third disconnected Wikipedia entries filtered through seven layers of artesian coffee filters woven from at least three more fibers than permitted by the historic laws of any major religion in a blender made of a strange kind of cotton candy spun from titanium anodized in fairground colours with blades made of live sharks while simultaneously tap-dancing to a Steve Reich composition based on the absolute value of the square root of pi. In other words, simply and elegantly the most entertaining way ever invented to invert your brain over a platter prepared with roasted apples and a variety of field mushrooms for your own delighted consumption.” – Jen Frankel, editor, Trump: Utopia or Dystopia, author, Undead Redhead.
The previous excerpt of Ira’s latest novel is at sarahudohgrossfurthner.com/3635-2/
What’s the Big Idea?
Ideas are living things.
Ideas grow. Start with a simple idea: “I am hungry.” At first, it is one idea competing in your brain for attention, easy to ignore. It grows more insistent: “Hey, I’m hungry.” It pushes out thoughts of whether there’s a stain on your shirt or if it’s worth picking up that book instead of continuing to watch television. Over time, the idea grows even more insistent: “Hey! I’m hungry!” Like a dog sniffing around your private parts, the idea is now too big to ignore.
Ideas feed off their surroundings. The idea “I am hungry,” for example, may feed off the rumbling in your stomach, or a lack of energy. If you are watching television and come across an ad for nacho dip, it could feed the idea. If you look around your den while watching television and see empty wrappers from candy bars past strewn all about the place, the idea might start to get ideas of its own. Feeding ideas helps them grow.
Ideas breed. Start with the idea: “I am hungry.” This spawns the idea, “I should eat something.” This spawns the idea, “What is there to eat?” This spawns the idea, “Maybe I should check the fridge.” This spawns the idea, “Yes, let me check the fridge.” Four generations of ideas later, you may finally get off the couch.
Ideas need room to breath. The idea “I am hungry,” won’t get much traction if it is competing in your mind for attention with other ideas such as: “Have I seen this episode of Attic Thumpers before?”; “Is it true love this time, or just a little indigestion?”; “What is that smell?”; “If the weather is better tomorrow, I should go for a run…;” “What is that lump on the couch? Have I bust a spring from sitting here so long?”; “No, really, what is that smell?”; “Aww, who am I kidding? If the weather is better tomorrow, I’ll keep binge watching Attic Thumpers – talk about addictive!”; and, “Where am I going to put that bronze statue of a baby’s arm holding an apple?” Starved of the oxygen of attention, the idea “I am hungry,” could die before it is acted upon.
Ideas move. You’re in the den with your children, watching television, and you say, “I should eat something.” Your son son posts a message on Farcebook, “My dad should eat something.” It is liked twenty-three times and reposted seven times, twice by two of his fiends in Hong Kong. Your daughter tweeps, “My dad should eat something. lolz” This gets two hundred fifty-seven retweeps, including a hundred forty-nine from Russia (at least seventeen of which are verifiable human beings). As you can see, ideas can travel around the world before dad has a chance to get his eating boots on.
Ideas are living things. But that’s only the beginning.
Ideas compete for approval. You start with the idea: “I want pizza.” This is immediately countered by the idea: “I want a hamburger and fries.” Something inside you might try the compromise idea: “I want a hamburger and fries…on my pizza!” “That’s what ground beef and fried potatoes are for,” the first idea will counter. “Order a pizza!” “Mustard and relish are really gross on a pizza,” the second idea would argue. “Go out for a hamburger!” “Pizza!” “Hamburger!” “Pizza!” “Hamburger!” Falafel!” “Falafel?” “Hey! It’s a compromise, right?” The back and forth of intellectual competition and compromise: that’s how you end up eating something you didn’t really want and don’t even especially like. Although this battle of ideas may appear to be resolved relatively quickly, it will reappear in the morning (with the cereal versus pancakes debate), and pretty much every mealtime thereafter.
As they do in individual minds, ideas compete among groups. The idea, “We’re hungry!” can find itself countered by the idea, “So, eat something.” The idea, “But we cannot afford to buy food!” is one response. This is countered by the idea, “So, okay, don’t eat anything.” “But we’re hungry!” “Oh, would you please make up your minds_” Unlike the battle of ideas within individuals, the battle of ideas between social groups can take forever to be resolved…if it ever is.
This is a story about how good intentions are overtaken by bad ideas. You may want to finish eating before you start reading…
The next excerpt in this blog tour will be on the blog of writer Maighread Mackay BLOG | maighreadmackay (mhefferman.ca)
Questions put to Ira by Geoff Nelder. Expect zany, alternate answers.
1) I recall the brave Elsewhen published Welcome to the Mulitverse in 2012 where the reader was forced to laugh in several dimensions. They clearly don’t think you’re a pi in the face author for their business. Have you ever had to put trousers on and meet your publishers face to face or zoom to zoom? If you did, how ‘alternate’ would you dress?
