I suddenly realized that I haven’t talked about this book, yet. An unfortunate oversight that I must now rectify, as it is something every aspiring author should read:
The story behind Atlanta Nights is classic. About ten years ago, a group of thirty-some science fiction and fantasy authors, led by James D. Macdonald, set out to expose PublishAmerica as a non-discriminating vanity press against their claims of being a selective, traditional publisher (partially in response to the firm’s derogatory public statements about the sci-fi/fantasy genres and their writers). The plan was simple – to create the most magically awful novel ever written, and get PublishAmerica to bite.
Each author, skillfully penning his or her most deliberately atrocious narrative, wrote a single section based on a vague outline, without cross-collaboration. The result was a glorious disasterpiece. Chapters repeat or are missing (one is even generated by a computer), the same events recur in different ways, characters change motivation, appearance, and sex, and the plot is wildly incoherent. When finished, they submitted the compiled manuscript to PublishAmerica under the pseudonym “Travis Tea” (ha-ha) to see if they would accept it.
A couple months later, the group revealed the hoax to the public. Conveniently, the very next day, PublishAmerica retracted their offer to publish the book, stating that upon further review, it did not quite meet their standards. Gee. (>^-‘)>
Fortunately, the group turned around and published the book on Lulu for the rest of the world to see. And see it you should. It’s hilarious. Each chapter plays up some common mistake, bad writing habit, or other. It’s effectively a negative blueprint for good storytelling. A perfect example of everything not to do. What makes it especially great is that it straddles a line where you can almost take it seriously – we’ve all seen bad but well-intentioned writing – and that gives its absurdities just the right punch. As they say, “It’s funny ’cause it’s true.”
But I’ve barely scratched the surface of everything that’s so fantastically wrong with this book. Just do yourself a favor and check it out – your mind may burst, but you might end up a more judicious writer for it. (>^-‘)>
“The world is full of bad books written by amateurs. But why settle for the merely regrettable? Atlanta Nights is a bad book written by experts.”
— Teresa Nielsen Hayden