Monday, December 1, 2008

Impact Zone, or the joys of vicarious living through fiction

Confession: you once wrote a three-book series knowing in advance that the chances of it being successful were less than remote. The series was called Impact Zone and it was about surfing. More precisely, it was about the friction between competitive surfing and what’s called “soul surfing,” (as compared to soul searching).

You had just taken up the sport of surfing and were in love with it. You daydreamed and night dreamed about it. You read surfing books and magazines and amassed a collection of surf videos. When you pitched the idea for a surfing series to your editor, you somehow failed to mention that you suspected there would be hardly any audience. The story didn’t have enough romance to interest girls, and most boys who surf may have many wonderful and endearing attributes, but, as a group, they are not known for their reading prowess (is the opposite of prowess prowless?).

But that wasn’t the point. It was winter and cold outside and you wanted to be surfing. So you wrote. Day after day you got to spend hours in a world where surfing was the only thing that mattered. And you loved it. In the pages of your books the sun always shined, the water was always 70 degrees, and you ripped up waves in ways you never could in real life. You had cool weird friends (pretty much like in real life), and were adored by many beautiful women (exactly like in real life!).

One amusing development came when the marketing department at the publishing company got hold of the manuscripts and realized what you already suspected -- that these books were simply not going to sell. In a desperate attempt to attract readership, they added sexy girls to the covers. Unfortunately, they added a girl wearing a bikini top to the book titled Take Off.

A “take off” is what surfers do when they catch a ride. They take off on the wave. Imagine your surprise a few months later when a school librarian told you she couldn’t put the book in her library because of the cover of the girl in the bikini and the title Take Off.

Mr. Bill says, “Now that REALLY took imagination. (Not the librarian, the part about Todd being adored by beautiful women).”

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