Chewing Glass, Burning Books & Why Moby Dick Won the War

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Inflammatory. Author image.

Another birthday (a couple days ago), another trip around the sun. And I’ve spent the better part of several days messing around revising TC1 and resubmitting the new file for publishing on KDP and Ingramspark, ugh. There were the handful of annoying typos that I’ve known about for a year and finally fixed, the new stuff that L. alerted me to that prompted the Third State (what some folks refer to as a third “printing”) to begin with and, as I plowed through things, here and there something else – another typo or the requirement for a subtle rewording. Three words in particular generated a maddening and embarrassing quantity of fixes: (1) “rein” to replace “reign”, (2) “taut” to replace “taught”, and (3) “vise” to replace “vice.” Unforgivable? Yes.

It’s crazy, this copyediting nightmare in particular that, once you peek into the book again, assails you with seemingly one impossibly obvious thing after another that for whatever mysterious reason slipped past all the eyes of readers and the so-called “grammar checks” that Microsoft Word provides. It’s as if some little demon or a ghost in the machine got busy slapping around the manuscript behind my back because I’d swear those errors weren’t present. Yet, there they glaringly are and what used to be apparently invisible becomes a series of flashing neon signs emphasizing words that are wrong, wrong, wrong.

I could reread the novel front to back, of course, and make myself crazy reworking everything in terms of line editing – how many things would benefit from tweaking, after all? Too many things. So that I am not going to reread the book. I can’t. I want to shoot myself as it is what with all this nitpicking, essential or otherwise. I think, how in hell could I have written that and then left it that way…? And so on until, well, how petty and silly and maddening does it get? I’ll tell you. The very last fix was a fix of a fix – these are the worst, of course – where I reworded the handful of sentences at the end of The Fall of Phaëthon that have been driving me batty and somehow typed in an extra period on the ellipsis at the end. Are you kidding me? Yikes.

I won’t describe the other changes here, they’re minor line editing things, nothing substantive, suffice it to say that I’m convinced I bettered things but then again I understand exactly how a book buyer would prefer the first edition, first state over anything else just because that’s how the mysterious mythologization of things goes: that first iteration stands as the goddamn “original” for better or worse. Otherwise, I wish all you authors the best with your own tedium and travails regarding dabbling in revisions. Crack that book open at your psychological peril!

I bitch and moan and meanwhile wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t imagine, that is, being a traditionally published author and besides having my book title, cover and much of the content in the hands of somebody else, not having access to revisions and pricing and marketing. To put your life into your writing and then suffer as the thing gets remaindered because it isn’t meeting sales goals and then if you’re lucky the rights revert to you eventually and you have to start over? Ugh. Horrible. Better to sail the seas of indie authorpreneurship as captain of your ship.

Why change anything? Why not just leave the first-first (first edition, first state) alone? My excuse for drilling into this thing a third time is the learning curve I’ve been on since diving into novel writing, indie publishing and authorpreneurship; namely, that in the end it’s all up to me. Because of that, the professionalism that I seek has been not so much elusive as relentlessly fickle. It’s there and then not. Help from others has been essential, indeed, but the discernment and quality control is my responsibility. Moreover, self-editing has been an exercise in humility: I used to think I had an eye for detail, that I was a good editor but the copyediting blindness alongside the occasional eye-opening word usage gaffe, to say nothing of the ceaselessly tweakable line editing weirdness is enough to oftentimes convince me that I’m incompetent.

And the idea that somebody has purchased the novel only to be put off by the editing issues (I’m not blaming anyone but myself, again, the responsibility is one-hundred-percent mine) gives me fits – have I missed out on good reviews because of it? Has word-of-mouth been lacking because of it? Are there readers who set the book aside disappointedly and were yet kind enough to bite their metaphorical tongue at what they viewed as writing that wasn’t ready? Did they have an urge to savage me? If it was the typos, I’m sorry and thanks for not taking it out on me in public. Or, perhaps typos don’t bother you so much and it was the writing or the story? Likewise, if TC1 wasn’t for you and you kept it to yourself, thank you. Not that anyone who didn’t like the book will be reading this.

Perhaps truly visionary and forward-thinking art-craft will always tend to subvert and inspire debate and controversy. Or at least piss somebody off in good fun. Nick Cave posted a great story about Anita Lane as a newsletter for his latest offering on cavethings.com.

I met Anita Lane in 1977. We went to separate art schools in Melbourne and we met at a party and just sort of clicked. Anita was a rule breaker and a troublemaker and I consider her to be one of the original and founding members of The Bad Seeds, even though she never played a note with the band — because she had the best ideas, the great ideas….

https://cavethings.com/collections/cave-things/products/crucifixion-art-print?utm_source=Cave+Things&utm_campaign=f749afa519-email+-+idiot+prayer+final+reminder_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f1ba9b1e11-f749afa519-54019178

But I’ve never been a rule breaker or a troublemaker on principle, at least intentionally. And Time Crime isn’t intentionally subversive. Unless you understand sci-fi to be inherently so, which it might indeed be as a genre. As such, my fiction hopefully rises to the occasion, humble as it may be, and gets there at least in terms of authenticity and ends up mostly in sympathetic hands at least at first and gets read in context – context is everything, isn’t it? – and not tossed aside as hackneyed. And so far it hasn’t been publicly disparaged and I’m grateful, the gods have looked kindly upon it so far. That said, I’m chewing glass at the idea that one-hundred fifty or so copies are out there saturated with gaffes. Saturated? I overstate things. But I think I deserve a bitch-slap and I am driven now to put the microscope on TC2.

Meanwhile, I’m keeping the handful of line editing revisions in the third state to myself – it will be up to posterity to reveal them, if anyone cares. I’ve indeed done my best – within reason! – to tighten up all iterations of the book and now I have no excuse at all for not devoting myself completely to editing TC2.

Of note, alongside publication of the third state, as it happens, the new Amazon KDP case laminate hardcover version of TC1 is available – I assigned it its own ISBN to differentiate it from the traditional “cloth” version (with dust cover) available via Ingramspark print-on-demand (POD).

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1734283289

Ingramspark has offered case laminate for some time, even a case laminate with a dust cover, too, but I’m not certain Amazon will even continue to offer the dust cover version as I’m sure they’re keen to prioritize their own manufacturing. I’ve priced it, for now, between the paperback and cloth and we’ll see if I perhaps need to lower it. Again, I make only two dollars per Ingramspark hardcover at $31.99 so I need to be careful to assign a price for the Amazon version that likewise clears my expenses with a little profit. But I’ll be monitoring the marketplace and tweak as necessary to remain as competitive as I can. I may even consider having R.V. reformat the cover to mirror her design instead of the hybrid version I had to cook up using Amazon’s “cover creator” – at this early stage my version seems serviceable enough and the author photograph serves to further differentiate the thing. The photographs fail to render the appealing chunkiness of the thing – it looks pleasantly bookish in hand. Anyway….

KDP case laminate version. Author image.
Ibid.
Ibid.

***

I’m convinced that as an art-crafter, the most effective way to wreck the message that you’re here to communicate is to allow yourself to get political. In the sense of participating in the ceaselessly idiotic controversies that we like to call “current events.” First, because most often a so-called current event or news-of-the-world is merely yet another iteration of something that has innumerable historical, hence mythological parallels, let’s call them. Secondly, because there’s always another tyrant and more accurately, more than one. Thirdly, if I’m really that concerned about maintaining my author image, I ought to just write my books and shut the hell up about everything else. Except that I’ve been posting this blog for a while now. Call it a newsletter if you want. Whatever it is, it communicates things that are important to me; things I seek to communicate because that’s what people do: communicate. For better or worse. And in a free country you can write what you want. And not be imprisoned or killed for it.

In this vein I’ve indented and italicized what follows because that way I can more easily locate, later when my writing career has perhaps tanked, where it all went wrong within the context of not following my own advice. But damn the torpedoes.

I don’t believe anyone is actually capable of insulting, mocking or bestowing disrespect upon any mythology. They can try, but the effort is inevitably ineffectual and as often merely reinvigorates the original myth into a vitalized up-to-date, otherwise modernized context. Try to insult Jesus or Muhammad (don’t get on me about the spelling) or the Buddha or Godzilla or Dr. Seuss, for that matter, and especially in the name of your own personal righteousness and you merely make all these symbols – these affecting images – more relevant and affective. Even effective.

Which is to say that any fully functional mythology can stand on its own two feet and take it. And art-craft is free to subvert anything likewise. I always say, if it doesn’t appropriate one’s freedoms or possessions and it doesn’t physically injure anybody, so be it. Think your thoughts, write your words, sing your songs, talk your talk, paint your pictures. Walk away or turn it off if it bothers you. It’s what freedom of expression is and it’s always better than the tyranny that results, even when it begins with the best of intentions, from righteousness. Which is today oftentimes disguised as what I call militant courtesy. Freedom is a cosmic birthright. Psychological “safety” is not.

