I enjoy many things. A clear sunny day spent sitting under a tree with my sketchbook, a brisk walk on a rainy and blustery afternoon. Birds chirping and flittering about me as I stand still in the forest. A good hot mug of chocolate. And books, and art, and beautifully shot, convoluted movies with fantasy deep in their plots.
Beautiful weather and birds aside, much of what I love has a person, or people, to thank for it. And because of the internet, I’m closer to those people than ever I was in my childhood. I can read an author’s blog and learn how she sat in a coffee shop for hours, years, drinking hot chai and typing long fluid sentences. I can follow an art director’s twitter stream and watch the development of a cover from concept to print. I can visit an artist’s portfolio site and see what work inspired and was inspired by the cover I enjoy so much. If ever I feel threatened by a disconnect between myself and the world of wonders I consume, I can go online and immediately discover myself a part of a community of writers, artists, readers, creators. It is a beautiful, exhilarating feeling. It reminds me of why it’s such a lucky thing to be human in this century — our society is huge.
This is why my bookshelves are always overflowing. I love the library and patronize it well (I read too much not to!), but with certain books and authors I’m too emotionally invested to be a spectator only. I need to participate in the community surrounding their work, even if it’s only in that I put a little money into their pockets. It’s an investment, really. In the publisher and editors who made it possible for me to read the work, in the cover artist who packaged it well, and in the author who spent long hours writing and rewriting. And rewriting. To buy a book, of a hardcover run especially, is to invest in the future work of those creators. More popularity means more contracts, more leisure to pursue things that are beautiful and original and heartbreakingly real.
The book pictured above came out today, and it is one such book. I know I’ve mentioned Catherynne Valente before. Her work is astoundingly vivid, conceptually magnificent, and heartrendingly original. She can take a metaphor and spin it out like the gossamer strands of a spider’s long web, intricate lines of words that shimmer before your eyes. Her prose literally feels like being immersed, though coming up for air will never be quite as sweet.
Deathless is a story of Soviet Russia, and also of Koschei and Marya Morevna. It weaves together strands of folklore and history in that way that Valente is so accomplished at, and though I haven’t gotten my copy yet I can only anticipate great beauty. This free excerpt on Tor would certainly suggest so.
Even if Valente is not your own cup of tea, I hope you consider buying a book or piece of art soon (if the economy has been so kind to you that you can afford it). Or contact your local library and request they order books you want but they do not have. Invest a little time or money in something you love, and in the future of its creators. We’re all one vast, wonderful network of working minds, and the feedback loop is strong.
Art moves civilization along faster than anything else, but the only ones who can foster its continued existence are those of us who love it.