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This was posted to alt.fan.furry way back when, and I saved a copy to distribute about FurNet.  A recent post tofurryreaders suggests now would not be a bad time to post it again.  Certainly I doubt the author will mind, especially if it cuts down on his being hassled on the subject.





THE ARCHETYPE OF SLOP

A dubious adventure

      I must have about 100 pieces of mail by now from readers of The Architect of Sleep, most asking essentially the same question: Where's the rest of the damned thing? A good question, that.  I could answer that the next installment, The Geography of Dreams, is stacked in a typing box tucked in a desk drawer not a foot away from where I'm typing this, but that doesn't do you much good,  does it?

      This little newsletter/flyer/whatever is meant to tell you a little of the publication history of Architect, what became of Geography, and what the heck is going on with the remainder of what has become a literary albatross around this writer's neck.

      Somewhere around late 1983-early '84, I was living in Gainesville, Florida.  Ariel had just been published and I was under lots of self- induced pressure to write another book.  I sat down to outline a novel.  A quick book, three hundred pages of action adventure, get money, keep my name in front of the readership, that sort of thing.  I started with nothing more than the Disney-esque image of a young man walking beside a canal with an upright, talking raccoon.  I had written a title, The Architect of Sleep. The Geometry of Dreams, on a sheet I keep for titles that pop into my head.  Essentially I tried to figure out what that image meant in relation to that title.  The outline came out at 36 pages -- pretty long.

      I began writing.  Around 75 pages into the book, I realized it weren't gonna be no quick action-adventure thing.  I was setting up an intricate, dense situation, and was beginning to establish a level of detail I very much wanted not only to maintain but to increase.  So the novel mushroomed: the story, I realized, would take 400,000 to 500,000 words to tell.

      That's a long book.

      There are several reasons (at least in science fiction) not to write a book that long.  All of them are economic.  I was working at the time, and a royalty check on Ariel would not be arriving for at least another year.   To write a novel of half a million words would mean not selling a novel for a long time.  Which meant I'd have to keep working.  Which meant it'd take still longer to write.  I decided to split the story into volumes--chapters, if you will.  By no means did I consider any one volume complete or self sufficient; my hope was that each of the (then) 3 novels would be published at regular intervals--no more than 12 months apart--to maintain the readership.

      So this answers an often-asked question:  No, Berkley did not unfairly decide to chop a manuscript at some arbitrary point.  The decision was mine and mine alone.

      However:

      This  compromise--and compromise it was, I assure you--was decided on with the understanding that the 1st volume would carry some sort of Caveat lector warning that there were more books to follow. When published, Architect carried no such caveat, of course, and guess who took the flak?  It's sort of like blaming your waitress if your food is bad.

      Though I had complaints about what I considered to be a misrepresentation in the marketing of the book, ultimately I figured it wouldn't matter:  the rest of the volumes were forthcoming, no big deal; shut up and write, Steve.

      Har-dee-har-har.

      Berkley and I had a few go-arounds about Architect.  The first involved the novel's ending.  Melissa Singer was the novel's original editor.  She moved on to Tor Books, but finished working with me during her initial days there.  She was being pressured to have me "complete" the first volume, to provide resolutions and a nice sewn-up feel.  I felt this was impossible:  the 1st volume was mostly foundation-laying; what's to wrap up?  I re-wrote the ending to accommodate her somewhat anyway, because Melissa is a good editor:  in its present state, The Architect of Sleep does lead up to a climax, a plot complication, and a bit of denouement.  But it's a cliff hanger, no doubt. Beth Fleischer, who took over as Architect's editor for the final stages, applied still more pressure.  Her position was awkward:  she came in on the latter stages of an editorial process, when things might have taken a different direction had she been involved from the beginning. Still, pressure was applied to resolve things at the end of the 1st book, and again I was forced to remind them that they were publishing the first installment of what was essentially one long novel, in much the same manner that the Tolkien trilogy was broken up in paperback.

      From the beginning, then, there was a fundamental difference in the way Architect was viewed.  The publisher wanted separate, self- contained stories.  I never represented the novel (or any of the ensuing volumes) as such, yet they stubbornly persisted in regarding them this way.

      Well.  We fought about the cover, which I think is a great piece of art yet an inappropriate and misleading cover.  I lost.

      In March 1986 I submitted an outline and the 1st 120 pages of the next installment, The Geography of Dreams.  The contract for Architect_had been dated Hallowe'en 1984; Geography's was dated April Fools' Day, 1986.  Portent-believers, take note.

