October 21st, 2009


America's Next Top Author.

[Nine nervous aspiring authors stand on a pair of low bleacher-style steps, arranged to make it very obvious that there used to be more of them. It's equally obvious that they would really rather be clustered together like chickens in a hurricane. They're dressed in their Make A Good Impression best, which means that only a few stains and patches are visible, and most of their clothes actually fit. At the front of the room stands a familiar face, sleek and well-groomed, with professionally-styled hair and makeup that wasn't purchased from Target: Gloriana Goodthrob, the best-selling romance author whose books have dominated the national charts for the last ten years. Behind her is a panel of expert judges. No, really, we swear, they're experts. Gloriana says so.]

GLORIANA: Welcome, authors. You're looking very professional today. [Nervous laughter from the authors.] You're all familiar with our prizes. The winner will be signed with one of the best agencies in the world, Elite Author Management, be featured in a six-column interview in Publisher's Weekly, and receive a book contract with a guaranteed print run of fifty thousand copies. You all know our judges. The first is the noted book cover artist, Peter Penciler.

PETER: Hello, authors.

GLORIANA: Critique artist and ghost-writer, Mister Thomas Hack.

HACK: Authors.

GLORIANA: And our guest judge for the evening, the lovely and talented Miss Ivana Cut, agent extraordinaire.

IVANA: Hello, authors.

GLORIANA: Now this week, you were asked to write a science fiction epic, featuring thrilling exploits, original characters, zippy dialog, and most of all, a heavily marketable theme. You've received your critiques, both individually and as a group. There are nine of you in front of me, but I only hold eight manuscripts in my hands. These manuscripts represent the eight who are still in the running to become America's Next Top Author. The author whose name I do not call must immediately return to the house, pack your belongings, and go home. The author whose name I call first will have their manuscript made available for free download on the Kindle (tm) for the next week, thus increasing your visibility and potential readership.

[Pause for dramatic tension.]

GLORIANA: The first name I'm going to call is...Dave.

[DAVE walks forward to take his manuscript with visible relief.]

GLORIANA: Dave, you wowed us this week with your use of adjectives, your fire, and your willingness to completely mimic the last big thing, burying your own standards to succeed. You're still in the running to become America's Next Top Author.

DAVE: Thank you. [He moves to his place against the wall.]

[GLORIANA calls the next six authors, leaving only two standing on the bleachers, both looking terrified.]

GLORIANA: Will Suzi and Damon please step forward?

[Two trembling authors approach the front of the room. DAMON needs a better haircut. SUZI needs new shoes.]

GLORIANA: Two authors stand before me, but I only have one manuscript in my hands. This manuscript represents the writer who is still in the running to become America's Next Top Author. Suzi, you've wowed us week after week with your sizzling, inappropriate sex scenes and your creativity with props. But this week, when you were given the whole galaxy as your prop, you became timid, cautious...predictable. Your titillation wasn't so titillating. And Damon, when the judges look at you, they see an author who has the whole package—looks, verve, literacy—but when we read your work, we find ourselves wondering if you'll sell to the public. Your idea of "out of this world" is just a little too "out there." So who stays? The talented seductress who may limit herself when she's nervous, or the intellectual abstract artist who leaves us feeling cold?

[Close up on DAMON and SUZI, looking terrified. GLORIANA holds out a manuscript.]

GLORIANA: Suzi. You're still in the running to become America's Next Top Author. But next week, that manuscript had better be smokin'.

[SUZI bursts into tears, takes her manuscript, and runs for the safety of the others. DAMON looks at GLORIANA, expression stoic and unwavering.]

GLORIANA: Damon, you have so much potential! There's a bestselling author inside you, just aching to break free! Learn to stop taking too many chances. Reel it in a little. Add some hot, steamy sex, and the world could be yours.

[DAMON nods, eyes filled with unshed tears as he turns, waves, and exits the room. Fade to shots of him packing his things in the cramped house shared by the contestants.]

DAMON, voiceover: Well, yeah, I did expect to go a lot further, but I'm not ashamed of myself. I'm not sorry I wrote what I wanted to write. If it doesn't have an audience, who cares? I'll keep writing. I'll always keep on writing...

When will you rise?

To begin with, here is today's exciting press release of awesome exciting awesomeness:

The cover graphic for Feed has been officially released by my publisher (Orbit).

Click for the artist's commentary, and then come back to join me in squealing, flailing excitement. Feed is the first of three volumes in the Newsflesh trilogy, all of them being released under my pseudonym, Mira Grant. Feed will be on shelves in May 2010 (yes, the same month as my appearance at MarCon in Columbus, Ohio—when they invited me, they got two guests for the price of one). Which brings us to...

...my page proofs for Feed arrived today, and they are intense. Thank the Great Pumpkin that I have some long stints on airplanes coming up, because otherwise I'd worry about my capacity to finish reviewing a manuscript of this length in the time allotted. As it stands, the folks at OVFF may see a lot less of my smiling face than they were expecting, because I have got a lot of work to do. But it will all be worth it, and it will all be completely awesome when it's done.

The end of the world was just the beginning.

When will you rise?