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Minister Faust Interview by Ernest Lilley
Review by Ernest Lilley
Del Rey Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0408MFI
Date: 03 August, 2004 /


Feature Review: Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad
Ernest Lilley: From my web search I?ve found out that you?re a black activist, an English teacher, a candidate for office, and the host of two radio shows.

Minister Faust: That?s right, except that the elections finished up in June, and I took a break because CRTC (the Canadian version of the FCC) regulations say you can?t be be both a political candidate and a broadcaster at the same time. I would have had to take that time off anyway though. It?s too demanding to go thought the actual five weeks of the election and all the electioneering before that.

Ern: Now that you're through with politics for the moment, will you go back on the air?

Minister: Now I?m taking a little holiday. I?ll be back on air with the news show next Thursday, (08/19/04) and the other show will be back probably about September first. They?re both available on the web from CJSR in streaming audio.

Ern: Let?s talk about the book, which I really enjoyed. I found a lot of resonance in the book for a fanboy like myself. On the other hand, I don?t associate the kind of geek idealist fanboy that you bring across with the black community.

Minister: In the case of Yehat and Hamza?I?ve certainly known plenty of guys like Hamza in my life. Smart guys stuck in a sort of a rut. I think Hamza is kind of like Aaron McGruder without the success.

Ern: Um?I have to confess?I don?t know who MacGruder is.

Minister: He?s the illustrator of the cartoon, ?The Boondocks? It?s one of the few black themed cartoon strips. It?s not syndicated up here, but it?s in The Washington Post and it?s a very controversial comic. It did a lot of stuff around 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq?I guess McGruder got blasted because he suggested that Codoleeza Rice would be a lot happier and the world might be a lot safer if she just got a boyfriend. You might want to look him up (The Boondocks).

I?ve known a lot of guys like this. They weren?t so good on their social skills, but they generally did ok in their careers.

I wrote the very first version of this book as a screenplay in 1995, so there?s really a lot of where my friends and I were at. I wanted to present North American African characters that weren?t the cutout characters we get on UPN or any the ?in-hood? movies.

Ern: They?re the kind of folks I?d like to know more of, and I?m sorry they?re not in my neighborhood?or maybe they are and I haven?t gotten out enough.

Minister: Unfortunately I don?t know nearly enough of my neighbors, but one of the things about literature is that sometimes it can bring us together.

Ern: Can I ask you to set up the story?

Minister: There are two groups of fanboys in Edmonton (Canada) and one group is a pair of very smart guys in dead end jobs. They?re members of the Afrikan community, they run a day camp for kids out of their house, they try to make the best out of their lives even though they?re not going to have a white picket fence lifestyle. Their own attitudes have gotten them in trouble.

The other group has taken a different career path, and they?re dealing drugs, specifically a very powerful mind controlling drug called cream.

These two groups come into conflict when a woman comes to town pursuing an ancient quest and vendetta and both of these groups are drawn into a conflict that may wipe them all out. Hopefully, despite that grim description it?s percieved as a very funny book too.

Ern: Yes, the humor comes through very clearly. I enjoyed the comedy as much as the conflict. One of the outcomes of the book is that Yehat and Hamza get ?unstuck? which is another one of the enjoyable things about the book. For the most part, they?re their own worst enemies.

Minister: I think the job of any character in a book is to move from incompletion, ignorance, foolishness, fear, etc?to the replacement of those things with their converse. To maturity and wisdom and that sort of thing. Each character, whether they?re heroes or villains , is trying to grow up. They may not see that themselves, but ultimately that?s what all of us are on some level trying to do.

You couldn?t really find a person who?s reached a state of perfection they?re not trying to cover up for.

Ern: Does the story go on after the book?

Minister: When I was first asked by Del Rey if I was planning a sequel, I didn?t want to tell them this because I was afraid this might snucker the deal but I thought that since I wrote the first version when I was twenty-five, and the characters were twenty-five, that I would like to pick up the story when we?re both fifty.

I?m not currently working on that, but the only thing I?ve thought of is that Yehat and Hamza might be enemies, or at least have had a falling out. That?s all I?ve got.

I?ll be turning thirty-five next week, so I?ve got some time to work on it.

Ern: Are you working on anything else?

Readers might also like: Cosmonaut?s Keep by Ken Macleod (interview)

Space Opera Redefined by David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer

Minister:
I just finished a book for Del Rey as part of my two book contract, and hopefully they?ll want to sign me up for more. It?s very long, though, and I?m not sure how they?re going to feel about it. It?s a revisionist space opera.

