Please forgive me if this looks like shameless promotion (and I guess, to an extent, it is) but: Prosperity came out yesterday.
What can I tell you about this thing? It’s a steampunk Western with a Lovecraftian twist. It’s written in 18th century thieves cant. It’s a lovestory from the outside. Its heroes are a street rat, a priest, a crimelord, an opium-eating governess, and a genderqueer skypirate. It’s about faith and love and monsters and selfhood on the edges of the world.
It was the first book I ever wrote.
It’s the kind of book you only write when you don’t have a goddamn clue what you’re doing.
When all that matters is the story you want to tell.
A long time ago (maybe last Friday), on this very site, Amber Lin wrote a really fascinating post she called The Myth of Selling Out. I’ve thought about it a lot ever since I read it. I admire Amber’s blend of pragmatism and idealism, in that she acknowledges very explicitly that making money from what you do is good and necessary (something we shuffle around a lot when it comes to art) but she also believes that writing what you’re passionate about is the best way to make money.
I very much hope this is true. Frankly, if it isn’t, I’m fucked.
But I think between these twin myths of selling out and art for art’s sake there’s something else, something subtle and ephemeral that I guess you could call – in its most positive and useful form – awareness. It’s understanding the context in which you write.
And, here’s the thing: that’s not some ghastly submission to soul-less commercialism.
It’s just an economic reality. In many ways I have a degree of what you might call writing privilege. I’m not dependent on my books to pay my mortgage. I have a dayjob, in which I am happy and fulfilled. Basically, I’m a hobbyist. I can afford to write books that don’t sell.
Unfortunately, my publisher can’t.
And actually, as Amber says, there’s no such thing as a choice between money or not-money, selling or not-selling.
There’s just awareness.
Prosperity will always be the book of my heart. It is a book about freedom written when I felt free. And by free, you understand, I also mean free of any notion of what I was doing. Which is, y’know, a mixed blessing.
The truth is, I will probably never write anything like it again. And that’s not a bad thing.
But, all the same, it’s an odd sort of gift, being able to look back upon the things you wrote when you were free.