The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

As Ripples On Water

Posted by BigWords on February 4, 2011

Everything, as I have said many times before, is connected. The most seemingly isolated things are entangled, in ways which make even the most random and inconsequential items matter. When I started seriously putting the pieces of the non-fiction book together, adding fifteen years worth of notes and observations to the bare bones of an idea which I have carried with me from place to place, this became even clearer for me. I’ve (thus far) resisted the temptation to give too much away about the contents of the WIP, but as I cautiously move from segment to segment of the book, I realize that I’m not entirely sure of how much other people know. The notion of “common knowledge” seems to get further complicated as I attempt to write for an international, and more importantly educated audience.

The first thing which strikes me about writing non-fiction, and is in no way a slur on anyone else, is how often there are massive gaps in reference books. Not merely oversights, but whole sections of history which are so poorly represented that it would seem, to an indiscriminate eye, that such times have had no event of significance within the period described. I knew, right from the start, that I wanted to do something definitive with this, and having had long enough to consider how I wanted to proceed (in a subject which is still more or less virgin territory) it became clear that there were no suitable guides from which to draw on. A rough outline of contents has revealed to me the scope of the omissions in other peoples’ work, which means I have to strike out on my own if I want to do this right. In the short time I have been compiling the data, the vast world of interconnected information has slowly been revealed to me.

And it is scary.

Writing about books (in a way, for such is the nature of this tome), has been as complicated as anything I could possibly have imagined. There’s already over a hundred years of history I have to convey, and titles I need to track down, but of the material which is present and correct, very little information is already documented. This is not only new research I am having to do, it also bleeds into other areas I never expected to have to fix. The US side of the material (which is tertiary at best to what I intend) has so meager a bibliography that it isn’t worth my while reading further on the collated data there, and the European side of things is even worse – in English, at least. I’m opening myself to writing at least four or five books worth of information to back up the central data in the work in progress.

It isn’t just the paucity of good reference works about the books, it also concerns the magazines, comics and periodicals I am going to be covering. For a long time – until very recently – I had expected that there would be some sort of website or overly-priced reference book which I could work off as a starting point for further research, but that is not the case. I’m having to go through (by hand) decades of fragile documents to get the barest scraps of information required to find elements which correspond to the titles I am documenting, which is at least another book’s worth of great material sitting beside me. It’s slightly disheartening to think that there is so little interest in the history of an area of publishing that so little has been written as to necessitate such extensive research.

I’m going to hold my hand up here, and admit that I thought this would be easy. Hell, it’s not as if I ever go out of my way to do things which are on the very edge of impossible, even if it sometimes seems that way. It’s a good thing I am so obsessed with making my work as good as it can be, and – really important, given the titles which are in the same general area – encompassing, because I have the feeling the works which have set out to tackle similar areas were crushed by the ever-expanding reference pool which goes with crafting a definitive work in one area. It’s the ripples which get people every time. One thing leads to another, which opens a new field of query, then onwards… Outwards…

The ever-expanding pool of knowledge I am having to cope with may seem like a daunting task – and there are things I’m writing about which go back to the 1700s, so it is a very wide net I am casting – but I have the feeling that this is an important lesson, in many ways. If I hadn’t decided to tackle this work, then it would have remained forgotten by most as a blip which passed without much fanfare. There are names which are difficult to trace much of their work, and that’s another thing which annoys me a bit more than I find comforting. It’s pretty much up to me – as the only person who seems to be doing anything to preserve the knowledge – to make their work live on again. I really don’t like the responsibility which comes with that…

Maybe the ripple effect isn’t as bad for me because I need to write this. It isn’t because I have a feeling this will make heaps of money (in fact, I’m almost certain that the very limited audience for such a book is shrinking by the day), nor is it because there is a pressing need for such a book (given the absence of similar works on the market, that is a given), but the urge to write it remains. It’s the kind of thing I would buy in an instant if there was a title of distinction available. I may be overcompensating, by adding more information than is truly necessary for the work to stand alone, but all the elements build to something which has never been done before, and that excites me.

Do I want to be cited? To have my name in footnotes? This book, this folly of epic proportions, deemed a work which is to be read by people as a window into the small area of publishing it covers? I hope not. I do want the dissemination of information to go as well as possible, but the daunting and rather awful prospect of this graduating from a diversion to being an important title in its’ subject makes me uneasy. The way that I have been approaching the end-section of the book, unlike other reference guides, is to give it an equal weight of importance as the main body of text, and it’s probably the one thing I am most shocked with. There’s already indexed information which I can’t really grasp the reason for people excluding elsewhere, and the more I uncover (every day I seem to find some new and shiny fact) the more I am convinced that this book found me rather than the other way round.

Like ripples on water, the information grows.
Like ripples on water, it touches everything.

I can only hope I am up to the task of clearly explaining all that I hope to.


One Response to “As Ripples On Water”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jamie DeBree, Gary James. Gary James said: As Ripples On Water […]

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