Well, this is it.
Yesterday, Vicious Grace hit shelves officially (though my experience working in bookstores is that it’s probably been ootching out for a week or two). Go tell your friends and relatives. Shout it from the mountaintops and the street corners. Mention it at work. Like that.
When I was an ambitious kid wanting to be a writer, I didn’t actually picture this moment. In fact, I didn’t really picture any of the moments exactly. Like any of my fellow authors, I bounced between thinking I was the best writer of my generation and knowing that I was a fraud and not even a very good one. In my travels, I haven’t yet met a writer who didn’t suffer that useless, inaccurate oscillation of self-worth. I think it’s our defining characteristic.
But when I started this gig, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I didn’t get into it for the money. (Funny story. I knew this very high-power lawyer — Fred — for a while. We didn’t get along well, and yet I think of him fondly. He had a talent for the utterly cutting remark, and some part of him lodged in my head and comes out every now and then to say something mean. Daniel’s-Fred-Homonculus on writing for money: “Writing fiction is a stupid way to make money. If you’re writing fiction to make money, you’re stupid.”) I didn’t get into it for the fame (as evidenced by my apparently freakish willingness to strip off my name and put on a pseudonym at the first opportunity). I didn’t do it to win awards (they’d be nice, but if I never won one again, that’s cool too). God knows I didn’t do it to be accepted by the academic world or I sure as hell wouldn’t be writing the kinds of things I write.
So if i it’s not the money or the fame or the awards or the academic respectability — to riff briefly on The Lookout — what am I doing here?
When I started getting published and asking people who were better and more established and invested in this industry than myself what their ambitions were, I got a wide variety of answers, but none of them ever really seemed to describe my situation. And what’s more, I often got the feeling that the people telling me weren’t actually sure of themselves either. It’s easy when someone asks a question I don’t know the answer to — especially if its something about my internal psychological life — to make up some post-hoc rationalization on the fly and trot it out as if it were truth. But I look around at the writers I know, and the rich ones are just as desperate and insecure as the poor, the ones who’ve never won an award are just as dedicated and driven as the ones with a shelf of Hugos and Nebulas and those hilariously ugly Lovecraft heads they give out for the World Fantasy. There’s something else that we get out of this that makes long years of labor with little return, the constant casual judgment of others, and the cultivated insecurity of the job worth it. There is an ambition that is just his side of driven by demons, but I don’t know what it’s driving us — by which I mean me — toward.
I know that Vicious Grace is out. (And also “Hurt Me” — MLN Hanover’s first published short story, which has been mentioned kindly in some reviews of Songs of Love and Death.) I know some folks like them. The Dragon’s Path will be out in April. Leviathan Wakes, in June. And I hope y’all enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.
But I also know that this moment — my book is in print! — is a necessary step, but it isn’t what I’m here for. I’m not filled with joy and satisfaction so much as bracing for the blow of lousy reviews and poor sales numbers that may or may not come. What I’m really looking forward to is the next chapter of the next book, the thing I haven’t written yet, the one that might yet achieve and fulfill my ambition.
Whatever it is.