This little blog feels like a community to me.
To be sure, you are not all my friends, nor am I yours. Some of you make me grit my teeth and scowl a lot; others make me roll my eyes. But all of you–regulars and occasional visitors and people I admire and people who just barely tolerate me–are part of the little world that makes up this blog. Those people (I believe there are three total) that I’ve banned, I’ve banned because they interfered with that feeling.
That’s what gives me the freedom to talk about what’s on my mind, whether politics, philosophy, writing, whatever. I’m comfortable here. If I want to talk about my feelings regarding the upcoming release of The Incrementalists, I trust you people to let me ramble and not assume I’m trying to publicize it (I’ve done enough of that, for chrissakes)–in short, to understand that I just kind of need to organize what’s in my head.
I want to talk about my feelings regarding the upcoming release of The Incrementalists.
Jen and I are in Austin where Skyler, Scott, and Egan White have graciously put us up. Skyler and I have been working. In between sections of the new one, I’ve been checking my email to see if samples of the audio book have arrived yet, and going to Goodreads to see if the rating has maybe climbed a bit, and watching the counter at Incrementalistsbook.com tick down, and checking to see if there are any new reviews.
Those are things I never do.
I honestly do not understand why this book feels so different to me. I’ve had books that were as much fun to write (The Phoenix Guards), and books that gave me the same glow of a job well done (Agyar) and some that filled me with the same combination of humility, awe, and pride at what I’d been a part of (The Gypsy, Freedom and Necessity). But this one is different in ways I do not understand, and many of the effects are not good.
I have taken “marketing” myself well beyond the point I could ever imagine I’d do. I am working with a publicist at Tor. Me. Working with a publicist. WTF? I’ve never done that. I’ve never felt the desire to do that. I could never have imagined myself doing that. Yet, here I am. Now, I have to say, that part is (for now) a lot of fun, and it feels really good to be treated like a bit of a star. No complaints. But why am I doing it, and why do I care? It isn’t a career thing, because I am still woefully incapable of thinking in career terms: it’s about the book.
In some measure, one is always--always–blind to the quality of one’s own work, or at least to how it will be received: look at how many people like Yendi or Cowboy Feng; at how many people do not like Teckla or Agyar. That’s part of the biz. But this time, I can’t keep the difference between how I feel about it and how the reader will feel about it from getting into my head. Just for the record: if you are a writer, don’t do that. Don’t let that happen. It is a bad thing.
In my head, this book is special–an achievement in which I went beyond myself–a master work. In my head. Only in my head. That is hard to grasp. By now, I’ve seen several reviews. Some of them are all I could wish for, and more (“call it genius at work”!!! and the one by the Little Red Reviewer that I’ve reread twenty times). And of course, some of them just pan the book, and those aren’t terribly upsetting.
But many reviews, like the wonderfully perceptive one by Stefan Raets at Tor.com, are saying, in essence, “Yeah, I liked it. Flawed, but not bad.” The question of, “Why are you reading reviews, you idiot?” is valid, but beside the point. What is dawning on me is that the book is, well, a solid, fine, decent novel I can be proud of. It is not the potential award-winner that I’ve always craved more than I’d like to admit; it is not the book that will turn the entire sf community on it’s ear; it is not the book that will go out into the world and leave huge footprints. It is a good story well told; some will come to love it as much as I do, some will hate it, and some will go, “Oh, that one. Yeah, I enjoyed it.” Just like other books.
It is not a problem that the book is like that; it is a problem that I care that the book is like that. And it is a problem that I don’t know why. Why this one and none of the others? All of the stupidities and insecurities of the first-time author are popping up in me, right down to the urge to obsessively call my editor and say, “How are pre-orders?” I know better than to do these things; I just don’t understand why, after thirty years, I suddenly want to.
This post constitutes an effort to get past that, to put it away. Right now, it is not interfering with my ability to work–work on new stuff is going extremely well. But when, in just under 5 days, the book hits, and the entire universe does not instantly change, that’s when I fear it’ll start fucking with my work. And I cannot let them happen.
So I’m telling you about it, in hopes that just expressing these things will help alleviate them.
Thanks for listening.