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The Thaddeus Gazette Embraces Recursion

Scribes have ever pined for more efficient ways of getting words into indelible form and intrepid inventors have created them, from quills and parchment to fountain pens to typewriters and linotype to computer typesetting to WordStar, WordPerfect and Word. And given the current state of solar flare activity, possibly thence to styluses and damp clay.

The advent of the word processor has been an undeniable boon to writers. Instead of painstakingly efficient editing, now whole sentences and paragraphs of their spew can be shifted and rearranged at will, taking the rewriting process to a whole new level of procrastination. It is possible to actually embody the artistic ideal of Michaelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and replying to the query "When will it be done?" with the fully-justified answer "I don't know! I'm working on it!" Indefinitely.

And that's not all! No! Now writers have carte blanche to build those dream-castle godzillion-word brick-thick novels they've always lusted after, thousand-page epics of exposition and backstory and aside and poetry and random comments on the toilet habits of the maid's mother's brother's dog. It's enough to make a fantasist's head explode, or at the very least be eaten by zombie hordes from the black moon of Tnazpz.

But when it comes to the background of book distribution, we see a very different plot arc. The advent of the printing press (thoughtfully extracted from the mechanism of that older and more practical invention, the wine press) gave us the first mass media, just in time to serve the first media masses, and only the addition of movable type has done much to change its structure. We may splatter words into text files at barely subliminal rates, we may choose from a million fonts and margin and page formatting with the tolerance of a razor's edge, but the paper end of the act, and the middlemenchen who rule it, metastasized and rooted itself firmly into society without mutation.

Or so they thought.

The first crack in the dam was that reprehensible (though Scrabble-legal) verbed noun xerox. Along with photo-lithography, the copy machine took publishing away from bulky guys with pig iron presses and plopped it squarely into the paddy paws of hoy hoy the hoi palloi, resulting in the launching of a million zines, lost-dog signs, rock show fliers and endlessly-recopied cartoons of laughing men with the untidily press-lettered caption "You want it when?"

But just as it took Nixon to go to China, it has taken the coming of the Great Satan of online marketing,, to really fling open the doors of commerce to the Great Unwashed of writing. With Amazon's Kindle e-reader, and more specifically their new Kindle Direct Publishing program, the cork really came out of the e-publishing whoopee cola genie bottle. Twenty-something writers in the wilds of nowhere were cranking out tweener vampire romances and snagging million-dollar publishing deals with nary a Hollywood flack or a New York literary agent in sight. At least temporarily, the gates were down and the barbarians in full possession of the level playing field.

Still, one tower held firm against the onslaught: real books. Brick and mortar booksellers continued to stock their shelves from major manufacturers, and the traditional vetting process for Being In Print, with all its snoot and privilege and (whisper it) editorial discernment, continued in its stately kabuki undisturbed. Even the redoubtable I, with my world-class DIY chops, couldn't come up with a pulp-nonfiction version of my much-varied literary output that stood an onion's chance in chili of residing on a store shelf. Paper-printed bound books were the province of Vetted Professional Writers, and all else was vanity press. Losers.

Until now, that is. Amazon recently launched a cooperative service, Create Space, that does the unthinkable: finally, finally, the vanity author can not only publish, but also sell, through the largest online retailer on earth, actual paper reproductions of their work (and here's the kicker) printed on demand. No more stacks of unsold product glowering from the basement shelves. No more thousands of copies of embarrassing typos. And no more subpar printing — I can personally attest that these guys produce an absolutely industrial-grade paperback (physically at least—what's inside is up to the author).

How can I attest that, you ask? No, of course you didn't ask. You knew. Ol' Scribblin' Thad is up to his tricks again. I have a new book. And this one's dead tree, too, baby! It's a nostalgic throwback to the Clinton administration, a compendium of the best of the first two years of this fine online essay series, titled Fresh Meat, Same Old Can: The Best Of The Thaddeus Gazette, 1996-1998. Available now as a Kindle download at, and almost-now (I'm working on it!) as an utterly gorgeous paperback at

Go ahead. Click. I dare you.

And just to prove what kind of a sport I am, here's an excerpt:


I have a distinct tendency to take cold weather personally — it always feels like something's got it in for me. It doesn't help that my body keeps trying to physically get up and run away, preferably to Arizona or points south. The last time we got a major snow job, during the Great Northwest Blizzard of 1990, I came up with a terrific plot for a horror story: Frosty the Snowman as a Steven King novel. This last bout with Winter Eternal has given me even more inspiration.

Stay with me on this one: it's Christmas time, a nice Disneyish midwestern sort of Christmas, and in the cute Disneyish midwestern town there is peace on earth and good will towards capital and all that. Now right around Christmas week there's one heckuva snowstorm, I mean class A. The next morning the whole town is frozen in, isolated, the main roads in and out closed. In this little microcosm a mighty drama is played out, a battle twixt Nice and Naughty...

(read on).

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