I grew up loving Star Wars and the better told space operas, not Battlestar Galactica, which was pretty derivative. I wanted to write a space opera that would take some of their common elements and treat them realistically. You get a lot of princesses in space opera, and I?m a republican (small ?r?) even though I?m a Canadian and supposed to be loyal to the Queen. I?ve never seen how princesses could ever possibly by part of space opera. All of their wealth and privilege takes place at the result of exploitation of ordinary people.

(Ah?the faith of the young. ? Ern)

And I didn?t want Faster Than Light travel, because it opens too many scientific questions I couldn?t answer. And we?ve seen so many variations on warp drive, I didn?t want to add just one more. As a result I?ve got a civilization of about 12 planets and they?re all in one solar system.

Another thing is mystic orders, like the ?Jedi?. How would they actually function in real life? I think they?d be like the Knights Templar, and they?d become a very large bureaucracy, with huge financial interests and probably quite arrogant and indifferent to the needs of ordinary society. So I took these premises and put together a story that I think is pretty neat.

(Minister Faust should enjoy the next Star Wars movie, since Lucas has come to the same conculsions?around which the whole saga revolves. - Ern)

Ern: What?s its name?

Minister: I?ve named it War and Mir, and since ?mir? means peace in Russian, I can say I?ve written War and Peace. At the beginning, just before the Russian space station Mir burns up in our atmosphere, it?s stolen and used for another purpose.

Ern: So you originally wrote Coyote Kings as as a screen play, which comes through to me in that I?d love to see it as a movie. Has anyone optioned it?

Minister: Well the book has only been out for about a week and a half, but Kirkus Reviews gave it a very good writeup and even a second version for The Hollywood Reporter for a column on books that might make pretty good movies. I?m pretty sure as a result of that, my agent, Marie Brown, has received several calls already. I gave a copy to Reginald Hudland, the director of Great White House Party, and Boomerang, among other films, when I met him at San Diego ComicCon.

I?d love it. I?m very proud of it as a book, and though not all of what?s in the book could make it to the screen, but I think a lot of people would really enjoy this kind of a story.

There haven?t really been many Black genre films made, so I think it would be a lot of fun.

Ern: I?d like to see it as sort of an ?indie? film. You?ve kept the special effects budget pretty low.

Minister: Yes, a lot of that?s because my friends and I originally hoped to make it ourselves. So I tried to find every way I could to write it to save money. I looked around Alberta for parts that would be photographic, for parts with good access.

I like M. Night Shyamalan's approach to genre stories without a lot of what we think of as special effects. In particular I?m thinking of Unbreakable, where even when we have a train explosion all we see is a flash of light?there?s no fireball. You don?t need that stuff, mostly it just takes the place of good storytelling.

Ern: I liked Unbreakable very well, and largely for that reason. I think limited effect encourages viewers to get involved with the story to make it work.

Minister: I agree. Quality storytelling requires something of us. We can?t simply be passive. To the extent that a filmmaker should use special effects, they shouldn?t look like special effects. Forrest Gump gives some good examples of this, especially where Lt. Dan?s legs have been amputated. Besides the newness of the effect, you just accept it. When you?re making a genre movie, I think you should make your effects credible so that they don?t take the focus off the story.

Again, in Unbreakable, there?s a scene where Bruce Willis is lifting weights and it?s cropped so you can?t see that his son is adding weights to the bar instead of taking them off as he?s been told. So at the end when the camera pulls back it has much more effect than if the character was throwing barbells across the city?which is obviously not real. By putting it on a human scale he?s engaged our sense of wonder, which is a testament to the quality of his filmmaking and his writing.

SF and Fantasy movies should make us say ?Wow?.

Ern: Do you remember the first book that really turned you on?

Minister: I?d have to say that it wasn?t really a book, but watching Star Trek (TOS) . There?s a picture of me with my eyebrows raised and I?m making the Vulcan ?Live long and prosper? salute. It?s another reason why I got a kick out of the cover of the book, because it?s only the second time in my life, with the exception of Tuvok from Star Trek Voyager, that I?ve seen a black person flashing that sign.

I suppose the first book I read was Robert Heinlein?s Red Planet.

I can remember my Mom reading it to me before I could read, so that was probably my first science fiction from text.

My mom was a schoolteacher herself, and she grew up loving science fiction. She was an Alberta farm girl, so I don?t know how she got hold of it but she did, so she gave me kids? science books to read as well.

Then I read The Rolling Stones, and when I was about eight I read Stranger In A Strange Land.

Ern: Another child warped by Heinlein. Welcome to the club.

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