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Sunday, October 17, 2021

About that book cover...


I’ve come to realize that I respond to a fascinating new idea the way a dog responds when someone says, “SQUIRREL!” In the case of this faux book cover, I was crawling through a stock art collection, looking for an illustration to go with a story, when I ran across this piece of art and was overcome by “Aww, that’s adorable!” I immediately stopped what I was doing and began to think of ways I could make an excuse to use this art. Perhaps I could write a novella to go with it? Or perhaps I could use it as a prompt in a contest? Or maybe, how about if I combine the two ideas and put together a theme anthology chapbook of contest-winning stories inspired by this illo? Or...

Or wait one damn minute. I don’t really have the time to do any of these things. And making the time to do it would mean taking time away from another project that is more central to the Rampant Loon mission. I already have three novels on my desk in various stages of completion, and Eric Dontigney has just turned in the first draft of Rinn’s Run, so I need to get started on reading that.

So, no. Cute idea, but get thee behind me, adorable li’l robot and boy.

But then I took one more look at it, and a more subtle meaning became clear to me. This art appeals to me because it reminds me of my Dad. 

My Dad ended up being a teacher, but deep down, he was a Wisconsin farm boy who came of age during the Great Depression. As such he embodied the DIY ethic to the point of excess, and it stayed with him all his life. Even in his later years, when cash money was no longer hard to come by, he still lived that way. If you needed something, you either made it yourself, figured out how to make do with what you already had, bought something that was almost good enough but a lot cheaper, or did without. And you never threw out anything that might conceivably be useful again some day, even if it was broken.

When I look at this picture, then, I realize that if I had asked my Dad for, say, a robot when I was a kid, that’s what I would have ended up with. He would have taken me down to the basement, handed me an old coffee can, pointed to a bushel basket filled with rusty plumbing fixtures, pinball machine parts, and random bicycle sprockets, and said, “You’re supposed to be so smart. Build it yourself.”

In some strange Lamarckian way he passed that character flaw trait on to me, and it’s profoundly affected the development of Stupefying Stories and Rampant Loon Press. For the past ten years I have been deeply into learning how to do everything here myself, which effectively means that I deliberately, if unintentionally, made myself the bottleneck on the critical path.

No more. This week’s watchword is “delegate.”

Now who here would like to do a development read on Rinn’s Run?

—Bruce Bethke

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