The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.

Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Aztlan: Michael Jan Friedman's View Of A Modern Aztec Society

Imagine for a minute what it might be like if a long dead civilization had actually survived to modern times.  Say, for instance, the Aztecs.  What would it be like if the Conquistadors under Cortez had never arrived in ancient Mexico, or if they had what would it be like if the Aztecs had successfully defended themselves against the Spanish conquerors?

Michael Jan Friedman of Star Trek novel fame as well as numerous other projects put his imagination to work and came up with two independently published novellas that take a look at criminal activity in the Aztec city of Atzlan.

The first of the two works, Aztlan: The Last Sun (and Mike recommends that you read them in order because there are spoilers in the second book that point events in the first), introduces us to Maxtla Colhua, an investigator for the Aztec Empire that stretches across a large part of the Americas.  Maxtla is a former athlete that played an often brutal game that seemed to be a mix between American football and basketball.  

While enjoying a meal with his aunt, Maxtla is called to the scene of a murder that is much like those from ancient times.  It is up to him to determine who is responsible for that murder and a series of murders that all follow the same pattern.  His investigation reveals numerous distractions and misdirection to stop him from finding the truth.  But his keen senses keep him on track as he discovers corruption in his own department, as well as problems at the highest levels.

In the second of the two novellas currently available, Aztlan: The Courts of Heaven, We once again follow the adventures of Maxtla as he learns more about his department’s corruption, and investigates the murder of the greatest athlete to play the game.  Maxtla has to find the answers again as he is lead through a confusing trail of leads that go nowhere, and with the most popular player of the game turning up dead, he has to get it done before the devoted fans rip the city to shreds.

I have always had a fascination with ancient civilizations, which is why I decided to read these two stories.  I thought I would give the first one a try and found myself hooked within the first few pages and couldn’t stop reading until I had finished both stories, finding myself wanting more.  Maxtla is a very interesting character that cares a great deal about the traditions of his department.  He is a patient, plodding detective that can use his wits to get to the bottom of a case, no matter what deceptions are thrown in his way.  He takes a lot of punishment in these two stories, but is like a devoted bloodhound, able to glean the truth and make sense of nonsense.  He is not a larger than life hero, just a man doing his job for the Empire.  He has a great sense of humor that manifests itself in the form of a dry wit.  If I had to compare these stories with another idea, I would have to say that it is much like NYPD Blue set in a world with a very different culture than what we know today.

I was able to contact Mike before writing this post to ask him a few questions about Aztlan.  He graciously responded to my questions, for which I extend my sincere thanks…

Q: Would you consider the Aztlan stories Science Fiction, Alternate Reality, or perhaps Speculative Fiction?  None of the above?

Mike: “Great question. I once described the Aztlan series to an editor at Random House. She said she loved the idea but she could never buy it because no chain book store buyer would know where to put it in his stores. It's certainly an alternate reality, but not what you might call an alternate history in that the point of divergence--the failure of Cortes to conquer the Aztecs--is hundreds of years in the past as compared to when the stories take place.”

Q.:What possessed you to resurrect a long dead civilization?

Mike: “I've always been fascinated by the Aztecs, I guess. As the end of the Mesoamerican calendar caught the public's imagination with its end-of-days flavor, I started thinking more and more about what that end would look like if the Aztecs were still a thriving civilization today--an isolationist empire that stretched from what we call Baffin Bay to what we call Tierra Del Fuego. The concept just grew from that point on.”

Q: Obviously, you were well researched in the culture of the Aztecs, what was involved with that?

Mike: “As I say, I'd been interested in the Aztecs for some time so I wasn't starting my research from scratch. Still, I took out books from the library, surfed the net, and so on until I felt comfortable in the world I was creating. Believe me, there's a lot of research that will never make it into the stories but you always have to know more than you'll tell the reader if you want to create a believable setting.”

Q: Can we Expect future installments of Aztlan?

Mike: “I've got more stories in mind, sure, but a couple of other projects are a somewhat higher priority right now--one of them being my new young-adult superhero novel I Am The Salamander, which was the subject of a successful Kickstarter and will be out in June.”

Q:   If every character is a part of you, which part is Imperial Investigator Maxtla Colhua, the protagonist in the Aztlan stories?

 Mike: “Maxtla is like me in a lot of ways. He's devoted to his work, he has a sense of humor, and he's a romantic. Of course, he's also a political conservative, as I was when I was very young, but he's learning more about the world around him and is becoming more open-minded as a result. He's growing in a way that I think is very plausible and very exciting, sort of like the Jack Nicholson character in Chinatown.”

Mike is part of an independent publishing company called Crazy 8 Press; a group of authors that that, along with Mike, includes such names as Robert Greenberger, and Peter David and many others.  While many of the authors are part of mainstream publishing, especially many of the Star Trek novels, they needed an outlet for their other works that the mainstream may not wish to take chances on, or as Mike explains it:

“The publisher of the Aztlan tales, Crazy 8 Press, which I co-founded, is dedicated to getting quirky stuff like the Aztlan stories out to readers. These are tales traditional publishers can't afford to take a chance on because they're suited more to the discerning reader than to the masses. However, we at Crazy 8 Press don't have to sell tens of thousands of copies to make the effort worth our while. All we need to reach is that consumer who has seen the same story a dozen times and wants something different for a change.”

Those of you that read this blog on a regular basis know that it is by and for fans of science fiction, but every now and again, I find that I have a need to read something that is outside of the strict scifi realm; I just need a break once in a while.  I came upon the Aztlan books through posts on Facebook from Mike promoting these stories, and found them to fit the bill of a diversion perfectly.  Both books are under 150 pages each and can easily be read in one sitting giving a complete story in each.  If you, like me, need a break from your usual fare, I highly recommend Aztlan to broaden your horizons a little.

Well, there it is…