So, anyway, yesterday was spent on the afterword for The Merewife prologue. Yes, it's true. I have written a prologue and an afterword with no actual novel in between. How frelling postmodern is that? Hold on. I feel a moment coming on: The pure space between the prologue and the afterword is preserved as a null set, an unstated instance upon which the perceiver may project his or her own unique, individual vision of the transgressive potential only implied by the author. In so doing, Kiernan has demonstrated that the "novel" itself is redundant and that it's position may be occupied by a functional surrogate. I think one reason that I didn't make a career of Academia is that absurdist crap like that last sentence comes to me far too easily. I once ghost wrote the last portion of a friend's Master's thesis, even though I knew nothing of the subject at hand. I didn't need to. I just needed the right Key Words to add to the Appropriate Jargon. Anyway, yes, the afterword for The Merewife is written (1,854 words), and I hope people will find it interesting. I'll do a little editing on the chapbook today, then send it away to Subterranean Press.
There was a wonderful bit in docbrite's journal yesterday, which I think I'll quote (though I'm pretty sure most people who read me also read her, and, to some degree, vice versa):
...I have decided I believe self-indulgent writing is generally of a higher quality, more enjoyable to read, and likelier to touch a chord in readers' hearts than non-self-indulgent writing. It surprises me not at all that most of the people complaining about "self-indulgence" seem to be unpublished writers. I think they'd have a better chance of becoming published writers if they indulged themselves a little rather than diligently doing the things they were taught to do and avoiding the things they were taught not to do in all those writing classes. That's one of the ways you develop a voice.
I think that a new definition of "self-indulgence," relative to authorial actions, has just occurred to me. The "self-indulgent" authors are the ones who have so little respect for The Reader that they keep colouring outside the lines. The hypothetical non-"self-indulgent" author, on the other hand, rightly understands the lines were put there for a reason and that a good piece of fiction is not unlike a paint-by-number portrait of Elvis Presley.
To wit, and speaking of insipid, this comment on the same subject, which I found yesterday:
And thus the writing is correctly labelled "self-indulgent." Because it's the point where the the writer stopped caring about the reader, stopped caring about fulfilling his part of the reader-writer contract...Now, if you're the sort of writer who genuinely doesn't give a damn about the reader, and considers writing to be inherently self-indulgent, then hey, that's cool. Just please ask your publisher to put such a label on your book covers, 'kay? Because I would rather give my money to writers who are at least trying to earn it.
I know this is probably one of those "it's just me" things, but, for my part, there is no frelling "reader-writer contract." I write stories that I feel compelled to write. I write them precisely and only the way that I feel compelled to write them. The good parts — that's me. The lousy parts — that's me, too. When I have written them, I offer them to readers via publishers, readers who, coincidentally, may like what I've done or may despise what I've done. They may even be indifferent to what I've done. Because these stories have arisen from the interplay of my psyche, my experiences, my particular talent, and my own little corner of the collective unconscious, there's no predicting or controlling how reader's will respond. The only contract that exists is between me and my publisher. And if readers respond in the negative, I do not rework what I've done to make them happy, because, near as I can tell, that would defeat the purpose and would make a lie of a possibly flawed and unpopular but nonetheless true thing. I "earn" my income as a writer, such as it is, by writing as best I can, not by catering or pandering or sucking at the teat of popular tastes or whatever. What this person is asking for is "consumer-safe" books. I suspect that they'd like to see money-back guarantees, as well.
Why is it so difficult for some people to understand that there is a difference between "caring about the reader" and pandering to the reader's desires? Could it be, perhaps, at least in part, because their rampant self-importance is clogging up the works? That is, it's not enough for them to simply read a book. They must insert themselves more directly into the process of composition. They must magnify their importance and attempt to so pervert the act of writing that it is being done for them and to their own precise dictates of what is Good and what is Bad. Make no mistake — I want readers, and I am very pleased when someone is pleased with what I have written. But it is precisely because I respect my readers that I will not try to write what I imagine or am told they want to read, 'kay? The "reader-writer contract," indeed.