Monday, October 31, 2011

The One, The Only Ironic Catholic Interview with Rob Kroese, author of Mercury Rises

Everyone, it was my great pleasure to pose some questions to Rob Kroese, aka Diesel from the mostly defunct humor blog Mattress Police, turned humor writer of "may become a cult classic" Mercury Falls and the newly released Mercury Rises. If you've read the books, you know that they are absolutely not theological texts but that Rob knows some theology and likes to play around with it. He is Christian Reformed, a deacon in his church community, and agreed to "talk" a bit about Christianity, writing, humor, and underground mammals. Without further adieu -- welcome to the Ironic Catholic, Rob Kroese. Virtual Holy Water to your right. Let's go.

IC: So, besides writing Mercury Falls and Mercury Rises, what do you do in real life?

RK: I'm an extremely boring software developer. I mean, I write extremely boring software. Also, I am extremely boring.

IC: You’ve got to know the adage, “write what you know.” You’ve now written two books on mostly invisible spirits, the Apocalypse, and Armageddon. What are you implying here?

RK: I start out writing what I know and then get distracted by angels and demons and explosions. What I know is boring. The stuff that goes on in my imagination is pretty wild though.

IC:. Christians and humor, humor and Christians: Go.

RK: I have a theory that Christianity is itself a joke. Think about it: humor is all about meeting the reader's expectations in an unexpected way. It's a way of resolving tension by answering a question with an answer that is both completely wrong and perfectly right. That's what Christianity is. The Hebrews wanted a King and a Deliverer. Well, they got Him. Just not the way they expected.

Who’s the most humorous character in Scripture and why?

RK: I think Jonah is pretty great. This is a guy who did not mess around. God told him to go to Nineveh and preach and he said, you know what? I think I'm going to RUN AWAY TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD. The story is Job is pretty funny in a way, too. This guy has everything and then one day his servants show up and tell him, one after another, that whoops! all your stuff is gone. All in one day he gets hit by the Chaldeans, the Sabeans, fire from the heavens, and a windstorm. That was a very bad day. Job is actually a rather important character in Mercury Rests, the third (and final) Mercury book. He is an irrepressible optimist and a foil to the more pessimistic Cain.

IC: One of the things I like about your writing is that while Mercury 1 and 2 are absolutely not theology textbooks, you clearly know more about theology than the average Joe, and it shows. How’d you get to be so smart?

RK: 15 years in Christian schools, particularly the four years that I spent half-paying attention to my philosophy classes at Calvin College. I've always loved playing around with abstract philosophical and theological concepts. It's entertainment for me.

IC: Your writing gets compared a lot to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Are you honored, offended, or nonplussed by that comparison? Are there any other writers you’d say are an influence?

RK: I love Douglas Adams. Tried to read one of Pratchett's Discworld books and couldn't get into it. The only other Pratchett I've read is the first quarter of Good Omens, which I read while I was working on Mercury Falls, just to make sure I wasn't accidentally ripping them off. I consider it a huge compliment to be compared to either Adams or Pratchett, though. They both have a fanatical following. Vonnegut is another favorite of mine. I love the way he can cut through a mountain of bullsh*t with one terse sentence.

IC: Is it a requirement to live in California to skewer the Apocalypse fakers? Or amazingly convenient?

RK: You know, Harold Camping not only lives less than 2 hours from me; we are from the same religious tradition originally (Christian Reformed). You'd think I could get him to return my phone calls. I really need a quote for book #3.

IC: Speaking of everlasting battles against evil, how are those moles in your yard?

RK: Not moles. Gophers. The battle rages on, until I breathe my last breath.

Since a lot of IC readers are bloggers, I have to ask: do you miss blogging? Or has Twitter filled that part of your soul?

RK: Not really. Blogging was hard work. It definitely prepared me well for writing a novel, though. I learned how to write short, punchy chapters that kept the reader's interest. The novels take all my writing energy these days.

IC: Last but not least: Is Mercury Catholic or Reformed?

RK: A lot of people have compared Mercury Falls to Kevin Smith's Dogma and I think it's an apt comparison, except that Mercury Falls is the Reformed version of the story. It deals less with the trappings of Catholicism than with the obsessions of the Reformed theologians, like free will and determinism.

I think Mercury is sort of a hopeful agnostic. He wants to believe in something bigger than himself, but unfortunately the people he works for are idiots, so sometimes it's hard to maintain the faith. If I recall correctly, one of your criticisms of Mercury Falls was basically that God never shows up. And while I sympathize with that criticism, I deliberately did not make God a character in the story, because it felt like cheating. I wanted the angels to be just in the dark about God's existence and nature as human beings are. Which doesn't mean that they are *completely* in the dark, of course. You see some characters who really are God-like in the best sense, such as the archangel Michelle. Michelle obviously believes in *something*, even it if isn't spelled out in the book what it is. You'll see more of that with Job in Mercury Rests.


I want to thank Rob for his graciousness and his support of all humorous writing in bloggerdom. He's done a lot to encourage it in others, and writes hysterical stuff himself. Best wishes to him and I encourage you to read Mercury Falls and Mercury Rises.

1 comment:

Rob Kroese said...

Thank you, IC! It's nice to be interviewed with someone who actually knows something about theology. :)