Guest Post: Edward M. Erdelac Talks Merkabah Rider And Life

The Merkabah Rider series is about a Hasidic gunslinger (the titular Rider, who assumes a title to hide his true name from malevolent forces) tracking the renegade teacher who betrayed his mystic Jewish order of astral travelers to the Old Ones of the Lovecraftian Mythos across the demon haunted American Southwest of the 1880s.

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It’s an amalgam of several things I read and saw up the point in my life that I wrote it in; TV’s Kung Fu, Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane and weird western stories, Joe Lansdale’s Jonah Hex comics, Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, H.P. Lovecraft, a Roman Catholic upbringing, and fourteen years living in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood watching the men walk to Temple on Saturdays in those black rekel coats and wide brimmed hats.

On the surface.

But everything of worth has to be about something else, and I think deep down the appeal in writing Merkabah Rider for me, beyond the culture clashes and the marriage of Judeochristian folklore with the Mythos, is self-reflection.

I’m forty two now, and I’ve been writing for twenty years, ten of them professionally (meaning I’ve been paid, though not always at professional rates). I’ve had a book come out from one of the Big Four/Five, from mid-range indie publishers, and now I’m self-publishing. I’m sitting on two unreleased novels no agent wants to touch. I’ve got four kids, the eldest off in St. Louis making his own way in life, the next on her way to high school. I’m on the cusp of possibly losing my own father to cancer.

And I wonder if the writing is worth it.

I’m not in a place professionally where I can support my family solely by writing. Hollywood is not knocking. Well, to be honest, they did knock once and I had to metaphorically direct them to my landlord’s place, as they were interested in the one book I didn’t have the rights to. That was sorta the equivalent of having God call you on the phone only for Him to realize it’s the wrong number , mutter an apology, and leave you listening to the dial tone. I’m not at a place where if my father departs this world, I can be sure he thinks I’ll be alright, or that I can take care of my mom, or even his grandkids.

I pour my whole heart into what I write. It’s really the thing that gives me the most satisfaction, the most happiness. And as happy as it makes me, that’s how unhappy I am when it goes ignored.

And I wonder if it’s worth it, to keep doing it.

Merkabah Rider is the thing I’ve done that’s garnered the most consistent response from readers over the years. I got emails about it for a long time after it went out of print, up to the day before I re-released it with a new cover by Juri Umagami and interior illustrations by M. Wayne Miller, basically in the format I’ve always wanted to see it in.

And I think the appeal of it, for me anyway, is the conflict of The Rider himself.

Imagine a man who by years of hard work and study, has unlocked the secret of life and death, who has trained himself to be able to leave his body and explore the afterlife. Here is a man for whom death holds no mysteries. The Rider has been trained to look The Devil himself in the eye until the latter blinks. Such a man is a master of his craft. He has no fear of death.

But now imagine that he reaches a point in his life where everything he was previously assured of turns out to be untrue.

Kabbalistic mysticism has a concept called the Olam ha-Tohu, the World of Chaos, which existed prior to the Creation which mankind inhabits. To The Rider, this is an area of study forbidden by his mystic teachers. But his master, Adon, has not only studied the Olam ha-Tohu, he has discovered the existence of entities which swam in that Chaos prior to Creation, unimaginable beings of limitless cosmic power which predate the First Day, which may predate God Himself, and call the very nature of a monotheistic ordered universe into doubt.

When The Rider learns this, it necessarily shatters him. The Merkabah Rider series then becomes more than a story of angels and demons and revenge, it becomes about The Rider’s doubting of his entire reason for existence and all he has ever understood about his life and purpose.

Its central question becomes, if the universe is truly a thing of chaos and entropy and a benevolent god is not the ultimate power, can it still be worth fighting for?

You can find the re-released first book, High Planes Drifter, on Amazon.

You can find more from Ed on his website, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook or support him on Patreon!

Follow Friday #3 – Edward M. Erdelac

Firstly, the formalities: “Edward M. Erdelac is an award winning screenwriter, an independent filmmaker, and contributor to Star Wars canon. He’s been published in several magazines and is the author of Buff Tea, Dubaku, and the acclaimed weird western series Merkabah Rider.”

Secondly, he’s my friend and he’s been a big help and inspiration for me getting this writer thing going.

Thirdly, the Merkabah Rider series is one of the best weird westerns you will ever read.  Whenever I recommend weird westerns, it’s the first series I go to.  You cannot, unfortunately, purchase the first book anymore, and the second and third books will be joining that list over the next year or two as well.

Now, it’s true that my Follow Fridays are usually going to be me promoting friends, but the thing with Ed is that I started out just a fan.  We became friends over the past few years because I was totally floored by how good the first Merkabah Rider book was.  I had just discovered Lovecraft and Howard a year or two before.  I’d finished the Dark Tower series around the same time and found myself wrapped in the loving embrace of the weird west.  An old blog, The Weird West Emporium, which is now operating off of facebook, led me to a whole bunch of exciting new things and discussions.  Among them, was a recommendation for the first Merkabah Rider book.  I bought it, devoured it, and as soon as I saw the second book was out, I did the same for that.  I can’t remember the specific order of events, but I sought Ed out on facebook and found him friendly and fun to interact with (something that still holds true).  I think I surprised him with my enthusiasm.  Maybe not though.  In any case, we ended up chatting some, and before the third book came out, we got more familiar.  Three years later and I’ve seen the man finish the story of the Rider, put out plenty of new stuff, and get a story in Star Wars magazine.

He’s a good writer.  He works hard on his stories, does the research he needs to (something that I think shines through supremely with all the Jewish mythology in Merkabah Rider, however liberal the depictions), and he’s also happy to chat with folks.  So, seriously, drop by facebook and give him a like, or follow his blog, and hit up his Amazon store and grab a book or two.  Oh and don’t worry, he’s going to bring the Rider’s story back.

Follow Friday #1 – S.A. Hunt

First Follow Friday and I’m gonna put my buddy SA Hunt out there for everyone.  SA is a recent winner of the /r/Fantasy Stabby Award for Best Self-Published/Indie Book of 2014 for the third book in his Dark Tower inspired Outlaw King series, Ten Thousand Devils.  In his own words, “I am a U.S. veteran with very little money and far too much free time, which is now spent telling lies about time-bending cowboys and brainwashing witches. I live in a shack in the woods in Summerville, GA, where I write books, drink moonshine out of a clay jug, and play music with spoons.”  Currently, he’s working on a new, standalone horror novel and trying to gather funds to attend the World Horror Con and Dragon*Con this year (and you should definitely kick him a buck or two).

You can find him and all the places he frequents on his site, The Usual Madman and his works on his Amazon shop.  And if you’re a fan of weird westerns, you should hit up goodreads and join our upcoming February group read.

Throwback Thursday #1

I’ve had a rough few days after a cold front decided to roll through.  It feels like the Oklahoma weather followed us to Alabama and that sucks.  So, given that, I’d almost forgotten that I wanted to start this little bi-weekly tradition (along with Follow Fridays that’ll start next week and that I already know who I’ll be promoting).  So what am I gonna write about?

How bout an underrated show that was my first introduction to both westerns (long before I really got into them) and the weird west?  How bout a show with one of the most entertaining actors out there?  How bout The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.?

Why was this show so great?  Well, just going off my little 8 year old self’s memories, it was fun.  It was a lot of fun.  It was silly and there was action and a smartass horse and before I knew who Bruce Campbell was, I thought he was fun to watch.  Interesting.  Now, technically, Back to the Future 3 was my first weird western, but that was part of a trilogy.  I only partially count it but it shared something that got expanded for me with Brisco County:  science in the west.  This was also a very early introduction to steampunk before it really had a name, before anyone really knew what it was.  There’s probably some of you who had this experience as well.

So you have this show starring a smartass bounty hunter seeking revenge for is father’s murder and getting into all sorts of shenanigans.  You have a whole host of various characters with various tropes, and you have anachronisms out the wazoo.  Action, romance, drama, comedy (and slapstick at that, which Bruce has always been amazing with), literally everything you could want.  I really need to watch the whole series as I never saw the whole thing.  It made a lasting impact though.  Part of that impact came from this:

Brisco and the Orb

There’s a scene, I couldn’t tell you which episode, where that damn thing is glowing and sparking and maybe I’m remembering the whole scene wrong but it made an impact.  It seared itself into my brain.  So, for a throwback, for an early work that influenced me and others no doubt, look up The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and give it a watch.  It’s gonna be silly and cheesy and very early 90s, but that’s part of the charm.  And Bruce Campbell.