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The New Fablist

Thomas Corfield

“If there was nothing new under the sun then there would only ever be the sun.” 

 

By Simon Collington, Panda Books Australia.

Thomas Corfield is a Australian author, renowned for his captivating series, The Velvet Paw of Asquith Novels and The Wrong Books. The Velvet Paw of Asquith series is an amalgamation of adventure, mystery and humour, featuring anthropomorphic cat and dog characters who possess human-like qualities. The series has garnered a dedicated following and acclaim for its imaginative storytelling, witty dialogue and memorable characters. Notably, the protagonist Oscar Teabag-Dooven, a cat embroiled in intrigue and danger as he unravels secrets and navigates absurd plots.

In addition to The Velvet Paw of Asquith Novels, Thomas has also received praise for his satirical Sortabiography series, The Wrong Books. This collection showcases his versatility across genres while retaining his distinctive voice and sharp wit. Departing from the whimsical feline detective tales, The Wrong Books series maintains a unique blend of dark humour and social commentary, and takes aim at various aspects of society, including bureaucracy, mental health and relationships. Through his storytelling, Thomas exposes flaws and inconsistencies in these systems, often utilising satire to spotlight the overlooked absurdities in our daily lives.

Both series underscore Thomas' versatility as a writer and his skill in engaging readers with his unique sense of humour and clever wordplay. His contributions to literature have garnered numerous awards and accolades, including the Kudos Best New Fiction Award and the 2017 Opening Line eZine Award. His writing style is described as whimsical, infused with satire, wit and observational humour, all of which contribute to character development and world-building. He is also a staunch advocate for independent publishing and supports indie authors and their works, particularly within the context of what he terms polyauthorism. This involves collaborating with artists from various disciplines, such as illustrators, graphic designers and musicians, to enhance his stories visually and aurally. The aim is to enrich the reading experience and expand the boundaries of storytelling. Through polyauthorism, Thomas challenges the notion of the solitary writer and explores the potential for collective creativity within the global digital landscape. This approach not only enhances his own works but also fosters a strong sense of community and collaboration in the creative process, benefiting fellow creators by exposing their work and his to wider audiences.

In 2023, the Velvet Paw of Asquith Novels achieved 10,000 sales of their Cinematic Audiobook editions, elevating the series to Cult Status, according to Scribl.com. This achievement solidifies his position as a New Fablist and a respected and beloved author within the literary realm. Thomas' novels continue to captivate readers worldwide, and his unique voice and storytelling style have earned him the title of The Father of New Fable.

Below are a summary of his literary innovations.

1. Polyauthorism

Polyauthorism, as championed by Thomas, redefines traditional authorship by extending it beyond the written word. It's a response to this digital era's blend of various media formats and aims to engage readers across diverse platforms. New Fablists, including Thomas, embrace polyauthorism by incorporating complementary media such as music, artwork and videos into their storytelling. This not only enhances the story world but also cultivates a broader readership by appealing to modern audiences accustomed to multimedia experiences. Collaboration with other media producers further enhances this approach, leading to mutual benefits in audience exposure and creative exploration.

2. Extractionist Art

Thomas introduces the concept of Extractionist Art, a form of visual art that captures the emotional essence of scenes in his mind's eye while writing. The aim is to stimulate readers' mind's eye by conveying emotions and atmospheres that enhance the immersive reading experience. Similar to the impressionist movement in visual art, Extractionism utilises bold colours and shapes to depict landscapes and scenes from the fictional story world. This approach aligns with Thomas' polyauthoric philosophy, as it combines writing and visual art to convey the story's essence in a multi-dimensional manner.

3. Libratum Sentensia and Literary Device

The term libratum Sentensia has been coined by Thomas to describe a particular form of balanced sentence. This literary rhetoric device contains parallel sentence structures that present opposing or contrasting ideas, resulting in a harmonious balance to emphasise a particular concept. While this device has been used throughout history, Thomas' recognition of it highlights its presence in literature, especially dialogue and memorable quotes. By identifying and explaining Libratum Sentensia, Thomas adds to the arsenal of literary techniques and devices that authors can employ to enhance their writing's impact.

4. Agona

In New Fable, the use of agona—plural protagonists and antagonists—adds depth and complexity to character relationships. This approach avoids clichéd animal symbolism and introduces an additional layer of relationship tension to facilitate a multi-dimensional narrative. Agona provides additional perspectives beyond those of scene characters and the narrator, offering alternative viewpoints that contribute to the genre's absurdism and sophisticated slapstick humour. This device allows for innovative linguistic conventions, expanding the language repertoire to enhance his storytelling.

5. Absurdim

Thomas' interpretation of Absurdim encapsulates New Fable's approach to storytelling. While cats and dogs in New Fable symbolise human traits, their behaviours aren't constrained by human judgment. This allows for alternative societal rules and the creation of absurd scenarios and ludicrous plots that foster innovative and unpredictable storytelling. The juxtaposition of animal behaviour with human-like traits creates a thought-provoking atmosphere that is at the heart of the genre's impact.

