Becoming a pillar of salt may be a pleasant fate. Seriously, one of the problems that many good authors suffer from is that of looking back — because they want to know how they’re doing. This is a little like stopping running to see if the leopard is closer or not. Of course, for the author, that’s looking at the reviews of your previous books. You want to be told it was loved and enjoyed, and they ‘got it’ – because there is always a niggle of doubt. Here’s the thing, once a reader buys your book… they decide what you wrote about about, what you meant by it, and how good it was. They may decide they hated it but obviously missed the point. Or almost worse, they may have decided they loved it, and obviously missed the point. And you can make the point (which you plainly failed to do, at least for them, the first time) but you are exceptionally unlikely to make it to them. Like those ships that pass in the night, the opportunity is gone.
I checked in to see how GEORGINA was doing, star-wise, and happened to notice that someone had ‘also bought’ SHAMAN OF KARRES. Now, I should have left it at that, but I went and looked at the reviews. One complained the authors had used up all their good ideas in the previous books and this was just rehash and all the ideas that weren’t up to it. Now I was taken aback by this because I thought the use of a parasite that alters the behavior of the host – a situation known from half a dozen earth species, where they may even alter brain chemistry to change behavior was, well, fascinating, odd and full of really interesting knock-on ideas. The idea was that the de facto parasite was also a beloved pet, because what it did was to make the host happy to care for it. The situation bordered on symbiotic as the happiness might be induced by chemical changes, but the host WAS happy to serve. In the story the ability of ‘pet’ was perverted into making slaves – slaves who adored their masters, and who were enslaved by the sheer pleasure of serving, and love of that master. They were happy and content, as slaves. They would rather die than be freed — rather like addiction to some drugs affects some people. To me, anyway, it was a particularly vile form of enslavement. But… it raised all sorts of dilemmas and questions for my characters.
There were a bunch of other ideas -from the tumbleweed species and its reproduction, which I thought I’d never read anywhere else, let alone in sf which was intended to be entertaining light space-opera. I was rather proud of it, and thought the tide of the dead scene was one of the finest I have written… and plainly, at least for that reader, I failed completely.
Therein lies the problem for the writer. You can likely never reach that specific person. They read your book, wrote their review, and you can get as mad as a cut snake about their interpretation – it’s done. You can get as mad as you like, but you can’t reach them. No point in looking back. Look forward. I will write better. And that, it seems to me is an excellent way of approaching the year ahead.
And the picture is something I am looking forward to.