I love Robin Williams. Along with many others, I’ll miss him. He was a big part of my childhood and I truly loved his movies, from the insanely silly, to the tragic. He was just great, especially at his most chaotic or reserved.
But this post is only a little bit about him. Probably this will read very oddly to a lot of people. But this post is about dying. Mostly, it’s about suicide, which is something it seems like I’m always writing about. Even Noir: A Love Story is about suicide. It’s probably the best statement I can make on the matter, though I’ve made many other ones.
When people commit suicide, everyone wants to know why. Everyone feels they have the right to know why. They demand it to the point of harassment and abuse. Even those who come out on Robin Williams’ side seem to believe they are owed an explanation.
But you’re not.
There is no privilege in the Death of another.
When someone dies, especially when they kill themselves, it has nothing to do with you, especially if you’re a stranger to the person. Even if you’re a dear friend or family member, the suicide of another is not about you.
A lot of people call suicide cowardly or selfish, but I think this is a pretty ridiculous position to take. If it’s selfish, it assumes that their life belongs to you. For them to end it before you were ready becomes tragic and almost like an existential attack.
While the Death of another and the suicide of a family member or close friend is impossibly sad, it doesn’t belong to you. You get your grief, and probably you’ll share that with dozens or hundreds or millions, in the case of the Williams family. For the grieving, this is a tragedy, but for the dead, it may be an end to the tragedy.
The tragedy of existence. Of living in this world that never feels right, that never feels a part of you, that not only rejects you, but the life and dignity of everyone you’ve ever known, of everyone you’ve ever heard of.
I’m a melancholic sort. I’ve dreamt of Death almost my whole life. I suffer from depression sometimes so severe I can barely stand up or breathe, but my depression doesn’t come from within me. It comes from the world around me. This incredible weight, this dangerous mountain looming over me, taunting me.
It’s life that defeats me, that infects me with its disease that withers my insides and turns everything to rot.
I think suicide is valid. I think we’re allowed to exit life when we choose. It’s criminal, to me, that it’s a crime to kill yourself or that institutions can force you to keep on living.
Before I go too far down that road, I will say this: there absolutely should be assistance for those who need and want it. We obviously need better mental health outreach and education and facilities. But if I tell a psychologist or psychiatrist that I intend to kill myself, it shouldn’t be legal for them to detain me.
And there’s a lot that goes into this. I thin about South Korea and how suicide is out of control there, or how austerity has essentially forced a generation of old men and women to commit suicide in places like Italy, because they must now choose between the streets and slow starvation or a quick way out.
Have you ever noticed that there are only two times we refer to escape as a negative?
Genre fiction and suicide.
Every other use of this word has a positive connotation. And let’s say that we are escaping life.
Why is that your business? Why is it the business of anyone besides the person escaping?
Our life is not our own. I firmly believe that. We belong to the people who we choose to share our lives with.
But that doesn’t mean that we control them or we have the right to their life and Death. They’re sharing their life with us.
They don’t need to share their Death with us too.
Maybe I’m just overly protective of Death because it feels very personal and close to me. I feel protective and outraged when people attack our right to die.
Suicide may be an end to tragedy. You may disagree with it and you may mourn–you’re allowed that. You’re allowed to wish and hope, and you’re allowed to share your feelings of regret.
That’s all fine and valid.
But so is a suicide’s right to hold itself private. We are allowed to die and you don’t deserve to know why.
And while the world will miss Robin Williams, he doesn’t owe you anything, especially in Death, especially after giving the world so much.
Let him have his peace.
I hope you go out and buy it.
If you buy it this weekend, I’ll send you a free copy of Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp!
So go love your life and buy my book and maybe fall in love.
See you later, gator.
I was reading about Karl Ove Knausgard last night [I emphasise reading about, not actually reading his books], and it reminds me how strange I always find that sort of writing, the deeply and intensely personal reflection on the life you actually lived or are continuing to live. And it’d be one thing if it were a couple hundred or even a handful of hundreds, but to go on and on about your life would drive me insane. Like, just physically? How could you stomach yourself for over 1,000 pages? How could you look at all those moments of your life and want to tell the world about them?
I find it almost revolting. I’m sure his gargantuan autobiography is quite good, as such things are judged, but I can’t imagine reading even a bit of it. And I can’t imagine going that direction with my own writing, though maybe I will some day [what do I know?], but I find it incredibly difficult to write about who I am without constantly lying or choosing a perspective that has nothing to do with me. Like, if I were to start an autobiography today, I’d probably write it from the perspective of the woman I didn’t become because at least she could see me with some kind of validity.
And maybe that’s part of it: I don’t think people can ever see themselves correctly. We are who the people around us say we are. I think identity is collective, not individual. Probably most people disagree with that, not only from a personal identity standpoint, but philosophically and politically.
I can’t read cogito ergo sum without rolling my eyes. I can’t even think about it without thinking how stupid it is. Humans don’t exist in a vacuum. They don’t exist separate of all other humans, so to begin a philosophy there [especially one dealing with humanness] is beyond ludicrous to me. And he’s the beginning of so much thought!
It’s no wonder I find humans absurd and ridiculous. It’s no wonder I find myself in constant disagreement with much of western philosophy, with much of western thinking. I think that even the way we think about thinking is broken. And let’s not even mention dualism or the obscurification of philosophical language.
But I don’t really want to talk about that. I want to talk about autobiography, because that’s what we’re all doing anyway, constantly, yeah? Social media is a continuous compendium of autobiography. Even the fiction many of us write is just thinly veiled autobiography, or there are those [like me] who are literally putting all of me on paper, but I cut it up, mix it around, throw in some magic, some wolves, some ravens, some giant trees, countless contradictory narrators, and a structure that’s more like a puzzle than a line.
But that’s how I deal with the world. That’s how I make sense of it.
I need to break it apart and make it fit in my head.
Because the world’s too large for me.
Existence is simply too much to handle or hold inside you.
It’s too beautiful.
It’s too terrifying.
And so I find autobiography interesting, but only theoretically. And scandinavians have a different relationship to it than we do here. Some of their biggest literary achievements are just autobiography. I don’t remember the names, but last year I did a lot of research about scandinavian literature [because, yeah, it's cool], and I found several enormous autobiographies, which is surely where this newest phenomena descends from.
I kept a journal the month I met Chelsea, while I was wandering around alone. I’ve considered publishing it. I’d need to type it up first. But thinking about typing it out is even difficult. Imagining reading my naked thoughts is terrifying. I’d rather have someone else do it.
Which, incidentally, is why I find it difficult to read my books when they become books: I see it all too plainly.
Want to know who that old man is at the beginning of Ash Cinema? Want to know who the teenage girl is? [speaking of her: no one has ever discussed or mentioned how that novel has an explicit relationship between a teenager and a septuagenarian, but, yeah] Want to know who Aya is? Want to know who the wolves are? Want to know why so many characters can’t speak? Want to know why so many of them die? Want to know who the child goddess at the center of everything is?
It’s not as simple as just saying they’re me, because of course they are: I wrote them. But if every character is just ydde, than who am I, and what’s the point of all of them?
No, none of them are me, really, but all of them are a little bit.
All of it happened to me, but none of it is my life.
