Muddying the Waters


We’re in this precarious season of freeze and thaw.

It’s a lovely thing, because it feels like Spring already. If we were in Wyoming, with all the snow that’s fallen, we wouldn’t be looking for it to thaw for months. In Santa Fe, the days warm up with gentle kindness, the birds swoop about singing with excitement and the road gets muddy as hell.

I’m talking deep ruts. That freeze at night.

But, aside from a filthy mailbox, it isn’t really that bad. I’m curious to see if I’ll have to wash the mailbox or if the Spring rains will take care of that. I’ve never washed a mailbox in my life.

I printed out my novel, Obsidian, yesterday. I can’t believe I haven’t used “Obsidian” as a label before, since I’ve prattled about it ceaselessly on this blog. What does it mean? Maybe just that I know the title could change (even though I think it’s a really good one). Now that Allison is hashing out her book deal, they’re discussing how to change her title. She doesn’t seem to mind, since Laurell K. Hamilton already stole the title she really wanted.

At any rate, I printed the whole thing out to send to a sci fi/fantasy author friend who (with incredible generosity) offered to read it and help me bypass the slush piles of a few people she thinks might like it.

It’s a huge stack of paper. Heavy.

It surprised me that I hadn’t printed out the whole thing before. And it put me in mind of the days way back when I first set my writerly goals. I was working with the concepts of visualizing what I wanted, but wasn’t sure what I was going to write. I knew, too, that I needed to be specific. (Be careful what you wish for!) So I visualized a manuscript, a stack of paper full of good writing.

When I printed out the final full manuscript of Wyoming Trucks to send to my editor at UNM Press, I experienced a moment of deja vu to see it looked exactly as I’d envisioned.

But with Obisidian, though I’ve sent out the full manuscript, I’ve always sent it electronically. Where paper, the post office and the mailbox used to be such a major part of my writing life — and least the sending it out into the world part — now it’s really all via email. Which is great in many ways: cheaper, faster, more green, less resource-intensive.

It’s also less weighty.

I saw this article yesterday, via the New York Times Science tweet. There have been a number of similar studies lately verifying this phenomenon of our brains, that what we think does have a physical effect on the world. This one is particularly interesting because they found that subjects assigned greater importance to things that were heavier.

You scoff? Go read the article. I’ll wait.

Isn’t that interesting? And you’re thinking the same thing I am, right: ebooks.

After all of the bruhaha over the Amazon/MacMillan tussle over how much ebooks are worth, I wonder about how our animal brains value something that has no weight. That, in some ways, has no physical existence. The publishers insist that a book shouldn’t be worth less because it’s not printed on paper. But all of us know that creating a document electronically and sending it via the ether is cheaper. No matter how you spin it, all of us who no longer budget for paper, toner and postage can tell you that.

Certainly the publishers add value, through selection and refinement of the work. As do the agents who bring it to the publishers. And the booksellers who bring it to the readers. I noticed that, in all of the opinions flying around, most were from the publishers, agents and booksellers. A couple mentioned the readers. Almost no authors have spoken up. An oppressed people, we.

But, if we’re to look at the core value, what people pay for is the story. Which has always been intangible. Which might be why the author’s contribution to the equation tends to weigh less heavily.

I’m thinking, though, for important submissions I might invest in paper. Thick stuff with a formal feel.

I might have to wash the mailbox.

2 Replies to “Muddying the Waters”

  1. Heh. I wouldn't say LKH *stole* it exactly. Just that she already has a title with the name I would have liked to use. Alas. I shall need to come up with something else. 🙂

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