By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Christian A. Brown is a fantasy author who understands how modern fiction works. Unless it evolves with the times, the work can look dated. To keep his own material refreshing, he’s not afraid to buck trends. His first novel, Feast of Fates, appeared on shelves in late 2014 and received a devoted legion of fans. The central character Morigan may well allude to the Morrigan of Irish Lore. Nestled in reference her importance in the tale is definitely the Three Fates. Brown calls them the Sisters Three — Eean, Elemech and Ealasyd — in his world, just what kind of ongoing role they play requires looking at the third book, Feast of Chaos, tentatively scheduled July release.
The fourth volume, Feast of Mercy, is in the works. This world Brown created is filled with an exploration into aboriginal culture and coloured with nods to mythological lore. Readers will find his exploration into gender equality interesting.
“One of the reasons why people have taken to my work is because you don’t see that a lot in fantasy especially, which is very trope-ridden,” said Brown.
In addition to putting his life into this work, some may find his treatment of ethnic differences just as personal. When his father is African, Canadian, Cherokee and Russian and his mother is French-Canadian Métis, a lot of what he experienced filtered into the work he’s now crafting. When growing up, he didn’t have television. He was at the library reading works from visionaries such as novelist Ursula Le Guin and playwright Timothy Findley.
“I was this brown bi-racial child, sort of without an identity,” admitted Brown, “That’s how I began my life and so, I went through a lot. So did our family — pretty negative experiences — but it’s all about how they shape you. Because of my parents were always such good teachers, they always try to find the value in all those unpleasantness.”
“I’ve definitely been affected by diversity and growing up first [he has a younger sister]. That did find its way into my writing. I have no qualms writing about characters of colour, different religions, gay, straight, or whatever… you just write about people.”
This author believes some other writers are wasting their time coining Tolkien. He thinks that’s been overdone for at least the past century. What they do in world building has always been about a creating very machismo brotherhood where women are placed in secondary roles. This attitude exists in anime too, and this genre has a very specific portrayal of women not everyone approves of. Say what you will about how some folks get introduced to this genre, but sometimes that first anime seen is not gentle. “I still watch an occasional one,” admitted Brown. “My journey started with (I’m a bit ashamed of saying this) Revenge of the Overfiend.”
He’s watched better products since then. He says the works from Studio Ghibli are amazing and, with no surprise, he enjoyed their adaptation of Le Guin’s Earthsea. This enthusiast loves Mononoke Hime because it featured a strong environmentalism message. He’s also not averse to looking at how anime explores LGBT equality. In his opinion, one of the first Japanese animated products he saw that featured gay characters hardly felt sexualized at all. “It was called Fate by Sanami Matoh. There were these two gay detectives just doing their job,” said Brown. “I saw it more than 10 years ago. Even before then, there were other examples, Japanimation or otherwise. Obviously, cinema is more progressive and [the themes being explored are] happening a bit faster with programs like Netflix’s Jessica Jones.”
Brown finds some of the new shows are really pushing boundaries in what’s acceptable viewing. In the mainstream front, he’s catching up on Attack on Titan. He enjoys this series because it features interesting diversity; the female protagonists aren’t one-note wonders.
When concerning how anime is perceived by conservative types, he recalls one video game, Senran Kagura, where sexuality is comically explored. This game is basically featuring women beating each other up until their clothes explode. “That’s just part of the appeal of anime,” observed Brown. “I don’t think it necessarily needs to be looked at as violent or aggressive as some of the sexual imagery we see over in the West. Some of it supposed to be very light-hearted. Yes, there’s definitely a misogynistic undertone that’s propagating. That’s why that the content there. It’s somewhat harmless, well mostly …. When I see them in movies, it does not bother me all that much. It’s overt misogyny I think that we need to steer away from and that’s more dangerous.”
Just how he consumes media is mostly through streaming services like Netflix and Roku. He believes streaming video will be the future for how most people will consume their media. If the broadcasting companies are to keep up, they will have to find where and how the money can be made. In his years of observing industry trends, he saw how a one-hour show shift from 50 minutes to 38. “I don’t have the time to watch 22 mins worth of commercials,” said Brown. “People want things on demand. We’re a needy society. We don’t like to wait.”
And the world is going to march on, regardless. Progress creates change. Brown is a firm believer in that everyone on this earth has a place, regardless.
“If you want to remain closed-minded and not partake in some of these amazing things that are exploratory and experimental, and just teaching us how to be better people, that’s fine. That’s your choice … Again, I mention Jessica Jones. We talked about changes even within entrenched forms of media like anime, so this is stuff that’s happening regardless of whether these people want it or not. There’s always going to be those old dinosaurs on the sidelines going waaa… change!” laughed Brown, “You just go on, right?”
With his own work, he hopes to create a better world that readers can pick up on and use in their every day too. This Feast series is not a quick read and it’s filled with plenty of lovely idiosyncrasies to make his book the type you have to slowly consume like wine. His world evolved out of the many years of playing Dungeons and Dragons. In his younger days, he was a day-dreamer and he pursued intellectual ideas.
“When I was young, I was always that odd match. I would rather read a book than play sports, even though I am very physically active now. But back then I was not,” revealed Brown.
He found the world established by the almighty corporation (TSR and later Wizards of the Coast), not to his liking and he crafted one that was more thoughtful. He was working on a story at the time which needed refining. Since he had no formal schooling in creative writing, he went into the workforce as a physical education instructor and sports therapist. When life directed him to another way due to a family medical situation, he turned to writing. Finding an editor to help fine-tune his work also taught him to establish a routine. “Writers, anyone, any artist who put their material — their art for consumption and viewing — is going to have to suffer criticism at some point. It’s best to hear it from a professional first,” said Brown.
The help he received from Barbara Berson (she used to work at Penguin Random House) helped sharpen his tale and recognize his rookie mistakes. Brown is an organic writer, a panser who went with the flow. Now that he’s halfway through his series, he has charts and a series bible to keep track of all the story threads. Berson was absolutely ruthless in helping him find the story (it took seven drafts) that’s to become Feast of Fates and he understood she just wants to help improve his story.
Just like his younger days where he was taught by his parents to find the good in people, there are more lessons to be learned as an author now in the scene. Two books in, he’s very capable of expressing his ideas in both the literary and pop culture sense. Most of his radio interviews and thoughts on the scene are available on his website, Christianadrianbrown.com and he says go watch Penny Dreadful.
“I’ve never seen anything like that on TV. It’s gripping, gut-wrenching and amazing. It came out of nowhere three years ago,” said Brown, “And [of course] there’s Jessica Jones and Daredevil. They stand out as superhero programs made right. They’reare flawed and are antiheroes who come through as very believable and very human. There’s now some really cool shows coming out and I don’t think creativity is being adversely affected by the vice of capitalism.”
When concerning all the clones and copycats appearing in books or cinema (and the adaptations being made), there’s still room to innovate according to Brown. He would love to see his own work adapted and has a come what may attitude. He believes it’s up to creators to continue pushing the boundaries to get noticed. Some material can definitely feel rote after a while (Hunger Games, Maze Runner and Divergent), but that’s expected. He says the Hollywood studios produce safe products. People are not expected to think hard about what they’ve seen. Perhaps that includes why Michael Bay films succeed because they are factory-made consumables.
Between what creators and capitalists want, the two can work well enough together.
“I don’t think we’re ever gonna run out of ideas,” smiled Brown.