I don’t judge a book by it’s cover; I judge it by the number of blurbs the new paperback includes.
Very early in Inferno, I realized that Dan Brown’s career-long fetish for ellipses had reached a whole new level. Basically, ellipses are the hero of the book. They make their first appearance on the dedication page.
Sam Anderson’s (and David Rees’s!) marginalia is the best thing on the internet.
Recently my wife and I were wondering what we’d do if we knew we only had a couple months to live. We like to talk about things like that, as well as dystopian scenarios, the end of civilization, murder, and the right proportion of basil versus spinach in pesto.
So, the first thing out of my mouth was that I’d make sure all my affairs were taken care of. You know, so my loved ones wouldn’t have to worry about anything. Then the next thing out of my mouth was, “And I’ll give you instructions on what to do with my unfinished novels.”
So, here I am. About to die. Just weeks of life on Earth. And I would spend that valuable time writing instructions to my grieving wife on how to finish the novels I’m working on.
What’s interesting is that my wife didn’t even bat her eye at that. Of course, she’d expect that and would happily comply. Why? Well, she’s an author too, and so understands the compulsive instinct on perpetuating these stories that authors dream up.
Then it occurred to me–what is so Earth-shattering about my novels that they MUST absolutely outlive me. Let’s face it folks, I’m not Hemingway. I wrote fiction designed to be un-literary. I write genre fiction, along with millions of other people who have better stories, better characters, and better plot development. I’m not trying to change the world. I’m not desperate to reveal a mankind-evolving message. I’m storytelling.
I mean, it’s really quite embarrassing that I would, in my core, believe that the self-admitted non-literary genre fiction I write should ever be considered more than what it is. I write because I love to tell interesting stories. That’s it and that’s all. Why do I then have an instinct to keep the stories going, especially since the whole purpose is to enjoy writing them? What joy is my wife going to have writing her dead husband’s material?
Okay, look. I’m not being self-deprecating here, I’m actually trying to explore this instinct a bit. Is it about creating an important legacy? Is there some deeper meaning in my stories that my subconscious believes transcend my limited perception of them? Is it just vanity?
I couldn’t tell you. One thing I can say is that it’s important to keep these things in perspective. If I only had three months to live, I really don’t think preparing most posthumous literature is a good use of time. Maybe it’s better I spend that time with the people I love.
The good news is, I have no intention of going anywhere. So there may be a time I write some earth-shattering society-changing pulitzer novel. Until that day, I will happily embrace the brevity and short-term satisfaction inherit in speculative fiction.