AND: righteousness always backfires; it begets its opposite. Which is to say it immediately transforms itself into, well, wrongeous-ness. Har! Life is like this, isn’t it? The Dr. Seuss book in the news right now is just another example of the crazy militant courtesy phase that will right (pun!) itself in time. Hopefully. I mean, let freedom ring. Or don’t and suffer the consequences which are spelled out via history which it would be very nice, for once, not to repeat.

Meanwhile, the mythic symbols are free game because we made them. They are ours to f*ck with. And when you f*ck with them, what happens? You help reactivate them. Dr. Seuss books, for example, going for a mint online, now that some righteous asshole thinks they can essentially burn books. Yeah, dumb ass, whomever you are (the devoted reader will know that I do my best to avoid internet news) look what happened – you made the opposite point that you apparently intended. Dr. Seuss is mythology. His work has entered the mythological oeuvre. His intention was the opposite of righteousness and insult and appropriation and injury. He was inclusive. He bettered the world and will continue to do so long after the righteous morons have died and been replaced by the next righteous morons. I recall some newsy quip that got blurted when the White House violence happened, “We’re better than this.” Well versed in mythology as I like to think I am, I immediately thought, No, we’re not. People are people the world over and throughout the millennia. It’s the good, the bad and the ugly. Stop lumping me into your personal version of right and wrong. I think for myself. Which is to merely point out that I am not always right but I’m damn sure keen to be allowed to be wrong. So, this person was wrong to imply that somehow we’re better than we really are. But, so be it. It’s still a free country. For now. Even if these days it oftentimes doesn’t seem like it.

Ahab, in Moby Dick. “I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.” Yay! Now, Ahab of course got yanked out of his little enlightenment boat, as it were, by his neck. Literally. The White Whale wins. But I don’t think Ahab was wrong to attempt it. He had the perfect right to be wrong. He sought the essence of things. He was willing to tempt fate or challenge Nature or the Cosmos, what have you, to figure things out. His way. The lesson, such that it is, is that when you attempt to hurt a thing so as to get what you want, well, come what may, you’ll be answering to those fates. I am not arguing for or against whaling, by the way. In the time of Melville – context is everything! – whaling was not freighted with all that it is freighted with today and within the context of that novel it was just another paying vocation. Starbuck was on to Ahab’s psychological excesses, I’ll leave it at that. Otherwise, I defer to J. Campbell’s concise description of our predicament, namely, that life feeds on life. Vegetarians are killing carrots, after all, so don’t think you can get out of this via your eating habits, either.

Is it Dostoevsky? The Brothers Karamazov, where the one brother believes in God but nevertheless is convinced, to his infinite anxiety, that God is a dick? I love it. But, hey, if you want so badly to change things, to change the mythology, to rewrite history and design the future according to your plans and to meanwhile suppress ideas and burn books to get there, so be it, too. There will be consequences. And none of them are pretty. Just read your mythology. Which will inevitably teach you a lot about history (written and oral). Go ahead, then, invent your new politics and your new religion – invent a new mythology and see how many folks you can get to agree with you. It’s what we humans do. Yours isn’t working for you? Change it. Just don’t appropriate my freedoms, my stuff or attempt to injure me while you go about it. And don’t burn or ban books, either. Write a bad review about Dr. Seuss if it bugs you so much. But then leave it alone.

Carnegie Olson, 3.4.2021

Big deal, Carnegie. I mean, you read this and probably thought, yeah, I get it, so what? I know. I’m not any good at being controversial. Or pushing people’s buttons. I don’t write shockingly subversive novels that change the game, either. That’s somebody else’s job. Heck, John Lennon was pretty high on the F.B.I.’s list of troublemakers for a while. Me? Even my blog isn’t anything to get anybody’s underwear in a bundle about.

But I’m super glad and happy to have sold another paperback yesterday (in the U.K., yay!), the first Third State version to get out in the world. Ah, it feels good to have fixed it up a bit, to have straightened its tie, so to say, so it can get out there and do its best. It’s still the very same tie, after all. That is, I don’t have any plans at all for publishing a second edition. Typos, yes, fix them. Wholesale rewrites? Hell no. Oh, I know the intrepid first adopter types will decry the Third State as exactly the version not to want to own. I really do get that. I have a first-first of The Masks of God series that I cherish. For those folks, then, I’m keeping my little collection of twenty-five or so old “printings” (that I haven’t torched) and if anyone wants one of ‘em – I have paperbacks and hardcovers – email me, make me an offer and I will autograph it and ship it out to you. Keep in mind that I have to cover my shipping costs, but otherwise, I’m serious. I mean, I insert these little value-adds or whatever they are at the end of some of these posts just to see if anyone is reading this far. Or something. And if you did get this far, thanks.