That brings me to another thing about my work that sort of surprises me and people. My work is generally quite serious. It’s often grim and dark, but I find a lot of hope in it. I hope others do too. But I think when people know me through my writing they expect me to be a very serious and intelligent and severe person.
But I’m really quite silly.
When people know me first in real life and then pick up my books, I think they’re expecting comedy or at least some zaniness. Instead they get dying gods and apocalypse.
See, for me, writing is a way to free myself of all that. Or, not free myself, but find a way to contextualise it and understand it. This darkness inside me, occluding light. It allows me to remain silly and carefree, even as I waltz the Death of humanity onto hundreds of pages. It allows me to strip myself bare and tell you everything you never knew because you’re not looking for me: you’re looking for yourself, for all of us.
It’s slight of hand. That’s the real goal.
And when I’m most naked on the page, that’s when you see the strange elements rise. I think that’s the biggest reason I can’t read Ash Cinema: it’s too personal. Just the fact that it’s about film makes it too close to my heart. It was the first time I wrote something that made me cry. Twilight of the Wolves would cause me to cry several times for some of the same reasons.
But that’s why I can’t understand the compulsion to tell your life story.
I mean, who wants to read that?
That’s a question I’d never be able to get past as a writer: why should anyone care?
And even if I did get past that, I’d feel that I was constantly lying, not telling it right. If I wrote an autobiography, I’d want to just interview everyone I’ve known and have them write it together.
Which is where Noir: A Love Story‘s structure comes from.
But, yeah, late night thought.
Maybe I’ll share my strange and hilarious life some day.
There is much blood on the hands of Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Obama and Hamas.—
Cornel West (@CornelWest) July 19, 2014
We all are complacent with this bloodshed if we do not raise our voices to condemn all crimes and all forms of terrorism.—
Cornel West (@CornelWest) July 19, 2014
Let us not be deceived – the Israeli massacre of innocent Palestinians, especially the precious children, is a crime against humanity!—
Cornel West (@CornelWest) July 19, 2014
There’s more to be said about this, but Cornel West gets to the heart of the matter.
Starting this with a video so you at least have some entertainment before I talk about something most of you don’t care about. Or at least you don’t care what I think about this, and I probably have unpopular views about this. So, yeah, here’s some strange popculture phenomenon.
This debate keeps coming up and I mostly think it’s funny because both are big publishing. Amazon’s just a lot bigger.
We have people on both sides saying the other side is ruining the industry, and they’re absolutely right.
Both are ruining the book industry.
But let’s think about what that means, yeah?
The book industry is a very recent thing to begin with so is it a bad thing for it to disappear?
This is the kind of question I never really see or hear. People act like you need to choose between Big Publishing and Amazon, but both choices are, I think, destructive to literature, so why is this the debate?
It also turns out that most of indie literature is under the same distributor, which sort of defeats a lot of what it means to be indie, I think. And, as far as I can tell, the goal for most indie writers is to get picked up by a Big Publisher, and the goal of a lot of indie presses is to become an imprint of a larger publisher.
I’m speaking in generalities, of course. These aren’t the goals of every single writer and publisher, but it feels like the trend, or hope.
For a long time, industries have consisted of whales and krill. It feels like indie’s want to be swallowed by the whale.
But which whale is the right whale to inhabit?
Do you want to be in Amazon or Big Publishing?
Either way, you’re still krill being consumed and churned over.
There must be a third way, yeah?
A way for indie presses and indie writers to remain indie and reach actual readers. I, obviously, don’t have a solution, but I think this Amazon v Big Publishing is just absurd.
So is the stigma against selfpublishing, which seems to be part of why writers/publishers hate Amazon.
This is just nonsense. Some of the greatest writers selfpublished their novels. For example, Virginia Woolf [she and her husband founded and ran their press] and Edgar Allen Poe and Honore de Balzac and William Blake and almost every writer of the past.
I’ve tried selfpublishing also, and I plan on continuing to do so.
See, I don’t think we should look at literature as a place that needs to fit into industry standards. You don’t need to be an Amazon writer or a traditional publishing writer. You can do both. You can be both.
Often times people castigate selfpublished books for their editing. The simple solution is to hire a professional editor [something that no indie press does] or ask a friend who knows grammar to do it.
My first novel had no editor. There are typos in the novel, or so I’m told. I can’t read my books as books. It feels too weird to look at the words in print when I’m used to seeing them on the screen, where I can rewrite them.
My second novel had a professional editor and proofreader and they were fantastic, though that was through John Hunt Publishing, which isn’t indie in the way that most people think about it. They sell too many books.
My third novel was edited by my friend, who is also the resident editor there.
And that’s sort of the indie standard, so for them to tell selfpublished authors that they need to go through a traditional funnel is pretty amusing to me. I mean, I trust my friends in the indie community with my words and I know they’re great editors, but none of them do that for a living, which is maybe a silly delineation, but there you have it.
Also, I keep hearing that even writers who get through with Big Publishing have to do their own marketing.
So what’s the real difference between indie, selfpublishing, and Big Publishing?
It seems like Big Publishing has name recognition and money on their side, though that money doesn’t seem to go to most authors, just like how most Amazon selfpublished authors don’t make much money. In fact, we’re hearing more and more how no writers are making any money. Probably why most writers I know are also professors of creative writing.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it shows that neither of these models is working for anyone, really. A few outliers in each tract make it work and become millionaires. The rest of us are sharing a tiny sliver of a large pie, because more people are reading now than ever before.
The belief that the opposite is true is just silly, and Amazon is definitely responsible for getting more people to read.
The kindle changed publishing. There’s no going back, and so writers and publishers need to adapt to it.
But there are tons and tons of readers across the globe, across the country, across your state. The problem is that you don’t know how to reach them and, probably, that you’re not writing books they want to read.
This is not a fault of the audience. It’s your fault.
If you’re writing experimental fiction, you need to accept that you’re speaking to a relatively small sliver of an already small sliver of a gigantic pie. The literary genre is a small sliver of that giant pie, and genre fiction is the real person at the table, eating all the pie.
This is not the reader’s fault.
Genre fiction is awesome and a lot of those writers give you everything a big Literary name gives you but they throw in monsters and faster than light travel and robots. It’s sort of the case of giving children a bit of sugar with their medicine. The literary genre, and experimental genre, especially, tend to just want to dose you with medicine. And that’s great. I, personally, love that, but I’m a specific kind of reader, and so is most of the indie community.
And, to be honest, so is most of the audience who reads the new Delillos and Pynchons and Roths. They’re a very specific kind of reader who do not represent the culture. These are the kind of writers who win awards, but they’re not the kind of writers who get lots of readers. I mean, Delillo, Pynchon, and Roth are fine because they’ve been at it forever and have found their real audiences, and those are a lot more people than any of us can hope for. But for newish writers who aren’t at their level, you need to realise that your postmodern retelling of A Midsummer’s Night Dream set on a Haitian plantation isn’t going to register as appealing with most readers.
That’s not their fault, and it’s not your fault.
By all means, go write that! But stop bemoaning the state of literature. Save that for your friends, who will put up with your rants.
I’m looking at you, Will Self.
