Fitchburg Author Ian Taylor’s SPINDLE
By Len Sousa
What do science fiction, romance, and a performer named Al have in common? They’re all pretty “weird” ~ in the affectionate sense.
Australian-born author and current Fitchburg resident Ian Taylor has written a novel that incorporates the bizarre future world of Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) with the musical parodies of Weird Al Yankovic and the love of his life. Spindle is Taylor’s first novel but, as such, suffers very few missteps on its journey ~ fewer, in fact, than its protagonist, Peter Turner.
Based in the near future ~ circa the early 2100s ~ the book employs classic sci-fi elements like space ships, strange creatures without limbs, rebel fighters, alien tongues and quirky translation devices. Turner, a naïve space explorer fresh from the academy, leads us on our quest to (dun-da-dun-dun!) save the universe.
Taylor writes his prose more like a film script than a book. Throughout, the novel is sparse on description and even less so on character motivation. Scenes are even delivered as short vignettes ~ each describing either an event a few moments in the future or a concurrent event in another part of the universe. It can be a little confusing at first, but Taylor is good at transitioning from point to point.
Another characteristic of Taylor’s writing is his use of dialogue. Often, the main character (I suspect this approach is the author’s way of building Turner’s characterization as a rather annoying little man) does nothing as a series of questions like a babe lost in the woods. “Why? What did you do? So they really hate us? What sort of crime? Like what? Why should we split up?” and on and on and on. These frequent exchanges alone would be irritating, but they work well as a set up for witty repartee.
Taylor certainly offers some very humorous moments. In one early scene, the main character asks about a series of controls he sees on the space ship and the captain replies, “Space is boring, so the Space Force uses this thing to liven up the battles with the bad guys. It makes it seem like you can hear explosions and see laser beams…Now let’s never speak of it again.” Anyone who’s ever watched a sci-fi action film and wondered how sound waves can carry across the vacuum of space will no doubt appreciate this gag.
But what does all this have to do with Weird Al and romance? Simple. Author Taylor met his wife ~ and current Spindle fan club president ~in, of all places in the universe, a Weird Al Yankovic online newsgroup. The two exchanged email addresses, began a pen pal relationship, and after reading the initial Spindle manuscript, the now Mrs. Taylor decided, “I want to marry him!”
The two have been happily married for the past nine years and have three children. The Taylors have been enjoying some success with Spindle; it seems Mr. Taylor’s home country has taken a liking to the novel and its screenplay style, going so far as to develop an Australian television series based on the book. So thanks to Weird Al, some weird science, and some weird online romance, things are looking good for the Taylors ~ which probably helps explain why Mr. Taylor has spent so much time looking to the stars.