I got an e-mail a few days ago from Mithridates. He said if Tender Only to One was what he thought it was it should go public because it might help people who were close to the edge.
Also an e-mail from someone whose son had read The Last Samurai many times many years ago.
Also an e-mail from Hassan Abudu, who in the midst of jobhunting has grappled with PHP and MYSQL and produced a map for the website where readers can mark their location.
Also many e-mails from Mark Greif of n+1, who is seeing Your Name Here through the last stages before the magazine goes to print.
So I have been discussing vexed questions by e-mail. Is it kosher to talk about bad things people do when one is fresh from a psychiatric ward, I say, citing the example of X. Mith: Yes, you should definitely use this. ... Check with Rawls; I'm sure of it!!! It's in the chapter called "Fuck Him": Rawls uses Grotius in a really
interesting way there....
And what would be good headings for the map app, says Hassan. What would make speech bubbles less lame? What would make the forms look good? And what about a shopping cart for the website?
I was not sure this was such a good idea; there are more stories, yes, but they are on hard drives on three or four laptops, or a pile of plastic folders somewhere, and they would have to be cleaned up, and in short this looked like a good way not to finish a book.
I then remembered the website I had asked my first webdesigner to use as a model 3 years ago. Haunch of Venison. I thought, Yes, maybe we could pirate the design of the HOV website for the map page. So I had a look, and I suddenly realised that if I could have a shopping basket like the HOV shopping basket it would be worth digging up 5 stories to have something to put in it. I passed this on to HA, who writes:
laaaaaaaa ilaha illallah... You know, when I first read you'd consider digging through terabytes of data and kilograms of paper to get 5 short stories together just so you could have an online store like this HoV thing, you had me wondering what sort of shopping basket could be that cool, I mean, it's just a freaking shopping basket, anyway, it's also just a webpage, how bad could it be. Sweet Jesus and Mary Poppins I will never doubt again. Next time I will show Faith! Holy fucking cow, where on earth did you find that thing? How am I also going to fully communicate the full scale and magnitude of my awe, and of course my newfound respect for web designers who take pride in their work, I mean, who'd ever think to do that to a freaking *shopping basket*, canonically the shittiest part of any website?! OK, now I see where the bar has been all along, I see I'm going to have to step it up a notch now. *stretches fingers*
Which may sound irrelevant, or anyway irrelevant to thoughts of suicide, but the thing is, I've spent the last 12 years working on books where the look of the page was essential to the narrative. (I can't stand to look at the Greek and Japanese in The Last Samurai; I remember the way this was meant to look on the page, I think of the designers who fought successfully to achieve something amateurish, I don't want to think about it.) I told agents: I want to work with an editor who's interested in design, who'll let me work with a designer, who's interested in the technical side, and they all said: You're never gonna get that, you're wasting your time, you'll go barmy if you try, no editor is interested in that, you'll drive yourself mad. My website was supposed to achieve all the things I was told No Publisher Will Allow in books, so I hired a designer in Berlin 3 years ago and asked for something like the Haunch of Venison site, only with Jim Rose's kanji stroke diagrams, and No Webdesigner Will Allow.
Spolsky's criterion for good hires is Smart, Gets Things Done. It's strange to stumble across people who are SGTD not by sending out manuscripts, not by recruitment, not by paying people, but just by swapping e-mails with people who happened to read a book. If I'd been dealing with people like Mith and Hassan for the last 12 years I would have spent the time writing and publishing books, what larks. Meanwhile Hassan is full of ideas:
Oh, but I have reworked the database design so that a social networking book
exchange webapp should just fall into place naturally. ... What I changed: the user data we'll now be able to store when I'm done are: name, password, town, country, picture, books you own, books you desire, and an message section where you can send and receive messages. Anything else come to mind?
I could say more, much more, but I am meeting someone in Rosenthalerplatz in 15 minutes, so I am already late. The beta of the map app is here: