The Andrew Klavan Symposium

Section I – Opening Remarks

Click here for the series introduction and Part 1: “Finding God in the Blood and Guts of Birth and the Big Bang” by Fred Tribuzzo

Part 2: “A Search For An Authentic Life” by Alec Ott

Part 3: “Life-Changing Literature” by Chris Queen

Part 4: “To Know The Truth About The World” by Jon Bishop

Part 5: “The Long Road To Becoming An Essential Author” by David M. Swindle

Section II – Dialogue

Part 6: “If You Love Western Civilization, You Will Love God” by Fred Tribuzzo

Part 7: “Why God Does Not Want You To Worry About Anything…” by Alec Ott

Part 8: “The Bible As Artist & Author’s Muse” by Jon Bishop

Part 9: “9 Authors With Books That Can Transform Your Life” by David M. Swindle

Sometimes the path to inspiration doesn’t go the way we think it will…

I had traced the sole copy of Andrew Klavan’s Werewolf Cop – the only book by him available, anywhere in the vast expanse of the province of Ontario, apparently – to a Chapters bookstore in the mid-sized town of Waterloo.

Chapters, for those who have never been to Canada, is a big-box bookstore. It is one of two big-box bookstores in Canada, the other being Indigo Books. But this choice, like so many things here, is an illusion: Chapters is actually owned by Indigo.

This Chapters, like the few that still remain after the merger, has a large display covering the wall behind the staircase to the second floor, where the fiction is kept. You cannot avoid reading it unless you were to close your eyes as you climb the stairs. In large gold capital letters, nailed to the wall, it reads: THE WORLD NEEDS MORE CANADA. Situated around this bold yet somewhat unclear slogan, in letters of varying sizes, are the names of several moderate-to-well known Canadian authors. Richler. Ondaatje. Mowat. Shields. Findley. Atwood.

Andrew Klavan’s name is not among them.

I am here because Dave Swindle, in an epistle from September 2015 to me and to other Creative Counter-Culture Canadians (his term), posted on a Canadian conservative community blog and exhorted us to familiarize ourselves with “6 Creative Visionaries Who Can Inspire The West To Fight Evil Again: Part VII of the Primer for Canadian Rebels“.

“What does the idea of the Werewolf symbolize? The evil inside us? Our animalistic nature? Something about masculinity? Is the challenge to learn how to channel our inner werewolf/evil toward good?” writes Dave. “Stories sneak into people and turn them in ways they can’t control and predict as much. A narrative that people engage on an emotional level can transform when a mind has closed itself to rational arguments.”

A couple of days before, I received a Facebook Messenger message from another contributor, who was less than impressed with this Yank telling us what to read: “Who is that Swindle guy?? He seems like an obsessed stalker!!”

I don’t tell Dave this. He is an American. He believes in us enough to actually care about us. I don’t want to hurt his feelings. I don’t want to upset him and do damage to our reputation. We live in the shadow of their culture. We must resist them, but politely. We must never show weakness or lose face in front of them. If we upset them, if they sense an opening, they could roll over and crush us. That’s what I’ve been told my whole life. I’ve never had a good reason to believe otherwise.

And Dave knows important conservatives: Ben Shapiro, for example, whom we listen to in secret, trying to glean some sort of useful information that will help us in our fight against the Liberal Party of Canada, the monolithic political entity which has dominated Canadian politics for most of our history, and who has designated each one of those THE WORLD NEEDS MORE CANADA authors as an Official Spokesperson for Canadian Culture.

As I look through the K section of the fiction shelves, I reflect on how, in the popular Canadian imagination, culture does not originate from the individual writer or artist. The Liberals granted us a national broadcaster, official multiculturalism, bilingualism… and without them, business interests would be content to let American and British culture dominate forever, so the artist defers to them, not the other way around. That’s why that slogan is on the wall. I wonder how I can communicate this idea to Dave. Politely, of course.

(This common Canadian narrative of how culture came to be conveniently omits the millennia of Indigenous culture that existed before the Liberals, but that’s another story.)

Before Klavan in the alphabet comes Kay, as in Guy Gavriel. Born in Saskatchewan, Kay’s novels deal with lively and gorgeously rendered fantastic kingdoms with light resemblances to real historical places and times. His reverence for ancient culture and the prominence he gives to moral choices made by his characters might even qualify him as a conservative. But his works are devoid of any mention of Canada, or anything recognizably Canadian. He has subsumed his national identity in the pursuit of great art.

I find the untouched copy of Werewolf Cop and cannot help but think of Wolfcop, the Canadian B-movie. This ultra-violent, ultra-silly grindhouse tale of an alcoholic police officer in small-town Canada transformed by cultists into a moonlight avenger and protector of the town’s innocents is a prime slice of amoral Canuck low culture, the cartoony quirkiness that will never be acknowledged by Official Canada.

Behind me in the A section is, of course, Margaret Atwood. The grande dame of CanLit and author of countless novels depicting a dystopian America of the future where everything is for sale, her brand of mildly feminist novels infused with weird sex and poems about someone fitting into her like a fishhook into an open eye or how she wishes she could inject words into her veins eclipse all others who would pretend to influence Canadian culture with the written word.

Surrounded by these cultural marvels, I open the cover of Klavan’s novel and begin reading….

Oh. Oh no. This will never do. This guy is making his characters explicitly quote Bible verses! And what’s this? The hero is yet another Captain America figure, fighting a lonely war against spreading sin? Why not a little Christian humility? That might inspire a Canadian or two.

Idly, I follow along with the adventure. It washes over me as does all American moral instruction. I grow more and more annoyed as I read. If only there was a recognizably Canadian sci-fi novel that didn’t bash its viewers over the head with Jesus stuff, and incorporated that quirky humour but was epic in scope….and called out the moral nihilism at Canada’s core…..

“Wait a minute,” I say to myself…

It’s a few months later. I have, under Dave’s guidance, begun to put my pen where my mouth is. The first section of my novel, Obsidian: Divided World’s Destiny, is complete. It needs a lot of work, but it’s getting there. Slowly, I am doing the work of changing the culture.

I am at the Rogers Centre, the stadium where the Toronto Blue Jays play baseball. As usual, they are getting crushed by some ridiculous margin by some mid-tier Mid-West American team- the Twins? the Pirates? I can’t remember. Another two-run shot goes over the wall. I’m engaged with Dave, texting back and forth.

“You have to identify what the big problem is in Canada,” Dave says.

“How can I do that when the rest of Canada’s conservatives haven’t been able to?” I respond. “You are asking me to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.”

 

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m asking,” Dave says. “You are Moses, now give a name to the false gods oppressing your people.”

Moses? Me? I suppose stories like Klavan’s do sneak into people and turn them in ways they can’t control- even though this probably wasn’t the way he’d expected it to. Now I just have to figure out what kind of fantastic – but still recognizably Canadian – signs and symbols will lead my beleaguered people to the promised land….

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Photo by infomatique