By Michael D. Sorkin, Slate
I was about to sit down to write an item about the new book, Death of the Author: The Fall of the Unauthorized Novel, when a friend who used to work for Locus magazine came into my office to beg for an interview. I declined. The magazine was dying, I told him. We were having our last issue next month. “We’re going to go out with a bang then?” he asked.
I had no idea that people outside of a bookshop would find me fascinating enough to bother with such trivialities as personal appearance or personal questions, but there could be no denying that we were on the brink of something truly remarkable. We were talking about Death of the Author. A few weeks later, we agreed that, of course, we were going to run that article. We would call it The Death of the Author. It’s one of those articles that you write, and then it just disappears. In the end, if you’re not careful, the article will exist as pure, empty noise. I’d like to believe that people are much more curious than that. That people don’t read an author’s books with the same eagerness that they’ll read something about someone else’s death and then wonder what happened.
The book is Death of the Author: The Fall of the Unauthorized Novel. One of the very few works of speculative fiction that I’m proud to have been in print. I’ve made several of them, a few in fact. But Death of the Author is the first nonfiction book I’ve written in twenty years about the art and science of the genre known as speculative fiction. It’s the only book I’ve ever read that made me want to write about how to make it. It gave me an excuse to take a more serious look at the industry that made it possible.
Why did you write the book?
In 1997, the year that Death of the Author came out, I was in San Diego, working on a book in a room inside a museum. There’s an interesting piece of trivia that I’ve learned after twenty years of work: I worked for Locus a few years before I ever met Peter Straub. (Straub is the author of the recent, hugely successful Locus magazine; I’m not.) A couple years before that, he’d been working for me at the New England Journal of Medicine. When Straub left to pursue other things, I found
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