When first getting published, I used to check my Amazon.com sales rankings all the time. It was fun, exciting. It was a reminder that my novels were out there in the world and that, if someone had the urge, they could find them and buy them. This still confuses and amazes me. Often. I spent over a decade trying to make this happen. Now it has. And while novelology and miscellaneous writing are now my official, no-foolin’ job, it continues to blow my mind. But we all get used to things, and I stopped checking my Amazon numbers, stopped Googling my name quite so much, stopped scanning the internet for the tiniest little mention. These are all important things, but they aren’t something I obsess over anymore. But occasionally, I drop by the internet to see how it feels about me. And I still check the Amazon rankings now and then, though I’m not quite sure how important they genuinely are.
Imagine my surprise when Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain was ranked at 2,100 (or so) at my last check. That is nothing short of astounding. Especially since it isn’t even officially for sale yet. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know if it’s a fluke. I don’t know if it means a damn thing. But it’s awesome, and I’m pleased as punch.
Given that this is Emperor Mollusk Month!!, part of me wonders if my publicity push has made any difference. There’s no way to know. It’s safe to say though that publicity is of vital importance in a novelologist’s job. I might write the greatest novels in the universe. If nobody knows about them, nobody buys them. And I could have the worst book in existence, and a good publicity campaign guarantees at least some sales. Spreading the word matters. And if you’ve ever mentioned me to a friend, even in the most offhand manner, then you have my eternal thanks.
Publicity and marketing are very important. In fact, it’s why I tend to warn people off of self-publishing right now. You can self-pub your book. It might be great. It might be terrible. But competing in the marketplace is more about getting people to notice you than any particular talent. It’d be wonderful to live in a world where talent was all that mattered and where a writer could self-pub an amazing novel and get the recognition they deserved. But when have we ever lived in that world?
Like most things, life is built on cycles. A popular thing becomes more popular. Unpopular things tend to spiral downward. People love Harry Potter and there’s no reason for them not to. But I can’t honestly believe that there aren’t dozens of books as good (perhaps even better) that are lounging in obscurity. A blockbuster film that spends millions on advertising is going to make more money than most small obscure movies. And actors get roles based on how much they can pull in at the box office, not talent. (Though these don’t have to be mutually exclusive elements.)
I’m not suggesting that popular stuff sucks or that obscure stuff is artistically superior. I don’t know if I believe success and talent are as related as people would like to believe. There is popular stuff that is great and wonderful. And popular stuff that isn’t. And there is obscure stuff that is great and wonderful. And obscure stuff that isn’t.
What’s not up for debate though is the importance of exposure. We all know terrible movies that no one has ever seen (or admitted to seeing) that people can still somehow quote verbatim. And we all know wonderful movies / books that we just never quite got around to seeing / reading because we’ve been busy and we keep forgetting they’re out there.
On March 5th, don’t forget about Emperor Mollusk. He hasn’t forgotten about you.
Onto the Emperor Mollusk Month!! post:
If I was going to stress anything about Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain, it’s that this is not a silly novel. It is absurd, certainly, but no less absurd than John Carter’s Mars, Doc Savage’s bronze age, or any number of pulp realms. No doubt, many will label the book a parody. Others might mistakenly call it an homage. Heck, I might even be tempted to call it a pastiche.
It is none of these things. It is unapologetic pulp awesomeness. It should be read with that understanding and judged accordingly. By no means, do I expect everyone to like it, and if someone hates it because they didn’t feel it was pulpy enough, then I accept their criticism. But if someone says it isn’t funny enough. Or if it’s too silly. Well . . . I can’t dismiss those criticisms either because I’m a professional and that means taking this stuff seriously. But I can at least prime the audience so that they go in expecting what I wanted to give them, not something else.
Emperor’s universe is larger than life and full of epic adventure. None of this is done with a smirk. All of it is 100 percent sincere in its inspiration. While there will no doubt be comparisons drawn between Emperor and Megamind, the two characters couldn’t be further apart in terms of what their stories are about. Megamind is a deconstruction and playful look at the bad guy. Emperor Mollusk IS the bad guy. And he’s also the good guy. He is amazing and filled with to the brim with confidence and genius.
When you picture a scene out of Emperor Mollusk, you should be picturing something out of Avatar (minus the boring parts where people stand around talking) or the new John Carter film. When Emperor faces down a squad of Saturnite shock troopers, you should see it as a battle, not a wink. And the crimes Emperor has committed, they’re serious. He’s done some bad stuff.
Emperor is carved from the same mold as so many classic heroes of sci fi / fantasy. He is resolute, capable, intelligent, powerful, and formidable. He is, without apology from me, the most awesome character in his universe. Just as John Carter dominates Mars or Flash Gordon kicks Ming’s butt, so it is that Emperor Mollusk is a heroic / villainous ideal. He’s not invincible. But he is outstanding, and he knows it.
And his universe, as strange and ridiculous as it often is, is not meant to be weird. It’s just a realm of adventure where mutant dinosaurs roam and giant robot fights are a way of life. But like almost everything I’ve ever written, this is not meant to be taken in an “ironic” way with a wink and a nod to an audience that is too “smart” to really enjoy those things. No, this reflects something missing from literature for far too long. Grand adventure where anything goes. Ray guns and spaceship battles and mind-control devices and strange alien invaders who seem determined to conquer the earth because that’s what strange alien invaders do. And while I’m sure that stuff is still out there, I’m just trying to throw a little bit more into the collective consciousness because the world is a better place when we’re allowed to close our eyes and imagine the absurd without having to excuse ourselves.
We don’t have to apologize for liking the fantastic. We can dive in, without irony, without fear. And it can be awesome.
And that’s what Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain is all about.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,