Welcome to the ABC 2017 Wrap-Up, the part of the blog where I talk about the state of ABC and what this means for me, for you, and for the rest of the known universe. It’s been a long, lousy, lolloping year, one in which I made major changes to ABC – changes which are either wise choices or the worst decisions I’ve ever made.
What can I say about them? Let’s dive right in and find out.
I started A Book of Creatures in the distant, murky past of 2015. I was young and optimistic then, full of grandiose and ill-advised hopes. I had made my own handwritten and hand-drawn encyclopedia when I was in middle school, and the idea never quite left me. As my artistic abilities reached acceptable levels, I wanted to write a book of creatures.
I wanted ABC to be the ultimate reference to mythical entities. In my original idea I wanted to cover everything from obscure fishes like the caspilly (above, my version below) to fairies and dwarfs and goblins and even including entries for the folkloric conceptions of animals (i.e. how have ravens, snakes, whales, centipedes, etc. been interpreted by different cultures). It was an ambitious project but at the time it seemed feasible. If I do three entries a week, then… quick math… I should be done in a few years right? How bad can it be? No fear, right?
I was wrong. Dead wrong. Götterdämme-wrong. The more I wrote, the more I painted, the more I researched, the more I continued to find creatures. Oh, and it was such an adventure finding them! Reading obscure and esoteric books to find details on things that other bestiaries take for granted… it was fun! … and it was also time-consuming. And the more detail I lavished on unknown things like giant tadpoles and medicinal mermaids, the more I shuddered at having to eventually tackle things like giants and elves and dwarfs and fairies, which have had libraries’ worth of books written on them. I thought I’d have to pad out ABC, but there was more creatures than I could handle on my own.
To top it off life started to intrude, little by little, and my ability to handle things started to fall apart – as did I. I won’t write you my life story, but I found myself having to cut back on the frequency of updates. Then I stopped writing creature entries altogether.
Why did I stop? From the start I’d always wanted ABC to be a print book. A solid, colorful encyclopedia that you can take off the shelf anytime and read cover to cover, or ” dip into [the] pages at random, just as one plays with the shifting patterns of a kaleidoscope”, as Borges put it. If I posted everything online, what would be a publisher’s incentive to print the book? What would be your incentive to buy it?
That’s why I stopped. I left everything up here for now because it’s all Important and Valuable Information that should be freely available, but I decided to put it on hold for now until something more concrete materializes for the book. Instead I’m posting other things, book reviews and obscure modern monsters and behind-the-scenes stuff which was requested at the time.
I also trimmed the fat significantly, reviewing and rewriting my definition of “creature” multiple times. As things stand, ABC will not be including things like fairies and goblins and gnomes – creatures that are more or less human in every sense except for magical ability. For now this scope is far too broad for ABC – at least, too broad for the approach I’ve taken.
What does this mean for the future?
I want to continue updating this site with material. It’s my raison d’etre, as it were. I can continue with the asides, or maybe put sketches and snippets of what I’m working on now. I might even go back to posting entries if I feel like I’ve advanced enough.
More importantly, I’m working on the final product. ABC had about 200 or 300 entries when I stopped updating. Including those, I currently have almost 700 entries and counting for the final book. Some of those are pretty much complete, others are works in progress and yet others are outlines. The way I’ve been going about it is going through my references one by one and making sure to enter that information. The art will happen later; I believe finalizing a first draft is higher priority.
As things stand it looks like crowdfunding publishing is the way to go. I will only start working on this seriously once the book is nearing completion. I don’t want to raise hopes and funds over a half-baked product. The downside of this is that, well, it might take a while.
But that’s what 2018 is for. That’s what I’ll be working on.
What about you? Any comments? Anything you’d like to see? Any aspersions to cast? Please let me know!
Otherwise I’ll be right here.