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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tony Noland on Superheros and Booze: A Guest Post from a Fellow Author

I know Tony through Twitter, where he keeps me laughing with his wry wit, blatant geekiness, and clever observations about the writing and publishing life. He's also one of the few Twitter writing friends I've met in person. My husband and I were visiting my sister in Philadelphia, and Tony agreed to meet up with us in a small Chinese restaurant. After we figured out we must be the right people, having never even seen pictures of each other before, we settled in for a night of foodie adventurousness. Now I have an inside joke about crunchy frog (congee -- don't ask) and an online/IRL friendship I really value. We've beta read for each other, and I was honored he asked me to do so for his novel, which came out on Monday. It's a very clever book with sympathetic, real characters, fun humor, and a sweet spot where Humanities and Science majors can meet and mingle successfully or at least find common ground over a nice beverage. The love story is well done, too.

So, without further ado, I give you Tony's guest post on superheroes and alcohol:

My new book comes out this week: "Verbosity's Vengeance". It's a science fiction superhero novel starring the Grammarian, a hero who uses grammar- and punctuation-based superpowers to fight Professor Verbosity on the mean streets of Lexicon City. With my book launch this week, you can easily imagine that the question foremost in my mind is: why don't more superheros drink?

Batman is a fitness junkie who treats his body like a temple, Professor X is an abstemious aesthete. Superman is a workaholic and Captain America is a boy scout, but alcohol doesn't have any effect on either of them, anyway. Of heroes who DO drink, Thor's banquet hall mead quaffing is like a frat house joke, Wolverine's Molson-and-Canadian-Club boilermaker habit is just part of his tough guy rep he works to maintain, and Tony Stark's alcoholic boozing is a standard pillar of playboy excess. Each of them is a literary archetypes of different kinds of moral repugnance ascribed to drinking and virtue ascribed to not-a-drop abstention. Where is the moderate, social drinking of the kind enjoyed by billions of people around the world every day?

 You'd think that after a hard day (or night) of superheroics, more superheroes would want to kick back with a drink to unwind, either in the quiet of their own home/cave/fortress or in the company of friends. In my book, Alex Graham doesn't drink while he's on duty as the Grammarian, but in his civilian life, he does enjoy a glass or two of whisky with his old pal and mentor, the Silver Cipher. Alex doesn't abstain completely, nor does he drink to excess. He enjoys his libations in moderation, which I think makes him more relatable and true to life.

"Verbosity's Vengeance" has a lot of wit and wordplay based on language and grammar usage. For that reason, I often get asked if I wrote the book for a younger audience, either as pure adventure or as a teaching tool. It could be used that way, but I wrote it to tell a good story. The word nerd humor is interwoven among the superhero action and tension, with plenty of science fiction technobabble to move things along. Is a young adult audience going to be put off by the occasional quiet martini or flute of champagne at a reception? I wouldn't think so, since they must sure see such behavior in the real world. However, I'm often surprised at what people find objectionable when deciding which book a young adult might pick up.

Drugs, of course, are right out. Any kind of social indulgence in mood-altering substances gets a Just Say No. Sex and swearing are almost as bad as alcohol, since the assumption is that none of them can be done in moderation. Either nobody swears or everybody swears all the time. Either nobody has sex or everybody is in a shifting round robin with everybody else (except for the virtuous heroine and/or hero). Violence seems to be no problem. Katniss Everdeen runs over and around the corpses of teenagers stabbed, burned, and bludgeoned to death. Harry Potter is surrounded by torture, murder and mayhem, but we all pretended butterbeer was magically alcohol-free.

So, sure, you could you give my book to a young adult. They'd love it. You'll love it too if you like action, adventure and wordplay, and if you don't mind seeing responsible adults acting like responsible adults. You can buy a copy for them or for yourself right here. As it happens, there's very little swearing and no sex, although there's G-rated romance between Alex Graham and the intelligent and talented Dr. Kate Hunter. They enjoy a couple of drinks together, too.

Is the Grammarian alone in his appreciation of a good libation? Did I forget someone? Can you think of a superhero who engages in moderate social drinking without some kind of moralistic overlay ascribed to that character?

You can find out more info about Tony and his fiction on his website Landless.


  1. So many people also ignore the fondness of hobbits for alcohol and weed...

    Great post, though, and what a wonderful book!

    1. Oh, is that what they're smoking? It's been a while since I read the books & saw the movies, but that actually makes a lot of sense.

  2. Constant smoking of weed certainly explains the general copacetic complacency in the Shire, as well as the need for second breakfasts and elevensies...

  3. But what would the Grammarian do when confronted with a bowl of crunchy frog congee?

    1. He might ask for some of what the Hobbits are smoking.

      Okay, probably not. :-)

    2. I suspect he'd use a spray of semicolons to turn "bowl of crunchy frog congee" into "bowl of crunchy; frog; congee", so he could eat the crunchies, slurp the congee and ignore the frog.