A common question about my first book, And God Said…, is what on earth I was thinking. Before I get into that, I want to tell you a story about my grandfather, David S. Ralph.
Grandpa was a funny man. My most vivid memories of him are from when we would visit him in St. Petersburg, Florida. He would take us fishing, and inevitably, on the way over the bridge over to the Tampa side, he’d pretend to have driven the wrong way, onto the side that had collapsed in the Summit Venture disaster. He would say, “Hold on, I’m gonna jump it!” We kids in the back seat would hold on and close our eyes until we’d ‘landed’ safely on the other side. Grandpa would be laughing when we opened our eyes.
Grandpa was religious (as evidenced by his book of poems) as well as funny, and the thing that brought the two together was love. If he loved you (and he loved everyone), he wrote you a poem and made fun of you (sometimes at the same time). I’m not religious in the same way Grandpa was (I’m not sure if he’d ever met a Buddhist), but we use humor the same way.
My book originated in a very serious setting: Scandinavian Mythology class at THE Ohio State University. Our first assignment was to write a creation myth. Mine was about God creating the earth in an oven, and taking it out too soon, resulting in a half-baked world.
My book came together over the years, integrating some other stories and growing into a completely insane and nearly unreadable first draft. After some editing and alpha readers, it formed into more or less final shape. The core idea throughout the process was the same: That the things in life we think so serious are fantastically funny. Life is fantastically funny. We only take it seriously because we think it too important to be funny. Charlotte Ashlock asked me on twitter why I am never serious, always joking. What about when there is no joke? I made three points:
- Humor can be serious. Even more serious than being serious.
- There is always a joke.
- There is no third thing.
Life can be hard, sure. Humor makes the hard bits less hard. Humor makes the nice bits a bit nicer. Either way you go, humor helps you out when most of us need all the help we can get. You want an example? Ok.
My uncle Butch and I always teased each other whenever we saw each other. He was a funny guy. Last November I visited him in intensive care. We talked for awhile, and when I was about to leave he asked for a joke. For once I couldn’t come up with one. I felt terrible. I’m glad I was able to see him over Thanksgiving and get in a few jokes (in both directions). I don’t remember the last things we said to each other, but I’m sure it was a joke. A few weeks later he passed away. He had a copy of my book with him in hospice. I’m not sure if he got a chance to read it. I hope that if he did, he laughed.
Some people won’t like my book. Some people don’t think religion is a laughing matter. Some will think the book’s plot is too hard to follow. That’s OK. Religion is not the point. Plot is not the point. The point is to smile and laugh and love. If I bring that to people, no matter how slightly, that is enough.
I’ll finish with a quote from David Bowie while he was a member of Tin Machine (from the song “Bus Stop”): I love you despite your conviction that God never laughs at my jokes.
I hope I’ve made you laugh a little, either in this post or in my book. If you want a free laugh, sign up for my email newsletter of short stories, and get Bierce the Dog: Destroyer of Worlds immediately.