4 June 2008

Eminently Possible Impossibilities

Filed under: Ktismata, Psychology, Reflections — ktismatics @ 7:22 am

When I started writing fiction I had a couple things in mind. First, I became simultaneously attracted to and frustrated by states of the world that could easily come into existence but that at the same time seem impossible to realize. Second, I believed that, by describing and animating these eminently possible impossibilities, readers would want to explore them with me. Perhaps through some kind of intersubjective synergy between writer and readers, the impossible might start to approach real possibility.

As it has turned out, not many people I’ve approached seem able to enter into the slightly-alternate realities that I’ve put forward. Is it that through poor craftsmanship I’ve not come up with the right words to usher the reader through the portal into these other realities? Is it because the alternate realities really are more alien to most people’s sensibilities than I originally thought, rendering my books unapproachable? Is it because they’re not alien enough and seem too mundane, too boring to bother with

In my rare intervals of lucidity I’d say that it’s just a matter of not having found the right readers. Even a book that sells a million copies in America leaves another couple hundred million potential readers who for one reason or another didn’t buy the book. So if even a best-seller reaches only 1/200th of the reading public, why do I expect to have an orders-of-magnitude better hit rate among the few friends I’ve asked to read my book or the few agents I’ve sent it off to?

Usually though, I alternate between obsessive rage, neurotic depression, and anhedonic passivity. The ones who don’t want to read: I want to force them to read. The ones who read but don’t like: I want to make them like. I’m frustrated when they don’t, frustrated by their unwillingness to give me satisfaction. But then I decide that what I’m offering doesn’t intrigue or stimulate them. I neither attract nor satisfy their desire. And so I think about changing the books to make them more attractive, more tantalizing, more popular. But I don’t know how to do it: this book is what I see, what I create, the product of who I am. I am unattractive, unpopular, undesirable. And so I sag into inertia, neither writing nor trying to be read.

My experience in not being read: has it created this oscillation between obsessive rage and neurotic depression, or has it merely provided an opportunity for my latent tendencies to manifest themselves? I’ve had the experience before, several times, of creating things, excellent things, that no one seemed to want. And I never arrived at any sort of personal reconciliation as to why my best works find no takers. And now, in writing, I’ve exposed myself again to this kind of situation, this kind of frustration and disappointment. Why? Is my writing itself a manifestation of my obsession and neurosis, the latest manifestation of the return of the repressed that I can’t escape or resolve and that I’m doomed/driven to repeat again and again?

It seems eminently possible that the world would be teeming with people who want to read my books, who would delight in reading them, who would join with me in bringing into existence any number of seemingly impossible but realizable alternate realities. Maybe I should write a novel about a guy who writes novels and who, after seemingly endless cycles of rage, depression, and inertia, finally passes through the portal. But I’m not sure I can be bothered. Besides, no one would want to read it: it’s too far-fetched, too mundane, too unapproachable, too boring.



  1. The one-million-club member is also the minus-200 million-club member – a very interesting truth. It is also perspective and perhaps sour grapes, for having got to that millionth sale, there should be a fat enough check to pocket along with it that will help to ease the pain of having not excited the imagination of the much greater mass of unwitting detractors.

    I often wonder after having slaved over a blog post and really liking the result – why I only got six hits all week? I guess it’s something similar (to what you express) but of course on a much much smaller scale. Though there is an important difference too, in that I know that ‘a writer’ I am not. I don’t have the skill-craftsmanship-vision-genius, even though I do feel the inspiration. The muse that is with me must be a junior apprentice, way down the scale, who has learned to entice but nothing else… wormwood Jr.

    Perhaps you are too subversive. Perhaps you are one of those whose works will be ‘discovered’ somewhere down the road. Perhaps you should think of publishing your work through other formats that do not require the excitation of the imagination of a standardish sort of publisher. Perhaps serialization might work, or… But, whatever be your conclusion, even if there is no remuneration or recognition now, I really do think you should keep writing, for you do have the gift, the story, and that’s all that counts.


    Comment by samlcarr — 4 June 2008 @ 11:14 am

  2. “Perhaps you are too subversive. Perhaps you are one of those whose works will be ‘discovered’ somewhere down the road. Perhaps you should think of publishing your work through other formats that do not require the excitation of the imagination of a standardish sort of publisher. Perhaps serialization might work, or…”

    One of every 200 readers is all I ask, Sam. Besides, now I’m thinking about a sequel to The Stations. Four years have passed, and the Fellowship has begun to hear rumors that Miguel has projected himself all the way back to the Beginning…


    Comment by ktismatics — 4 June 2008 @ 11:22 am

  3. Yay!


    Comment by samlcarr — 4 June 2008 @ 12:09 pm

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