Zig Zag Claybourne is the author of The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan and its sequel Afro Puffs Are the Antennae of the Universe. Other works include By All Our Violent Guides, Neon Lights, the short story collection Historical Inaccuracies, and the inspirational book In the Quiet Spaces. His stories and essays on sci fi, fandom, and life have appeared in Apex, Galaxy’s Edge, GigaNotosaurus, Strange Horizons, and other genre venues, as well as the “42” blog at www.writeonrighton.com. He grew up watching The Twilight Zone and considers himself a better person for it.
It’s his latest book, Afro Puffs Are the Antenna of the Universe, we’re here to talk about today…
No one has time for your BS…but Captain Desiree Quicho and her crew of utter badasses surely don’t. Got a universe to save. Again. Commandeer one piece of out-of-this-world tech and suddenly you have an evil billionaire and a corporate queenpin on your ass, factions scrabbling at the power grab to end all power grabs, and an ultimate AI bent on a rampage of healing. All a captain wanted was a little chill time, a few tunes, and quality barbecue. Woe to those blocking her groove. Four women; One machine goddess; a Hellbilly, Saharan elves, the baddest Pacific Octopus this side of Atlantis… and Humanity’s balance tilting toward its biggest unknown future yet.
Without context, what’s one of your favorite sentences in the book?
“Thus spake Bobo to ya.” Any time I get to riff on “Thus Spake Zarathustra” and use a telepathic octopus to do it, I’ma do it! I would’ve re-written the entire book just to make sure I could include that one line!
If you could pick one room to spend a day in, from one place in your story, where is it and why?
The library of the Silica elves. It’s the opposite of anything we think of as a library. It’s raucous in place, there’s food and drink, it has the hue of a honeycomb, and it contains ancient knowledge several magnitudes higher than our own. If I wanna learn ancient aliens or experience the full power of a fully functioning book of poetry, let it be with elves who love Prosecco and music in their libraries!
Would you be happy living in your story? Would you survive it?
If I was with the crew in this book, I’d be happy living the story. Desiree Quicho and the rest are the kind of people who have your back, your front, your top, your bottom; they’re honest, caring realists about what they can do to make a wild world livable not just for them, but for everybody they come across. They don’t consider themselves heroines, because they know the hero thing is a fool’s game, but they get stuff done and know when to relax to have the wherewithal to get stuff done again. I’d either survive the story-world with them or they’d find a way to nuke the planet from orbit. If necessary.
What makes this book different from anything else you’ve done?
I’m a man writing a book with an overwhelmingly female cast. I wasn’t daunted by that part of it, as—unlike an apparent whole lot of folks—I grew up amongst women all over the place. Almost all my books are imbued with a strong feminist presence. But there’s definitely a different energy to this book than anything I’ve done. These are women who could kick your ass…but only if necessary. There’s none of that “Hey, they’re bros…with breasts” school of writing women characters, where to prove they’re not simply “chicks” they gotta fight. Yeah, there’s adventure and derring-do, but there’s also a ton of finesse and subtlety.
What needed to change about your life in order to make this book possible?
I had to stop thinking I wanted to get it published. This was the sequel to an indie book that featured the literal Adam and Eve as bodyguard assassins. It became a small cult fav. As Puffs took shape and the publishing industry suddenly became interested in own-voices and unique visions, I toyed with the idea of one of the Big 5 (we still at 5? 4? kneeling before Amazod there can be only one?) picking up The Brothers Jetstream and issuing both it and Afro Puffs as a tandem gonzo sendoff to 2020. That put pressure on me to try to make Puffs something it didn’t wanna be, which in turn threw up all kinds of mental speed bumps jarring the book out of its smooth ride. I had to think I just wanted to write it. Y’know, the whole “write the book you wanna read” thing? Sometimes, just write the book you wanna write. It’s allowed. Deeper still, your ineffable soul highly recommends it.
Which character could only have been written by you and why?
Bobo the Mag (short for Magnificent): Pacific Red octopus, escape artist, occasional thief, and all-around adventurer (because if you’re gonna call yourself “the” something, you’d better come with receipts, and Bobo does. Also telepathic. I seem to have a thing for telepathic aquatic life. Bobo was a tight-rope to write, because I wanted his character to be fun and engaging yet plausible, absurd but not a joke. I readily admit those qualities as my wheelhouse, so if there’s anyone else fixing to write their own version of “Thus spake Bobo to ya”—step off!
- Publisher : Obsidian Sky Books (December 1, 2020)
- Language: : English
- Paperback : 290 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1732298017
- ISBN-13 : 978-1732298019
Afro Puffs is available in the usual places, but I want to specifically link to Book Repository because they’ll ship worldwide for free! Here’s the direct link to buy Afro Puffs for yourself: https://www.bookdepository.com/Afro-Puffs-Are-the-Antennae-of-the-Universe-Zig-Zag-Claybourne/9781732298019
Be sure to look for Claybourne online at www.writeonrighton.com or on Twitter at @zzclaybourne. Oh and for the musically inclined? Detroit Metro Times got our friend to spill the secrets of his writing soundtrack for this novel, and you can hear more about that here.