Mommar Gadhafi is way out of line these days. Know who could set his ass straight? The Daleks. You know, those alien fascist space tanks with shrill British accents from Doctor Who? At least Ben Thompson thinks so. And he should know: Thompson literally writes the books on badasses.
Part history professor, part ninja warrior, Thompson writes about gnarly samurais, heroes, villains, gunfighters, monsters on his website, Badass of the Week. His latest book, Badass: The Birth of a Legend, profiles 40 kick-ass characters ranging from Moby Dick ("the hate-filled literary behemoth who obliterated ship hulls with his face") to Beowulf ("an Anglo-Saxon hero so hardcore he could arm-wrestle monsters' joints out of their sockets").
As Thompson stops at Books & Books in Coral Gables this Monday, we caught up with the author via the most badass invention of all time, the Internet, to discuss Libya, addiction, and why Florida State's Chief Osceola is a bigger badass than Sebastian the Ibis.
New Times: Your first book, Badass: A Relentless Onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates Gunfighters, and Military Commanders to Ever Live, profiled 40 historical badasses, and your latest profiles 40 more. Of all 80, which badass would you send into Libya to fuck up Gadhafi and why?
Ben Thompson: Khalid, Hannibal, and Rommel probably have the most experience fighting in a North African environment. But if we were opening the list up to include mythological and fictional badasses, I would probably put my money on the Daleks above pretty much anything else. They're like alien fascist space tanks with shrill British accents, and are impervious to nearly every form of conventional weapons.
What makes a badass? Is there a formula you use to determine whether or not a person is a badass, any special criteria they have to meet?
Being badass is all about determination, will, and not giving a crap. Whether it's Leonidas defending his homeland, or Napoleon conquering Europe, it doesn't matter what you're trying to accomplish, as long as you always go 100% balls out after it.
On your website, you wrote the line, "...regulate on some Germans Nate Dogg style," in Dick Winters' profile following the Major's death earlier this year, but you haven't written anything about Nate Dogg since his untimely passing. Would you like to say something badass about Nate Dogg?
Nate Dogg was pretty much awesome, and his addition to any song instantaneously doubled that song's badass quotient. However, there's not much I can say about the man that isn't already spelled out in the song "Regulators," where the man smokes a dozen gang members with his nine and then goes off to get busy with a car full of babes. They just don't make 'em like that anymore.
Who are some of your favorite literary badasses?
In the book I talk about Frankenstein's monster, Moby-Dick, Cthulu, and Professor Moriarty, all of whom are badass. Gun to my head, I'd say my all-time fictional character, however, would be John Carter from Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic A Princess of Mars. If you haven't read that, it's free on Kindle or iBooks or whatever the fuck, and it's easily one of the most awesomely badass books ever written.
Point blank, are you addicted to lattes? I only ask because you mention that you found it a bit depressing that your book--"a year and a half of my life"-- costs about the same as two large lattes. Only someone with an expensive caffeine habit would know that.
Or a Seattleite. Out here we have pretty much outlawed money, and all business transactions are performed on the barter system using lattes and mochas as currency.
I hear the Pacific Northwest is geographically the most badass region of the United States. Can you confirm that?
I'm originally from Coral Springs, FL, so the big thing that kicked my ass about moving to the Northwest was all the damn hills everywhere. I can walk for miles across flat land in 100 degree weather without a problem, but I feel like a giant douchebag when I'm huffing and puffing walking up a 45-degree incline in Seattle and some 95-year-old geezer is sprinting past me like it's nothing.
The Northwest also has bears, which are badass, but on the other hand Washington is the only state in the union that doesn't have a native breed of poisonous snake. So that's something.
Not only are you a writer, but you have a day job as a "full-time corporate wage slave," right? What does exactly does that mean? Are you looking for a way out via book sales?
That's true. I work a 9 to 5 in a tiny cubicle surrounded by normal people. It's okay, I suppose, but writing books about badasses would be a much more fulfilling career. Unfortunately, it's not the sort of thing I can consistently draw a paycheck from at this point, so if I want to keep drinking all those lattes I need to supplement my income with a mindless day job.
Is supplementing your income with a second job the biggest piece of advice you have for aspiring writers/freelance bloggers?
Either that, or marry a super rich person.
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Finally, you and I both went to Florida State, and I'd like you to set the record straight for everyone down here in Miami. FSU's Chief Osceola is a bigger badass than UM's Sebastian the Ibis, right?
Osceola led the Seminole tribes in rebellion against the U.S. government in the mid-1800s, fighting off repeated, coordinated attacks from heavily armed soldiers despite being routinely outnumbered, outgunned, and undersupplied. Thanks to his guerilla campaign against American occupation, the Seminole are the only Native American tribe never to have officially surrendered to the United States. Sebastian is an anthropomorphized version of a swamp bird that digs through mud with its beak and eats bugs. You tell me.