September 6, 2007

I think it might be time to clear the air a bit around here and state specifically, plainly, and openly my purpose in creating this (spartan) website. I think I spell this out rather clear in the other essays that I've composed, but some words are worth repeating.

To those who think, "Who the hell is this guy? I've never seen him around anywhere. He just seems to've popped-up from the ether!", that's a fair criticism. I haven't been published nor do I intend to start a small press. I briefly ran a business (of sorts), which didn't pan out as expected, so I took an office job. As such, I'm not an industry insider and, given the critical nature of Awful Books, likely never will be. From what I've seen, except for some isolated cases, the small press publishing community is a pretty tightly-knit group that tends to watch each others' backs. Ergo, I'm an outsider making highly inflammatory remarks against entrepreneurs with very little in the way of capital and resources.

In my defense, I will say this (and you'll have to take my word for what I'm about to write). I began collecting limited hardcovers long ago, back when companies like Phantasia Press, Ursus Imprints, and Dark Harvest were in their heyday. My primary source was a (now defunct) outfit called Duga's Books. Duga's carried everything - horror, fantasy, science fiction, and even comics. It was always a treat to visit his store, which paved the way for other book purchasing venues, such as the occasional local convention, Bud Plant, Catalan Communications (also defunct), and others.

Since I was, at that time, very young, I had very little disposable income. As such, my "library" grew at a snail's pace. That didn't stop me from collecting a variety of comics from my local specialty haunt, Enterprise 1701 (now Sci-Fi City). Those comics led me to begin collecting signed & numbered comic-oriented hardcovers, particularly those from companies like Graphitti Designs, Kitchen Sink, and Dark Horse.

My interest in books waxed and waned over the years and almost completely died when I became heavily involved in anime and helped to found a local club called JACO. When my involvement with JACO came to a sudden and pretty nasty end (almost a decade later), I attempted to form two other clubs, Anime Sushi and Anime Gaijin America. The former outfit turned out to be an awful mess, but AGA was successful with monthly anime showings and our yearly convention, Anime Festival Orlando.

I left AGA due to some rising political issues that I simply had no interest or will in fighting. As I was now hobbyless, I returned to my roots - books. That was around six years ago. Once again, I resumed collecting comic-based limited hardcovers, but began to notice a terrible trend in the comics industry to issue fake signed and numbered editions (see the Crisis on Infinite Earths entry). Companies producing "true" limited editions, like Graphitti Designs, had drastically reduced their hardcover output, while other outfits were preying on the collecting community with their faux limiteds.

Disgusted by this turn of events, I set about reorienting my sights to fantasy, horror, and SF-based limited novels. And that's what I've been pursuing ever since. However, it wasn't smooth sailing. Because I suffer from a curious disease called "gotta have the best edition-itis", I abandoned numbered hardcovers for their FAR more expensive lettered counterparts. It was then I began to notice the highly disturbing trend of some publishers charging orders more for lettered books with only incremental production value enhancements. My frustration at this reached critical mass when A Storm of Swords hit the shelves, which became the first book to appear on here in the (former) Library of Shame.

So that there's no confusion on this point, this is NOT a site which seeks to critique the prose of authors. My only concern is with the presentation. A company could publish the random doodles of your average preschooler; such would not affect my evaluation of the book. I'm only interested in what winds-up in the hands of the consumer from a packaging perspective.

So ends another General Grumbling. An inelegant ending, but an ending nonetheless. Ciao!