The lysine contingency

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blue pillIn Jurassic Park, when it looked like the park was about to go tits-up with rampaging loose dinosaurs, Mr. Hammond asked his game warden: “Mr. Muldoon, would you please prepare the lysine contingency?”  That was the plan that would starve the dinos of lysine, a genetically-engineered requirement to be delivered through their food, thereby killing them off, and saving everyone’s necks.

Well, if my novel-writing sideline doesn’t work out, it will be time for a lysine contingency of my own.  (Oh, don’t worry… there’s always the second island.)  I’ll be weaning myself off of the writing and promotional part of my life, which has proven over ten years to be a substantial failure, and moving on to something new (probably something that doesn’t depend on pleasing other people).

The trick, of course, is to totally abandon the novels, the web sites, the Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, the pages on independent author sites, the Amazon and Barnes & Noble pages… and the constant fretting about how to promote all that. I’ll have to decide whether or not to leave the novels available online, or to take them all down and never put them back.  It’s been a never-ending part of my thought-stream for the past decade, so you might think it would be impossible to forget all that.

But I have a secret to tell you: More than a decade ago, I was putting all of my efforts into being an illustrator.  I wanted to work in commercial art, and sideline in graphic novels of my own design.  Unfortunately for me, my art skills peaked way too soon… and way before they were good enough to support a career.  And I had to accept that.  It took me a while, but one day I managed to ditch the tools, take down the art I’d created, throw away most of it, and put myself upon a new path that didn’t include illustration.

And it looks like I may have to do it again.

To be sure, it’s frustrating and even embarrassing to have to admit to myself, and to the world, that I’m not good enough to hack it as a writer.  Or maybe I’m fine as a writer, but not good enough a promoter… whatever.  It comes out the same, either way: If I can’t sell my books, it’s time to own up to my own mediocrity and go.

But I won’t be going out with my tail between my legs.  Maybe I failed as a writer.  Who cares?  Ultimately, nobody.  Statistically, less than .00000001% of the population of this planet even knew I existed, which means less than .00000001% of this planet even knows I failed.  Actually, it’s even less than that, as a significant part of that .00000001% doesn’t even know I write novels.  So no big, right?

If you think about it, it becomes nearly as insignificant if I’d succeeded as a writer.  Not much larger than that .00000001% would notice or care… perhaps .0000001%.  Perhaps .000001%.  A hundred-thousandth of a percent of the population.  My “success” would statistically not mean a damned thing.

You see, this is what my lysine does for me: It starves me of my hubris.  It reminds me how small and insignificant I am in the scheme of things, and therefore how small and insignificant is my failure.  It puts things into proper perspective, and reduces me to a single atom in a candy bar… a single cell somewhere in a human body.  It keeps me from losing any sleep over this, as it assures me that no one else is losing any sleep over me.

At this moment, Balticon is winding down to a close.  The 2000 promotional cards I seeded at the convention have so far not created even a noticeable spike of hits on my web site, and no sales of the book.  So I’m looking at a symbolic representation of my desire to forget the last decade ever happened, my lysine contingency, and go back to my idyllically-clueless life of entertaining myself for a change.

Looks like a little blue pill.  How appropriate.

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6 thoughts on “The lysine contingency

  1. Donn

    Steve, I certainly hope there is an injection of new found sales for what I find to be excellent novels. Sarcology is perhaps your best work yet. But I certainly understand that you can’t put in the tremendous effort required for these works of art, if in the end, they go unread by anyone except for the lucky few who know how well you spin a yarn.

    Independent of what you ultimately decide to do, I hope it will still allow time for your thought provoking blog entries. You are are exceptionally talented thinker/writer.

    Best wishes, and I hope you will find a way to continue.

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  2. amacd55

    I suggest you leave them up for purchase, if they are not available they cannot be purchased. Sort of like fishing, if you don’t wet your line you cannot catch any fish. I really enjoyed all of your books that I had the privilege to read. Thanks. Al

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    • Yes, I could leave them up. But at a buck here and a buck there, it makes little difference to me; they are not accomplishing their purpose. They are failures.

      Like the many illustrations I did years ago, once I realized they weren’t going to get me anywhere, they became literally pointless. That made it easy for me to throw most of them in the trash and not look back. That may be hard for someone else to appreciate, literally destroying artworks created lovingly by my own hand. But when something I do fails, I don’t prefer to leave it around to remind me of my failure.

      I can also take the books down and put them back up at some point in the future, if I get an indication of interest in them. (Heh.) For now, I agreed to give them the rest of June to prove themselves, a month beyond the final Memorial Day promo push. Then we’ll see.

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  3. UPDATE: No, I didn’t wait for end of June. It was so clear early on that the promo had bombed utterly, that I decided not to prolong the effort to put this venture out of its misery. I’ve already closed my stores at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, killed the books-based Facebook page and severed my ties to the unperforming books promotions and independent author promotions sites I’d joined… that is to say, all of those sites I’d joined.

    And here’s the self-affirming part: It’s been two weeks since I did all that, and haven’t heard a peep from anyone about it. No one noticed. Or, if they did, they didn’t see it as worth saying anything. I guess that’s proof positive that my books made no impact on anyone. C’est la vie.

    Fortunately for me, I have already developed other outlets to keep me occupied. And one of them may even involve writing for television. Yeah, that probably won’t work out either (though I think I have a slightly better chance at that than succeeding as an independent author). But it’ll keep me off the streets for awhile.

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