I think it’s fair to say that I’ve not really been overwhelmed by positive feedback for my dystopian novel No Future, but I have received some, especially now that the complete novel has been posted. However, as I’ve mentioned before, if my intention was to write fiction that was popular on Stories OnLine or Literotica, then I really ought to start writing the sort of story that might do well.
Instead, I seem to be heading in the opposite direction,
The principal complaint is that the novel is confusing, what with all its interweaving story-lines and abrupt changes of protagonist and period in time. I have to plead guilty to the charges, but I hope that anyone who’s stuck with the novel can see the cohesiveness under the disjointed surface. I set myself a relatively difficult task to thread together a number of different narratives in the time-frame of about 92 years, with one chapter for each year. Although the narrative for each individual is in strict chronological order, the whole novel bounces backwards and forwards in time, location, protagonist and style.
I know that some people hated the novel in a way that seems a little vindictive. An experimental novel of this kind was never going to get broad appeal on sex fiction sites even though it does feature adult material which makes it unsuitable for most other places. However, I am always surprised by how many very low votes I’ve received from people who I’d have thought had better things to do than find stories they don’t like and vote them down. Especially with the predictability and punctuality that’s been demonstrated.
In fact, the reception to the novel hasn’t been quite as bad as I’d feared. Literotica readers can vote on each chapter on a novel for as many chapters as there are in the novel, so a single person can make his or her impact felt, in this case, 92 times. However, other than one or two sarcastic e-mails and comments, the response has been more or less what I’d expect with a mixture of apathy and bemusement. The response from Stories OnLine has been more nuanced, probably because readers have a limit to the number of stories they can read, so they become more discriminating. About a third of the votes are negative and over a half think it’s pretty good, which seems to me a fair reflection of the likely range of real opinion on the website. There are going to be people who won’t like the novel either for stylistic reasons or, for those few of a right-wing bent who can get past their initial discomfort in not having things made moronically easy for them, for the political bias.
Reception on ASSTR is, as always, more difficult to gauge, but there have been fewer downloads than for my last novel, The Battle for the Known Unknown, so that’s one sign.
I shall fairly soon be uploading the novel to Smashwords and other such places where I don’t really expect a much better reception.
So, why did I write and publish a novel which I knew was unlikely to be a big hit?
Well, there are two reasons. One is that I don’t believe that No Future is a bad novel however non-linear, multi-plotted and unsympathetic to the predominant views of the most vociferous and vocal faction on the Sex Fiction sites (however unrepresentative of that demographic group it might be).
The other is of course embedded in the weasel word “unlikely”. I’m not a marketing expert and I rather despise the tendency towards homegenisation of culture and opinion that marketing invariably implies, but it is just about possible that a novel that has a lot of what I think are fairly important things to say about humanity’s sleepwalk towards ultimate disaster (as voiced by the overwhelming majority of the scientific consensus and a bit of common-sense) might just have what it takes at a time when the biggest selling novel is about a women’s submission to a paper-thin stereotype sado-masochist and when the world’s biggest pop group is a kind of identikit of all the boy-bands since the Monkees (taking in Take That and the Bay City Rollers).
Surely, now is the time for a self-published novel that’s a little bit different, a little bit topical and with a little bit of sex to make a difference.
Well, that’s the theory anyway.