Today, I’m excited to welcome back Andy Remic to Bookwraiths! (Yeah, he actually came back a second time. You can read his first post World Building, if you like.)
Mr. Remic has been exciting fans of tough, in-your-face speculative fiction for quite some time now; my first introduction to his work was the grimdark duology (The Iron Wolves – The White Towers) and the follow up series The Blood Dragon Empire, which started out with the tour de force The Dragon Engine and recently continued with Twilight of the Dragons. So, without any further talking by me, I’ll turn the floor over to Andy Remic.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
WRITING HUMOR IN GRIMDARK
When I started writing, my inspirations were predominantly David Gemmell, Iain M. Banks, Terry Pratchett and Phil K. Dick. All these writers employed humour, to varying degrees, in their superb work. I have always believed that I have a wicked sense of humour (yeah, right). It followed, then, that when I wrote – in whatever capacity – I would simply find humour in certain dialogues, or situations, and exploit that humour. I couldn’t help it. It was just there. Hollywood are happy to make comedies about funerals, I’m happy to employ humour in my writing, whether that be SF, thrillers or dark fantasy. Often, the darkest subjects are those most prone to offering a humorous context.
My very first novel, Spiral, published by Orbit Books in 2003, had elements of humour. If truth be told, it was a very dark novel – and yet there came the odd moment where I could slip in a wry joke or observation – just stuff that made me chuckle in some way. I’d tried my hand at writing comedic fantasy in the past (much to the chagrin of my then-editor, Dorothy Lumley of the Dorian Literary Agency, who steered me well clear of this sub-genre dominated by Sir Terry) but then, even when I wrote the straight stuff, the violent stuff, the bloody stuff, there always seemed to be some odd moment of humour presenting itself, and I just could not resist. Maybe my brain is wired wrong – or maybe it’s wired right. I expect that’s up to the reader to determine.
My embedded “humour” reached an all-time high in a novel called Biohell, published by Solaris Books in 2006. When Combat K veteran Franco Haggis, (himself, a reasonably humorous character, I surmised – somebody who, when entering a bar, and was asked, “What would you like to drink?” would survey said bar, grin a toothy grin, and retort, “Everything!”) – well, when Franco married his tax-inspector girlfriend, Mel, who then transmogrified into an eight-foot zombie super-soldier whom Franco had to lead around on a chain leash… I was in my element. Unfortunately, the critics did not agree with my humour in this book. And thus, I learned, a more subtle approach was necessary.
That’s not to say I forced humour. I never planned it. But, for example, in Soul Stealers (Book II of the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles published by Angry Robot), when Kell (gruff, violent axeman granddad searching for his kidnapped granddaughter), and Saark (lace-ruffed, powder-puffed, hedonistic, priapic bisexual dandy) argue over the killing and plucking of chickens, or when Saark becomes overly-fond of a donkey called Mary – it was a gentle humour which amused me greatly and, I hope, added an extra layer of depth to my characters – a reality, I should say. For, do we not all find humour in everyday events and people? Are not most Facebook posts an attempt to be humorous in some way? Is Saark, refusing to kill chickens, and complaining mightily about it when ordered to do so by an elderly axeman, not gently amusing?
In my latest novel, Twilight of the Dragons, follow-up to the very-well-received The Dragon Engine, both published by Angry Robot, there are moments of humour which developed genuinely from the situations the characters found themselves in – and are inherently true to the natures of the characters involved. For example, Narnok the Axeman (himself a star from an earlier novel called The Iron Wolves), stubborn, tough-as-a-coffin-nail, angry, bed-tempered, when confronted by a snarky, violent, psychopathic dragon named Volak (whom could easily bite off his head) replies to the question, “What is your name, tiny human?” with the (quite logical, for his nature, I reasoned) with, “I’m Narnok. Don’t forget it. It’s a name I’m going to carve on your arse”. Well, to me, this was humour derived from a moment of peril. It was a candle in the dark. It was a smile at a funeral when one remembers a particularly humorous trait of a lost loved-one. Ultimately, it was the middle-finger of humanity raised against aggression when faced by insurmountable odds. Humour, yes, but highlighting that iron streak in human nature which I find so appealing.
I think my Grimdark humour is a representation of real life. An attempt to make things more real. I hope readers find it enjoyable.
Andy Remic. 07.09.2016.
Twilight of the Dragons, published by Angry Robot Books, is out now.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Andy Remic is a British writer with a love of ancient warfare, mountain climbing and sword fighting. Once a member of the Army of Iron, he has since retired from a savage world of blood-oil magick and gnashing vachines, and works as an underworld smuggler of rare dog-gems in the seedy districts of Falanor. In his spare time, he writes out his fantastical adventures