As someone who is still trying to get published, I see a lot of outfits trying very hard to milk people like me for money. They play to our egos and our vanity. I’ll be honest, I sometimes get rejections back and think bad thoughts to myself about editorial taste — but I shake it off and submit something else to that market. I do see, though, how writers can respond to the siren song of “What do they know? You’re a much better writer than they give you credit for. Just put up a little money and you’ll show them! You’ll show them all!” Vanity presses are among those predators who disagree with Yog’s Law (“Money flows toward the writer”)
One vanity press in particular got pretty aggressive. When SF people pointed out that it wasn’t a real publisher, they started trashing editorial standards in speculative fiction and going on about how THEY had real standards. The estimable James Macdonald, who has been tireless in his efforts to shepherd young writers away from the wolves, decided to enlist a few friends to see just what those standards were…
Thus was produced possibly the worst book ever written, by a “gentleman” by the name of Travis Tea (actually twenty or so Traves). They wrote a book entitled “Atlanta Nights“, which was duly accepted for publication. (When they unveiled the hoax, the publisher retracted the offer, saying that someone must have made some sort of mistake. Sure…) It is now for sale at the above link, with proceeds going to the SFWA emergency medical fund — that is, if your favorite SFF authors ever get seriously ill, sales of this book will help get them back to their pens.
And now that book is being made into a movie. It looks to be a combination of documentary and straight-up adaptation (a notion that fills me with fear). They’ve already paid the option into the SFWA emergency fund, so whether the movie gets made or not, that’s a win. But I’d like to see it made, so I’ve put up some cash. The nice thing about Kickstarter is that they only take your money if the financial goal is reached. I hope they hit their goal because it looks like they’d do a good job, if that trailer is any indication. And it’s a movie that deserves to be made!
(ETA: Apparently my efforts to embed the trailer have failed, but you can watch it here)
2 thoughts on “Atlanta Nights”
I love good hoaxes, especially when used for constructive means such as this. I’m not sure how I feel about “publicity stunt” hoaxes like ‘Platinum Weird,’ as it’s already hard to tell evil plot from good-natured fun when it comes to the recording industry, and the fact that the whole point of said stunt was to sell records. Hopeful ‘Atlanta Nights’ doesn’t take such a turn.
It’s been around long enough that the hoax aspect has pretty well played its course. At this point it’s just good fun. (I was going to say “good clean fun” but, well. It ain’t that kind of story.) And the point isn’t to make money but to warn new writers away from the sharks.
I should say, too, that this wasn’t just a bunch of pros producing sub-par fiction to sneer at. This is a book that is objectively bad and would never have been accepted by any breathing editor: in addition to the terrible writing, it had characters changing gender from chapter to chapter, missing chapters, duplicated chapters, a chapter of gibberish written by software. It’s damn near impossible to read.