This year made me realise that I may never make any money as a writer, which is a bummer, and that even hitting a big publisher won’t change that, because, apparently, they don’t help you market.
Which brings me to something about marketing.
Writers are terrible at it. Sure, there are those who make it really work, but most writers are the worst marketers the world has ever seen. It’s not out fault. That’s not the skillset we cultivated.
This is going to be an extremely unpopular opinion, but I think you shouldn’t start a press of any kind if you’re not willing to hire a marketer and/or publicist for your writers. If you don’t hire that person, then you need to make it happen for them. You, as the publisher, need to make sure that your writers are successful.
I get why no one does this. It’s difficult and time consuming, and most indie publishers are also writers who have their own career as a writer to keep in mind. I also understand why they want their writers to do all the promotions themselves. Native content works best. I get that.
But most writers don’t even have the slightest idea how to market. That’s partly probably why they’re writing books. They’re not very good at communicating with people what they feel and what they want. If a love letter takes a writer 300 pages to write, do you really think they’re going to know how to convince other people to read it?
Maybe this sounds ranty or like a complaint. That’s not my intention, and I imagine this will be an unpopular opinion, but I think picking sides between Big Publishing and Amazon is just plain stupid.
Neither of them are your friends. Neither of them care about your art. Neither of them care about you.
Amazon loses nothing by you not selling anything, but they gain from your success.
Big Publishing loses a lot if you’re not selling. For them, the bottom line is the driving force. And they also gain everything from your success.
So let’s do it without them, yeah? Let’s find a way to cut out the executives. Maybe the real first step there is creating an actual distribution channel that works for small presses. Let’s get some syndicalism in publishing, yeah? Let’s help one another move around these whales and find some open water without them.
But when you fight for Amazon, don’t pretend like you care about all writers, publishers, and books.
And when you fight for Big Publishing, don’t pretend you care about all writers, publishers, and books.
Every day this week I’ll be running a little giveaway at 1pm CST. I’m giving away Ash Cinema, Twilight of the Wolves, and Noir: A Love Story.
Today I asked people to give me a reason why they needed to have my books, and I gave the winner all three.
So check in to my facebook page at 1pm every day to see what’s happening.
Noir: A Love Story comes out in just ten days and I’ll try to make something special every day.
So pay attention, because they won’t last long.
In other news, Dennis Cooper read and loved my book! Honored and humbled and surprised. He talks about other books in there too, because he’s Dennis Coooper and he’s a groovy cat.
Also, some discussions of short film at Entropy:
Been way too long since I posted something. About a month, actually. Been insanely busy though.
I just wanted to talk briefly about blurbs. Most probably don’t know what that is, but writers are crazy about that word. It’s such a big part of their world that it’s almost absurd. Here’s how it goes for me.
For Ash Cinema, I didn’t even try to get a blurb. Didn’t even look for one. I like that novel a lot, especially as time goes on, but I never really felt like I had to grab at people’s attention with it.
For Twilight of the Wolves, I reached out to a lot of writers that I truly love. Mostly just big names because I think you may as well reach as high as possible, because the worst thing that can happen is they say No, which takes nothing away from you. I went for big names too, because this is a difficult novel to pitch and sell, and I thought having some famous names on the cover would do a lot of the legwork for me. Unfortunately, none took the bite, so I scrambled for some last minute ones, and since only one person had read the novel at that point, I got Kyle Muntz to blurb me. Then Berit Ellingsen was kind enough to make the time to read and say awesome things.
Noir: A Love Story is the one that I’ve done right, I think. Because of the way Twilight of the Wolves has struggled to find its audience, and because I had its success too tied to my emotions, I decided to go in a more personal way with Noir. It sort of still crushes me that Twilight of the Wolves hasn’t found its audience, but I’m more hopeful with Noir. I sought out a few different writers and I chose them for specific reasons. Tim Horvath because I wish I could write as intelligently as him. Jac Jemc because My Only Wide is haunting in all the ways I hope Noir is. Matt Bell because we’re both writing a sort of fantastic or mythological modern day. And then Steve Erickson because he’s my hero. I honestly consider him the greatest living american novelist, and have ever since I first burnt through all his novels. I couldn’t stop reading them, so I read them twice. He’s a genius in all the ways I hope to some day be, and I sent him my novel, not really expecting anything, but because I needed him to read it. If he liked it even a fraction of how I love his novels, that would make it all worthwhile. Every bad review would roll off me because I’d know Erickson digs it. I mean, he’s the whole reason I wrote a novel at all. He’s the reason I chose to take writing seriously. He showed me that I could write the things I want to write how I want to write them. I can be different in all the strange ways I am different. I can be a sentimental surrealist and find beauty there. More than that, his novels feel so close to my heart. I imagine we share many of the same obsessions, with film being the most obvious. And I wanted this novel, specifically, to have his name attached to it. I don’t think it’s similar to what he’s written, but it’s the novel of mine that’s closest to my heart. Probably because it’s my first.
And so I really can’t express how amazing it was to receive this blurb from him:
In Noir, Rathke exposes the pale, sickly underbelly of a vibrant utopia for all to see. He unravels the quiet metaphysics of the detective thriller by letting all of the witnesses carry equal weight. Rathke has a faith in his reader that makes the experience of reading his work one full of extraordinary rewards and teeming satisfaction.
So that’s how I went about seeking blurbs, and I think I finally figured out the right way to do it. To be honest, I wanted a blurb from Wong Kar Wai and Max Richter too, but I don’t know if they’d be into that.
There are other things I should be sharing, since a lot’s happened in the last month, but I just wanted to touch on this briefly because it really does make a lot of this feel worth it to me.
There’s one writer that I keep not asking for a blurb, though I probably should have three times by now. That’s Stephen Graham Jones, who’s basically the coolest guy around. I keep saving him for something special. Probably either the giant monster novel or the horror novel. We’ll see.
so many different things.
I was interviewed by the awesome Janice Lee at HTMLGiant about Noir: A Love Story. It’s sort of a peculiar interview and playful in structure and tone. It reminded me of who I was when I wrote that novel way back in 2010, just out of university and on my way to Korea. In it I talk about strangers, myths, dying, and living.
What else? Lots of things to share from Entropy. I’ll just list them.
- A Celebration of Samuel R Delany: Aye, and Gomorrah – Kyle Muntz, Megan Milks, and I talk about Aye, and Gomorrah, Delany’s short story collection. We’ll be talking about Nova next, and then we’ll keep moving through Delany’s work. Stay tuned, and join in on our conversations!
- Rosa by Jesús Orellano – Perhaps the best short film I’ve ever seen. It’s absolutely brilliant in every conceivable way. Some of the best fight choreography I’ve ever seen in an animated film, and he’s currently making it a full length film, so wait for that. Orellano is a man to watch. I talk about ecological collapse and posthumanism.
- Last Breath by Mak Ying-Ping – Not my typically animation style, but this little film covers a lot of interesting ground. I talk about totalitarianism and americanism.
- Carn by Jeff le Bars – I maybe already posted about this here, but it’s a very cool film about wolves and capitalism and imperialism. Or, those are things I talk about. It’s really just about choice and wolves and dying.
That’s probably everything.
