C.S. Lewis once said “I was with book, as woman is with child,” and writing this story has helped me understand his sentiment. While I have certainly experienced an urgency to churn out a final draft before, this project was accompanied by what I can only describe as mortal dread. There was no logical reason to ask such a morbid question, but ask it I did: will I live to finish it–and what if I don’t?! This was also the first time that I was truly able to confess to a confidant, “My characters are saying things I didn’t expect them to say.” I have heard other, better authors describe a similar mid-draft realization that they are no longer in control…Let us hope it portends the same for me.
I hope–and frankly expect–never to experience such literary dread again, because, while I undoubtedly have much room to grow in terms of writing purely entertaining stories, this is likely the most meaningful story that I can muster. On the surface, it is about a near-future, wherein a One-World Leader visits the last person alive who dares to oppose her. But, much like an iceberg, its heaviest mass lies below, in the barbs these mortal enemies trade and the ramifications of their divergent beliefs. I have often thought that fiction writers are merely philosophers who are afraid to be boring, and this piece at least proves it in my case.
I am also pleased to offer two forwards, one by the ambitious sci-fi project VivaEllipsis.com, and the other by my dear friend Professor Hoheisel. I should also add that this work–like most valuable things on Earth–was forged somewhat in tragedy. The person to whom it is dedicated, an esteemed Doctor both of medicine and of philosophy, passed away shortly after reading it. It was he who told me I was capable of, and ought to tackle these subjects, and so I did. Indeed, the last communication I ever had with him was to the effect that he was pleased by the dedication, and looked forward to discussing it in depth. I hope to hold him to that, one day.
I can’t be the only weirdo that plans out their reading ahead of time–can I?
I thought I might share my reading list for the new year, either to inadvertently suggest a few titles for you, or to prompt you to share your own.
P.S. I may only be able to begin, rather than completely finish, the longest of these sets (Library of Presidents), unless I’m willing to bump something else to ’22, which I don’t think I am.
WW1 & WW2:
The History of the First World War Commemorative Edition
History of the World War by Frank H Simonds
The Second World War by Churchill
Pre-World War Combat:
Folio Society’s Middle Ages set
The Campaigns of Napoleon by David Chandler
Bourrienne’s Memoirs of Napoleon
The Complete Josephus
Easton’s Library of Presidents set
Sandburg’s Lincoln set
The World of Mathematics by James R Newman
The Book of Popular Science set
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Diamond
The Selfish Gene & The Blind Watchmaker by Dawkins
Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman by Richard Feynman
Thousand Cranes by Katabawa
The Ark Sakura by Abe
The Key by Tanizaki
Rashomon and Other Stories by Akutagawa
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez
Hunger by Hamsun
The Mists of Avalon by Bradley
Library of America #79, compilation of Raymond Chandler
Story of the Eye by Bataille
House of Leaves by Danielewski
Kafka on the Shore by Murakami
Snow Crash by Stephenson
I just received my first manuscript rejection from a New York literary agent.
I’m relieved to have this mandatory hazing ritual out of the way. Strangely, I feel more like “a real writer” now than any minor successes have ever caused. Perhaps I am consoled by a small sense of pride that this didn’t emotionally phase me. The juvenile phase of self-righteous indignation whenever someone calls “my baby” ugly has come and gone, thank God. (If fact, for a rejection it was quite civil).
I know that I’m happy with what I wrote; I know it can make some money for myself and some press; and I know there isn’t an agent or press on Earth who’s going to tell me “it’s perfect as it is; we’ll print it at once!”
There is an eerie peace to be had in knowing that it is now beyond my strength to alter without the aid of a professional editor. In some metaphysical sense, the process is already over. I just have to keep submitting.
A dear friend recently asked me to put together a “curricula” of essential books to read–preferably ones that would kick-start the imagination of a creative writer and inform their craft. To his and my surprise, the list that resulted only contains 60 titles, and could reasonably be read in a couple of years. Nonetheless, I believe this list could replace most Bachelor of Arts programs today (in information imparted, if not credentials).
So, if you would like to glean the equivalent of a liberal education for free from your local library, I hope this list helps narrow down your search.
P.S. I’d also enjoy hearing critiques from any fellow bibliophiles on what should or shouldn’t have been included.