I am Canadian and Elsewhen is British, so our opportunities for face to face (or pants to pants) communications have been limited. I did go to England for Eastercon to promote the release of Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience) , and I will never forget my first face to face meeting with my publisher. It was at the opening ceremonies of the convention, which were held in a huge hall with two doors. Thinking they knew me because they had seen the author’s photo I had provided them with, Peter Buck was stationed at one door and Alison Buck was stationed at the other, hoping to corral me as people left the hall. I believe Alison was the one who pulled me aside and introduced herself.
And we all lived happily ever after.
I have a clown costume that I should wear to conventions more. The funny thing about it is that I only bought one piece of it. The pants are black with stars and comets and other things painted on them. They were born a regular pair of pants, but I helped a friend paint her room when we were younger, and completely ruined them. Or, so I thought. My friend, a painter, asked me to give them to her to work on, and that’s how they became celestial. The costume includes a shirt made up of differently coloured and shaped triangles which can pass for motley if you squint. It was a miscalculation on the part of my mother, who brought it back for me from Vegas under the mistaken impression that it would brighten my wardrobe. There is a hideous tie that clashes with the shirt (although, to be fair, almost any tie would clash with that shirt), the origins of which I do not remember. and there is a pair of a running shoes that have been so worn the soles are halfway broken off. The only part of the costume I bought was a jester’s cap with three bells.
Some people wear no pants to Zoom meetings; I wear clown pants. Potato rhinocerus.
2) Your tomes have convinced me of the existence of multiverses. Do all your characters have to believe in them too, or do you allow one to be in denial?
All of my characters believe in the multiverse, just like you and I believe in oxygen or The Pet Shop Boys. I rather like the idea of a character who doesn’t believe in the multiverse, though, so I may have to ste – ahem, borrow it from you.
That having been said, I’m not sure that I believe in the multiverse, and, even if it did exist, that there ever would be a way of travelling between universes. Fortunately, I don’t have to believe in it; it’s enough that it inspires me to explore the kinds of ideas I would like to explore.
3) I often find myself nudged into your kind of bizarro surrealism but riding a bike forces me to be real-world aware. How do you keep yourself sane (assumption there) when plotting your stories?
People may make the assumption that writing humour is a non-stop gigglefest. That would be wrong. If I was constantly making myself laugh, I would write sentences like: “And then, Marion took the jbadlfgbug by the bjkbglig and hvvyved it vfidzxe the qvelllal.” Not very effective as English communications, let alone comedy.
Of course, writing humour, like any other artistic endeavour, is a serious undertaking. In novels and short stories, I think of writing comedy as “drama plus.” It has to have characters that the reader likes and a plot that is engaging, just like serious writing, plus it has to make the reader laugh. Writing humorous science fiction is “drama plus plus.” It has to have the elements of serious writing, plus making the reader laugh, plus contain something that readers will identify with the genre (robots, alternate universes, Eric Clapton). Because I throw in a lot of satire, my writing is “drama plus plus plus.” Serious writing. Plus making readers laugh. Plus recognizable genre tropes. Plus ideas that readers can take away from their reading to mull over if they so choose.
Sure, I sometimes make myself laugh when I write. If I didn’t, juggling so many elements could cause my brain to explode. Yuck!
4) I reviewed your ‘What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys’ with “This book is a kind of alternative Sufi wisdom such as a what-if version of anything written by Idries Shah.” Are you inspired by Shah’s work?
Ah, the old influences question. (You can’t hear the impression I’m doing of W. C. Fields, but I slay me!)
I am actually not familiar with Shah’s work. If there is a spiritual precursor to my writing, it would be Zen Buddhism, which fascinated me in my 20s and 30s. A major feature of Zen is the koan, a short aphorism or question (one of the most famous of which would be: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”) that seems like nonsense. Koans are meant to shock us out of the everyday routines of our minds and see the world in a fresh way. I would love it if my writing had that effect on readers.
5) In your Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be (2010) a throw-away line is one I loved: “It’s all smoke and mirrors but not even with real smoke.” Do you ever fear that you might be the only one in the world who is actually real?
The aliens in my trilogy of novels are identical four foot tall blue creatures with exaggeratedly round features and no hair who wear exquisite three piece suits. (Stick with me, here – this is actually leading to an answer to your question.) They are tricksters who constantly perform comedy as part of their religious practice in order to please their god, the Audi Enz. Writing about them in their home universe is the closest thing I can imagine to living in a universe made up entirely of creatures like me.
It’s fun for a while, but I need other people around to inspire me. I don’t think I state it explicitly in the novels, but the alien culture has stagnated because they’ve been performing the same comedy routines for thousands of years with no new experiences to inspire them; its only when they encounter other cultures that they start to develop new comedy routines. So, whether or not other people are real, I definitely need them in my life. I mean, honestly. Without them, who would fix the plumbing?
Thanks and best wishes