February has transformed into a respectable month for book sales – seven copies so far and just this week TC1 has sold in the USA (hardcover), U.K. (paperback) and Australia (eBook). Yay! And if, as they say, most books don’t sell more than a hundred copies, well, I’m happy to declare that the Australian sale puts the novel at 101. Very modest numbers, certainly, and oftentimes it all seems so insignificant as to render the whole experiment of indie authorpreneurship a categorical failure. But thanks to the intrepid readers who have so far risked their hard earned cash on the book, it yet lives. Thank you.
Meanwhile, I continue to apply myself to the editing of TC2 and I’ve gone as far as to schedule a date of April 1 with my book designer for the cover artwork. For better or worse my vision for the cover is clear this time and I’ve mocked up my own rough version as a starting point, hence the unholy image that illustrates this post! For better or worse, indeed, right? But don’t anybody panic about how bad this looks, it’s just something to riff upon. I described the vision to the designer thus:
Vixy again embodies the emotional compass of the novel, hence her wide-eyed, down-gazing, eerily downlit or up-lit visage (via light from gleaming Ball?) if that works. Also Five’s gauntleted fist, up thrust, seizing the Golden Ball. Otherwise, the context is sinister, claustrophobic entanglement, warped sci-fi horror and hard-boiled, plasma-pistol toting, trench coated pursuit seasoned with a dash of pulpy enthusiasm. The book’s locales include indomitable mountains, impenetrably forested Northwest Coast islands, jungle-choked ruins prowled by tigers, mysterious temple caves and a riotously populated, sweaty Indian metropolis, all of which fuel the knotted, oppressive vibe and perhaps need only appear as reflections/intimations within the ball’s gleaming surface (if that isn’t too much). The book’s epigraph, “Horror is the foreground of wonder”, may help with the vibe.
Why not just let the designer run with things as before? Well, I’m all for serendipity, spontaneity, letting things go and seeing what happens. But things change, this time I’ve got a specific idea and I’m convinced it’s futile to attempt to seek another lightning strike of good fortune of the type that happened with the first book. With TC1 it was all brand new and it was all I could do to feed images of book covers that I admired and sections of the manuscript to the designer and surrender to what she came up. We got lucky, I think, and that’s that.
Now I know more about how it all works and I’m keen to respect the new dynamics. It’s this way for anyone art-crafting anything, isn’t it? That is, there is always that first significant foray that, if it works at all, if it enjoys any amount of success, forever stands as a thing’s unreproducible arrival. Subsequent iterations and experiments possess a maturity born of worldliness let’s call it that risk falling short of the original magic. Such is the nature of risk. Adventures involve trials. Quests can fail.
The key, I think, is authenticity. Where does your zeal reside? Name it, claim it and honor the new dynamic, come what may. There is no mythology without an image. And the mythology, hence the image, must change with the times, must incorporate the everchanging dynamic of the phenomenal world, all the while referencing the eternal quality, the mythos that resonates, inspires and fuels our experience of being properly alive. Affecting symbols may infect us with aesthetic arrest but they themselves are not static.
Such is the play-of-opposites universe that we inhabit, the paradox that we exist within, the predicament we endure living within a Mystery that yet bestows clues – little truths – as to its true nature, its veritelos and our own within it. The future really is the past and vice versa. The relationship is that of identity, hence metaphor, hence, in the best examples, myth. I’ve yet to discover a more evocative, apt and concise expression of the mythic experience. Living within a fully functional mythology replete with its affecting image or images inspires this worldview which indeed is more akin to an experience than a contemplation. Myth is lived; it is empirical first and only epistemic – to do with knowledge or the degree of its validation – after the fact of the affecting image(s).
Be skeptical about a person’s experience, a UFO sighting for instance, and, if their experience is affecting enough, they will say, “I know what I saw.” And what they perhaps really mean to express is, I saw what I know. It is an experience of reencountering something where there has been no previous encounter. Which is to say that aesthetic arrest is more than an expression of the happenstance of familiarity. It goes further up and further in, to borrow an oft quoted line from Joyce. The image resonates, somehow, not as an experience of encountering something new but rather as the experience of intimate and immediate understanding in a thing’s full aspect. There is nothing to figure out about the image except to attempt to decipher, after the fact, the details of the phenomenon of its affect upon you. And perhaps others.
When others experience the thing as you do then the mythology is especially well rendered, forceful, fully expressed and functional, possessing a potent awe, cosmology, sociology and pedagogical psychology. The cross or crucifix and Christianity, for example. The image is understood and for the most part, if you identify with it, your experience is similar enough, at least, to that of other Christians as to allow for the members of the religion to identify sufficiently with each other.
I see what I know. This idea gets to the heart of the experience of aesthetic arrest. And when we attempt to render a 3D object into 2D by way of drawing it, for instance, those of us who either lack the technical skills of perspective or artist-craftsmen who intentionally ignore such skills will tend to illustrate all aspects of an object. We attempt to draw the table legs that we cannot see and all the perspectives at once. And of course children express this way of seeing-what-you-know effortlessly when given the means. I’ve discussed the hyper-dimensional challenges of drawing, such as they are, in a previous post, hence I won’t elaborate here.
Horror is the foreground of wonder. This is from Campbell’s The Power of Myth and communicates his suggestion that this is one way, at least, to break through, to transcend, to reveal things as they are, to experience the sublimity that leads to awe and aesthetic arrest. Not by way of gore; rather, by way of cosmic fright.
In this way, within this next novel, I intend to further, come what may, my influences in a manner that serves the stories and not the other way round. The energy of it all is intended to facilitate not force or otherwise appropriate. I’d hate to be accused of attempting to proliferate my philosophy (or, heaven forbid, an agenda) under the guise of writing science fiction, of merely pontificating and inevitably writing terribly pedantic and dull novels. Hell no. But the subtext within Time Crime that seeks to advance mythology in my own way is nevertheless present. It has to be because, as I’ve oftentimes said, it fuels the fiction. That it isn’t to everyone’s taste merely legitimizes, I think (or hope), the healthy and wholehearted peculiarity of the effort.