Writing Should Be a Challenge
I would seem to be the least likely person to give relationship advice to anybody. The romantic relationships I have had have been few and far between and, frankly, were disasters. Not Titanic type disasters – thousands of people didn’t die and bad movies haven’t been based on my romantic experiences (if you exclude Nightmare on Elm Street 5) – just your common, everyday unpleasant experiences. As I have commented to friends, I seem to be somebody who doesn’t “stick,” somebody who is interesting enough to have around, but isn’t somebody you would consider a long-term friendship with because, although earnest, he is a little bit…off.
Given all of this, you might think it strange that I would write The Alternate Reality News Service’s Guide to Sex, Love and Robots. I think it’s strange that I wrote a book made up of science fiction parodies of advice columns, and I was there! But, here’s the thing: after four books of fake news in the Alternate Reality News Service series, it was time to do something different, time for a new challenge.
Writers can easily get into a (depending upon whether you are a fan of what they do or not) groove or a rut, essentially going over the same ground with each new work. This is not necessarily good for the writer, because it can lead to works created on autopilot, which are necessarily less creative than they would be if the writer was fully engaged. It is also not a good thing for readers, even if they think that what they want is more of the same – they are deprived of works that they could be enjoying more.
To avoid this problem, it is important for writers to periodically expand their boundaries, to create something outside of their comfort zone. (Admittedly, this may also be outside the comfort zone of their regular readers, but, at worst, it will allow them to go back to their main body of work with renewed energy.) For me, the Guide to Love, Sex and Robots was a way of doing just that, albeit within the safety of my larger creative project.
The precedents were there. The first Ask Amritsar column appeared in the first Alternate Reality News Service collection, Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be. The third collection, Luna for the Lunies!, contained an entire chapter of advice columns. Clearly, I had been thinking of the form for a long time. Still, it is a big leap from writing a handful now and then to writing enough to fill a book.
To be fair to me, as inept as I am at relationships, I do know a lot about them. For one thing, the media are full of examples of and advice about relationships; all I have to do is pay attention to what other people are writing to get a sense of the problems, if not the solutions. More importantly, I watch the people around me and think (as deeply as I can) about how they relate to each other. The fact that I cannot make such knowledge work for me (theory and practice being the Sid and Nancy of our lives) doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful to me in other ways. Like writing. Thinking about it in this way made me realize that I actually had a lot of information and sources to call upon when I decided to write the Guide to Love, Sex and Robots.
It also helps that, because I write humour, any solutions my fictional columnists may come up with to the problems posed to them are not expected to work; they are only expected to be funny. There may be wisdom in the book (it happens, even with me), but I assure potential readers that that would be purely by accident. Given my track record, I wouldn’t seriously presume to tell other people how to relate to each other.
Still, I found it refreshing to be working on something very different from what I had previously written (so much so that there will be a second Alternate Reality News Service book of columns, as well as an unrelated novel in which I am currently working that deals with human physical and emotional relationships). Once they have established what they can do, every writer owes it to themselves to see if they can go beyond it.
Absolutely. Just writing a story a day for this blog’s 5pm Fiction slot keeps me on my toes. Thank you, Ira.
The first things he wrote were three parodies of Sherlock Holmes stories. He used the backs of his father’s legal sized accounting pads (the fronts had too many lines). Each of the stories was a handwritten page long. When he was done, he remembers thinking: “How do writers get enough material to fill whole stories?”
That was 45 years ago. In the last year, he completed four collections of short stories, two of which he self-published in print, and one collection of cartoons on his Web site; his first novel was published by Britain’s Elsewhen Press, he submitted his second for their consideration and he was halfway through writing a third. He must have figured it out.
In 2002, Ira started Les Pages aux Folles as a Web page (http://www.lespagesauxfolles). He have updated it with new writing and, eventually, cartoons, on a weekly basis ever since. (As a friend of mine once pointed out, a decade or more is positively Paleolithic on the Internet!) When he is finished the current cycle of writing in September, he will have written the equivalent of 18 books of prose and six books of cartoons for it in 11 years.