Saw this and thought it was cool today. Don’t watch it at work or with your kids, but it’s pretty nifty, especially if you liked Ghost in the Shell, or just think it’d be cool to see what that would look like in live action. I fall into the latter.
Just find someone to love today and hold them close.
The sun’s shining and the world’s greening.
Everywhere I look on the internet there’re thought pieces about feminism or feminists. What they should be, how they behave, how they should behave, how women should be and behave, how they should think.
Probably no one needs a white american male to say anything on the topic, but I find it all quite silly and reductive.
I find it silly on both sides.
It’s absurd for anyone to tell women how they should behave, whether the person instructing is female or not, is a feminist or not. Codifying behavior works well in a laboratory setting and is pretty important to psychology, sociology, and neuroscience, but classifying every communication and behavior and disagreement and opinion is not only absurd, it’s destructive.
Probably it sounds stupid to tell people to get along, but it’s really the only thing to do.
I guess I’m being quite vague with all of this, but it just sort of bores me. Maybe it’s because I stopped posting about politics and so I stopped arguing with strangers on the internet, but I just can’t pay attention or care about all these ideological rifts and schisms.
Feminists fight over what it means to be a feminists, what feminism should be, and then there are those who scream about the existence of feminism at all.
Just be decent humans to each other.
There’s not much more to say than that, but I’ll just outline some things quickly, I guess.
- Women absolutely have the right to be furious about the patriarchal nature of the world.
- More than that, those who are furious are correct to be furious.
- There are far more productive things to be than furious.
- Anger rarely serves any purpose.
- Anger causes people to dig trenches and return with more anger.
- Men need to shut up. All of us. All the time.
- I’m sick of hearing men talk about women.
- Even the ones who think they’re on the female side.
- Maybe especially those ones because they tend to be horrible misogynists without bothering to examine their attitudes.
- And everyone needs to work towards unification, rather than division.
- All I see is splintering.
- It’s a huge bummer.
I guess that’s all I have to say today.
Here’s a nebula.
I owe a lot of people reviews and interviews, and then there’s my own writing to catch up on, but I don’t seem to have the time to do anything, what with the new job and all that entails running a company. Big learning curve and I’m still way behind which causes a lot of stress about getting things done in a timely manner.
Anyrate, Sam Smith is my new jam.
Also, this year’s Short Story Month is coming to a close, so I thought I’d direct people to the twenty stories I wrote last May. Some of them really are amongst my favorite stories I’ve written. Also, finally going to be selfpublishing another novella soon.
Till then, here’s the link for my stories:
Absolutely love that song.
Anycase, it’s Friday and it’s been sort of a logistical nightmare of a week for me on the job front. Things are ramping up incredibly quickly and we don’t have the right employees for what we need. I mean, they’re okay, but we really need a creative director to handle a lot of these things, and my boss isn’t very interested in doing that, apparently.
But, yeah, it’s Friday and the sun is shining and it’s time for love.
Just love somebody.
And if you want to review Noir: A Love Story or Twilight of the Wolves, or if you want to interview me about either, get in touch. I can probably send you a physical copy.
Also, there’s a Goodreads giveaway for Noir: A Love Story right now.
Speaking of Goodreads and giveaways, the woman who won the Twilight of the Wolves giveaway wrote a review, and she loved it:
A fresh new vision which reads like an ancient ballad full of old gods and the white men half machines who destroy them. I wanted to sing it in an alternating upbeat tempo of wolves and old god joy and a slow and mournful tune that cries with the loss of innocence and light as I read it. Thank you Mr. Rathke for creating a feeling far different from anything I’ve read before.
That actually makes me happier than a thousand kind reviews from people I know. She also just got the novel, which is awesome.
I’ve been frustrated recently when thinking about the whole publishing game, and that’s still a concern, and I have many more thoughts about that, but today I just feel like singing. Probably because I watched Godzilla last night, which was awesome. I wrote a review at Entropy.
I’m reading a book on marketing for the day job, and it already has my head spinning about things to do. Of course, marketing for a job and marketing your writing are much different, since the product is basically me. I don’t know how to market myself, but probably I could figure it out. Just seems so awkward and disingenuous, though.
Anyrate, woke up to this this morning:
But, yeah, it’s Friday and the sun is back out, basically spring again after a week of winter.
No idea what the weekend holds, but I’ll have another short film review going up at Entropy tomorrow morning. In the meantime, check this out.
With the approach of Noir: A Love Story, and the fact that Twilight of the Wolves and Girl with Ears are still going largely ignored, I’m realising how difficult it is to get people to care about what you spend all those hours writing.
It’s frustrating and disappointing. You put a lot of work into writing something to make it as great and awesome as it can possibly be, and then you even give it away to people for free, hoping they’ll review it or tell other people to read it. And then you wait, and you hope that it works out.
I feel as if I did a lot to try to promote both Twilight of the Wolves and Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp, even giving a two for one deal the entire month of April, but it doesn’t seem to have done much. Probably I could’ve done more, or should’ve done more, but I didn’t write them to market stories.
And that’s what we have to be, in essence. As small press authors, as independent artists, we need to be our own PR, Marketing, and Sales departments, and that depresses the hell out of me. Especially because these things are actually just as important as the quality of the book itself. The best novel in the world without a campaign behind it won’t do much.
And I think that’s been part of the failing of Twilight of the Wolves. As much as the editorial and publishing team understood the novel, the marketing team has done essentially nothing with it. They sent out a bulk email to publications, which received basically no response. I’ve contacted about fifty publications with no real response. It’s very depressing, doing what you can and still getting nowhere. I’ve written about the accidental unmarketability of my book, which is one of the most popular posts I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate into any real interest in the novel, as far as I can tell.
I think, relatively, I’m maybe not even selling that poorly, considering the indie press market, but it’s disappointing to me that I’ve not sold even 100 copies, and have only sold about twenty copies since the publication date. I have two reviews in publication of the novel, with only one more review being on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s frustrating, yeah.
And so I’m trying to think about how to make Noir do better out in the world. I think it’s a novel better geared towards the indie crowd, and it feels as if there’s already more people paying attention to it. But I’m still not sure where or how to get it reviewed. I sent out about fifty ARCs of Twilight of the Wolves, which resulted in three reviews so far. I suppose I could do the same thing and hope for the best, but I don’t know if that’s useful.
Luckily, there’s some time to figure it out. Much less than there was before.
And then there seems to be a debate about promoting yourself on social media that’s sort of devolved into a chaotic sprawl of vitriol, so I’ll step past it, but I don’t think social media works to sell books. It can, sure, and I’m sure everyone who bought Twilight of the Wolves first came across it on facebook, but I don’t think it’ll do what people expect it to.
Too, I’m not sure what works better, or if there’s a way to push your books without being obnoxious. Probably I’m thinking too much about this side of publishing and should just get back to writing. Unfortunately, taking on a lot of new work responsibilities has cut my time to read/write to almost nothing these last three weeks.
Anyrate, I guess the point here is that I’m looking for reviewers for Noir: A Love Story. I can send you a digital copy. I’m also looking for reviewers for Twilight of the Wolves and Girl with Ears.
If you’re interested, get in touch. You should know where to find me.
