The new frontier
The reemergence of Western Lit is a return and a departure all in the same piece. Western Lit has been an intermittent feature in the RN&R since its early days in the mid-90s. It focuses on writers who live in or write about the West. We generally eschew “genre” novels, reviewing, instead, authors like Rick Bass, Annie Proulx and T. C. Boyle.
Writing about local artist Andrea Juillerat-Olvera’s new novella, Demon’s Grace, is a departure because it’s definitely genre writing: erotic science fiction. But it’s also a departure on another level in that it’s not a book at all; it’s an ebook.
So, while I was interested to see what Juillerat-Olvera had to write about, being a techno-geek, I wanted to see how this whole new process of writing and publishing ebooks works.
But first, the novella. It describes the adventures of Sabrina Lingus, with smuggling information, drugs and sex. (Aren’t the classic themes always the best?) Space doesn’t allow an in-depth description of the wonderfully imaginative, and yet frighteningly believable, near-future intrusions of government—and recreation—into our very minds. The book is intelligently written and guiltily pleasurable, though some of the violence and sexual content aren’t for the faint of heart. (Virtual necrophilia, anyone?) Let’s just say the drugs are designer, the level of government and business scrutiny is profound, and safe sex in future Seattle, while not likely to give you a sore on your genitals, is just as oxymoronic as the term is in Reno present. It’s deliciously dirty.
“I think the imagination is kind of the final frontier, especially considering how much surveillance there is on society, how much we’ve filled in the planet with our population pressure,” Juillerat-Olvera said in a recent telephone interview. “It’s kind of the last place to go, the imagination. So, in that book, I’m kind of exploring, ‘When will that be? When will we also have fences up in that realm?’ I think I kind of pushed the limits of my imagination, exploring and testing that question.”
And quite an imagination she has, but she doesn’t go anywhere I can’t imagine technology and human depravity going. Psychologists say there are no bad fantasies—this book makes me question that statement.
“The book is not for everyone,” she said. “It’s definitely got some adult content. It can be challenging in some ways. It is definitely in that genre. It is sci-fi. Adult. Horror. Really, it really is. So if that sounds good to you, then yeah, read it. But if that sounds scary and dangerous, then don’t read it, right?”
Whenever I mentioned that I was reading an ebook by a local author, people wanted to know specifics. I don’t have an ebook reader like a Kindle, but I do have a Droid 2 Global cell phone.
Here’s how it worked for me. First, I went to Smashwords.com from a link that Juillerat-Olvera had provided on Facebook. The book is also available for Kindle on Amazon.com. Purchasing the book is fairly seamless with a credit card. Then, the buyer can download any or all of 10 or so different formats, from html to pdf to Epub to plain text. I took a couple efforts to find the right format for my phone but finally landed on the free app Aldiko and the Epub.
Juillerat-Olvera, who a few weeks ago received her master’s degree in performance art, said she chose the Smashwords format because the company offers free software, Meatgrinder, to format the book. There’s no charge unless the book sells. The book sells for 99 cents. After fees, she makes 56 cents per book. So far, she’s sold 12 copies on Smashwords, and four on Kindle. She’s already at work on the second installment.
Her inspiration to do an ebook came from Amanda Hocking, who sold more than a half-million books and, if you buy into the internet gossip, made more than $2.5 million.
That’s enough to light up anyone’s imagination.
“I thought, ‘Shoot, man, maybe I can do something like that,’” Juillerat-Olvera said.