Every now and again, you catch a film by accident that originally landed completely outside of your radar, despite it being everything you enjoy in a movie. I watched Gattaca the other night, and was really quite taken aback that I’d missed this the first time around. Perhaps it was the title that put me off at the time, as it suggests nothing more than sci-fi pretension (not that that’s a bad thing, but for me it doesn’t in itself make a movie “must-see”. Instead, it was a clever, touching movie, with a mesmerising, twisty plot, extraordinary performances (Jude Law is hit and miss for me, but was wonderful here), and beautifully sculpted characters. For a writer in any medium, it’s a lesson in craft.
Why did none of you tell me about this movie before? Why did they give it a name like Gattaca, which communicates nothing at all about the content?
(Although I can talk, having authored a story called Mopleoli – prizes awarded to anybody who can work out why it’s called that before the tale is ultimately published…)
So, you’ve all pre-ordered Choices, haven’t you (UK or US – see previous entry)? With a release date of 31st December, it’s the perfect belated Christmas present to yourself (sure, you should buy it for your friends and family too, but ultimately it’s you I want to offer the pleasure to). I spent yesterday going over line edits of the typeset proof copy of my contribution, Radio Trauma, and sent them back to the publisher along with the signed contract. Reading the story again with my eyes switched on (to spot as many unchecked errors as I could before the tale gets pinned to the page by the wings, never to be amended again) makes me especially keen that you also get to see it. The cover price is hardly steep, so dive on in.
Dark Terrains launches on Thursday. I’m going to keep saying this, in several different ways, this week. This is the head’s up to those few reading this journal. Some FAQs:
What the hell is Dark Terrains?
A collection of my short fiction – nearly 60,000 words of it, complete with original art and extras.
How can I get it?
You’ll be able to download it for free, as an ebook.
Hang on, hang on – does that mean these are your cast off stories that you couldn’t sell, so you’re going to fob them off on me and pretend you’re doing me a favour?
Far from it. Of the thirteen stories in the collection, all but one has been previously purchased and published by somebody, somewhere. For the most part, the magazines and anthologies they appeared in are either difficult or impossible to find these days, and the rights to the stories have reverted back to me. For those readers who have been with me a while, and may have read many of these tales in their original publications, there’s an extra story presented here for the first time. There’s also a graphic novelette scripted by me and illustrated by the book’s artist, that has never been seen before.
Couldn’t you resell these stories?
Yes, for a pittance, but I’m not inclined to. They’ve all had their moment in various publications, and that makes me happy enough.
Okay – what’s the catch?
There isn’t one. Download the book. Read it. Enjoy it. It’s a huge sampler of my short fiction, that should give you an idea of whether or not you like it (just like The Flesh Remembers is a sampler of my long fiction). You should know within the space of a story or two whether or not you enjoy my work. That in turn means you’ll have an idea, next time I announce a new story in an anthology, whether or not you want to buy it. It’s all about finding potential readers, and there’s no trick involved.
So, I don’t have to do anything?
If you read it and like it, there are some things you can do to help me out if you want to. You could mention it/review it on your blog, and see if your own readers want to give it a try. You could email it to your friends, or offer it as a download from your website. You could post/repost a bulletin about it on Myspace. You could tell your work colleagues about it. You could print it off, and wallpaper your bedroom with it. Anything that might encourage somebody else to read it, can only be a good thing, and is payment enough for me.
Isn’t some of that illegal file-sharing?
Nope. The ebook has a Creative Commons licence on it, which lets you share it with anybody you like as long as you don’t charge people for it, change the content, or try to pass it off as your own. The whole point of the book is that people read it. Every time somebody reads it, it becomes a little bit more real.
I’m interested, but I hate reading from the screen.
Print it off, then.
I could, but I can hardly store it on a bookshelf under ‘W’, can I?
Ah, you want a ‘proper’ book. Wait a few weeks. I’ll be publishing the whole tome in paperback and hardback. That won’t be free, but if you’re a paper-lover, it could be for you. In the meantime, at least flick through a story in the ebook – if you’re going to put your money down, you want to preview what you’re buying first. Think of it as flicking through a paperback at a bookshop before you buy. In the meantime, if you like the sample you read, pass the free version on to somebody else who might too.
Is this ebook just a sales technique for the paperback and hardback?
No. When I published the ebook of The Flesh Remembers, I had several people write to say that they wished they could read it, but couldn’t bring themselves to do so on the screen. I produced the paperback based on that feedback. I don’t make much money off these books – so far The Flesh Remembers (UK or US) has earned back what it cost me to produce and distribute (which wasn’t much in the first place). Other than that, I’ve seen the value of some fast food extravaganzas out of it. The paperback of that book didn’t make me rich, and nor will the hardcopy of Dark Terrains.
Okay, I feel bad. You did all that writing, I’m going to enjoy the book, but you get nothing back for it. I’m an independently wealthy eccentric – can I Paypal you some cash to ease my conscience?
No. If you feel that bad, buy a paperback in six weeks or so, and I’ll get a small royalty. I like the idea of the hardcopy sitting on your shelf for posterity’s sake. Better yet, tell your friends about it, or email them a copy.
Is the paperback going to have lots of extras, to make us mugs who take the free version have to pay later?
No. They’re identical in every way.
What’s the table of contents, then?
Okay, here’s a run down of the fiction.
Which Image Am I?
Theatre Is Beauty, Theatre Is Pain
Salvation (original to Dark Terrains)
The Jealous Dead
One Bad Day
Meek of the Earth
The Ghosts of Christmas Presents
When The Stars Throw Down Their Spears
His Work To See (graphic novelette, original to Dark Terrains)
That’s a lot of FAQs. Can you summarise?
The collection is released in ebook format on Thursday 26th October.
Come back then, and download it.
Point other people towards it, or just email it straight to them.
Post a bulletin about it on Myspace, or write a blog about it.
Help me put it in the hands of as many people likely to enjoy short bites of dark fiction as you possibly can.
Questions? Feel free to drop me a line with them, or comment them here for anybody else to read. And pop back tomorrow, when I’ll show you what the cover looks like…