Dave Sim's blogandmail #150 (February 8th, 2007)
This better not be another excerpt from
Dave Sim Collected Letters Vol.2!
Do you know how IRRITATING it is to be
reading along and then the text just
STOPS right in the middle of a
Big shout-out and major Blog & Mail props to Sgt. Claude Flowers for stepping in and subbing for me on my very specific deathbed instructions (I kept seriously thinking that I have to write a horror story about all this but I'm not sure how big a market there is for Explicit Strange Illness literature) the last couple of weeks with Dave Sim Collected Letters Vol.2 excerpts. The excerpts came a little early considering that I just sent in my deathbed solicitation to Diamond for the book a couple of weeks ago via Sandy Atwal. So now I'm going to have to think of some other promotion as we get closer to the actual ship date (May? June? I'm a little rusty with the Previews timing these days). I did want to warn those of you who are interested in getting a copy that the Collected Letters Series is going to be part of Aardvark-Vanaheim's new One Time Publishing. Put simply, it's going to take a disproportionate amount of company resources to keep the 16 Cerebus volumes in print, so anything that isn't a Cerebus trade paperback is going to be offered once—the initial solicitation in Diamond Previews—and then I have absolutely no idea when it will be made available again. So far as I (and Claude) know we have enough material from 2004-2006 to do a number of Collected Letters volumes (ten? Twelve?) but in order to get all of that in print, I can't be getting bogged down in doing a new printing of volumes two and three at the same time that I'm soliciting for volume five (or whatever).
I mean, maybe I can but at this point if it's an either/or call—Minds and Rick's Story are running low, let's say—then the Cerebus Trades have First Priority with the current volume of Collected Letters being Second Priority. Minds, Rick's Story and Collected Letters Vol.5 will be on the publishing schedule for 2007-2008 even though everyone is sold out of Collected Letters Volumes 2, 3 and 4.
I realize this puts a lot of pressure on the stores to over-order the Collected Letters volumes as they come onto the schedule and I apologize for that but in the end I had to balance what I saw a legitimate demand for the books with my very limited resources when it comes to keeping material in print. Bill Schanes, Diamond's VP of Purchasing—God bless `im—has already said that Diamond will over-order the volumes in order to keep a larger-than-usual inventory on hand but even with everyone pitching in at the distribution and retail end of things it seems far more likely than not that Collected Letters volumes could be out of print for a period of years depending on how many Cerebus Trades need to be brought back into print in a given period.
This will also be the program with my secret project and all other publishing that Aardvark-Vanaheim may or may not be participating in through the coming years. If it's a Cerebus Trade (God willing) I guarantee it will always be in print. If it isn't a Cerebus trade, um, better buy one when you see it in Previews or in the store because there's no guarantee when you'll see it again.
Putting a cheerful Blog & Mail spin on it:
One Time Publishing
Cutting Dave Sim Some Slack
Okay, this is really going to tax all of our Blog & Mail time travel Luddite Delayed Perceptions of Real Time since I'm writing this at the end of January, presumably for appearance in the middle of February but going back to the pre-deathbed reality of December 28 when I went down to Toronto to visit Chet and have lunch and do the Beguiling new comics day thing. Whatever it was that pole-axed me struck without warning December 30 so I don't have much to discuss once I get to that point (unless I make a try at that Strange Illness Horror Story someday), but…
…in Toronto I had just finished writing my response to Robin Snyder vis-à-vis Alex Brod (that's the spelling I have here in my collection of Kafka short stories) and how good a friend and how good an executor he had been in disobeying Kafka's instructions to destroy his work. I went through my distinction between Advisor, Final Arbiter and Executioner and the fact that—depending on which role in which I was being cast—I would have a different answer as to whether to destroy or not destroy Steve Ditko's papers and artwork if I was in the situation of advising, being final arbiter or being executioner of the instruction. This landed like a dull thud in Chet's Libertarian universe which is closer to Steve Ditko's Objectivism than my own "it depends" world. So we talked around the various nuances and, of course, I had no success persuading Chet of my own distinctions. We even got as far as discussing the death penalty which was a no-brainer for Chet since he doesn't believe in the death penalty. So I doubled back to life in prison and suggested that it is one thing to recommend life in prison, another thing to be the final arbiter of life in prison and another thing to be the executioner of life in prison—that is, no chance of parole. You are going to die in prison. It seems to me that our society has come to be structured in such a way—with the endless appeals process—so as to make everyone advisors and to keep anyone to a great extent from actually having to be the final arbiter and executioner. A judge can impose a life sentence on a prisoner, but the prisoner is going to appeal the decision. So what would have been a final arbiter/executioner call becomes a mere advisor role. The judge is suggesting life in prison and the appeal court will take that suggestion and either uphold it or modify it (ten years with no chance of parole or—if you're in Canada—time served multiplied by two and the rest of the sentence suspended for good behaviour).
I think that's why the execution of Saddam Hussein had a little more force than we're used to in the West. Hey! They declared him guilty and subject to the death penalty and son-of-a-gun 30 days later he was DEAD! So much so that the papers could declare that Saddam was going to die at sunrise even though that was hours away. What about a last minute phone call from the governor? The Western sensibility is more along the lines of How come they didn't pass the buck to umpty-ump levels of judicial authority? Jeez we only pulled him out of his spider-hole three years ago. It should have been at least another fifteen years before he went for the Big Drop. The right way to do these things (most Westerners seem to believe) is to keep the threat of death over his head for fifteen years and then commute it to life in prison. THAT'LL show him.
Meanwhile back at the actual discussion, Chet suddenly said, "If Kafka wanted his papers and writings destroyed, why didn't he destroy them?" That's a very good question which is why it's always worth having lunch with Chet. Why didn't Kafka destroy his own papers? I mean, he must've known that charging his greatest enthusiast with the task was a nutcracker of a situation to put him in. Essentially he was asking Brod to choose between loyalty to Kafka and loyalty to Kafka's work and Brod made his choice. If Steve Ditko had followed suit, at one level or another he must know that—if his genuine ambition was to have all of his writings and artwork destroyed—it was far less than 100% sure that anyone who was a Ditko fan would be capable of "pulling the trigger" when the time came.
Joyce Carol Oates wrote the introduction to my edition of Kafka's stories. Brod and his custodianship are alluded to, but nothing is said about the explicit instruction to destroy Kafka's work. Was Oates tip-toeing around the question? Or did I somehow dream up the whole thing in some weird Kafkaesque Parallel Universe? Not one of those questions you want to examine too thoroughly when you're already living through Strange Illness Horror Story Hell yourself. "I know, let's reread `The Trial'—that'll be sure to cheer me up." I exiled Kafka's stories to the Off-White House Library for the duration.
Tomorrow: Still Toronto, Still Late 2006
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