Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Ælnäthän, Ryan Robledo

Aelnathan:I’m not going to pretend that I’ve read this novel (a fantasy, self-published by a young man of seventeen) all the way through. I’ve done nothing but skim the pdf, and read passages here and there that caught my eye. So I shouldn’t really write a review, and indeed I haven’t.

If I were to write a review, my focus would inevitably be drawn to the disclaimer at the beginning of the book where the author carefully advises the reader that his book is not seeking “to supplant the true Creator of the universe”. I’m fairly sure that the author didn’t mean it as a joke, but I found it hilarious nevertheless.

It’s funny however you look at it. If you believe that a god of some kind created the universe, how could it be supplanted from that position by someone writing a book about an alternative theory of creation? All such a book could supplant (at best) is a theory of that god’s existence, not the fact of it. And there’s part of the humour – implicit in the disclaimer is the idea that his true Creator is just a theory, and one that could easily be supplanted if the author of Ælnäthän forgot to add a disclaimer!

It also raises the question: if the author is a Christian (it’s not spelled out in the foreword, so I shouldn’t jump to conclusions – he could just as easily be a Muslim, or a Hindu, or so on), why create alternative gods at all to create his fantasy world? Surely it’s easy to imagine a scenario in which whatever all-powerful Creator he believes in decided to create an Earth that’s different from our own? (After all, as everyone knows, on the seventh day, God created Narnia…)

And if you don’t believe that a god of some kind created the universe, the disclaimer seems presumptuous and laughably pompous (and I know all about being laughably pompous – just read a few of my editorials).

I have nothing against self-publishing – as this magazine demonstrates all too incapably! – but if I were writing a review I’d go on to say that the book’s self-published nature gives itself away in the way the author explains in the foreword that the beginning of the book (a condensed history of his world) is boring but it gets better. If he knows it’s boring he should really have taken it out – an editor would have removed it without a second’s thought, or at least relegated it to an appendix.

But when we publish our own stuff we don’t want to throw away any of our work, however much it might benefit the finished product. (There are many similar passages in my own self-published work – not necessarily into which I have put a lot of work, since I haven’t put a significant amount of work into anything I’ve ever written, but certainly my writing is rife with indulgences that an editor would not hesitate to excise.) To be honest, I found those early pages totally unreadable, though I imagine the author put a lot of work into them.

Finally, in my hypothetical review, I’d say that if the author continues to put as much work into his writing as he obviously has here, who knows where he might end up. But the important thing is to keep working at the writing. I’d say to bear in mind that, for a writer, writing is much more important than publishing.

Publishing oneself can easily be a distraction to a writer, a dangerously easy way to dissipate creative energy. The important thing is to keep writing, and see how it goes.

And then, at the end of the review which I have not written, I would wish the author good luck with his book and sign off!

Ælnäthän, Ryan Robledo, Trafford, pb, 256pp. Not-reviewed from a pdf supplied by the author.

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