People will always tell you not to worry about your sales, and they’re right. I expected too much from Twilight of the Wolves, and that’s going to be a long, slow sell, if it ever picks up. But I think what frustrates me is that I know a lot of reviewers/interviewers/readers and they also don’t seem to be interested in the novel, which is a bummer. But, I mean, that’s what the post I previously linked is all about: writing books no one wants.
But, yeah, rambly post. Trying to think of ways to market my novels. To make people care.
And how do we get people to care? I’d argue that there are more readers than ever, but there are also more writers than ever. How do you reach people when they’re bombarded by so much every day/week/year?
That’s the trick. Usually it means getting a bigger venue to care.
But that is anything but easy.
My story about Vivi from FFIX came out from Cartridge Lit last week, which has to be the coolest idea for a magazine ever. Literature influenced and about videogames. It’s perfect.
The story’s called The Song of the Black Mages and is the first of many stories I’ve written/am writing about Vivi that takes place between the last battle of FFIX and its ending cinematic. I hope you dig it.
Over at Entropy I have a few things going on as well.
And then I’ll also just remind people that Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp is only a dollar and Twilight of the Wolves is only three, so go out and get them! They take place in the same world and are amongst my best writing, I think.
And since we’re talking about books released, a whole load of them were just released by Lazy Fascist Press, which means all kinds of awesome. Pay special attention to Michael J Seidlinger and Brian Allen Carr.
This is a thing that’s going around the writing community and I got tagged so I thought I’d do it too. I probably won’t tag anyone, because whatever. Jordan Blum tagged me, so head over to his site and check out his process.
Anyrate, here’s what I have to say.
What am I working on?
Like, right now? I talked a little about it, sort of, the other week. Anyrate, right now I’m writing a science fantasy horror novel that I’m calling Wolves at the Shore or We are the Moon Tonight Bathed in Fungal Light. It’s about fungus eating civilisation and swallowing much of the planet in order to recreate it. You could say it’s about the effects of climate change, and it is, but in my own view of it. The globe is a different place in this novel and medicine’s sort of nonexistent, due to the way we’ve destroyed antibiotic efficacy. What else? People become monsters, the earth itself transforms, there are religious cults, bioengineering, and wolves. Always wolves.
Basically, it’s a kitchen sink novel. I’m trying something very different. I typically put all kinds of rules on novels, but this one’s just wherever the book takes me. No limitations or constraints on the form or style or structure. It’s also all from one perspective, which I’ve only done once before, and it didn’t work out very well.
But, yeah, it’s a very peculiar novel.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
No idea. I’ve read only a handful of horror novels. Probably it’s stranger than most other novels, horror or not. Like I said, it’s a kitchen sink novel, and everything’s getting dumped in there. The horror is existential on a global and individual scale also. Climate change is leading us to the end of humanity, but the world will go on happily without us. An uncaring world, an indifferent universe, and we’re a disease that the fungus is converting. Also, wolves. Always wolves. And dust. Always that too.
So to try to answer the question: there’s a mythology common to all my novels and this builds on that. In addition, it’s probably more concerned with power structures, politics, race, sex, and identity than most other horror novels.
But maybe not. I don’t read much horror, so maybe that’s common.
Why do I write what I do?
Don’t have a good answer for this. I used to write experimental fiction and sort of high literary genre. Now I’m pushing past all that nonsense. I think I’m becoming a better writer by giving up the literary genre. But the main thing that identifies my work, I think, is the obsessions with dust, Death, wolves, ravens, the multiverse, and the end of humanity. Why I write that is because I can’t ever stop thinking about it. Then combine that with politics, world mythologies, folklore, religion, and you have my writing, I think. I take everything, swirl it together, and create a new world.
That’s what I’m all about: creating new worlds. Worlds that remind you of this one but then twist reality around. I don’t believe in reality and I don’t understand it, so fiction is my way to resolve that. To map the different realities in my own head, project it into the world I experience, and then use that as a model for me to deal with the world I have to live in.
The real answer is that writing makes me happy. Many things don’t, but this does. It makes me feel whole.
How does my writing process work?
There is no process. Most of my books are written at a feverish pace. When I’m novelling, I dump between 35,000 words and 70,000 words in a week. Usually that’s enough to finish what I’m working on. So process? I dive in and lose myself in the novel.
Makes life strange and hard to go about my daily business, so I’m working on moving towards a more normalised schedule. Trying to write every day, rather than write nonstop for a week, then not write for several months.
But, yeah, I write anywhere and everywhere. I have two laptops and I switch between them while still working on the same project. I write on buses, on planes, on trains, in my bed, on your couch, outside. I blast music so loud I can’t think or turn it way down so I can, or I put on the television, or whatever.
There’s no process. My process is chaos and distraction, and I think those characterise my novels. It’s why so many are probably polyphonic in nature. It’s about clashing ideas together.
But, yeah, just writing whenever I can steal the time.
And that’s all I have to say. Was going to write another essay about writing, but I’ll save that for maybe another day. Probably never. Instead I’ll be writing about genre.
Everyone should be jealous of them. I’m going to list them all here, because it feels like a thing to do. I’ll put them in order of when I started writing them, so it’s in a different order than how they’re published and most of these haven’t been published and some aren’t even finished.
I decided to make this list because I just saw that Noir: A Love Story’s galleys are ready.
Noir: A Love Story
The first novel I ever wrote. A detectiveless detective magic realism novel with 26 narrators.
The Day I Swallowed the Moon
An anti-novel that I broke by experimenting. Going to go back and finish it some day because I know how to fix it now. It’s a werewolf novel.
Intensely surreal novel written to be the exact opposite of Noir. It’s a single first person uninterrupted narration. No jumps in time or anything. Just nonstop narration. Full of swordfights and extremely long conversations about the world they live in, which is constantly shifting.
My first published novel is a triptych novel about love and Death, and especially about Sebastian Falke, a fictional avant garde filmmaker.
To Leave Only Shadows
An apocalyptic polyphonic magic realism novel that might be psychological horror. 13 narrators. A city in decay, plagued by giant ravens, and spontaneous combustion.
This is the inverse of To Leave Only Shadows. That makes sense if you read To Leave Only Shadows, but this idea came much earlier, and I wrote Shadows to learn how to do this one, which is unfinished and the novel I still think of as my first one. It’s a very old idea and the novel keeps growing to the point that I’m afraid to look at it.
The City of Lost Things
Alternate history. In 1999 half of the moon breaks off, collides with the earth, which sparks a fifty year war that decimates the earth. This takes place from 2001-2049, and is told in five parts. It’s mostly about living in a city at the edge of where the moon crashed, which is called the Lunar Sea and becomes the Lunar Forest. Starts as mostly realism but becomes sort of magic realism/science fiction by the end. Unfinished.
Takes place in the same world as City of Lost Things and is also unfinished. It’s about a one handed female detective living near the City of Lost Things, and is what I’m calling oneiric noir. Intensely surreal and the narration’s pretty fractured and anti-linear.
Takes place in the same world as above but set about 400 years in the future, after wars have torn earth apart, and people search for a new world in ark ships. A surreal space opera about revolution and AI and posthumanism. The people are the second and third generation of people living in the ark ship.
the gods we’re not
Set in the same world as the above but about a hundred years before Poetics. Begins as cyberpunk and turns into a pretty surreal biopunk novel. Still unfinished, but I keep telling myself every six months to go back in and complete this dummy.
