Today, I’m happy to introduce you to an author writes books that look like the daydream that every qualified nerd has had once upon a time. Check out the Pygmalion Fail series by Casey Matthews and take a short peek into this particular nerd’s brain!
ABOUT THE BOOKS
The Accidental God (Book 1): The world of Rune is just a series of fantasy paintings, or so Isaac Myers assumes; he’s even started adding some new art of his own to the seemingly abandoned project.
He learns better after a frustrating night of gaming with his best friend, Dak, culminates in a one-way trip to Rune itself—where fearsome creatures are intent on eating or otherwise destroying him, impractical armor keeps female warriors off the battlefield, and both a foppish overlord named Dracon and a masked samurai named Ronin (because of course) seem to think Isaac is terribly important.
Rune is real, all right. And it’s a damn mess.
“Real-life nerd ends up in fantasy world” is almost a trope in the realm of humor fantasy. What sets the Pygmalion Fail series apart?
I’d say it’s a staple trope — moreover, it’s super popular within the portal fantasy sub-genre. My series derives some of its humor from the fact it’s the protagonist’s own universe he falls into; it’s as much about a creator’s antagonistic relationship with his creations as it is about a nerd trapped in a fantasy world.
But Pygmalion is a cut above the average for its lightning pace and, as my editor put it, the “joyful spirit of invention” at the trilogy’s heart. The emotional center is really a bromance, the story of friendship between my protagonist — Isaac — and his best friend Dak. I think my book somewhat subverts the “power fantasy” trope where the hero becomes the most powerful, most important force in the world — not that Isaac doesn’t stumble across tremendous power, but this story is equally about the screw-ups he’s ultimately responsible for and the allies he relies on for their own unique strengths. This is a story about a guy who became a god very much by accident, and then has to learn he’s not the center of the universe. To that ends, there’s a lot happening in the allies’ subplots.
In that vein, what’s your favorite trope or cliché in fantasy fiction?
It’s actually not specific to fantasy, but my favorite trope is disguise. It’s common in comic books and Shakespeare and all my favorite comedies. I love the natural tension it creates, along with the payoff that comes from revelation. I was an avid reader of Spider-Man comics as a kid, and I employ it in some of my favorite subplots in Pygmalion. There are, in fact, a few critical revelations in book two that I had to carefully keep out of the blurbs.
Which trope or cliché would you prefer to never see in fantasy fiction ever again?
I don’t think there exists a trope or cliché you can’t say something interesting about. But most of the time I really hate the Deus Ex artifact — an item that rights the world’s main problems if only our heroes can acquire it. Real-world problems are wicked.
In a way, I play on this trope since Isaac’s power of creation (when he’s outside the world) is exactly a Deus Ex ability — god-like, he can remake reality. That he’s trapped inside the world and can’t use that power anymore is one of the tensions in my story; but he also subverts this trope, because while his power solved some of the world’s problems, it created others. The world changes, and sometimes it even improves, but the foundations of that improvement are still built on crooked timber.
Since the world of Rune in your books is based on a series of paintings, who are some of your favorite fantasy visual artists?
As both a visual artist and iconic storyteller, I’ve got a longstanding love for Frank Miller. Dark Knight Returns was my first comic. I’ve spent more hours than I can count poring over the images in that book. In an era where Alan Moore was deconstructing superheroes, Frank Miller helped reconstruct Batman. That’s a sentiment I try to echo in my work: it’s not enough to strip the tired tropes naked and satirize them — at the end of the day I like liking things; I want to breathe some new life into my favorite stories.
I also partly dedicated books 2 and 3 to Tarol Hunt and Bill Watterson, respectively. Hunt writes the webcomic Goblins, where his attention to facial expressions and lovingly choreographed action scenes set him apart; and Watterson was one of the first things I read voraciously. His work is more or less stamped on my soul.
I guess what all these people have in common is that they’re writer-artists. That blows me away, when people can be so greatly skilled in both visual arts and storytelling.
Do you have more books planned for the Pygmalion Fail universe? If so, give us a hint of where your characters are headed.
I’m wrapped up in an urban fantasy at the moment, but I’ve been thinking hard about what “retirement” would look like for Isaac and Dak. I think the next books — while still told through Isaac’s eyes — will feature a different protagonist. I want to do my take on the hero’s journey for a young girl we meet early in Book 1; Isaac will be there to witness it, perhaps to help her, but I want it to be her story.
And finally, leave us with a short excerpt from Pygmalion Fail Book 1: The Accidental God that shows us why we should check out this series!
“You stole my kill,” the ninja said. He stood a scant five-six, up to my shoulders, and wore armor plates over dark-gray clothing that hugged his lean frame. His face was wholly obscured by a porcelain faceplate shaped like a demon’s scowl.
“Stole?” Personally, I’d have been thrilled to come to a dragon fight and find fewer than the expected number of dragons. “You… want to split the XP or something?”
“That was a breeder. The breeders are worth eight hundred crowns,” he explained in a surprisingly reasonable tone. “But you already knew that, didn’t you?” He rotated the sword clockwise, like he was figuring out a more painful way to stick it in.
“What? No! I don’t even like money. Keep it all, I don’t care. Do you want my money? Can’t stand the stuff.”
“The price is paid on the fangs. You destroyed them.”
“We could glue them together.” I glanced at the burning lumps of dragon head. “A sieve might help.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, I’m Casey Matthews and, no matter the rumors you’ve heard, I am not an escaped lab rat with access to Wi-Fi. I hail from (the non-laboratory parts of) western Pennsylvania.
My loves include: the smell of spent gunpowder on the 4th of July, drinking with old friends, cooking with too much butter, eating with too much gusto, and being the last one in the house to wake or go to bed.
These days I live and work near the nation’s capital, though this is a temporary measure until my mutant gene belatedly activates.