What do you mean, I just used this article as an excuse to post all my favorite dancing gifs? You, sir or madam, are ill informed. I used A. LEE MARTINEZ APPRECIATION DAY as an excuse to talk about one of my favorite authors writing today. So what is so great about A. Lee Martinez's writing that I have to do not one, not two, but SEVEN dancing gifs? Well, let me explain.
Back in college, and I am unsure how I came upon the book or who got me into it, but somewhere along the way I got a copy of Gil's All Fright Diner. An innocuous little book, with a splendidly silly, semi- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy looking book. Read the back, and I find it has vampires and werewolves and ghosts and zombies and cthullu-esque creatures, all mixing it up around a small diner. It was an odd conceit, so I read it. And it was really good.
That was a lot of build up, with all the other gifs, for just "really good."
I liked the book. I definitely didn't love it, but it was fun, with great characters, good scenes ... it really is a good book. So I went back to Books-a-Million and grabbed the other A. Lee Martinez book they had, In the Company of Ogres. That book ... I liked less. It had some bits that were good, and I liked the lead character, but as a pretty straight forward fantasy book, even with some tongue-in-cheek-ness to it, I felt it wallowed around in way too many characters and just wasn't that enjoyable. It felt like fantasy Stripes, like it was missing the meat that elevated Gil's with its really good characters.
So I shelved Mr. Martinez's books for awhile. A few years in fact.
So I suppose none of this is sounding the most positive it could be. But ahh, you are missing the wonderful thing here. A man is not defined by two books. He is defined by ... well I mean, too many things to calculate, because you cannot distill a man down just based on the writing of two books he wrote. And I never stopped thinking about those books, like them or not as the case legitimately was.
I eventually went looking for another book by him. I saw The Automatic Detective, which is a science fiction film noir. I gave it a shot ...
This editorial is already long. Come on!
Next up was Monster, another book with an incredible set of characters, and awesome big ole adventure, and really grounded emotions and thoughts. This time, we have a cryptid exterminator, who takes care of those goblins under the bed or the yetis that wander into your supermarket. Why this isn't a movie starring the Rock is BEYOND ME.
After Monster was Divine Misfortune, where worshiping a god was more akin to really bad online dating, and every pantheon of myth's gods existed. Once again, we got awesome characters in our human protagonists, an African-American couple, and their decided up god, Luka, a happy-go-lucky (literally, he is a luck god) raccoon. Once again, we got a great pulpy high adventure story. And even better, just like in the past two books, we get realistic characters.
All of these books might sound like they are Terry Pratchett in nature, comedy mixed with genre. But that's what you are missing! In fact, what a lot of people are missing about Mr. Martinez's books. There is a very subtle bias that readers have towards "genre" and "comedy." Both are seen as light, without substance. Just look at the Oscars, which to a fault award films that are dramatic or historic and actors who are dour or "realistic" with their amazing awards, even though other films come around that are better, with better acting, but because they may be Space Opera starring a raccoon and a talking tree, they may not get the same recognition. A. Lee Martinez's books have may have a colorful cover and a premise that is filled with pulpy wonderful goodness, but his books have a backbone of truly skilled writing and plotting, and characters with real emotions, choices, and relationships. When you think of these books, or really most forms of entertainment, as "genre" or "comedy," what you are subtly thinking is that they are worth less than other books or films or television shows. We need to stop that. And I think buying up all of Mr. Martinez's books is the best way to do it!
Divine Misfortune lead me to Chasing the Moon, an intriguing but not quite as good book centered around cthullu-esque mythos. But for every book of his I don't care for, three more arise that make me fall in love. In quick succession we got: Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain, which has one of the most complicated protagonists I've ever read, and was fabulous; Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest, a send-up to the "Hero's Journey" with even more incredible characters, that I in fact wrote a review of a year or so ago; and One of These Doomsdays, which you can find online for some crazy wonderful reason, as he isn't publishing it, which is BONKERS because I am LOVING IT! It isn't finished yet, and I hope he ends up publishing it anyway, because I want it on my shelf.
To top it all off, I've been going backwards and reading the books I skipped. I'm enjoying but struggling through Too Many Curses, and I still need to get A Nameless Witch. I also need to rebuy Chasing the Moon and In the Company of Ogres, as my own copies have been lost. To top all THAT off, I helped fund a short story book he wrote which featured a short story for each of his ten published books! That is coming in the mail to my home any day now, and I cannot wait to dive into it.
To top all THAT OFF, I am an avid reader of his website, as he blogs about film, television, writing, and all sorts of stuff. He and I don't see quite eye to eye on some things, but man oh man, we both tend to have the same opinion when it comes to "darker and grittier is better" that was sweeping through our entertainment not long ago. Even when I don't agree with him, I love hearing his thoughts. He shares them all the time on twitter and facebook as well. And he writes other short stories and flash fiction you can check out all the time. I was even able to send in a suggestion that he wrote a flash fiction of, which of course is awesome.
I am inspired to write because of A. Lee Martinez's books. I am inspired to write because of his opinions. I am inspired to work harder, to maybe see more of my writing published. And even better, I am inspired to read. I don't read as much as I used to. I suspect most people don't. So let's change that. It is a new year, so let's fix that! Go to amazon or Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million or wherever you can, buy an A. Lee Martinez book, your favorite I talked about, or my favorite, or the ones I liked least to see if you agree. Let's support an author who is writing exciting, incredibly well made books that don't have to choose between having good characters and good story.
And THAT is how I am going to celebrate my January 12th, A. Lee Martinez Appreciation Day.
I Have a Favorite ... author, A. Lee Martinez
A quick grade guide to each of his published novels I've read completely
Gil's All Fright Diner - Grade: B+
In the Company of Ogres - Grade: C-
A Nameless Witch - n/a
The Automatic Detective - Grade: A+++
Too Many Curses - n/a
Monster - Grade: A++
Divine Misfortune - Grade: B+
Chasing the Moon - Grade: B
Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain - Grade: A++
Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest - Grade: A+++