And then the Wolves
This is actually the first thing I wrote in the epic fantasy world of Twilight of the Wolves. It’s set about 400 years after and takes place during a war. It’s less obviously fantasy, but it’s rooted in that world.
Unfinished. A verse novel set in the world of Death for the worlds described above. It’s about a boy who grows up in the afterlife and begins fracturing his personality over and over again while all the new dead from the wars are collapsing always into the world of Death. It’s linguistically abrasive and crazy surreal.
To Live [published as Twilight of the Wolves]
My surreal postcolonial inverted epic fantasy. The second novel of mine published. It’s about the clash of cultures, imperialism, democracy, anarchism, religion, war, and especially about what it means to be human.
Transdimensional Transgender Transubstantiation: A Memoir
The most bonkers thing I’ve ever written. Two photons of light escape from an exploding star, get mashed together, land on earth, become a man, who then splits into a man and woman. The woman births a new universe. It’s very strange and surreal.
Another one abandoned because I made a stupid prose experiment that I didn’t like. It’s magic realism and it’s about suicide, bipolar disorder, alchemy, pornography, transhumanism, and the internet. I really should get back to this one. I wrote 20k words in the first 24 hours of it, though I abandoned it three days later because of how I broke it. I know how to fix it though.
The Curious Girl Floating There
My first graphic novel with [stolen] photography by Natsumi Hayashi about a girl who can’t stop floating and the boy who loves her. Hopefully this can someday be published, but I need her permission, which I can’t seem to get.
My gargantuan novel to end all novels: 101 narrators. Right now it’s about 150k words, which I wrote January of last year. I keep meaning to go back to it but I took a break which accidentally keeps going on. It’ll probably be about 300k words by the time it’s finished, which is sort of why I keep pushing it off. It’s sort of based on how I imagine Roberto Bolano’s life to be, and since I’ve done no research, it’s pretty much just whatever I feel like. It’s a mix of realism, surrealism, apocalyptic fiction, memoir, love note, critical analysis, and epic fantasy. Oh, there’s also a play about a woman who digs up her own grave in the middle.
Times from Before
My second graphic novel, this time using Kyle Thompson‘s photography, but he said he didn’t want me to publish it, so I guess I won’t. It’s pretty intense and surreal and sort of elliptical.
My first poetry collection written over a weekend while feverish. 119 poems, most of them haiku and tanka in style and form.
–i am alone facing the moon rising on the edge of a mountain–
My second collection written over a different weekend using tanka, haiku, and ryuka poetry. 126 poems. It’s dedicated to Yoshiya Chiru, a prostitute poet who starved herself about 400 years ago.
About a man who fades into himself. It’s sort of psychological horror, maybe. About dissolution and dying.
Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp
A serial novel about a girl born with wolf ears set in the same world as Twilight of the Wolves. In this first part she’s thrown into an infinite castle and must fight her way out with the help of an insane man who was trapped in the castle.
Ancient Robots of the Distant Future
Collection of stories and a novella about a robot from our near future who lives for thousands of years. The stories begin in the near future and go through the end of civilisation and to where it begins to rebuild itself, so the robot sort of takes on a mythic quality.
Be Careful, My Children
Another polyphonic novel, 25 narrators. It was meant to be written for J David Osborne’s Broken River Press, and I only had a week to write it. It began as a murder mystery but eventually became something altogether different. It’s both science fiction and fantasy. Set in a reality where the moon cracked and half fell to the earth [much like City of Lost Things, but the timeline diverges]. 150 years before the novel, all white people on earth died, and 50 years after that all the males on the planet died. The world’s dominant cultures are Argentinian and Korean. So this is the third/fourth/fifth generation of a purely female world and the world’s dying from previous cataclysms, and everything’s going extinct except for wolves. People discover a civilisation of human-like creatures who look like tiny males. From there things get very strange. It might actually even be weirder than Transdimensional Transgender Transubstantiation.
13 Angels Screaming at the Mountain
I’ve started this novel three times and scrapped what I had. It’s a novel about giant monsters, and it’s going to be awesome because I had a breakthrough today.
Let me sleep beneath the dirt of a wasted world
Novella set in a world created by the awesome Joseph Michael Owens. It’s about a plant/human hybrid set in a fantasy world who accidentally gains godlike powers.
remember me as a time of day
My third graphic novel, which needs to be rewritten. This iteration is too internal and too much about a very sad moment in my life that I was dealing with by writing this novel. Artwork by the amazing Jazmyn Mares
The Dust Cartographer & Theory of the Infinite Castle
Novella also set in that same world created by Joseph Michael Owens but it takes place in an infinite castle. It’s about a plant growing legs and becoming a mobile creature and a god who’s lived so long her brain’s rotted in her own skull and then the civilisations that have sprouted within the infinite castle believing it to be the whole world.
you are the sea drifting endlessly through the sky
My third poetry collection made of 100 poems in a range of styles, but mostly haiku and ryuka. Probably also dedicated to Yoshiya Chiru.
Wolves at the Shore/We are the Moon Tonight Bathed in Fungal Light
My novel in progress. This is the first first person narration I’ve done since Echoes. It’s a horror novel set a few generations in the future after the earth began fighting back against humanity. Fungus is swallowing civilisation and most of the earth. Lots of biopunk and cyberpunk and fantasy and surrealism and even a few myths. Doing the kind of fun stuff I always do: inventing religions, cultures, and ideologies. And, of course, there are wolves.
So, yeah, those are my novel[la]s and poetry collections. To go along with all that, I have about 600 pages of short fiction, which could use a nifty name. Though it may not look like it, all of the novel[la]s take place in the same interconnected web of realities. The City of Lost Things begins a timeline that stretches into the fantasy world of Twilight of the Wolves. The City of Lost Things is also a world in reflection to the one we live in, which is the reality of Noir and Shadows. Eyepenny is set in yet another reflected reality. Be Careful, My Children is in a timeline that broke off of The City of Lost Things’ timeline. What binds all these various realities together is a consistent mythology and echoes of the worlds in each other, so characters don’t really reappear in different novels, but their shadows do. For example, the protagonist of Eyepenny is the reflected self of a main character in Shadows. Be Careful, My Children is, in a sense, a reflection of Noir, but everything turned to an extreme, and sort of maybe completely insane. Also, the protagonist of Loveless is a character in a film made by Sebastian Falke from Ash Cinema. Sebastian Falke is actually sort of the secret architect of all this, in that his films kickstarted several entwined realities.
But probably you don’t need to know any of that.
Some things that appear in almost everything: dust, wolves, ravens, a child goddess, giant trees/towers, dreams becoming reality, travelling between realities, and finding love in an uncaring world.
But, yeah, probably this is only of interest to me. It also makes me feel like I’ve written much more than I actually have. Hopefully all these novels will some day be real and published. But who’s to say!
Two of the coolest people I know are currently running indiegogo campaigns for two very different projects.
