Cheeseburger Gothic

Beautiful objects

Posted July 23 into Books by John Birmingham

A couple of days ago I received notice of a package waiting for me at the post office, a box containing a dozen limited edition proof copies of The Cruel Stars.

"Limited-edition proof" sounds a lot more impressive than it actually is. These are pre-release copies, usually generated from the text before the proofreader has had her evil way with it. So you get the occasional typo. But you also get to feel the book as an object in your hands for the first time. It's always exciting.

I gave a copy to Thomas (who's already told me it's a bit thinky - he hasn't got to the shooting and the swearing yet) and to some friends who were visiting for lunch over the weekend. The others will get salted around to various science-fiction fans in the city's bookshops and to a couple of journalists. I'll keep one or two copies for myself, because although proof copies are imperfect by nature, they're also very rare. A couple of dozen, as opposed to the tens of thousands of finished copies which will soon hit the bookstores.

Today, however, another package arrived. Much smaller. All the way from London. My English publishers, who have the rights to release the title in Australia and New Zealand, had emailed a couple of the finished hardbacks. Having already handed out a couple of copies of the proof edition, I didn't tear the packet open with trembling hands. In fact I put it on the kitchen bench, made a cup of tea, and went back to my work, forgetting about it for an hour or so. When I came up for lunch a bit later, I was surprised to see the parcel sitting there. My books, I thought. I should have a look at them.

Holy shit. I knew as soon I lifted them out of the bubble wrap that they were very, very different. They are beautiful. Hardback books often are of course, they have to be to justify the price. But the artwork, the finish, the fine details such as the light blue ribbon to mark your place, they all suggested an objet d’art rather than some gross commercial unit that would soon be making its way into the back of a goods truck for delivery into the retail channel.

In many ways they are the same object that arrived last week; the same pages, the same cover, the same contents. And yet holding them in my hands I am still taken, many hours later, by the way in which the aesthetics of the final artefact make it something quite different from all previous iterations. That, I suppose, is the magic of publishing.

20 Responses to ‘Beautiful objects’

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted July 23
I trust Thomas will still give a 5 star review on Amazon after all as the bard would put it "“If she must teem, Create her child of spleen, that it may live And be a thwart disnatur'd torment to her! Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth, With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks, Turn all her mother's pains and benefits To laughter and contempt, that she may feel How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is To have a thankless child!”

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jl mumbles...

Posted July 23
Yeah. There's something about a finished proof. I've got a few of them hanging around here- pretty sweet to hold your baby toward the end of the process and look it over. I've never had a hardback, though.

Ceramic has opinions thus...

Posted July 25
Same. To hold (or in my case, hug) something I created that didn't exist before - priceless.

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Sparty mutters...

Posted July 23
they look "class" and I know the contents are pretty outstanding....

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted July 23
British publishers, mate. Still setting the gold standard.

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she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted July 23
Gosh, they’re just SO beautiful!

jl swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 23
Agreed. First class.

Ceramic swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 25
They really are stunning!

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insomniac would have you know...

Posted July 24
The one lying flat looks like it's charging.

insomniac asserts...

Posted July 24
Nice, but

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon reckons...

Posted July 24
no question that they look the goods. I wish i could stack my shelves with hardcovers. Paperback will just have to make do! Been on a fantasy stint lately - looking for a bit of a change and scifi might just fit the bill . . . . : )

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WA n'ker ducks in to say...

Posted July 24
...meanwhie, city ways,
Life goes screaming on....

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 29
I wants the precious.

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pitpat swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 2
Just a quick question. Will there be an audiobook ? Asking as a new convert.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted August 2
There will indeed!

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NBlob asserts...

Posted August 16
Please Sir, can you tell us when they may be released into the wild. I have a handful of sweat stained notes awaiting.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted August 16
Magic 8Ball says 20 Aug.

NBlob puts forth...

Posted August 17
Noice.

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she_jedi would have you know...

Posted August 19
One more sleep until this baby drops on iBooks. I am beside myself with anticipation!

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KreepyKrawly would have you know...

Posted August 20
Has finally dropped at the beast. lucky, just finished a book. ß-Þ

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