Monthly Archive: November 2009

In Defense of Slow Reading

And. . .we’re back. Hope no one died from food-related injuries.

Whenever I have some time off like that I make grandiose plans about how I’m not going to waste my vacation this year. These plans usually involve immense home improvement projects (“I can have that roof off and another floor roughed-out in three days, why not?”), immense self-improvement projects (“I will go 36 hours without taking a drink. . .starting right after this bottle.”), and serious writing goals (“Three days. 90,000 words. Pulitzer Prize. Easy peasy.”). Naturally, none of these things actually happen. I eat like a pig, am continuously drunk for three days, and the house is almost burned down six or seven times. Itdoes, however, serve as a reminder of what my life would be like if I didn’t have The Duchess and/or a job. It’s sobering, let me tell you. Well, not literally. You get the idea.

The other thing I always swear I’ll do is read more.

I don’t read books very quickly any more, and I am amazed sometimes at the rate others consume books. When I was a kid, I read a lot faster; I would stay up until 3AM in my room reading, and tear through several books a week, sometimes. I could barely acquire enough books to keep myself stocked. But as I’ve aged, I’ve slowed down, for a lot of reasons. One, I read several books simultaneously, mainly because I am forgetful and am always leaving books around and forgetting where they are, and then I never have a book on hand when I want one (say, in the bathroom). The subset of this is that I’m lazy, and if I am on the first floor of the house when I want to read a book and I have left my book on the second floor, I will not go get it. I will read cereal boxes instead. No, really.

Two, I actually get paid to do other activities and that eats into my reading time. Between working and writing and cleaning up after my shedding, vomiting, pooping, all-singing, all-dancing cats, there’s very little time for me to just sit with someone else’s thoughts for a while.

Finally, I have the attention span of a gnat. This didn’t used to be true. I used to be able to stare at walls for hours, thinking, but that was before The Internet. Now I have a hummingbird’s brain: Tiny and flitting from thought to thought. I start reading something, and before I know it something in the book about Day Laborers has set me off on a chain of tangents ending with me humming and trying desperately to remember the words to the All in the Family theme song. It’s days, sometimes, before I can safely pick up that particular book again.

I get self-conscious about this because most people you meet in the publishing biz read books at a startling rate – a rate so fast a more cynical man might not believe it possible. Granted, most of thwese folks are being paid, in some way, to read, but it’s still startling. It’s enough to make a man question his own intelligence. Man, if I turn out to be dumber than I’ve always thought, I’m going to be sooo mad.

Still, it occurs to me that in the wise words of Gary Coleman, it takes Diff’rent Strokes to move the world, so I shouldn’t be ashamed of my slow reading. I’m a Slow Reader, and I’m proud! Or, if not proud, I am at least no longer ashamed. Or as ashamed.


Yup, a new video, because The Duchess went to The Ancestral Home for Thanksgiving, leaving me alone with four cats and a bar stocked full of booze. I’m not responsible for my actions under these circumstances, so I made a video about cats. Apologies in advance.

Yes, I am ashamed.

Filthy Lucre

Per the deliriously entertaining, author Lynn Viehl has posted one of her royalty statements on the web for all to see. This is balls, if you ask me. This is America, for god’s sake, and what we earn at our vocations or avocations is sacred privacy, because that way the secret lizard aliens who secretly run the world can keep us down through collusion. Doubt me? Then you’ve been hit by the lizards’ brainwash ray.

Author earnings are strangely fascinating to folks. I think this is partly because authors have been traditionally portrayed in media as rich people who tap a keyboard for a few hours a day – usually in remote, luxurious locations – and all have bestsellers. Look at Castle for a current example of this trope. The other part of it, of course, is the wish-fulfillment of aspiring writers; believe me, when I was a kid pounding out 90-page rewrites of The Lord of the Rings, I wished fervently to believe that authors had status and riches. Sadly, we do not. Or at least I have not – I wonder if I need to sue somebody.

One thing to keep in mind about this stunt, of course, is that Lynn Viehl has more than one book out for sale, and unless her books literally vanish from the face of the earth she’s probably got a royalty stream from some of them in addition to this one book she’s posted about. Another thing to ponder is that she did get a sizeable advance (though of course in real-life terms, that got nibbled down, as she says, to near poverty-levels if that was your only income that year). Even assuming that the earnings drop considerably after the first year, put together she’s making more than this one statement shows. That’s part of the gig, too. If you publish one book and then decide to go all Salinger, you better hope that one book is a classic, bubba.