I’ll start with the great Pablo D’Stair, who published my first novel, Ash Cinema, recently finished his first film, A Public Ransom. He’s a friend and probably genius and you’re going to want to see this movie, if nothing else. Details about the indiegogo are here:
So, my debut film A PUBLIC RANSOM is done and out there, available to all for free viewing online HERE. It was a pure underground, guerrilla endeavor to put together, this bleak little art-house noir–purposefully working with no budget and rudimentary equipment to make something in the bare bones spirit of so many filmmakers iconic to me. As with everything I do, it was l’art pour l’art and came together exactly as uncompressed and non-solicitous as was the intention.
So what is this campaign then?
The single aim of this is to raise some additional money for entry fees to film festivals. I am draining my own personal coffers as much as possible as well, rest assured, but there are many opportunities–with it firmly in mind the sort of movie this is, I ain’t sending it to Cannes, dig?–that seem specifically tailored for films like A PUBLIC RANSOM and I would hate to miss those boats just for being a few bucks short.
To read more check out the indiegogo campaign page.
The next campaign is for the amazing Molly Gaudry. She’s been dealing with a brain injury for the last couple years, and she’s finally discovered therapy that truly works for her. In addition, she wants to bring this therapy to others. Molly’s an awesome friend, founder of The Lit Pub and one of the kindest people I’ve encountered. Details about her campaign here:
Why I Want To Become An AntiGravity® Fitness Instructor and How You Can Help
- As many of you know, for the past few years I’ve struggled with double vision, cognitive functioning, and sensory processing disorder (explained in fuller detail here and here).
- A few months ago, at the end of my first semester as a PhD candidate at the University of Utah, Dr. Ericson at the Rehabilitation Center’s Brain Injury Program said to me: “It’s time you start seriously considering a viable Plan B, outside of academia.”
- Instead, I renewed my efforts in vision therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy (including vestibular, proprioceptive, kinesthetic, sensorimotor, listening, and sensory integration and regulation therapies), craniosacral therapy, myofascial trigger point release therapy, and mental health therapy.
- Then I found AntiGravity® Fitness, which changed my life. And now I want to become a certified instructor so I can help change others’ lives.
- I’m going to go into a lot more detail about all of this below, but right here I’d like to ask for your help: I NEED TO RAISE $7,000, which will go toward CERTIFICATION COSTS (outlined below, including indiegogo’s and other 3rd party fees). If you are able to contribute in any way, please select from the THANK YOU PERKS donated by writers, artists, musicians, photographers, editors, and publishers from all over the country. (If you are in a position to contribute and would rather not receive a perk, every $50 or $100 donation will go a very long way toward this campaign.)
Full details at the indiegogo campaign page.
So, yes, go help out some awesome people be somehow even more awesome.
Entropy Magazine is the coolest place on the internet, and it’s been going on for about a month. I’ve contributed four column articles about short films, which I’ll link here:
What I’ve been doing is talking about short animated films, and there are a few reasons why. I love animation. I love film. It really is that simple, but the reason I chose short films is because it’s something the reader can experience right then and there. Doing normal film reviews leads to a separation, wherein you can read the review, go see the movie, come back and agree or disagree. Here that happens all at once, and most of the films I’ll be writing about are going to be under ten minutes [though Fathoms is about twenty].
I’m also a part of an ongoing conversation about the aesthetics of videogames.
And then some editor lists:
And that’s all I’ve been a part of so far. I’ll be doing a new short film every week, and then every fifth week will be an off day. Other than that, there will be various other posts, including the weekend lists. But be sure to check out other posts on the site. Some way smarter people than me are writing there and are well worth checking out.
ANyrate, that’s it for now.
It’s been two years that I’ve gotten to know you, to love you, to be with you.
Though it hasn’t been easy, and sometimes it’s been almost too hard, I can say today that it’s been worth it.
It took me just a few days to fall in love with you, to promise to fly back to you, but it’s taken me two years to know you, to understand you, to love you better. I hope we have two more years, and then two more, and always two more from where we are.
For so long I believed I’d spend my life alone and then there was you. Twenty four years of solitude and now two with you. I wouldn’t trade either, but I can tell you which ones were better.
I love you.
I love this song, though I actually don’t care for a lot of his songs. Damien Jurado, that is. It reminds me of much more sorrowful days.
I thought I had more to say but it’s already late and you’re already asleep.
I’ve written several novels now. Six in their final form, and I have a few others in various states of disrepair and incompletion. Two of my novels have been published, with another one coming out in a few months. It’s hard to say if anyone actually wants any of these books, though.
Mostly I want to talk about Twilight of the Wolves, which I knew would be a hard sell at first, which is why I’m offering a free novella to those who buy a paperback edition, and why the kindle version is currently $2.99. Even with all that, it looks like no one’s biting, which is, admittedly, quite disappointing. I think there are a few very big reasons for this.
I think part of it has to do with my built in audience, which is made up of the indie lit crowd. I deeply love these people and I appreciate everything they’ve done for me, and I’ve made some great friends within that community. The issue is, I suppose, that it’s a pretty small market, and that few of them have the money or desire to buy everything that comes out. But, I mean, who can do that? But the real point is that no indie authors are making a living off their words, which is why so many are also professors or currently in programs that will lead to them gaining teaching positions. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but it means that your audience is ridiculously small, and largely in conversation with itself. This means very little of what’s published by and within the community reaches past it to casual readers, or even the larger arena of readers, which is a small market to begin with. So what we have, in a sense, is the smallest market within a very small market. It means that very few, if any of us, are selling that many copies of our books. There are exceptions, I’m sure, and there are those who get a lot of great critical attention, especially lately. But I’m not sure how that translates to sales, but I’m sure Two Dollar Radio sells better than most publishing houses of that size because of how much attention their books get, which is a testament to the authors there and to the Obenaufs.
Part of the indie community’s mentality is the importance of high artistic appeal, which typically means that most of the books fall into the experimental or literary genres. Often times both. We love strong prose that plays with form and structure. I think many of the readers within the community don’t have much interest in genres like science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror. There are exceptions, of course, but many of those writers who write genre but are critically beloved are considered transcenders–those who reach past the shabby limits of genre fiction and tap into the literary genre. Thinking of people like Brian Evenson and Matt Bell, though there are certainly others. By and large, the indie community is interested in literary fiction, which is exemplified by the presses associated with the community. I can’t think of any publishing houses that actively seek SF/F, though a few want horror. And it’s not that they necessarily discourage SF/F, but that’s not their audience, and they don’t really want to be a part of that conversation.
Also, before I get too far, I’ll just say this is all how I perceive the community [which should be obvious] and is in no way meant as a definitive description. If there are indie presses doing SF/F, I’d love to see them! Mixer Publishing is one, but I’m not sure how many others there really are. And that’s not to say that there aren’t indie genre publishers. It means that they’re not really a part of the indie lit community, as I understand it. Also, I’m not going to talk about journals or magazines, because that’s absurd to even discuss. For every ten writers, there’s a journal that exists.
Anyrate, moving past the community–which is the audience I can tap into most readily because I’m a member of the community–let’s take a look at the genre readers.
