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Grappling with “metatextual dynamics”: Jay Edidin talks ‘Marvel’s Thor: Metal Gods’

The new Serial Box audiobook/e-book series finds Thor and Loki trying to get along.

You may know Jay Edidin from the podcast Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men, but they’re an expert in more than mere mutants. Edidin is one of the writers of Serial Box’s new audiobook/e-book series Marvel’s Thor: Metal Gods, alongside Aaron Stewart-Ahn (Mandy), Brian Keene (The Horror Show with Brian Keene), and Yoon Ha Lee (Ninefox Gambit).

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The series follows Thor and Loki as they set their differences aside (kind of) in order to fight the same enemies. These foes are described as “a fierce Korean demi-goddess, Horangi, and Captain Zia, a charismatic, gender-ambiguous space pirate who shares history with Loki.”

Edidin was kind enough to take the time to chat with AIPT about the project. Marvel’s Thor: Metal Gods is available in both audio and e-book format starting today (December 12).

AIPT: Tell me about working on a multimedia experience like this? It’s both and e-book and an audiobook, right?

Jay Edidin: Right; but most of the multimedia considerations are isolated to the production end. While the fact that it’s serialized definitely informed some of our pacing choices, we were pretty much able to approach it as a novel.

AIPT: How does the writing team collaborate on Marvel’s Thor: Metal Gods? What’s your workflow like?

JE: Serial Box books use a TV writers’-room format: We met for a few very intensive days of in-person collaboration, scattered and worked on our individual chapters in parallel, then met back up remotely for feedback and further planning sessions. We’re also in pretty close continual touch via email and Slack, so there’s been a lot of ongoing collaboration and Q&A.

 

AIPT: How do you approach the relationship between Thor and Loki?

JE: This is a place where format worked to our advantage: prose gives us room to delve into characters’ interiority in ways that aren’t really possible — or at least are much harder — in comics. With Thor and Loki, getting to explore that makes a massive difference, because the way they act when they’re together looks a lot simpler than it actually is. They’re both pretty complex characters who care a lot about each other and desperately crave each other’s affection and approval but at the same time are absolutely unwilling to ask for it. Instead, when they’re together, they fall into these exaggerated roles — this antagonistic dynamic that’s so habitual it’s basically become ritualized.

Because of what Thor: Metal Gods is about, there are also some metatextual dynamics that we got to play with. Thor is a an epic hero. The way he interacts with the world is for the most part informed by the narrative rules of epic-heroic fantasy; and because of the world he’s from and the life he lives, he’s had very little cause to examine any of that, or question his own centrality. Loki, meanwhile, is a lot more liminal, and a lot more aware of the power–and mutability–of narrative.

(Regarding the last, it’s probably worth noting that my read on Loki is massively, massively informed by Kieron Gillen and Al Ewing’s takes on the character, which definitely plays a role in how I write both Loki’s relationship to story and his relationship to Thor.)

AIPT: Do you embrace the fact that so many people think of the movies when picturing these characters, or do you try to differentiate these versions from the Hollywood ones?

JE: Different corners of the MCU mesh more and less well with their comics antecedents; and I think Asgard is one of the smoother transitions, partly because the tone and characterization in the films is so heavily informed by the iconic Simonson run, and partly because Loki’s prominence in the film franchise has led to him being centered more consistently in the comics. Our team includes both long-time comics fans and writers who came in via the movies, and I think that range of perspectives has been critical in making sure we’ve got something that’ll be accessible to and enjoyable for readers from either direction. There are definitely some Easter eggs for comics readers, but none are central to the story.

AIPT: Captain Zia is described as a “a charismatic, gender-ambiguous space pirate.” Can you tell me more about them because I want to know everything.

JE: I’m going to have to tread super lightly here, for a couple reasons. The first is, of course, spoilers. The second is that, while the Zia who exists in our notes has a pretty thoroughly fleshed out backstory, you’ll see much less of their history in the actual novel. It was really important to us to present Zia as they are, without apologetics or over-explanation–which, in fact, is part of the in-universe reason Zia lives where they live and do what they do.

As I recall, the original elevator pitch for Zia was basically “What if Virginia Woolf’s Orlando were a real person, and that person eventually got sick of Earth’s nonsense binaries and went off to become a space pirate?” Their original name was Vita, in a nod to Vita Sackiville West, who was the actual inspiration for Orlando; but a couple of us also have a mutual friend named Vita who uses gender neutral pronouns, and it started to feel too weirdly meta, so we changed the character’s name. (We did end up naming their ship the Orlando–not subtle of us, but we wanted to acknowledge that particular debt on the page.)

Like Orlando, Zia is originally from Earth. Exactly what they are — human, mutant, or something else — is mostly irrelevant. They’re not immortal — in my head, at least, they’re not going to die of natural causes but can still probably be killed — but they age very slowly if at all, and by the time Metal Gods rolls around, they’re several hundred years old. They left Earth in the early-mid 20th Century because space is awesome; and also because they wanted a life whose practical and social boundaries weren’t defined by either having to pass as something that they weren’t or perpetually banging up against systems designed around rigidly binary gender and limited lifespans. In space, they get to define themself and their life actively, not reactively; and also have badass adventures.

Zia and Loki are also a lot of fun as mutual foils, because the two of them have a few very specific experiences in common, but they interact with those experiences very differently.

AIPT: What are you most excited for readers/listeners to see/hear? (Or at least, what can you tell us about that without getting in trouble?)

JE: I’m looking forward to watching readers/listeners discover alongside the characters that the story isn’t about what they thought it was about. =D

I am also jazzed as hell for fan art, because while I know what I think our original characters look like, I am immensely curious about how other people will interpret them!

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