God gets stripped of his powers, author of his electricity
Author Ian Orti contemplates which Ecuadorian fruit he will eat; the choice is a difficult one.
In self-imposed exile in Ecuador, first-time author Ian Orti is celebrating his nomination for Expozine’s Best English Book award.
Orti’s debut The Olive and the Dawn, a collection of short stories from Snare Books, attempts to unravel the essence of humanity and the possible existence of a God who is, in fact, fallible—just like the book’s author.
The Link: How do you feel about getting nominated for best English Book at Expozine?
Ian Orti: In fact, I felt really honoured by the nomination. There’s a ton of amazing and innovative art there. Those who produce the books and zines and art and even the effing mittens are often way ahead of their time and have their finger on the pulse of some seriously strong artistic currents. Unfortunately for the artists, and also for Canada, a lot of the work there isn’t distributed widely. But at the same time, that’s part of what makes the work more valuable.
Where would you rank the Expozine awards on the prestige scale?
In terms of prestige, it’s definitely bigger than an Oscar because you don’t even have to be alive to get an Oscar. It’s almost as prestigious as a Fields Medal for mathematics because those roll around once every four years and you have to be under 40 to get one. The tops is the Memorial Cup. That’s the hardest trophy to win.
Is self-destruction really the “unwavering essence of humanity” like your protagonist states? Why not, like, love and building bridges, man?
For the central character, one who surfaces throughout the collection of stories, I think sometimes it feels like self-destruction is the—fuck. Sorry man, the power just went out. Gimme a second to turn on the generator. Seriously, it’s like Earth Hour down here once a day.
Okay. Where was I?
Self-destruction: the central character, the one who keeps surfacing throughout the stories, thinks he has it all figured out, and as his final act he sets about to prove that self-destruction is the very essence of humanity by rowing out to sea to go on a diet of sea water and erode his senses. Naturally, he’s a somewhat fallible character who’s in for a surprise at the end. In the end it’s up to the reader to sift through the events in this character’s life to see if they agree or disagree with him.
Your characters encounter a God that’s fallible. Why is your God not as strong as my God?
Because if my God was made in my likeness, then it’s got a host of issues to deal with. It probably has an abnormally high belly button and farts in its sleep. That being said, it can probably also hold its liquor quite well and likes the odd slowdance. In the book, “God” is a character or force that surfaces but it’s much more human than is depicted in other, more widely-read books. I hope the book is not taken as being anti-religious because it’s not. It’s just playful and if there is a God up there in Waterslide City, then I’m sure it must have a playful sense of humour and get where I was going with the liberties I took with it as a character.
You’re currently in Ecuador researching your second novel. What’s it about and why was it important that you move to Ecuador?
The most valuable thing for me in terms of writing is time. Free time. Coming down to Ecuador allowed me to have the time to finish the final edits on a novel that took 10 years to write. It’s about a city that begins to come apart at the seams after an old man rents a flat to a woman on the run from something. It’s an experimental novel, which meant nobody wanted anything to do with it, and I was very close to turfing it before a friend referred me to the folks at Invisible Publishing who were willing to take a chance on it. My life down here is a mix of dictator-on-house-arrest meets shipwrecked pirate and I will be dreadfully sad to leave. My closest neighbour is an indigenous fishing village and as a swimmer I am always grateful to see the dead sharks they unload from their boats.
Why are you posing with mangos in this file photo we found of you?
The photo best represents the trials and tribulations of my daily life down here in Ecuador where I’ve been for the past six months and the kinds of decisions I’m faced with. Like, do I eat this basketball-sized papaya which I know doesn’t have that much flavour, or do I go for the mango, knowing full well I will have mango juice and pulp all over my hair and elbows by the time I’m done? Or do I just cop out and go orange?
The Olive and the Dawn