One peculiar thing I discovered when trying to mail ARCs to different magazines and websites for review or interview opportunities, I largely met a wall of disinterest. Most genre publications won’t even look at a book if it’s not published by a SFWA publisher, which puts a huge limit on your ability as an indie author to tap into that market. Beyond that issue, many genre readers are looking for more commercial fiction, something fun and exciting that’s also full of big ideas and complex morality. What they’re typically less interested in is difficult prose. What genre readers want is an open door that leads to a headlong race, a house of mirrors, or a labyrinth. I disagree with everyone who says that genre readers don’t want to be challenged by their books, because that’s just completely untrue and absurd. It is true, however, that they’re less interested in how you can play with the structure of a sentence. They want clear and clean prose that allows them into the complexity of the world you’ve created, where they can wrestle with the philosophical, social, and moral implications of your narrative. A Song of Ice & Fire isn’t difficult to read, but it’s an incredibly complex series of novels. The same is true of Malazan, The Book of the New Sun, The Dispossessed, and Neveryon. And even despite the disinterest in complex or experimental sentences, I think you’ll find few writers more talented than Gene Wolfe, Ursula K Le Guin, and Samuel R Delany, even on a sentence by sentence reading.
Anyrate, so these are the two worlds that Twilight of the Wolves is dealing with. In one, there’s a small built in audience, but the word fantasy cast a dark cloud over the novel. Then there’s the genre audience, which is huge, but is largely disinterested in books published by independent literary presses.
And Twilight of the Wolves very much falls between these two worlds. It’s an experimental novel with sometimes very caustic and aggressive and lyrical prose. It’s rooted in the postcolonial and surreal, and is a subversion of the fantasy genre while being firmly and definitely in dialogue with the fantasy tradition. It’s postmodern and it has a tricky structure with lots of surrealism and difficulty to overcome. It’s a book that demands you learn how to read it and rise to the challenge it presents.
Both of the reviews published about Twilight of the Wolves very much misunderstand even what happens in the novel. Both reviews didn’t even realise that a third of the novel is narrated by a character because of that character’s inability to use personal pronouns or speak aloud. I was grateful for both reviews and it made me proud that both of them loved the book so much. It didn’t even bother me that they missed what I think is a very important part of the book. The novel, though I often think of it as being very straightforward [lying to myself, surely], presents many challenges to the reader, and because of the thickness of the prose, it makes discovering the actual narrative a challenge I wasn’t expecting. And I’ve received only very positive feedback from the novel. People who read it and give themselves to it seem to truly love what’s happening.
But on the otherside of this literary/experimental/postmodern leaning, there’s the fantasy. This is very much a fantasy novel. I stand firmly by that. This is a world I’ve been dreaming my whole life, and it’s purely genre, despite the literary tricks and the playing with form. It’s a reaction to the tradition, but also a continuation of the tradition. I believe people who love George RR Martin, Gene Wolfe, Samuel R Delany, Joanna Russ, Ursula K Le Guin, and China Mieville will really love this novel. And while it’s silly for me to compare myself to any of them, I think I learnt a lot from each of them. Kyle Muntz once told me that the novel reminded him of Thomas Pynchon, but I always think the novel is much closer to Earthsea and Neveryon, and sort of the flipside of Game of Thrones, in that we’re only looking at the people at the bottom. The focus isn’t on kings and knights and ladies and prophecies. We’re looking at orphans: a eunuch, the only survivor of a plague, and a man cursed by a god. They’re powerless, and they don’t rise through the social or military ranks of the world. Instead they try to escape it entirely.
But this isn’t escapism. I didn’t think of it while I wrote it, but this book is very much influenced by Edward Said, Eduardo Galeano, Noam Chomsky, Taoism, Shintoism, and transcendentalism. Though this novel takes place on a different planet, in a very different solar system, it’s rooted in humanity, and its only real question remains: what does it mean to be human?
This, more than any of my other novels, is about what it means to live, which was the original title, and it’s the title I still think of it having. To Live.
And so I’ve written a difficult book that very few people want to read, but it’s the most perfect artistic expression I’ve yet created. It’s the novel that is perhaps most deeply me, most deeply autobiographical, most deeply everything I’ve ever loved and hated.
It will challenge you and perhaps it’s not worth it to you, but this is the book I had to write, and there are many more books set in this world, and they’ll likely all hit this same nebulous inbetween. Being both literary and fantasy, but belonging to neither.
I always knew this was going to be a difficult sell, but I really am disappointed with how it’s selling, and maybe I shouldn’t be. Maybe I should be focusing on how those who read it love it. But I guess I expected more for it. It’s difficult putting your whole heart and life into a book and then watching it struggle to stay afloat in the ocean.
I stepped into this year hoping to become a full time writer. I’ve given up on that, I think. It’s very unlikely that this will sell much better. There’s a huge market for it, especially since Game of Thrones entered our television screens, but tapping into that giant market is no easy task, and it’ll likely be a few more books till I’m there, but this is where my heart is, which is sometimes strange to think about. I walked so deeply into the indie lit community only to realise the books I wanted to write didn’t belong there. I mean, I have a few books that still fit quite nicely there, and I think Noir: A Love Story is perfect for that crowd, so look for that in a couple months. July.
But I am disappointed, and I think that I may be shrugging off a lot of this extra stuff I’m doing and just get back to writing. My time has become split by a thousand obligations, and I want to cutoff most of those, and probably will soon. I need to focus back on the words and fight for these books.
So, for now, if you’re still reading this, there’s the promotion I’m doing for the month of April where you can get a novella with Twilight of the Wolves for free. After April, I think I’ll be going underground for a while and just focusing on what really matters with this whole writing business: the words.
Twilight of the Wolves was released on Friday but now it’s April, and because it’s April, I decided to do a little special offer. So, for the entire month of April, when you buy any edition of Twilight of the Wolves I’ll also send you a digital copy of Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp.
It’s that simple. Just buy the book, show me the receipt, and I’ll get you my novella as well.
I thought this would be fun thing to do, and since they take place in the same world, I think they complement each other quite well as they both play with surrealism and fantasy. But, yeah, spread the word and buy a copy!
If you want more information about these two books, you can find them at their related pages:
Girl With Ears & Demon With Limp is a fast-paced, surreal rendition of a Medieval tapestry. Set within an infinite castle, from which a young wolven girl and an insane man wish to escape, it’s Kafka turned inside out. And like Kafka, these characters are seeking to make meaning for themselves in a world where meaning has vacated for other lands.
–Christopher Barzak, author of Before & Afterlives
edward j rathke has given us a fable bright with language, an adventure story, a coming-through-pain endurance test – but most of all, a lovely and touching tale about the place two forgotten outcasts make for themselves in the world.
–Amber Sparks, author of May We Shed These Human Bodies
Like a Terrence Malick film set in a universe as rich as Game of Thrones, Twilight of the Wolves is a different kind of fantasy novel: endlessly inventive, thoughtful, and almost painfully beautiful.
Twilight of the Wolves is an unusual and poetic epic fantasy, with a world, civilizations, and mythologies all of its own, yet unmistakably reminiscent of our past and current world. Best of all, Twilight of the Wolves puts on center stage the people and socioeconomic classes who are often marginalized, suppressed, or overlooked in other types of epic fantasy and secondary worlds, in a passionate and compassionate study of love, languages, and humanness.