I’m thinking about putting together an anthology of short stories by my favorite indie authors – it would be given away for free, probably on sites like Smashwords and Feedbooks, and would include links to the authors’ sites or wherever they’d like to direct people to find more of their writing (whether free or not). If you’re an indie author whose stories have been reviewed here (and therefore through my review blog) you are automatically eligible and I will likely be contacting you (unless you want to pre-emptively contact me firstby email at firstname.lastname@example.org) to see if there’s a particular story you’d like included. I have my own ideas about that as well. Other readers of the blog are welcome to send a short story as well, if interested, and I’ll be glad to consider them all for inclusion. I don’t have a deadline in mind for this, but that will come along at some point. For now, it’s just a notion. Thanking you in advance ..
In the interview with Cesar Aira I posted the other day, he speaks of how his ideal story is the fairy tale, and he mentions Sheherezade in that regard, and this echoed a theme I’ve been thinking of lately, realizing that as a boy raised on fairy tales I have a similar notion. Of all the stories I’ve written, my personal favorite is “Secret Sidewalk”, which is a sort of Arabian Nights-type tale, a series of yarns spun by a young boy trying to talk his little brother to sleep. The setting is a shabby modern broken-down urban waterfront neighborhood and the stories fit into that world, so it is a far cry from faeries and genies and that sort of thing, although there are parallels here and there. Aira also talks of an intersection of surrealism and hyper-realism, another connection with Secret Sidewalk as well as other of my stories. They have an element of the fantastic, whether it be science-fiction-y or generically myth-y, but the stories are told in a most realistic manner, striving to be as down-to-earth as possible given those ingredients. An example of this is “World Weary Avengers”, in which there is a gadget that allows its user to implant thoughts in the minds of passersby, and the inventor uses it for panhandling. Hey, a cup of coffee isn’t free! I enjoy that kind of thing.
I recently found a worthless ring in the street – nothing special about it, probably cost 99 cents if that much – but as a found object nonetheless it hints of magic just for that reason. I’ve been tempted to write a fairy-tale-type story around it, but in this case it would be a decidedly “un-magic” ring. Useless as it is, the ring nevertheless possesses a certain value, engenders a set of hopes and dreams in its wearer. A contrarian fairy-tale of sorts, but the story would need more than that, more than the simple magic of failure which adorns our daily life so efortlessly. In the fairy tales of my childhood such a ring, so common and cheap, would undoubtedly lead to great achievements of luck and glory. It may fail the first and second son, but the third son would ultimately triumph over every odd and obstacle.
I did once write a novel called “The Magic of Failure”. Great title, but the book was an utter fiasco. Who knows, maybe I will re-purpose the title. It does seem daunting, though. A doomed title if you will.
But the ring is only one idea. I generally need a cluster of notions before anything starts to form, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Anyone who disapproves of free e-books can happily ignore this post.
Most of the websites offering free e-books suffer from the general haystack problem. Most of the needles are rather prickly (in the erotica sense) featuring all sorts of billionaires and spankings and so forth. Some of the sites I like, such as Feedbooks, are dominated by porn to such an extent that most “literary” types have given up on using them. Smashwords still suffers from discoverability problems, as do free-ebooks.net and Obooko which have all sorts of stuff if you can figure out how to wade through them.
I like Bibliotastic because it’s “curated” (I know, a tacky geek word, but how else to put it?). They don’t just publish anything that’s thrown at them, but make an attempt to preview and review and filter the books they wish to be associated with. It’s a small-business operation, worthy of support, and I’m flattered to have some of my books included in their selection. You can also find books their by some of my favorite indie authors, such as Paul Samael and Opposite Books
From Paul’s comment below: “For anyone interested in knowing a bit more about Bibliotastic, here’s an interview with one of its founders, James Crawshaw
I feel a genuine affinity with Aira. A lot of what he says are things I say all the time, and we do write in a similar vein, and in a similar way. One point he makes that resonates with me is how one should strive to bring something new and different to the reader. This has long been the dividing line, to me, between ‘business-writers’ and ‘artist-writers’.
On the one hand for many readers, books are analogous to other entertainment vehicles – they want and expect a certain experience, an experience that should be more or less the same each time, the way that a cup of coffee or a bottle of beer or a glass of wine or a television episode or a movie drama produce the same effects every time. So they sit down to the book looking forward to the essential elements – character and plot and climax and denouement. When the reading experience does not trod those paths, there is a sense of disappointment. These are not the readers who would seek out a Cesar Aira or a Roberto Arlt or Robert Walser or Clarice Lispector or any writer who refuses the obvious choices but instead provides something original and unexpected. Personally, I love that. It’s what I read for. In some ways I’m the opposite of the commercial reader – anything that hints of ‘typical conventional’ makes me want to put it down.
While the business-writers worry about price points and marketing strategies (“is 99 cents too cheap to sell my soul for? Okay, then, how about two dollars and ninety nine cents!”), and struggle to master the paint-by-number elements of success, I prefer the amateur worry-free status. Aira hits on this theme as well, in this article, where he writes
“Luckily, there is a third alternative: the avant-garde, which, as I see it, is an attempt to recuperate the amateur gesture, and to place it on a higher level of historical synthesis.”
There’s no shortage here either: “When understood in this sense – as inventors of procedures – the relevance of avant-garde artists today is clear: they have populated the twentieth century with treasure maps waiting to be discovered and exploited.”
One can still create such things. Regardless of the rule of commercialism, there is always room – and a great need – for innovation, for trial and error, for amateurs and hobbyists who don’t have to go around putting a price tag on every last crumb.
An interesting idea. Supposed to show you authors you would enjoy reading if you enjoy reading the one you enter.
I can’t help reading online reviews, it’s a guilty pleasure, but ultimately meaningless. People are all over the place and you don’t know them anyway. I suppose you can take away some insight every now and then but usually I find that the more you look into it a review and the person behind it, the more the whole thing just cancels itself out.
Case in point. My old story “The Part Time People” received two new reviews yesterday on Amazon, a one-star and a three-star. The reviews were sparse, one-sentence affairs that didn’t say much, but I went and looked at the other reviews by the same people and found this: the one-star reviewer has often handed out single stars, but also bestowed five-stars on some “billionaire” porn story. So, okay. This ain’t my ideal reader. The other reviewer had only one other review, where she gave two stars to Jack London’s White Fang. I think she felt sorry for the wolf that it ended up on a farm. I can tell you one thing for absolutely sure. My story in no way deserves more stars than White Fang.
The Part Time People is my most-reviewed book on Amazon – 35 in all – and the spread is interesting:
5 stars - 9
4 stars – 7
3 stars – 6
2 stars – 7
1 star – 6
Does this make any sense at all? The average is 3.2 on Amazon (2.5 on Goodreads, where my stories’ ratings are almost always 0.5-1.0 points lower than on Amazon itself). It’s just all over the place.