Musings on the ambitious flop that was “Bad Cow”

Yesterday I posted a self-deprecating / self-pitying image macro acknowledging that Bad Cow, which I’d enthusiastically considered the most important and mind-blowing piece of literature to grace my bibliography, didn’t really hit that mark.

I intended it as a direct comparison to Ed Wood, who blithely and happily went on making hysterically bad movies despite the critics and audiences (I speak of the Burton movie version of the man as portrayed by Johnny Depp, but by all accounts that was fairly faithful to the reality). And no, Aaron my man, you were not being personally attacked. You weren’t alone on this one.

So I have several rambling thoughts about this, and I’ll just put them down in no particular order.

First and foremost, the readers aren’t wrong. If I ever become the author who blames his readers for the fact that his books failed to meet their mark, I expect you all to slap me. I like to laugh about the bad “did not read” reviews of Eejit, but that’s different. Like I’ve said, they’re by definition not readers. Fuck ’em. If my book is so bad you stopped reading, then I guess I’m a terrible author and you shouldn’t waste your valuable time. I’m talking about the opinions of people who read the book.

Perhaps it’s best to start with Eejit, as first book of my first series. I also like to joke about my Marvel “phase” plan, but it’s quite concrete in my mind. Eejit began Phase One, and Human and Deadshepherd ended it. It’s no more a suggested reading order than Marvel’s phases are a suggested viewing order, but it probably helps to make sense of it all. I started by dropping the reader right into it, and I didn’t have much of a plan for the series, although the overall urverse had already existed for twenty years. I didn’t over-explain, and I threw some of my most challenging language in there. If you understood Eejit and got through it, the rest would get easier. And all the pieces of that particular puzzle would fall into place.

Phase Two began with a similar challenge. Bad Cow. Not so much difficult language this time, but a lot of new questions and a downright surreal setting, and oh yeah, it was long. And had some complex new rules for the urverse that I needed to get in there.

And it needed to tell a story. Three stories, actually.

Like I say, I was happy with it but I know it was a misfire, hence my little jokes. It was maybe a Phase Three book, and it still could have used more work if I’d published it there. But oh well. Phase Two gets easier from now on. The First Feast, I think, is back to more familiar ground but still includes the wider mythos. So yeah. It was hard work. I don’t think any of my future books will be as hard to read as Bad Cow. But that’s not my call to make.

Another issue is that Bad Cow, like Eejit, probably isn’t telling the story the readers think it is. And this time, that’s absolutely planned and intentional. I flailed a little with the early books of The Final Fall of Man, before realising where it fit. But I know exactly where Bad Cow fits – and chances are, readers aren’t going to like it (and yes, that visual you just got was intentionally planted too). But all I can do is tell the story. That’s why I have a day job.

I’m not dismissing the readers. I’m just saying that their expectations may not be met by the direction of this new Phase Two series. Phase Two is about Earth, and humans, and Oræl the Vengeful. It’s not about Cursèd’s Playground or the Pinians, except insofar as everything is about the Pinians. So yeah, just hang on and enjoy the ride. And if you don’t like the ride? Well, like Ed Wood says, my next one will be better.

I started out thinking The Final Fall of Man was my Lord of the Rings, and Oræl Rides to War (of which Bad Cow is book one) was my Silmarillion. But that’s not the case. Oh, I have a Silmarillion. I don’t know if it’ll ever make it as an actual story.

No, the fact is, The Final Fall of Man is my Hobbit. And Oræl Rides to War is my … Appendices.

Or maybe you prefer to think about the movies, in which case – fine, The Final Fall of Man is my Lord of the Rings. And Oræl Rides to War is my Hobbit. With Appendices and Last Tales thrown in to make it bigger and more complex, and make an awful lot of readers ask me “why did you do that?”

Yeah, that works for me. Also this blog is my Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles.

Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while on the bus. Wow, so many underlines and italics, what a buttpain.

About Hatboy

I’m not often driven to introspection or reflection, but the question does come up sometimes. The big question. So big, there’s just no containing it within the puny boundaries of a single set of punctuationary bookends. Who are these mysterious and unsung heroes of obscurity and shadow? What is their origin story? Do they have a prequel trilogy? What are their secret identities? What are their public identities, for that matter? What are their powers? Their abilities? Their haunted pasts and troubled futures? Their modus operandi? Where do they live anyway, and when? What do they do for a living? Do they really have these fantastical adventures, or is it a dazzlingly intellectual and overwrought metaphor? Or is it perhaps a smug and post-modern sort of metaphor? Is it a plain stupid metaphor, hedged around with thick wads of plausible deniability, a soap bubble of illusory plot dependent upon readers who don’t dare question it for fear of looking foolish? A flight of fancy, having dozed off in front of the television during an episode of something suitably spaceship-oriented? Do they have a quest, a handler, a mission statement, a department-level development objective in five stages? I am Hatboy.
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7 Responses to Musings on the ambitious flop that was “Bad Cow”

  1. brknwntr says:

    This is all coming as quite a shock to me. Since in the whole I enjoyed Bad Cow. Yes, it was a new beginning, but you pulled through with the Final Fall of man after a rocky start, and I expect you to pull through again. My editorial comments on length aside, I fully enjoyed the story and look forward to the rest. Even if I am grumpy you killed your three best Non-Çrom characters ever. You killed the ferret and I’m slowly getting over that.

    • As it pertains to me, brkn, you should know I have other reasons for not enjoying Bad Cow than most, as Hatboy can attest. I have become familiar with some of the background/origin stories of his urverse, in particular those that directly apply to the setting of all parts of Bad Cow, and several fundamental points changed from what I thought I knew.

      TL;DR, Hatboy and I have discussed this to death and realize where my displeasure originates.

      I’m reading it again, now, and actually enjoying it. Now that my confusion has run its course and isn’t recurring. Yeah, still not looking forward to those 3 deaths, though. That pissed me off too.

  2. stchucky says:

    Thanks (both of you) for this reassurance. See, part of the problem is that I still have only a very small sample of responses. And they’re either from editors, whose job was specifically to find issues that could be fixed; or from (for example) Aaron, who has read the Book of Pinian stories and is rightfully confused about how it all hangs together. And like he said, we went over that a lot … but none of it’s canon until it’s published. So it’s hard to read one thing and pretend another didn’t happen.

    From what I’ve seen of reader responses (and even from editors now), the story was actually received quite positively – with a side-order of “you’d better solve all these gorram riddles”. And that’s fine. So my greatest critic, at least so far, is me.

    So what else is new.

    In other news, I had a similar reaction the Vandemar Sisters’ arc. But (with due acknowledgement of the fact that like five of the seven people to have read this book are here on the blog and I want to avoid spoilers), by their very nature we will probably see them again.

    Boonie is a different story. He deid(sic). Or … well, BRKN might be interested in a little piece he just inspired me to start writing. Might drop it on the blog later in the week.

    • stchucky says:

      * reaction to the Vandemar…

      Because who has the spoons to edit a blog comment on a phone? Not me.

    • “In other news, I had a similar reaction the Vandemar Sisters’ arc. But (with due acknowledgement of the fact that like five of the seven people to have read this book are here on the blog and I want to avoid spoilers), by their very nature we will probably see them again.”

      Ohhhhhhhh that’s right because they are—*devolves into coughing fit*

      OK I’m over their deaths. Thanks for the re-mind.

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