We’re Going to Die. Everyone Reading Our Work Will Die. And That’s OK. Write On.

All roads traveled . . .

It looks like a few more of the publishing houses I’ve had the pleasure of working with have died. I just acquired the rough equivalent of a death knell from one of my former publishers, which I’ll leave unnamed because they haven’t given up the ghost yet. Obviously it is NOT EP or NBAS. They will live on FOREVER! I also found out that Pill Hill Press is no more, which is sad because I just barely got my hands on Shane McKenzie’s Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, which one of my stories appeared in quite some time ago. I hope it doesn’t go out of print. Shane did an awesome job on that one, and it was an honor to be included in an anthology with some of the greats in horror.

Found out a few months back that my second book, accepted last year, likely won’t be seeing the light of day any time soon. If it does under the publisher I’m currently (presumably) under contract with, there’s a chance it won’t get many sales due to author-publisher conflicts in the community I’m a part of. CLICK HERE for more info on that. This is the second time this damned book has been delayed due to folding presses. Black Sails expressed interest, then disappeared. It’s starting to become fairly common.

Of course it is time to re-evaluate my approach . . .

I’ve been thinking of carving my next novel into a fucking rock ledge somewhere, maybe an Adirondack slide or something. It should have some staying power then.

You won’t forget my bizarro cautionary tale of masturbation now, fuckers!

I think for many authors, the allure of the printed page surviving us is part of what drives us to write. Ever since I was 18, I’ve been obsessed with leaving more behind than two dates on a marbled stone with my name above it.

For a while I took solace in family. You know, at least our offspring will give a shit about the legacy we leave behind, right?

Then, when my grandfather died, I remember my father digging through a pile of trash to extract letters and pictures from our ancestors. They were discarded during auction because they had no monetary value. My dad fished them out, thankfully. Three or four generations go by and the legacy means little to most. Put all your eggs in the familial basket, you’re rolling the dice to lose. You become a footnote in your progeny’s legacy.

Friends are the same way. We can invest in others socially. We’re physiologically driven to do so. We can reinforce the importance of our peers. But when it comes right down to it, even if we outlive our peers by a decade or two, we’re all going to boil down to a pile of bones and a series of ideas we shared with others who also end up as bones. But don’t get me wrong. I still think there’s got to be something more, perhaps a selfless dedication to humanity as a whole.

Butterfly effect optimism. Some sort of pay it forward policy that can live on and make the world a better place.

There comes a point where we have to come to terms with the fact that we’re all going to end up as dust. The older I get, the more delusions start to become outweighed by reality, the more I’m reminded of Shelley’s “Ozymandias.” His kingdom turned to dust, and he was so arrogant and prideful that he never conceived of its demise. I’m not a big fan of classic poetry, but this guy hit the existential nail on the head. Pride, in all manifestations, is shortsighted at best.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

I find it amusing that in mythology, we conjure up these images of the muse, the timeless Calliope who grants us inspiration. Imagine: immortal beings concerned with scriptures that last only a handful of lifetimes. Any manuscripts that live longer are perverted into tools that cause pain and suffering just as often as, if not more than, enlightenment, (e.g. The Bible). Why would immortals ascribe so much importance to things that in the grand scheme of things are so insignificant?

Even more ironic is the fact that over time these legendary characters have become mere footnotes in modern fables that are little more than compilations of past lore. Calliope is relegated to cameo appearances in “high brow” popular fiction.

I like to believe that if she existed, she would have moved on to better things by now.

“Let me double check . . . yes. It says here that I give 0 fucks about your creative endeavors. I’m too busy helping Maroon 5 make timeless hits. Lolz. Just kidding. I don’t give a fuck about them either.

Despite this seemingly dismal foray into the reality of writing and publishing, I can’t stop. Like many of my friends, something compels me to move forward. But I’ve reached a new stage. I’m no longer infused with the sense of self-importance that once inspired my writing. I write expecting to fall on deaf ears, so that every time my voice is heard, it propels me forward. I feel like my stories and I are comrades in battle, and I become more of a veteran of the small press scene every time I see one of my stories go out of print in an anthology no longer published. I feel like a hero in some small way when I rescue a story or novel from imminent death. I’m hoping I can do that next year with the book I was supposed to publish with Spectacular Productions.

In a fucked up way, authors all like catchers in the rye for our stories. We stand at the edge of the field, trying to save our ideas from falling over a great precipice into non-existence. Each one is a part of us. Self-preservation is our instinct, and it is wonderful that artists have transcended the need to preserve only our biological kin, that artists produce ideas, images, experiences as offspring. There’s something romantic about the futility of trying to outlive ourselves against all odds.

Goodnight Moon: Good Morning Death

 

"Goodnight Moon"

“A great man in his pride . . .

Casts derision upon

Supersession of breath;

He knows death to the bone

Man has created death.”

~William Butler Yeats

 

“Goodnight Moon . . . Goodnight Air. Goodnight noises everywhere”

~Margaret Wise Brown

There’s only one time in your life that you say goodbye to everything you’ve come to know and love . . . and even dedicate a little time saying goodbye to the things you’ve come to hate: the shitty bowl of mush your “old lady” tries to pass off as food growing cold on the nightstand, the filthy rodent that’ll probably leave droppings in said mush as you rest comfortably ETERNALLY. Because when you’re about to kick off, even the fecal matter your little brother leaves on the toilet after he forgets to wipe his butt is endearing, and the tasteless, formless garbage your nation has sold to you as “food” reminds you that’s it’s better to have the faculties to hate and loathe than to have nothing at all.

"Goodnight Air"

Most poets paint death with a palette of the morose and depressing. There’s nothing good about dying. There’s no room for cliché rhymes and red balloons in the classic written rendering of death, until Margaret Wise Brown comes into the picture. In 1947, Brown threw all the conventions established by previous poets writing about death, bidding folks like Yeats and Donne to say “goodnight air” as she peppered her death poetry with balloons, bears, and cows jumping over the moon.

Goodnight, Uncle Jim.

Her work reminds us that death does not have to be a subject of woe. Death is best reminisced with a cocktail of kittens and mittens, chairs and bears. The proverbial spoonful of sugar Brown gives to us with her stylistic rendering helps the medicine go down, as it were, continuing the discourse established by her predecessors and taking it in a direction desperately needed by people today. This is not just a book about a stubborn rabbit with OCD who will not go to bed until he lists everything in his room. This is a story about the human condition, and a celebration of our greatest collective vulnerability. Read. This. Shit.