Saturday, December 20, 2014

We Drink With Characters: Special Guest Alex London on THE ADVIL CALENDAR 2014

One of the nice things about taking a more laissez-faire approach to the holidays this year is that we've spent our after-kid-bedtime hours at leisure, and not wrapping or baking or cleaning or shopping online. Although I'll admit to a bitty little studio6 fetish this year. Everybody's getting a t-shirt for Christmas even though we're not really doing presents.

Some of our leisure time has been spent watching TV. It's pretty weird how, in the past year or two or three, TV has become something that people are not ashamed about. But people are very particular. Everyone has their own preferred cocktail of drama and humor and hot people, and we quiz our friends to learn where any recommended show falls on that scatter plot. Arrow? Not funny enough, I'm told. Downton? Hardly anybody gets their shirt off. So let's do it...


It took me kind of a while to be talked into Orphan Black, for example. I kept confusing it with that weird psychological horror movie Orphan, in which - and I may have this wrong but - a prostitute from Minsk with a rare medical condition poses as an 8-year-old in order to get a green card. Much better plan than using those bride sites.

But wow! I love Orphan Black! It explains SO MUCH.

Everybody knows what's going on with Orphan Black but in case you don't - it's clones. Separated at birth and living wildly different lives until they are thrown together by coincidence (there are no coincidences!) and MURRDER.

This is probably what happened with Mr. London, our special guest drinker for today's post. (Is this going up kind of late in the day? Well yes, yes it is. I have had a ROUGH WEEK.)

For years, the world knew our guest as Charles London. Mr. London traveled the world reporting on the effects of war on children. He wrote a book, One Day the Soldiers Came: Voices of Children in War, which I read long before I met him, and which I only just now realized was his.

Do you know how ridiculous that is? I know Mr. London, I've read like 5 of his books for children, I knew he had worked with child soldiers, and yet I still never put it together that he'd written that book. I'd probably have quoted his own book at him if we'd ever gotten into a discussion about eastern Congo.

The only explanation is - he's a clone.

Sure, there are reasons why a person might write under three names and drink under a fourth. It makes sense that Mr. London might not want a curious fan of his globe-trotting goofy kids' adventure series that started with a book titled We Are Not Eaten by Yaks finding him talking about traumatized children on NPR. So those books - and his series of short novels about military dogs - are written by C. Alexander London.

And then a third clone showed up, writing some of the best YA sci-fi I have read in a while. I won't go into Proxy here - there's a review elsewhere that you might look into - except to say that it is a thrilling ride for all readers. One of my son's friends just came over to ransack our YA collection and Milo thrust Proxy into his hands with the urgent sincerity of a Witness giving out Watchtowers.

Proxy and its sequel, Guardian, also reverberate with literary references and the kind of sociopolitical/economic structures that can only be generated by a mind informed in equal parts by firsthand observation, theoretical knowledge, and thoughtful analysis. You don't have to subscribe to The Economist to enjoy Proxy, but people who do - and who find flaws with much sci-fi because they understand cultural evolution, will find these books immensely satisfying. And also picturesque and explodey. With occasional boner jokes.

To put it in my terms: bourbon in a glass is nice. Bourbon in a glass with a piece of crystallized ginger and a fat curl of orange peel is better. So here for the first time (not for the first time), all three London clones, plus their shadowy brother, gather to discuss drinking fictionally.

C. Alexander

So let's hear it, Orphan London. Which of your characters would you want to drink with once they're legal, and what would you guys be drinking?

"I'd be thrilled to have a drink with just about any of my characters, but I've got two characters I'd love I think would be the most fun:
Knox, the devil-may-care party boy from my YA novel PROXY would be a blast to get a drink with. He most likely wouldn't wait until he was of age, so I'd be a bit nervous the whole time, but if we meet up in his time as opposed to mine, I don't think we'd need to worry.
Of course, in his future, the drinks certainly get weird and probably involve all kinds of foams and electrolytes and costs more than I make in a year, so I'd have to let him order (and pay). I picture him trying to get fancy and ordering some futuristic update on the Vesper Cocktail and things would get sloppy from there. I'm sure it would be a memorable night, but at my age, I'd be hurting the next morning. It's hard to keep up with the teenaged party king of a dystopian future, especially one who knows he's living on borrowed time anyway.
(You say albino rat drinking
shandy, I see the Queen.)
The other character I'd love to raise a more civilized glass of cheese ale with, once she was actually of age, is Eeni, the streetwise talking rat in my forthcoming middle grade series, The Wild Ones. She's a pickpocket and rogue, and an albino alley rat, who loves wordplay, grammar, and a touch of larceny.
While Acorn Brew might be good for a wake up, the pubs in her neighborhood serve the best Cheese Ale on this side of the Slivered Sky. I'd have to let her order for me too, as I wouldn't know a fermented Blue Cheese ale from a Cheddar Shandy (she would totally drink a Shandy), and I suppose she's someone I could keep up with drink for drink. She tends to take her drinks in thimblefuls.
I bet she knows a few good songs and tales of the wild places, some folk wisdom from the moles, and all the dirty gossip about the criminals and bandit kings who scurry through the small places of the world once the sun goes down.
I really hope I'm not lactose intolerant, because it's considered very rude to turn down a cheese ale in Ankle Snap Alley. One must keep one's wits, however. I'm sure Eeni would offer to pay for the drinks, but it'd be with money slipped from my pocket."

Oh my god how adorable is this Eeni?! You can tell that Mr. London was in a little state of Crafter's Bliss assembling his Redwall-meets-Diagon Alley rodent world. That is like writing with a focusing flashlight and special tweezers.

Drinking small-scale

But this definitely reinforces the idea that we are dealing with clones. I MEAN. Cyber-enabled foam-drinking smartmouth Knox comes out of the same brain as Ratful Dodger Eeni? The eyebrow rises of its own accord.

In a very entertaining podcast interview with our friend Rob Wolf on New Books in Science Fiction, Mr. London says that he always ends up writing for "an imagined previous version of myself." This conjures a time-lapse image of a kid reading The Accidental Adventures interspersed with the military series Dog Tags, and then discarding those in favor of Knox's dystopic world. Maybe Accidental Adventures eventually lead to Proxy, but most kids who start down the Dogs And War path are on a trip straight into the heart of nonfictionland. Which is a fine place to find oneself - one of the London clones lived there for ages, before COINCIDENCE (there are no coincidences!) or MURRRDER led him to a secret meeting with snarky jet-setter Chazz London, bare-chested club kid Xander Londonowiecz, earnest history buff Chuck McLondonson, and master crafter Charlie "I  My Hedgie" Londonberry.

Together, they form the master crime-fighting team The London Eye. They just write books for fun.

And I just read for fun! For the next week, anyway. I've got a few posts lined up but I am not sure whether they'll make it or not - we are going where the sun is shining and the wifi is spotty. Many thanks to Alex London for his thoughts on drinking with his characters - and apologies for screwing around with his identity and accusing him of being a clone. He's not a clone. I'm pretty sure.

Ok I gotta call TSA and American Airlines and make sure my husband can take his medication on the plane. Maybe clean out the refrigerator. And then double check the children have packed shoes. Why do they always forget shoes?

Keep your to-do list close and your cocktail closer - I'm out.