And no, I won’t be posting my own statements. One reason is, I don’t want you to know about all those paranormal-romance-selkie novels I wrote under pseudonym. Part of it is that I don’t see the upside. And the final part is, this way I get to keep pretending to be a millionaire playboy author who writes his novels during the 22-hour flight between here and my secret island kingdom.

Be Seeing You

I’m a huge fan of the 1967 TV showThe Prisoner, created, mostly written by, and starring Patrick McGoohan. In fact, The Prisoner remains the one and only fanfic I ever wrote, a novella penned in 1991 called Return of the King and no you cannot see it (although I was pretty proud of it at the time – and, to be honest, I posted it to back in The Day so you can probably locate it on teh Googler, though I used a pen name). Ah, the vagaries of youth!

Anyway: I was interested in the reboot/re-imagining/whatever on AMC, so I tuned in to the first episode. Sadly, I did not finish the first episode. Some folks seem to be enjoying this show, and that’s fine. For me it wasn’t so much that the show is terrible, it’s more that it’s boring as hell – or at least was for the first 30 minutes, and how much longer am I expected to give a show? None much longer, that’s what.

Still, plenty of television shows disappoint or don’t connect. What grates on me about AMC’s The Prisoner is the fact that they changed it so fundamentally and completely from the original I wonder why they didn’t just rebrand it and create a new show. Was it the name-recognition of the original? I dunno; while band geeks like me (and you, probably) are aware of the original and possibly still like using the phrase “Be Seeing You!” in cheerily ironic situations, I don’t think Prisoner-mania has swept the nation in the last 20 years. Probably it was somebody’s pet idea, to update the charming old cold-war concept, and that‘s fine too, but in that case they really should have pulled back a little. There’s almost zero 1967-era Prisoner in 2009-era Prisoner, aside from some cheeky visual and vocal references. They should have called it something else and tagged a “inspired-by” line on it, because aside from the most general description of the show – man wakes up in a mysterious Village after resigning his position, weirdness ensues – it’s completely different. Why bother?

On a possibly-loopy side note, I gave up on the first episode when Six looks up in the sky and sees a faint outline shimmering in what looked very much like the shape of the Twin Towers. I thought to myself, myself, he’s been pegged as from New York City – if this turns out to be everyone who was in the Towers when they fell living in purgatory or something, each numbered as a victim, I will set my own house on fire in rage.

I haven’t watched the rest of the episodes, so I don’t know if I’m anywhere near on that instinctive prediction, but the very thought of it was enough for me to change the channel. I think I watched House Hunters instead. Real Estate porn, activate!

This is what you’re missing on Twitter

A recent conversation between me and Bill Cameron:

jeffreysomers: – there’s also a review of The Eternal Prison for those of you who remain unconvinced.

bcmystery: @jeffreysomers Wait. Are you saying I didn’t have to read the actual book? I could have just read a review somewhere?

jeffreysomers: @bcmystery No, because the book had all those hidden messages and dollar bills hidden inside the binding.

bcmystery: @jeffreysomers That’s a good point. I forgot about the dollar bills, probably because of all the alcohol I bought with them.

bcmystery: @jeffreysomers Probably didn’t help that I bought whatever solvent they were selling as booze in that one bar in future Venice.

jeffreysomers: @bcmystery My work here is done.

bcmystery: @jeffreysomers Why lookie there! I missed one!

jeffreysomers: @bcmystery There should have been $50 in singles in every copy. No one can explain how we make money that way, but apparently we do.

jeffreysomers: @bcmystery And on a related note. . .can I borrow a dollar? They made me use my own money for that.

Givin’ It All Away

TEC_MMYesterday I received a box of the mass market version of The Digital Plague, so there was joy in the Somers Compound. So now I have boxes of The Electric Church and TDP, and while I do spend an inordinate amount of my time reading my own work and sighing contentedly, I can’t use all these books. So it’s time for another giveaway!
As with my last book giveaway, I want to give these books to folks who have not read my work but might be interested, so I’m asking all of you for help. Is there someone you think might like my work, but you either can’t or won’t loan them a copy to try? (Don’t worry, I understand: I myself do not ever loan books, because I keep every book I’ve read, and you never get the damn books back.) If so, send me their name and address to The first 10 names I get, I’ll send that person copies of both books (mass market versions) along with a note explaining that you thought they’d like the books.

So, for example, if you know someone named John you think might dig Avery Cates, send me their info and I’ll ship ’em the books, and include a note saying something like “Jane thought you might like these, enjoy! Love, Jeff Somers.”

Have at it! First 10 I receive, so no guarantees.

UPDATE: As of 2:19 Eastern time, I’ve got my 10 names. Thanks for the suggestions, everyone! No more names, please!

