By Samantha Kennedy, Staff Writer
The Kingsman recently sat down for an interview with BC grad student Alexander Nixon (MA, Art History). Last week he launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to self-publish his original fantasy-romance novel. Called The Rise of Apassionéa, Nixon’s novel was inspired by his Peace Corps experience in Guatemala.
The Kingsman: “What is your story, The Rise of Apassionéa, about?”
Nixon: [“Apassionéa] is a story about a woman and four powerful brothers.”
The Kingsman: “Ok, your pitch has peaked my interest. Tell me more.”
Nixon: “The story is about me finding out if there was any truth to the stories told to me in Guatemala by a man named Don Ixmatá, pronounced ish-ma-TA. His stories were about a lost civilization.”
The Kingsman: “You met Ixmatá in Guatemala?”
The Kingsman: “Is the story told from your POV?”
Nixon: “Great question. There are multiple unreliable narrators. The whole story, in a way, is about the nature of truth and why we tell stories. It jumps from present, to the past, then to antiquity. Simultaneously, the “fantasy,” or antiquity, starts seeming more real…as “reality” starts seeming more fantastic.”
The Kingsman: “Could you read an excerpt?”
Nixon: “This is the opening paragraph: Columbia University Geology Professor Martin Gatwick was giving a lecture about Antarctic fossils the week I returned to New York City. This fortuitous event was a catalyst for finally answering questions about the stories told to me by my friend, a Maya named Don Ixmatá.
I had listened to his stories about a lost continent buried underneath the Antarctic ice at face value. In Guatemala, I had neither the means nor the mindset to investigate the accuracy of Ixmatá’s colorful Mayan myths. Now that I was back home in New York City, I had the time to investigate. Professor Gatwick’s lecture at Columbia University was the perfect opportunity to find out if there was any new evidence from the lost continent.
Gatwick was one of the leading US scientists working in Antarctica, being at the forefront of a new wave of scientific inquiry into the geological history of a lost continent hidden below a layer of mile-thick glaciers.
Russian scientists had recently announced their discovery of of an enormous and geologically improbable lake 2.3 miles beneath the surface. In addition to the Russian discovery, American scientists had begun to collect Antarctic fossils that dated from the late Triassic Era.
Gatwick was one of a handful of scientists who had returned to the United States with numerous fossils awaiting analysis. In of a steady stream of international news updates about the Antarctic expeditions, I had read nothing about a lost civilization in the headlines, and doubted I ever would.
One part of me had always assumed Don Ixmatá’s stories were allegorical, at best or, perhaps, pure nonsense. While intrigued by Gatwick’s proposal, part of me kept insisting that I stay home, sparing the long ride to Columbia University and back.
“Undoubtedly, Don Ixmatá made up all the stories he had told me in Guatemala,” the realist part of me suggested.
Could Ixmatá have been no different than the Kevin Spacey character in The Usual Suspects, having built for me a pleasing and persuasively real palace by carefully arranging a thousand grains of truth? Like a Scheherazade, or like a Penelope, had my Guatemalan story teller woven his stories as a form of survival?
The other part of me, the dreamer, wanted Ixmatá’s lost continent to be real, or at least some of it.
I had spent long hours at airports, on airplanes, trains, and in my new bed in an empty new apartment speculating about the Antarctic geological record. Oceanography had been one of my favorite courses during my studies at Stanford University and long before I met Ixmatá in Guatemala.
Understanding plate tectonics is fundamental for understanding the behavior of the ocean. At Stanford, not only did I learn that the earth is round, I learned that the surface of the earth is not the static image on every classroom wall, or on the face of the globe we grew up spinning. These visual aids provide a snap shot of geological time. Far from being static, the continents and oceans are constantly swirling around like a gigantic three-dimensional yin and yang. The physical relationship between the continents and the oceans influences, even determines the atmosphere.
It is common knowledge that a large landmass lies buried underneath Antarctica. Less commonly known is when and why this lost continent entered her eternal winter. So I asked around. Apparently, most of my friends and family had studied the humanities and were clueless.
Relying on my limited studies, I theorized that the Antarctic Continent had drifted to the polar region, as it split off from the rest of the landmasses that eventually became the seven continents. Then, according to my theory, the cold temperatures at that latitude froze Antarctica’s temperate forests like that frozen bag of broccoli in the back of my freezer, awaiting a fork, or a pick-axe. Professor Gatwick’s lecture would soon illuminate the flaws in my homespun theory.
I looked at my snow boots ambivalently. The dreamer told me to put on my boots and brave the snow and the trains. The realist reminded me that all I had to eat in the house was the broccoli in my freezer. Seizing this rare moment of alignment between dreamer and realist, I put on my first boot. After that, it was all momentum. F=ma. Force equals mass times acceleration. The more mass I acquired as I put on my layers, the more I accelerated in order to avoid sweating through layer one. Who says humanities majors do not use science on a regular basis?”
The Kingsman: “Given that I already agree with the premise of your first paragraphs, I really want to know which flavor you added to a myth older than all other myths we’ve heard?”
Nixon: “Look at the illustrations. I would say there is a little Mayan, a little Egyptian, but there is something else going on that I expect the art historians out there to notice.”
The Kingsman: “Speaking of art history, this week “ARTSlant” wrote a glowing article about your new novel stating, “[Nixon’s] novel moves like a gyroscope.” What do you think the writer meant by that?”
Nixon: Rise of Apassionéa is three stories that overlap and push against each other like tectonic plates. The first story takes place in the present. The second one takes place in Guatemala. The third story takes place in antiquity, on the continent of Antarctica, before it became what it is today.”
The Kingsman: “Was this gyroscopic narrative intentional, or spontaneous?”
Nixon: “I would say a little of both. I wrote the third story first, then the second, then the first. The second two stories arose from the need to ground the fantasy in what, is, presumably, reality. By weaving the different threads into one, I could dispel the illusion of disconnectedness of moments separated by time and space. This weaving also blurred the boundary between fantasy and reality, leaving the reader with a constantly shifting point of view.”
The Kingsman: “Why did you decide to write a fantasy novel?”
Nixon: “I like to think of fantasy as a synthesis of science, imagination, speculation, sex, and the human psyche. Ironically, its otherworldliness is the very thing that makes it timeless and universally understood. This is incredibly seductive to a writer.”
The Kingsman: “Are you a fan of Hollywood fantasy movies like Lord of the Rings?
Nixon: “I grew up reading Judy Bloom, The Narnia Chronicles, books by Lloyd Alexander, Shell Silverstein, and then later I started reading Steven King.I loved Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Many of these books have been made into superb movies, such as the original “Great Gatsby,” with Robert Redford.”
“Others have been made into horrible movies, pretty much all the fantasy stories of my youth. Lord of the Rings has spawned so many spin-offs that the fantasy realm, to me, has lost its vibrancy in pop culture.”
“When readers hear the words “fantasy novel,” they probably think of a teenage boy in suburbia with a shelf full of paperbacks. The “geek” character from “Breakfast Club” comes to mind. I wanted to write a novel that resonates with the geek, the princess, the prince, the freak, and the rebel.”
The Kingsman: “Why should I buy your book?”
Are you willing to take Nixon’s challenge to task? If so, time is of the essence. Nixon’s Kickstarter campaign ends in late-February. For more information, go to www.Apassionea.Wordpress.com, and/or google “Apassionea.” Like his Facebook page here.