Doing the final edit on Shell Game now, before it goes to the printers.  It is a bit of a mind trip to work on something like Shell Game after The Ghost and the Machine.  One minute you're researching PTSD and railway systems, and looking up Napoleon's influence on the sugar beet industry to try to figure out whether ordinary Austrians had jam in 1838.  The next minute, you've heaved all of your reference books out the window and are gleefully inventing the sexual practices of an imaginary aristocracy.

I've had such a goofusly huge amount of fun over Shell Game, and yet there's something that keeps hitting me whenever I go back to it.  Whatever else can be said about Shell Game, it really, really is a remarkably silly book about pirates.

Gay pirates.

I'm not going to apologise for that- either for the silly or the piracy.  (And certainly not for the gay.)  Silliness has an important place in the ecosystem; it helps to counteract self-importance and pomposity.  The real sin, to me, is not silly but boring.  I've done my best not to be that.

And piracy?  It's a concept as hackneyed as all sin, but let's face it, all of the themes and concepts and images that resonate with us were old long before our time.  When I read, what excites me is old ideas turned inside out and made new again, or twisted around so I have to re-examine what I think I know.  I get snarly and sarcastic if I can guess the ending of a book from its first page, but I would be just as bored by a story that contained nothing familiar, nothing that bridged the distances between the author and me, nothing that made me feel that she wanted to invite me into her world and show me around there.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but...pirates?  Gay pirates?

A while back, there was an author who was worried about whether his pirate book would sell, pirates being such a hackneyed concept and all.  So he wrote a little poem for the front page, addressing it to potential buyers:



If sailor tales to sailor tunes,

Storm and adventure, heat and cold,

If schooners, islands, and maroons,

And buccaneers, and buried gold,

And all the old romance, retold

Exactly in the ancient way

Can please, as me they pleased of old,

The wiser youngsters of today:

So be it, and fall on! If not,

If studious youth no longer crave,

His ancient appetites forgot,

Kingston, or Ballantyne the brave,

Or Cooper of the wood and wave,

So be it, also!  And may I,

And all my pirates share the grave

Where these and their creations lie!


Translation?  GO AWAY HATERS I HEART PIRATES FOREVER SHUT UP THEY'RE AWESOME.  The author?  Robert Louis Stevenson.  The book?  Treasure Island.  

 So there.  


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