To date, Ira has self-published six collections of online writing in print, five of which belong to the Alternate Reality News Service (ARNS) series: Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be; What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys; Luna for the Lunies!; The Street Finds Its Own Uses for Mutant Technologies, and; The Alternate Reality News Service’s Guide to Love, Sex and Robots. The basic idea is that there is a news organization that sends reporters into other dimensions and has them write about what they find there. It has been described by readers as “a science fiction version of The Onion.” The first four books are a mix of fake news articles, interviews, editorials, opinion pieces and obituaries. The most recent book, Guide to Love, Sex and Robots, is a collection of the advice columns Ask Amritsar (about love and romance and technology) and Ask The Tech Answer Guy (about technology and anything other than love and romance. It’s a thing with him. Don’t ask.).
A few years back, Ira produced the pilot for a radio series based on stories out of the first two books. “The Weight of Information” episode one can be found on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GdLRV-S4mY and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIXAi9gnpSk). He also produced a trailer for What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys Called “A Book Trailer Called ‘Book Trailer’” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er2FshjzaWY)
A couple of years ago, Ira decided to branch out with writing not originally published on Les Pages aux Folles. He wrote a novel, Welcome to the Multiverse* that takes off from ideas original presented in ARNS articles, although the characters and situations are unique to it. The book follows the adventures of two investigators for the Transdimensional Authority, the organization that monitors and polices travel between dimensions. The discovery of a corpse next to equipment that has been tampered with leads Noomi Rapier and Crash Chumley on a chase across different realities, a chase in which Noomi will come face to face with four very different versions of herself. The novel was published in 2013 by Elsewhen Press, a small British speculative fiction published./
Elsewhen is currently considering the follow-up novel, You Can’t Kill the Multiverse**.
Ira has also written most of a cycle of short stories that take place after all matter in the universe at all levels of organization, from the smallest sub-atomic particle to, well, the universe itself, has become conscious. The main character, Antonio Van der Whall, is an object psychologist; his job is to understand why newly conscious objects behave the way they do. Ira has sold six stories in that series (mostly to anthologies such as UnCONventional and Explorers: Beyond the Horizon), and has an equal number that he is still trying to place. Most recently, Ira sold a standalone story, “Time, And Again,” to a Spencer Hill Press anthology called Doorways to Extra Time. The book came out today, August 13, 2013.
Ira’s Web Goddess says he should always mention that he won first place in the Jonathan Swift Satire Writing Competition in 2010. So…consider it mentioned.
Ira’s books have received mostly positive reviews. The most consequential were reviews of his first two Alternate Reality News Service books by Charles de Lint in Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, who went so far as to say that the first book was one of his favourite books of 2008. His writing is frequently compared to that of Douglas Adams, a comparison he does his best to discourage (Ira would much rather be recognized for having my own unique voice). It has also been compared to Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett, Monty Python and Tom Holt, among others; the fact that his perceived influences can be so diverse suggests to me that he has, indeed, developed a unique style. Welcome to the Multiverse* was called “[O]ne of the funniest sci-fi books I’ve ever read.” by one reviewer. Another reviewer called Ira: “a comedy genius.” He blushed for a week.
Just to round things out: Ira has a Masters degree in Media Studies from the New School for Social Research (which was done entirely online through Paul Levinson’s Connect Ed), and a PhD in Communications from McGill. He taught New Media part time for five years at Ryerson.
* Sorry for the Inconvenience
** But You Can Mess With its Head
You can find out more about Ira and his writing from:
- Website: Les Pages aux Folles http://www.lespagesauxfolles.ca
- GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3234309.Ira_Nayman
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ira.nayman
- FACEBOOK WRITER’S/FAN/WHATEVER PAGE: Ira Nayman’s Thrishty Friednishes
- URL: http://www.facebook.com/ThrishtyFriednishes
- Twitter: #ARNSProprietor
- LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=14346078&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
- Amazon: http://www.amazon.ca/Books/s?ie=UTF8&field-author=Ira%20Nayman&page=1&rd=1&rh=n%3A916520%2Cp_27%3AIra%20Nayman
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Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
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Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
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