Editor’s Note: This is the eighteenth in a series of interviews and story excerpts spotlighting some of the most innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty Island. The first fifteen can be read in this collection here and the sixteenth and seventeenth are here and here. Find out more about Liberty Island’s new writing contest here, running through the end of April. Please check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow here to learn more: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.”
Roy Griffis has been a waiter, a janitor, a book salesman and a USCG Rescue Swimmer, finding this last occupation most similar to being a writer: “At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you, and you alone, do.”
1. Who are some of your favorite writers, books, movies, and intellectual influences?
Writers: Most non-fiction, oddly enough. Gary Kinder, E. B. Sledge, Laura Hillenbrand, Richard Adams, and Richard Curtis. Curtis is probably the odd-writer out on my list. He’s a screenwriter, a raving lefty. He was the creator and director of the justly-scorned “informational” videos about Global Warming/Cooling/Climate Change which featured the doubters/denier (all persons of non-color, as it happened) getting blown up for their sins. Yet, he writes incredibly funny films about love.
Books: Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea (amazing parallel true stories, first of a steam ship sinking in a hurricane in 1857, and then the contemporary account of the modern effort to recover it and a huge cache of gold from over 1000 feet of water). With the Old Breed (first person account of the Marines fighting in the Pacific in WWII — should be required reading for all high school students, as war is presented in all its brutality). Shadow Divers (true story of some recreational divers who discover a long missing U-boat off the coast of New Jersey, their ten-year pilgrimage to identify and authenticate the find, along with the personal journey the two divers must take to accomplish this). Paul Among the People, by Sarah Ruden (a classics professor puts a social and historical context around a new translation of Paul, demonstrating how truly radical his writings were for the world in which he lived). Lonesome Dove, Watership Down.
Movies: Last of the Mohicans (1992, just a ripping yarn!). Glory, Sunshine (amazing science fiction) The Tall Guy (if you haven’t seen it, rent it now), Love, Actually (for all its flaws, one of the bravest films I’ve ever seen; one that dares to hope), About Time, Starman, Blade Runner, Open Range, Dances with Wolves. Yeah, I like movies.
Intellectual Influences: Thomas Sowell, Bill Wilson, Lois Wilson, David Horowitz, Robert A. Heinlein (minus the creepy sexual stuff that began to creep in at the end of his life).
2. How do you describe yourself ideologically?
I tend toward Libertarian/Conservative. Adults make and pay for their choices, but they are then responsible for the consequences of their choice. Infantilizing adults by shielding them from the results of their bad decisions gives you a population of overgrown infants who expect others to take care of them. A tantrum by a full-grown adult can be much more dangerous to society than one thrown by a two-year old.
3. Which thinkers/commentators have influenced you?
Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics was profound in his insistence on looking at results vs. intentions, as results are where reality resides. It could just as well have been a self-help manual right out of the 12 Steps, as much as a text on economics and consequences.
I found the life of Desmond Doss incredibly inspiring. As a 7th Day Adventist during World War II, he was eligible for religious exemption and could have worked in a factory. Instead, he volunteered for the U.S. Army with one caveat: he wouldn’t carry a gun. This tended to confuse the Army mind, which spent two years trying to drive him out, but Doss persevered. He thought it was wrong that other Americans would go into harm’s way for him, and it was his duty to help the nation. He became a medic just in time for the brutal fighting push through the Pacific islands toward the Japanese homeland. Although Doss would only accept credit for personally saving over 100 soldiers, many of them under fire or in perilously exposed positions, his fellow soldiers put the number much higher. Doss was shot and blown up by a hand grenade (permanently damaging his hearing), but never used a weapon. I spent an afternoon with him once, to discuss my idea of writing a screenplay about his life. He demurred, as he had for decades, because he wanted to be sure any film would give the credit to God and not to him.
4. Where are you from/currently reside?
Born in Texas City, Texas. Currently live in Southern California.
5. What are your writing goals?
At its most basic, to tell a good story that immerses the reader in another world, makes him or her part of this shared dream, makes them laugh and cry and gasp with the adventure. If, along the way, I can tell a fundamentally positive story that is an antidote to the nihilistic crap that is being peddled (“people are awful and life stinks”) while encouraging the reader to think differently about their life and how they live it, that’s a bonus. But if I’m not telling a good story first, the other parts are useless. Stories are how we make sense of the world and our place in it.
6. Where can people find/follow you online?
Email: [email protected]
An excerpt from “Shadows” by Roy Griffis
It is the third day. Today, I am assigned to the western, or forward, antiaircraft battery. Hans has the eastern gun. Almost every third day the British have sent a reconnaissance plane toward us: our lives have become patterned around that fact. But we look ready each day.
At least, we are told it is a recon plane. Before he died, Herr Dietrich told us, “If it is a recon plane, we must do our best to knock them out of the skies. Our appearance of bloodthirsty determination will help the Britishers’ report of us.” So we wait.
The land here is mostly flat, unlike the steep hills and valleys of home, and it is also dead, unlike home when I was last there. I do not like to think of the green and slate colors all black, burnt and scarred by the Allied bombs. When the sun rises here, it sends the light running ahead of it, like pouring golden water on a dark tabletop. The nights are cold, the sunrise cool, and the largest part of the day is hot.
I wear an old Luftwaffe jacket, gloves on my hands as I sit at the controls. The leather jacket has ragged holes down one side. Within hours of the sun’s rise, I’ll be stripped to my undershirt.
Stretching night-stiffened limbs, I catch my leg against the metal frame. It is only a glancing blow, but the pain flies up through me like the red streaks radiating from my wound.
“Scheisse!” I mutter.
Gingerly, I move my leg aside. The seat of the gun is rough, better used on a farm tractor than for a weapon. Even so, to recline invites sleep. Instead, I look back over my shoulder at the camp.
The 10 or more cooking fires are lit, and Johann’s most important duty for the day has been performed. Prometheus–I call him that for the fire he brings to the British–huddles inside what would be the kitchen tent. He is wearing his cook’s uniform, easily seen from the air. He waits, as we all do, for the sound of the aeroplane. The serving tables are set; the containers half full of something like food. The wind shifts the smaller pots a bit. The occasional tinny clank carries across the empty field between us.
The massed trucks, the personnel carriers. All of this is for them alone. The tents, the fires, even the camouflage thrown over our weapon emplacements. It is for them.
I can hear it. Almost all of the noise from the engine, I was told, so little from the propeller. Sound travels as quickly as dawn sunlight in the desert, but deceives about the direction.
There it is…too distant to make out the details. But even were I to see them, I would not be able to correctly identify the craft. The type has ceased to be important. Only the circle within a circle of the British emblem interests me. It is a good target at which to aim.
High and fast it comes, staying hidden in the sky-filling explosion of the morning sun. The flight goes as others before it; we fire, the plane circles, we fire again, the sentries on the ground move about, and the English fly away with their photographs.
Within the consuming, jolting reports of the weapon I control, I wonder about them. About those men who fly over us. Do they see through this? Do they see through us?