I’ll be doing a proper post tonight, I hope – I apologise to my regular readers for the lack of them while the book’s been being put together. The book should be out very soon now – I’ve heard back from David Allison, Holly and Plok will both be getting their thoughts to me sometime today, and I don’t know if or when my fourth previewer will be able to get back to me (his involvement was conditional on other things, and he’s been extraordinarily busy). It’s days rather than weeks now.
Anyway, David has let me post some of his comments here, to give people an idea of what someone who’s actually read the book thinks:
I found the format a little frustrating for the first few chapters – I wanted more on each of the topics that you were writing about but you just kept pressing on. Still, better to leave people wanting more than to batter them into disinterest, eh? Since you DO return to most of your subjects more than once, this doesn’t end up being a problem, and as you well know the form suits your themes well.
Now I’ve always been a big fan of stories that express their themes in form as well as in content, and you’ve done that brilliantly here – the Best Man Fall/Mister Miracle chapter, which felt fun but slight on your blog, works perfectly as a culmination of what’s gone before. And then, typically, it turned out not to be the end of the book, but…. I genuinely think that if I hadn’t been “in” on this project in a couple of ways, if I was coming to it cold, then I would have probably went straight back to the start of your book and started reading it again when I got to that chapter. Please note: this is a feature, not a bug!
Make no mistake, I will read it again. I know I’m laying on the praise a bit thick here, but it’s well deserved. Like I said on That Twitter, these articles gain something by being collected in this way, which is important! There’s an implicit irony here, in that what they gain is a sense of cohesion, of authority even, but that doesn’t run contrary to what you’re trying to do – this is your story, and maybe it intersects with our own individual stories at points, but even when it doesn’t it’s good to know that it’s still going on without us…
Now, onto the crowdsourcing question. One of the articles in the book is this one, on Liberalism and Cybernetics. Now this is absolutely essential to the themes of my book, but it talks about the Lib Dems and was written pre-Coalition. I’ve attempted to address this with a footnote:
This essay was written before the Liberal Democrats joined a coalition government led by the Conservatives in 2010. This government has slightly less of this micro-managing tendency, though it has more than its fair share of other problems.
but I’m not sure this is enough. Put simply, the Lib Dems have such an image problem right now that two different people have told me (one of my proofreaders plus someone else on Twitter) that they’d had a visceral, gut reaction against seeing mention of the party in this context.
Now, I obviously don’t think that image problem is entirely justified, or I wouldn’t be a member of the party, but I do suspect that this means I might have to do some work on this essay, to separate Liberalism as a philosophy from the Lib Dems as a party from the Lib Dem/Conservative coalition government. As I see it, there are the following options:
1) Leave it as it is. It’s an accurate description of Liberalism and the Lib Dems. It’s not an accurate description of the current government, but it probably does a reasonable job of describing the Lib Dems’ role within that government, and the government is a temporary thing while the book will (hopefully) be permanent. And in some ways giving some readers that stumbling block might make them think more. Plus, the book is aimed at readers worldwide, and the image problems of the third-largest party in a small European country are not relevant to the vast majority of potential readers.
2) Replace it with What I Mean When I Call Myself A Liberal, which is a much more literal piece, and would work less well in the context of the book, but was written post-coalition so takes recent developments into account.
3) Put both the above pieces in. There’s duplication of material, but there’s also two articles about Darkseid, and two on Superman. Plus a longer book makes for better value. But do I really want to hit the readers over the head with my political views?
4) Write an entirely new piece containing elements of both the above, and run the risk of falling between two stools and being worse than either.
5) Other? (Suggestions welcome).
Note that removing the chapter is not an option. It’s not included to make readers sit through a party political broadcast about my own political views, or to win converts, but because it’s a cornerstone of the whole thing. Without that piece, the stuff I have to say about Batman comics, or Doctor Who spin-off novels, or fanfic, makes no sense.