      Immediately there were problems.  Berkley hedged in its commitment to gradually escalate what they were paying for each successive volume; they were nervous about how Architect was going to sell.  Truth to tell, that nervousness was justified:  the book's subject matter made it extremely difficult to market; no matter how meticulously researched, a one-paragraph synopsis of the story cannot help but make a sales rep clutch his stomach and fall to the ground laughing.  I mean, jesus--intelligent raccoons?  Still, Berkley suffered from situational  amnesia (a common publishing malady) regarding the payments previously discussed.  Contracts signed, I went to work.

      In June 1986, Architect was published.  Critical reviews were surprisingly uniform and entirely favorable, save for one aspect: every single reviewer mentioned how annoyed s/he was, not that the book didn't end, but that there was no warning that it didn't.  I will admit that there were a few I Told You So's bandied about. Meanwhile....

      Work on Geography continued.  It was even more difficult than the previous novel:  I researched even more thoroughly, and the book was exploring interesting pathways, and carrying quite an entourage -- 13 major  characters, at last count.  I was trying to make it obvious that the point of the novel was not getting to the destination (though of course I wanted drama when finally I did), but the things seen along the way.  I was not just "world building" to provide a backdrop; the backdrop was the thing itself.  Simultaneously, the mechanics of the story I was telling required that I slowly increase the focus on the Stripes, the warrior-caste raccoons.  Every scene in Geography told something about how these people live.  Every ostensibly "sideline" story illuminated some facet of the culture. The characters were growing dimensional, complex.  They had histories, aspirations, fatal flaws.

      I had to go back to work to support the writing of the novel. Further complicating the mess was my realization that I could not contain the books to three volumes.  Actually, I could have--but Berkley was pressuring me to turn in books at 70,000 words, 80,000 at the very outside.  Architect was proposed as a 125,000-word book; Geography the same.  Suddenly I was being told to restructure the volumes to be a full 45,000 words shorter than originally intended. The reason for this, again, was economics:  the profit margin is higher on an 80,000-word novel at $2.95 than on a 125,000-word book at $3.50 (a price Berkley refused to consider at the time, which meant that they would have lost money at a $2.95 price.  They refused to simply raise the price of longer books to $3.50, despite the fact that every major publisher had done this; their attitude seemed to be that people buy books the way they buy laundry detergent:  whatever's cheapest.   No one I know says, "Oh, I think I'll get the Boyett book--it's 55 cents less than the Bova!")

      Well, I told 'em at the outset that there was no way I could hold the book to that short a length.  My agent was on my ass because I had signed a contract for a book "of approximately 70,000-80,000 words."  The outline read "a novel of approximately 100,000 words," but too bad: the outline weren't no legal document, bub.

      Well.  In November '86 I turned in the first 300 pages to Beth Fleischer because I was again being pressured:  Berkley  was getting nervous about deadlines (they wanted to be sure there really was a book being written), and nervous about the story as well:  they were afraid it wouldn't be "complete."

      Any "bridge" book in a larger work suffers from a feeling of sagging.  The poor thing:  it is incomplete at either end.  Well, Berkley wanted none of this.  They  wanted resolution.  That word again.  We had long talks about the book's direction.  I finished it with Beth's comments in mind.  Not only did I finish it, I wrote the first 100 pages of the next one.  By this time I realized that, at the lengths into which I was being squeezed, the Architect books were going to run to five volumes.  Everybody was getting annoyed, claiming that I was dragging the series out, that I was padding, that I was suffering from word-processoritis,  Tolkienitis, James Clavellitis, sequelitis, and every other "itis" you can think of.  This despite the fact that, in 1983, I knew how and where the whole mess o' words should end.

      So: I turned the "finished" manuscript in.

      The scream in New York could be heard from my home in Los Angeles.

      It wasn't complete.  It was too long.  There wasn't enough plot. There was too much detail (!).  It wasn't at all what they expected. My editor and I had a phone conversation that left icicles on my receiver.  Here are highlights:  "There isn't enough plot."  What do you mean, there isn't enough plot?  "There aren't  enough events." (William of Austria to Mozart:  Too many notes.)   What do you mean by 'events'?  "There isn't enough action."   (Bingo:  Gee, Mr. Melville, we'd really like it if you cut out this boring whaling- industry stuff and get back to those guys and that whale.)  But this isn't an action book.  It was never conceived or proposed as such. "Well, this isn't the book I thought I was buying."  But you got 300 pages of it last November.  Hello?  Hello?  Operator...?

