Bridge Daughter now available for pre-order

Final release date: Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Bridge Daughter by Jim NelsonPurchase your digital copy of Bridge Daughter now for $2.99 and have it automatically downloaded to your Kindle on June 7th.

A paperback edition will be available shortly after June 7th. (Keep watching my web site for details or sign up for my mailing list.)

If you nominated Bridge Daughter on Kindle Scout, you should have received an email from Amazon with information on how you can obtain your free early copy.

And thank you for the nomination! You’re the reason Bridge Daughter is being published.

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Philip K. Dick on realism, consistency, and fiction

Philip K. Dick: The Last Interview and Other ConversationsI recently dove into the so-far-superb Philip K. Dick: The Last Interview and Other Conversations (from Melville House, publisher of the increasingly-intriguing Last Interviews collection) and am enjoying every page. I’ve written before about my semi-tortuous negotiations with PKD’s novels, and am finding (some) justification for my issues in these interviews with him.

With PKD I remain hamstrung: he’s more of a speculative fiction (and philosophical) writer than the run-of-the-mill hard sci-fi writer, which is right up my alley; I absolutely love his questions of existence, identity, and freewill that lay the foundations of his novels; and he’s a Bay Area writer to boot. And yet I find him to be a flawed writer, one who was so-very-close to writing perfect novels but had trouble overcoming basic hurdles, such as the cardboard characters and sci-fi’s obsession with “ideas” over story.

(For the record, my list of great PKD novels, in no order, remain A Scanner Darkly and The Man in the High Castle. I’m sure PKD’s fans find that list ridiculously short and astoundingly obvious. I still pick up his work now and then, so who knows, maybe I’ll find another one to add. PKD was more than prolific.)

In The Last Interview, PKD mentions to interviewer Arthur Byron Cover his early affinity for A. E. van Vogt. (I recall being fascinated with van Vogt’s Slan in junior high school, a book built from much the same brick as Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land.) PKD observes:

Dick: There was in van Vogt’s writing a mysterious quality, and this was especially true in The World of Null-A. All the parts of that book do not add up; all the ingredients did not make a coherency. Now some people are put off by that. They think it’s sloppy and wrong, but the thing that fascinated me so much was that this resembled reality more than anybody else’s writing inside or outside science fiction.

Cover: What about Damon Knight’s famous article criticizing van Vogt?

Dick: Damon feels that it’s bad artistry when you build those funky universes where people fall through the floor.

It’s like he’s viewing a story the way a building inspector would when he’s building your house. But reality is a mess, and yet it’s exciting. The basic thing is, how frightened are you of chaos? And how happy are you with order? Van Vogt influenced me so much because he made me appreciate a mysterious chaotic quality in the universe that is not to be feared. [Emphasis mine.]

It’s the questions after my emphasis that make the book’s back cover (“How frightened are you of chaos? How happy are you with order?”), and for good reason: they seem to strike near to the questions asked in all of PKD’s work.

But I’m interested in the line about the building inspector. Damon’s review of Null-A is dismissively brief (but I suspect what’s being referred to here is Knight’s essay “Cosmic Jerrybuilder”), and I’ve not read Null-A, but in principle I line up behind PKD on this one. Reality is not as sane and orderly as many writers would have us believe. If I’m critical of contemporary literature’s fascination with “hard realism”—obsession, really—it’s because I think PKD has put his finger on a kind of shared truth: reality is fragile, but what a thorough facade it provides. It’s one thing for the average person to think they have total understanding of things they have no access to—the heart of a politician, the mind of a celebrity, the duplicity of a boss or coworker—but it’s truly tragic when a writer writes as though they have this reality thing all sewn up.

In contemporary literature, there are many moments where the narrator (either first-person or third-) will have some moment of clarity into another person’s life. Often this moment is the epiphany, although it’s barely epiphanic. (See Charles Baxter’s “Against Epiphanies” for a better argument on this point than I’m capable of producing.) These moments are the obverse of contemporary lit’s obsession with quiet realism, its cult of poignancy. But there’s chaos in our world, and it produces strangeness and unexpectedness that is neither poignant nor tied to fussy notions of realism. These fictional moments of clarity usually reveal what the writer fantasizes the world to be—a charge usually leveled at genre fiction.

My only quibble with PKD’s observation is that I don’t see chaos as an external dark force in the universe tumbling individuals and civilizations about in its hands. We are the chaos. We produce it. I’m less concerned about the wobble in Mercury’s orbit than the ability for just about anybody to murder given the right circumstances. (See the 2015 film Circle for an exploration of just that.)

The human psyche is like a computer performing billions of calculations a second. Most of the results are wrong, some off by orders of magnitude. But the computer smooths out the errors (in its own calculations and others’) to walk a thin line of existence and consistency. And the computer tells itself that its footing is steady and sure, when in fact it’s walking on the foam of statistical noise. The number of calculations it gets right are the rounding error.

Update: Shortly after posting this I discovered Damon Knight partially backtracked on his criticism of A. E. van Vogt:

Van Vogt has just revealed, for the first time as far as I know, that during this period [while writing Null-A] he made a practice of dreaming about his stories and waking himself up every ninety minutes to take notes. This explains a good deal about the stories, and suggests that it is really useless to attack them by conventional standards. If the stories have a dream consistency which affects readers powerfully, it is probably irrelevant that they lack ordinary consistency.

Reading closely, Damon isn’t exactly agreeing with PKD’s comments (or mine, for that matter), but he does concede some flexibility on the supposed rigid strictures of fiction writing.

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Bridge Daughter paperback proof

The paperback proof of Bridge Daughter arrived on Thursday. I am, as the kids say, majorly stoked:

Bridge Daughter by Jim Nelson Bridge Daughter by Jim Nelson

The paperback will be published through Amazon’s CreateSpace service. I must say, I’m impressed with what I’m seeing with this proof. I picked up a CreateSpace sample book a few years ago (at an AWP) and something about it didn’t “feel” right. This copy, however, looks and feels great. The cover photo is vibrant, the interior print is even and crisp across the page, and the binding feels firm. Print-on-demand technology had its problems when it was introduced, but it appears the technology has stabilized since then.

Still awaiting word from Kindle Press on the novel’s pre-release and release dates, which drives the availability of the ebook and paperback. I’ll be announcing those dates here on my blog as well as on my mailing list and Facebook page.

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Bridge Daughter update and cover reveal

The final manuscript for Bridge Daughter was delivered to Kindle Press on Thursday and accepted by their editorial staff on Friday. The Kindle book is now officially in production. Everything is moving briskly.

Next from Kindle Press, they’ll notify me of Bridge Daughter‘s pre-order date and official publication date. If you nominated Bridge Daughter on Kindle Scout (thank you!) you’ll be able to download your free copy on the pre-order date—meaning you get to read the book before everyone else.

If you didn’t nominate Bridge Daughter (no worries), you’ll be able to order your copy on the pre-order date and receive your copy on the final publication date.

Paperback edition

I’m also happy to announce that a paperback edition of Bridge Daughter will also be available on Amazon. Conveniently, the paperback will be sold alongside the Kindle ebook (on the same page), so whichever edition is right for you is yours for the taking.

Pricing, dates, and other details for both editions are still in the works. Once I know, you’ll know, so stay tuned.

And now—miniature trumpet fanfare—I give you a cover reveal for the paperback edition of Bridge Daughter:

Bridge Daughter by Jim Nelson