Mortality Bridge: Now More Hell Per Dollar!

Thanks in part to the influence of Cory Doctorow’s reach on BoingBoing, and to the responsiveness of the good folks at e-Reads, the price of the trade paperback (large-format softcover, if you will) of Mortality Bridge is now $19.95.

As someone who winced whenever he saw the original $23.95 price, I can tell you that I am relieved and happy about this. Sure, I make less money per sale. But given this more reasonable price, I will probably sell more copies.

Would I rather sell more books for less money? You bet. If I had great business acumen, I doubt I’d have picked writing as a profession. The truth is, writers want to be read, sometimes unpragmatically so. Otherwise I’d just have one copy available and I’d price it at $100,000, and then wait and hope I score that sale. Sure, the odds aren’t good — but I just need one!

Fortunately for both of us, that ain’t the case, and you can get the very handsome trade paperback here for the New! Low! Price! of $19.95! operators are standing by call by midnight tonight get your free ginsu knives never needs winding lasts all month on a single charge minty fresh ZOMG whAt r U wtNg 4!

Drafty in Here

About 75% of what got tossed.

Nothing makes me feel like one of those reality-show rat-warren hoarders more than confronting the things I’ve hauled from garage to garage for years with some notion that Someday I Will Need These. I’ve been moving the same set of paper-marbling combs for 15 years, ferchrissake, entirely because they’re such a pain in the ass to make.

Among the things that have been taking a Garage Tour of America are manuscript drafts. I tend to keep the significant drafts & marked revisions of novel manuscripts. I tell myself they’re an important map of My Process. But now that I’m playing Apartment Tetris with all this stuff, I’m thinking, you know, I don’t really see any universities begging for my papers so that PhD theses can be mined for posterity.

Mortality Bridge, for example. I probably revised it 40 or 50 times. I kept the major revisions, and I had at least 12 incarnations of the thing here. We’re talking 6600 sheets of paper. Carry enough of those up and down stairs and you’ll get to where you don’t care if it’s a signed first edition of the Old Testament — it’s outta here. And I’m not exactly First Folio Shakespeare; no one’s gonna bid on V3.1 of The Gnole on eBay.

So I decided to throw out my intermediate-draft manuscripts and keep only firsts and finals. Early versions of the continuation of The Architect of Sleep? Gone. The second draft of Ariel? History.

The survivors

I looked at those about-to-be-tossed drafts on my couch (there were even more than in the picture) and thought about the time and effort they embodied. Four of those novels were never published.

I also thought about how many reviews I’d read, how many emails I’d gotten, that mentioned how I don’t write very much, or had stopped entirely for 25 years, or whatever bullshit makes the rounds until it becomes irrevertible. It’s enough to make you eat a bottle of tequila.

At the end of the day, though, what really matters is where those drafts led to.  All the blind alleys, deleted scenes, rephrasings, tightening, clarity, rhythm, proofreading — they’re the dirt left behind as you dig your way to that final draft. Understanding that made it easier to throw it all away.

And now it truly may be said that Boyett recycles his stories.


Cory & Stewart Brand, moments before returning to the mothership

Last night I went to hear Cory Doctorow lecture on “The Coming Civil War Over General-Purpose Computing,”  for Stewart Brand’s The Long Now Foundation in San Francisco. I met Cory in 2010 at World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal, and I just wanted to box him up and take him home. We were on a panel together, and I found Cory intimidatingly knowledgeable and articulate.

I was familiar with Cory’s work on issues of intellectual property, privacy, and individual rights in the 21st Century. I’d been thinking along similar lines for a few years, and when I ran across Cory and Lawrence Lessig I saw that here were people who had not only cogently articulated ideas I’d been messing with, they had become movers & shakers in those areas.

I hadn’t read any of Cory’s fiction, and after meeting him I read a bunch.  I’ve found it as engaging as Cory himself. His wonderfully subversive YA novel Little Brother is an Anarchist Cookbook for young teens.

The big surprise for me was Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. It’s a flat-out, unapologetic magical-realist techno-activist science-fiction fantasy. (Whew.) It’s dark, and it’s loaded with exactly the kind of urban grit detail a book like this needs to stay grounded. It’s also the most lyrically written thing I’ve read by Cory, with a sustained mood and poetic tone that make it one of my favorite novels I’ve read in the last few years.

I’m pretty sure it’s also Cory’s least commercially successful novel. It doesn’t explain itself, it demands that you accept some baldly stated impossibilities, and it can’t possibly be catering to the nuts & bolts technophile audience who usually gobble Cory’s work like crack-filled bonbons. But for me it has the urgent immediacy of a book its author simply had to write, a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” insistence.

I tend to like artists’ “B” sides. Chances they take, things they knock out with no notion where they’re going or if they’ll even sell, much less make money. You can just feel the artist not playing it safe. (Gene Wolfe’s Latro books are like that for me — I’d bet they are among his least-selling novels, but they’re by far is most evocative and interesting. For me, anyhow.)

I was surprised to learn that last year was Cory’s first time at Burning Man. I was not surprised to learn that he is going again this year. And I’m delighted to learn that by doing so, he will be blowing off WorldCon for the first time in 18 years. The Playa will do that to you. And while I think Cory has a lot to offer WorldCon, I think Burning Man has a lot to offer Cory.

I would never say this to Cory directly, for fear of looking like a squeeing fanboy, but he is one of my heroes. His stances on the sham that is current intellectual property law, the fundamental humanism that makes him a revolutionary at heart, and his unwavering dedication to telling the world when the emperor has no digital clothes — they’re all traits of someone fighting the Good Fight.