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The Butt of the Universe’s Jokes

Author Interview
R.M. Kozan Author Interview

The Voyages of Ralf follows the eponymous character on a series of adventures that he falls into and out of in humorous ways. What was the inspiration for the setup to this fun story?

Although my second published novel, The Voyages of Ralf is actually the first novel I ever completed. A very early version of it, created during my high school years, was based on three sequential short stories. Changes and updates occurred sporadically over the next few years, and then the manuscript lay fallow for decades until I began the final, complete re-write in 2019.

Despite the long interval between conception and delivery, the book retained its three-voyage format, and much of the story line of the original first two voyages. The third voyage was entirely reconceived this millennium. The pandemic provided inspiration to remain hiding in my room and finalize the manuscript during the spring, and into the summer of 2020, no doubt hastening the book’s release.

Ralf is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?

Borne in a gale of adolescent frustration and confusion, Ralf emerged as a non-character, the butt of the Universe’s jokes, a perpetual virgin and neophyte. He is often unsure what to do in the moment, and unclear about who is on his side; this leads to trouble. He has, however, ‘a good heart’, and by taking the side of those he deems on the right side of history, he stumbles through to better days.

The books takes a satirical view on several topics. What were some themes you wanted to explore in this book?

The book is intended to be fun; however, there are strong themes of humanism throughout. The impacts of racism (species-ism?), abuse of authority, malign impacts of abusive personalities, and the struggle for identity formation are revealed through a comedic lens. The idea of the alien mind fascinates this author, and how we deal with those who are different from us is at the heart of the book.

This is volume one in the series. What can readers expect in the upcoming volumes?

The next volume, tentatively titled ‘Love Triangulum’, will explore more of Ralf’s background, explaining what happened to his father, and settling Ralf’s true place in his Universe. Some previously introduced characters will return, but many exotically alien ones will also be introduced. The history of Martiankind has not yet been fully revealed. Also, the central tenets of the Alliance and its religion, Aronism, specifically the exaltation of beauty, were merely glanced upon, and their social impacts will be more fully explored.

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In the year 1969 SR (Since Reset), Mars leads a flourishing tri-galactic alliance. Space Corps Intern Ralf has had a brain-load full of the Academy and now, as he starts his second internship, he has already completed one top secret mission, suffered a great personal loss, and dealt with Zin pirates.
In a world where ‘ugly’ is a swear word, and the Equal Sign (=) is the primary religious icon of the status quo, Ralf is on a far-ranging adventure of personal discovery, growth, and a quest for the truth, even if it upends Martians’ long-held beliefs about themselves.

The Voyages of Ralf, Vol. 1: The Arc of Purchaser

The Voyages of Ralf, Vol. 1: The Arc of Purchaser by [R.M. Kozan]

If you looked up “hapless” in the dictionary, chances are you would find a picture of Ralf, science officer with the Space Corps. He didn’t do things so much as things happened to him. It had been that way his entire life. However, the things happening to him seemed to escalate at an alarming rate during his service aboard the starcraft NOSFERATU. In an increasingly absurd series of events, Ralf finds himself repeatedly faced with the very real possibility of his demise, only to be saved time and time again by yet more absurdity. All that’s missing is a spiritual crisis, but Ralf will find that in due time as well.

The Voyages of Ralf, Vol 1 follows the reluctant protagonist on his travels as he traverses the universe, is brought aboard multiple ships, and serves on a variety of crews. Author R.M. Kozan displays a masterful use of language as he creates his story and uses wordplay reminiscent of Douglas Adams or a Monty Python sketch. Although the story is divided into three separate parts, they read as one linear story and the overall tones of absurdity and cynicism are nearly palpable even through the written word. At the same time, the variety of galactic species introduced throughout provides an ever increasing collection of characters that prevents the story from ever getting stale. Kozan walks a fine line between absurd and just plain nonsensical, and while he does occasionally slow down the narrative by veering into the territory of the latter, it’s never enough to completely derail the enjoyment of the book. Ralf himself is written in a way that almost seems paradoxical. He is clearly the main character and it was a pleasure to see where his adventures led next, but his bland and almost apathetic existence made it hard to feel much about him one way or another.

Although there are some religious undertones to the book, especially in parts 2 and 3, they are approached in the exact same ridiculous way as the rest of the story. It could probably be argued that the book is a satire about religious beliefs and the fact that they have caused so much strife throughout history. Despite that, it doesn’t come across as condescending.

Ralf’s voyages are so imaginative, it never faltered in its pace, and it kept things light hearted throughout. (Always a plus these days!) Not to mention, it was a healthy amount of bizarre and just plain fun to read!

Pages: 237 | ASIN: B08F4HV7NP

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