Rise of the Spider Goddess. What was Jim C. Hines thinking?
Posted December 1, 2014on:
Today I’m thrilled to host Hugo Award winning author Jim C. Hines. I’ve had the pleasure to meet Jim at a number of conventions and local events, most recently at a book signing at my local independent bookstore. Jim C. Hines is most well known for his Goblin series, his Princess series, and his Magic Ex Libris series. You can learn more about Jim at his website and his blog, or by following him on twitter. You might also know him for his SFF Cover Art photoshoot project.
Oh, you don’t know Jim C. Hines? Well, first things first, go get yourself a copy of Libriomancer this instant. The third book in the Magic Ex Libris series, Unbound, comes out in January, and I am so geeked!!
But, back to today’s topic! Always interested in neat projects, Jim C Hines is about to be know for, erm, something else. His newest book, Rise of the Spider Goddess, hits bookstore shelves tomorrow (Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, GooglePlay). In today’s guest post, he lets us all in on the little secret on what in the world he was thinking. (Jim didn’t give me a title for his guest post, so I had to make one up. Sorry Jim!)
This Book Admits its Bad. And That’s What Makes it So Good.
a guest post by Jim C. Hines
When Andrea and I were emailing about ideas for a guest blog post about Rise of the Spider Goddess, she came back with one of the same questions a lot of people have been asking: “What the heck were you thinking, Jim?”
She was much kinder in her phrasing, of course. But it’s a reasonable question. You see, this book is bad. It says so right in the introduction:
The book you’re about to read is bad. Bad like waking up at two in the morning because your cat or dog is making that distinctive hacking noise. Bad like your almost-potty-trained child walking out of the bathroom to announce, “I did finger-painting, Daddy!”
I know it’s bad, because I wrote it. Rise of the Spider Goddess is, in fact, the first book I ever wrote, way back in the Dark Ages of 1995, when I was an undergrad at Michigan State University. It’s the story of my Dungeons & Dragons character, Nakor the Purple. Because yeah, I was that geek, the one who spent a year writing up the story of what happened after our D&D adventure.
I’ve spent the past month or two adding more than 5000 words of annotations about the badness, alternately joking and cringing and laughing at purple prose and jarring transitions and a list of clichés as long as the book itself.
Most writers have manuscripts like this. Files that have been locked away in a subbasement, guarded by goblins and spiked pits—or in my case, flatulent housecats—never to be seen again. Writing comes with its own learning curve, just like any other skill, and for most of us, those early efforts can be classified as weapons of mental destruction.
So Andrea’s question is a good one. What was I thinking?
I could give you any number of answers. In part, I wanted to challenge the myth of the overnight success. There’s a persistent belief that writing is an innate talent you either have or you don’t, and that some people sit down and spew out New York Times bestsellers from day one. Well, so far, every author who’s read an early copy of this sucker, even the bestselling authors, has grudgingly admitted to having a Spider Goddess of their own tucked away somewhere. “Overnight success” takes years, and usually involves a fair amount of crap nobody ever sees.
I also thought this could be helpful to newer writers, allowing them to learn from and hopefully avoid some of my mistakes. Basically, your job is to read this book and then do the exact opposite of everything I did.
Then there’s the fact that reading and annotating this book, while painful at times, was also a lot of fun. I’ve long been a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and giving my own book the MST treatment was a blast. (It’s not something I would have been able to do without almost two decades of distance from that book, though.)
But there’s another reason, one I’ve been reluctant to admit. Twenty years ago, I loved this book and these characters. I hurried back to my dorm room every day after class in order to write the next few pages. Every night, I shared the next piece of the story with my girlfriend, who seemed to really like it. (She also seemed to really like me, so we know her taste was questionable.)
Despite all of the problems and mistakes in this book, that’s the piece I got right. I was writing a story I loved. I was having fun. Sure, I fantasized about becoming a Rich and Successful Author, but that wasn’t the point. I just wanted to bring these characters to life. And sure, it may have been a stilted, two-dimensional, painfully clichéd life, but 1995 Jim didn’t know that. 1995 Jim didn’t care. He was just having a blast creating story.
There are a lot of reasons I decided to disarm the traps, dismiss the goblins, and bring this book out of the vault. I really do believe it’s good—and potentially entertaining—to see where authors started out. And the annotations were a lot of fun.
But I also wanted to publish it for 1995 Jim and his innocent love and belief in this story. As a reward for that very first step on a path that’s led to ten novels and fifty short stories. To tell him that yes, someday this would be a Real Book. That a professional artist would create a cover with Nakor the Purple. Maybe Nakor’s pose and facial expression aren’t exactly what 1995 Jim imagined, but it’s a great cover nonetheless.
That’s the real story behind the story. Naturally, I hope you’ll all be so touched that you immediately run out and buy a million copies, but even if you don’t, I hope you’ll remember we all start somewhere. We don’t have to share those early efforts from the world, but we don’t need to be ashamed of them, either. Be gentle with yourselves and with each other, celebrate the joy and love of those efforts, and most importantly, remember to laugh.