The Big Idea: Alethea Kontis
It’s my opinion that any sort of book can have a Big Idea behind it, and when I say “any sort of book” I really mean “any sort of book.” And to prove this point, here’s Alethea Kontis, talking about her book AlphaOops! H is for Halloween — a kid’s alphabet book. Skeptical there’s a big idea here. Oh, just you wait.
Alphabet books are dumb. I mean, come on, really. What’s the point? It’s not like the English alphabet’s anything shiny and new. A generous smattering of years ago, Smarmy McTinkerson wrote twenty-six characters down in a scathing letter to the illiterate Viking brutes who sacked his village, and A has been for Apple ever since.
And yet…there are almost as many alphabet books published every year as there are versions of the Bible. Why is that? F’s not going to get kidnapped in the middle, X isn’t going to get sucked through a wormhole, and B and Q aren’t going to run away and elope. It’s not even a dark and stormy night. Every incarnation of an alphabet book will always begin with A, and your kid will always be passed out from boredom by the time the zebra comes around. But people still buy these books, people who already know the alphabet well enough to pass a driver’s test and own a smart phone. There are even folks who collect alphabet books. No kidding! I can’t tell you how many times I wished I was an artist so I could get in on that racket.
Turns out, the question was not “How does one make the alphabet shiny and new?”; the question was “Who asked the alphabet what order it wanted to be in the first place?” And just like that, contrary to even my own contrary nature, AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First was born.
I still remember the morning I called my parents, all excited about the blasphemous epiphany I’d woken up on the couch with that morning. (Needless to say, the epiphany was quickly fed up with the eight hours of writing that commenced and left without even making me breakfast.)
“Hi, honey. How’s it going?”
“I just wrote an alphabet book!”
In the dramatic pause that followed, I realized just how ridiculous I sounded. I thought about the situation from my dad’s point of view. Either his eldest daughter was playing one heck of a joke on him, or she really had just spent eight hours at her dining room table writing down the alphabet. I imagine he prayed for the former and silently planned an intervention for the latter, but his response was simply. “Fantastic. I really need to brush up on that.” I love my dad.
Six and a half years after that fated phone call, here we are, celebrating the release of AlphaOops: H is for Halloween. That’s right–not only am I the girl who questioned generous smatterings of years of authority, but I gave it a sequel. AlphaOops: H is for Halloween was born of that initial irreverence, as well as my love of theatre and science fiction conventions. Seriously…how cool is that? (I had to change that blurb for the book jacket, by the way. People who drive cars and own smart phones might not know what science fiction conventions are.)
In fact, I was this close to dedicating the book to anyone who’d ever attended Dragon*Con when I got the news that one of my favorite teachers had passed away. Mr. David Oberly taught me (and a generous smattering of my friends) two years of Calculus at Spring Valley High School. He gave us all nicknames, made jokes so corny even we crazy nerds laughed, and he always–ALWAYS–dressed up for Halloween.
So this one’s for Mr. Oberly. May it give other young people just as many laughs as he gave us. I hope he’s somewhere smiling down on me, patting his belly (or doing that cool arm-twist thing he could do with his double-jointed elbows that creeped us all out) and chuckling about how his Countess Allie Kat is all grown up and a real Princess now.
Thank you, sir.
And thank you to the fans of AlphaOops: past, present, and future.
Viva la revolucion!