My agent is a very smart and talented man, and I agree with him almost all the time, and sometimes I have doubts. Nagging doubts. I am mortal, you see, and no matter what when you are a writer you are plagued with doubts. Is this the right project to pursue? Is this good enough? What if the market shifts and this sort of thing becomes cliche? Am I going to get paid on time this time, or do I get to wait for months again before the unnamed group that owes me money pays me the money I need to live…
Lots of doubts and confusion in the career of a writer, you see. And, we have most of the day to sit around and think about things, and it takes a strong force of will to quiet ones’ doubts.
I have doubts. I agree with my agent, in theory, but I have doubts.
My literary agent has advised me to put this particular project on hold for a while, and even then thinks only the smallest of the small publishers would be after it. I agree with him, in part, because I can only think of a handful of places to submit this particular integrated collection of stories, none of them offering the sort of advances I could muster with the literary steampunk cinderella story I’m pulling out of my head with sharp tines at the moment.
Then, I second-guess my agent because I also think that maybe this is a powerful thing that the world would love, if it knew it existed, and maybe some of it is the best writing I’ve done to date. My imagination will not let this go. My gut will not let this go. I think maybe my agent knows epic fantasy really well, and literary fiction really well, and the in-between stuff maybe he doesn’t know so well because there isn’t the sort of money involved that one would get with the stuff that has a clear category, but defining a category is the way to build a career and my gut says this is the right thing to pursue and publish. I think that the writers that have seen pieces of this project, the good writers like Liz Hand and Scott Wolven and Jim Kelly, have completely flipped out for it.
Pieces of this thing have been selling to magazines. One was in The Raleigh Review. Another was in the Journal of Unlikely Entomology. Another will be in Paul Jessup’s Coffin Mouth. When it comes to Greek Mythology, the women and the monsters never get to tell their own stories. Always they are the tossed-away baggage and victims and ruins left in the wake of the gods, goddesses and mighty heroes, who all mostly acted like selfish asshats and were praised for it. We all think of Orpheus, and never wonder what Eurydice wanted when she did not answer to her name, or what the Nemean Lion thought about becoming such an icon of a monstrous man, or what happened to Ariadne after she was abandoned on an island and had to just live her own life after the labyrinth and after Theseus. (Gosh, Theseus was such an ass…) Circe was a mighty sorceress with her own goddamn island but all anyone remembers is that a man committed adultery there, abandoning her wondrous immortality for a woman that he wouldn’t see for nineteen years. Nausicaa became a woman without Odysseus around, and maybe she had her own odyssey. The muse never gets to tell her own version of things. Sing, muse, for yourself.
Anyway, it’s a book. It’s very strange. It’s shifty, too, with some things in the past and some things in the now, and many things in between places, with magic and whimsy and surrealism as casual as breathing. I’m trying hard to clean up the last three of the fictions that I think that I want: Io and Cerynitis and Aphrodite/Athena. Maybe there’s more stories to tell, because there are so many women and monsters of mythology that didn’t get to speak their own stories.
I want this book to be in the world somewhere. My instinct is telling me once it is picked up it will be loved by the sort of people you want to love your books, the sort who read lots of them and share them with others and really care about them. My agent says no one will want it but the smallest of the small presses, and we should sit on it a while because maybe I’m going to keep writing more of them and maybe the market isn’t ripe for this sort of thing. Maybe it won’t be for a long while. I don’t know if I agree with him or not, the more I think about it, because if the writing is good – if it is really, really good – maybe. Just maybe.
What do you think, world? Anyone out there have any ideas or insight?
Do you, my fans, become excited at the thought of a Literary Steampunk Cinderella story, or would you prefer more surrealism and fabulism?
When I wake up tomorrow, I will work on what you tell me to work on, either/or. It is unfair not to say too much about the steampunk project when I go on about the other one, but the very words “Literary Steampunk Cinderella” are about enough when you consider the sort of books I have already written, and sort of what that might look like in my capable hands.
What should I work on today?
I’ll be volunteering on this farm until late afternoon. When I get home, we’ll make dinner with what they give us on the farm, and then I will work. My time working will be dictated by you.
(Also, if you happen to be a publisher and your interest is piqued by this collection idea, no harm in dropping me a line, is there? I mean, it’s not anyone’s fault you read this on my blog. No harm telling me why it would never work, either.)