Interview and Reviews

I think I am a fascinating guy. Like, really fascinating. Certainly everything I say sounds fascinating to me, and if my wife The Duchess says otherwise (all the time) then surely she is simply trying to keep me in line? Normally The Duchess uses physical violence and intimidation to keep me in line, but lying about my level of fascinatingness can’t be one of her tools, can it?

Don’t answer that.

Anyway, seeing as I’m so fascinating, I’m always surprised that more folks don’t interview me. Jebus, get me in a bar on a Friday night and just let the tape recorder go. By morning you’ll have gold, Jerry, gold!

Pete Dulin from the fantastic Present Magazine recently interviewed me, and the piece is up now along with an excerpt from and review of The Eternal Prison. Surf on over and give Present some love:

“Somers:  Strangely enough, the first version of The Electric Church involved a band of stray kittens struggling to survive in the backwoods of Texas Hill Country, scavenging for food and hiding from demonic, rabid squirrels.”

Also, Limerick posted a review of the Italian version of The Electric Church to his own blog, and you can read it here. My Italian is a bit soft, but I’m pretty sure it’s a positive review. If not, forget I said anything.


I watched the season finale of Mad Men the other night, and really enjoyed it. While I don’t think Mad Men has done anything particularly new or groundbreaking, fiction-wise, it’s done everything – or almost everything – well. Which is really all it takes to be a classic piece of storytelling. However, over the course of three seasons I have put my finger on what I think Mad Men‘s weakness is: Frankly, it’s the plot. Some of the storylines are interesting, gripping, and laugh-out-loud funny. Some are dull, plodding, and hamfisted in their symbolism. I’ve realized that the division between these two sets of storylines is pretty obviously the office plots set in the Sterling Cooper offices and involving its employees (good), and the soapy storylines involving Don Draper’s home life (or anybody’s home life) (bad). Put simply, when Mad Men is in the Sterling Cooper offices and people are plotting against each other, or bickering, or trying to come up with a great pitch, I’m enthralled, and the characterizations and the things we know about the characters inform and improve the storylines. When we’re home listening to the loathsome Betty Draper (loathsome on purpose, and wonderfully written as a character, but loathsome nonetheless), I start thinking about mixing a fresh drink and checking my email.

Now, this is just part of the cost of doing business with a show like Mad Men. It is, at its heart, a soap, and part of the drama is supposed to be Don’s home life. However, something’s starting to happen in science fiction and fantasy television (and maybe in other mediums): The SF/F shows are starting to take on this model as well. You have the interesting, good stuff (SF/F), and then you have the soapy stuff that plods along. In shows involving aliens, spaceships, magic, flash forwards, mysterious islands, death rays, elves – whatever, we suddenly have all sorts of subplots about infidelity, unrequited love, terminal illnesses and every other soapy mainstays. SF/F shows used to be about action, about fantastic concepts, with a minimal amount of soapy stuff, but the balance has been inverted.

Consider Star Trek: The Original Series. You didn’t have scene of Kirk arguing with his girlfriend, or Chekov grousing about how his career is stalled. This was because they were too busy fighting aliens in desert arenas, firing phasers, and discovering that once again their forward shields wouldn’t hold. In today’s market, they’d have to make Kirk married or at least get him involved by season three.

I understand the impetous behind this: SF/F is spreading beyond its traditional confines. It’s getting a general audience, and general audiences like a nice soupy mix of storylines. These are the folks who really liked the “sexual chemistry” of Moulder and Scully on The X Files, and wanted more of that. The creators of these shows think the audience needs a mundane handle to grab onto. So, okay, you have the survivors of flight 815 getting deeper and deeper into a Weirdness Cavern, and maybe some viewers are worried about how weird its getting, but then you have a nice solid love triangle like Mom used to make, and if nothing else you can hold onto that.

Cynical? Maybe. I can’t help but wonder if something like FlashForward wouldn’t be better if they stopped worrying about who’s going to get married and who’s going to start drinking again and started worrying about why in hell everyone passed out for two minutes and saw a vision of the future. Just a thought.

But as SF/F keeps spreading, keeps building mindshare and keeps seeping into the mainstream I think this is going to get worse, until eventually SF concepts will simply be settings for soap operas. This will be right around the time they roll out Star Trek: Academy on ABC, where every episode will involve romances, betrayals, and hidden pasts, and every sweeps week mysterious aliens will invade and the Federation Academy kids will have to fight them off using wormholes or something. And then back to who’s boinking who.

Screw it, I’m going to mix myself a fresh drink.