      I call my agent.  He says relax, we'll talk to them and find out precisely what they want before we get too excited.  He does, they do.

      What they want is for me to take the last fourth of Geography, move it to the front of the book, then write the next three-fourths of the next book (which was to be a pirate novel called The Navigators of Fortune) as the remainder of this one, and I can put the details of that three-fourths we chucked into some later volume (meaning, of course, that I'd have to fight them about it then, too).

      Well, friends, I'd had just about enough.  "If you want an action-adventure book,"  I said, "buy another Robert Asprin novel. That's not what I'm doing here."

      So I bought the book back.  It's right here, as I said, about a foot away from me.  It ain't coming out from Berkley, which is just as well.  Because if it had, I'd just have to go around with them each and every volume, and, folks, it just weren't worth it no more.

      So here's the Status quo:  Geography belongs to me.  Architect is still tied up at Berkley because technically it is still in print. I can't take the "series" (a word I don't like to use in connection with this multi-volume novel) to another  publisher because they have every right to expect to reprint the first novel as part of the "launching" procedure for the remainder, and they can't 'cuz Berkley still has it. And I absolutely refuse, these days, to sell a book before the whole thing's written, because when you do that a publisher has the ability to say that what you turn in isn't what they expected, sorry to have wasted your time, bub.  And Architect is a long book:  science fiction's answer to Shogun.  And because I went back to work and would have had no foreseeable fiction novel income while writing of the remainder of the book (which would  be a very thick manuscript indeed), it could easily take 6 or 7 years to finish.

      I gotta tell you, I do not relish the notion of spending another 6 or 7 years with intelligent raccoons.  Quite simply, I have other, more varied things to do.

      So:  as it stands, the Architect books are in limbo.  For those  curious, the tentative volumes were to be:  The Architect of Sleep; The Geography  of Dreams; The Navigators of Fortune; The Corridors of Memory; and The Gravity of Night.  I would dearly love to finish them--do you think I invested years of my life because I wanted_to abandon them?--but not under present circumstances.  Quite bluntly, you have Berkley Books to thank for this, and I suggest that those of you who've written me to complain may wish to direct further comments, suggestions, and criticisms their way. [Contact info deleted - this was twenty years ago.  KS]  I did my best, friends. But sometimes you have to feed your kid poison to keep the Nazis from taking it.  My books are my kids, and I am responsible for every word in them. At least I sleep well at night knowing that I am committed to whatever vision with which I approach my work.

      Meantime, the world is a blank canvas upon which to paint.  I have taken leave of science fiction because I am fed up with its status as literary  ghetto (not,  I hasten to add, as invalid literature) in the minds of readers and publishers alike.  For much of 1987 I returned to my first love, the short story.  Currently I'm working on a novel entitled Screams in the Wreckage.  It ain't SF, but it's still kinda weird, and it's me all the way.  I have a bunch of other stuff to write when that's finished.  It's my sincere hope that, if you have read me and liked me, you'll read them and like them, too.

      Many thanks for your patience and support.

                              Steve Boyett

                              January 28, 1988


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Comments

( 7 comments )
snobahr
Jan. 15th, 2008 02:18 am (UTC)
Thank you for posting that. I appreciate it. I remember when Architect first came out. I read it, and I eagerly waited for more. And waited. And waited. And then, forgot about it, because I'd gotten so distracted by other books. And then found it a few years later on my shelf, re-read it, then tried to find the sequel... and then... and then...

Nice to know what happened :)

capplor
Jan. 15th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)
I never forgot about it
Some things are that special.
danceswthcobras
Jan. 15th, 2008 06:38 am (UTC)
Aiyee. Needs LJ-cut, badly. Fortunately I wasn't reading on my PDA today.
kayshapero
Jan. 15th, 2008 07:08 am (UTC)
Whoops, sorry about that! Didn't realize just how long that was. Cut installed.
shockwave77598
Jan. 15th, 2008 02:42 pm (UTC)
Well, it wouldn't be the first author I liked who vanished after one or two books. I loved "Ariel" and hoped to see another story set in the same universe. Didn't happen though. Sounds like he and the publisher are equally to blame - he for his attitude and the publisher for insisting on very stupid cover illustrations that doomed the book.
kayshapero
Jan. 15th, 2008 11:49 pm (UTC)
And on leaving out the important info that it was number one in a series, with the result that a lot of irritated reviewers made that the most important thing in the review.
kayshapero
Jan. 16th, 2008 10:08 pm (UTC)
He's not vanished - see this bibliography for some of his writings.
( 7 comments )

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