Thomas' writing style, genre innovation, polyauthorism, unique artistic expressions and literary devices culminate in a creative philosophy that fosters a reader experience that is both deep and broad. His ability to blend satire, wit and observational humour within the framework of the emerging New Fable genre showcases his distinct voice and contributes markedly to the literary landscape.

By Thomas Corfield, excert from his upcoming book,  Beyond Aesop: The New Fablists.

The challenge for writers seeking recognition as New Fablists is that the genre is new, innovative and written almost exclusively by me. I may well be the father of New Fable genre fiction, but I didn't have to engage in intimate relations with anyone or anything to attain this role, which is fortunate given that I suffer from a rare form of genital deformity called deformis genitalia exiguus. My exceptional narrow-mindedness, combined with having crafted the quintessential examples of the genre, means that certain characteristics have already come to define it. Any writer aspiring to contribute to New Fable's "alphabet cesspit" [1] is welcome to aid its evolution, provided they possess a basic understanding of punctuation and a solid grasp of the genre's polyauthoric prerequisites. While writers of all ages and beliefs are encouraged to participate, the journey to becoming a New Fablist is no easy feat. I possess a rare and remarkable form of creative brilliance that is unconcerned with contemporary definitions of art, despite the irony that this book is centered around a specific fiction genre [2]. This makes me somewhat of a "literal god," whose talent radiates like the distorted and convoluted magnetic field disturbances of pulasric stella ejecta, which is, incidently, not unlike the medical definition of deformis genitalia exiguus. My focus as a New Fablist is solely on creativity and not on convention. Although few writers have a chance of approaching my sophistication, talent and subtlety, I can understand their desire to attempt it. Jesus had something similar and, ironically, we both occasionally wear sandals [3].

The primary criteria that delineate a story as New Fable are that all its characters are either cats or dogs that behave like people. In other words, there are no human characters, and they must be of novel length. While other animals can be used, the strength of using cats and dogs is that readers can easily connect with them through their pets. This aids immersion, as will be explained later.

The aspiring New Fablist must embrace a polyauthoric approach to writing, which entails engaging readers through more than just the written word. Music, artwork, videos, and other media must be produced, either by the author or in collaboration with other artists, to complement the story world. For instance, in addition to my longstanding collaboration with Jesus Christ My Penis [4] to create music for the books as Dooven Muzak and Fable Pop, I also collaborate with an online artisan craftsperson who crafts and sells unique, handcrafted products from the books. Together, we produce a line of Amoros collars, which were fashionable collars featured in the third Velvet Paw of Asquith Novel, The Alchemists Of Vra. This cross-promotion exposes our respective audiences to each other, benefiting both of us. She gains referrals from my readership, and I gain exposure to her customers, thus creating a mutually beneficial arrangement. This collaborative effort serves as a potent tool for cultivating readership as it leverages the established trust derived from our reputations.

Hyper-Anthropomorphism

The Velvet Paw of Asquith Novels, the quintessential series embodying New Fable, exclusively features cats and dogs that behave like people. The absence of human characters is fundamental to New Fable: if human characters are present, it is not New Fable. Character anthropomorphism is pivotal to diverging the story from human norms and to exploit the genre's unique storytelling attributes. For an in-depth analysis of the emergence of this alternative convention, refer to my Wrong Books, which chronicle not only the birth of New Fable but my inadvertent involvement in international drug smuggling and my rise to a celebrated International Covert Intelligence Asset. This, despite the surprising nature of such recognition given my apparent lack of any extraordinary abilities, is such a remarkable read that I've recently submitted a copy to the Pope for consideration as a Really New Testament. As the father of New Fable and a preeminent New Fablist author, I don't strictly mandate that New Fable characters must be cats and dogs, though I strongly recommend it. While any combination of animals could be acceptable, characters that are neither animal nor human, such as mythological entities, will tend the story more toward fantasy than New Fable. This is despite the argument that New Fable could potentially be classified as a form of speculative low fantasy, much like deformis genitalia exiguus has been associated with my genitals. One reason cats and dogs work so well is that readers can relate to them through their pets. This has been proposed as the mechanism underpinning the genre's effectiveness according to Narrative Transport Theory, which posits an increased sense of reader immersion and empathy in fiction. In the Dooven Books, the effectiveness of Narrative Transport is linked to the positive correlation between regular exposure to animal-centered stories and the projection of those characters onto readers' pets. Those who frequently read such stories display heightened levels of immersion and a greater inclination to envision their pets taking on roles within the narratives [5,6]. This might explain why the majority of The Velvet Paw of Asquith Novels' readers tend to be women in their early twenties who own cats or dogs. Much correspondence has conveyed the extent to which they see their pets mirrored in the stories, an outcome I argue is preferable to seeing stories within their pets, which could lead to substantial veterinary expenses and extensively stained carpets.

Allégorie Inanimée

While allegory is integral to New Fable due to the anthropomorphism of its cat and dog characters, it isn't confined solely to them. On occasion, their states of mind and emotions are anthropomorphized as well, and even inanimate objects receive attention.

During a conversation about New Fable with renowned French fantasy writer Pierre Pevel, winner of the Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire for his novel Les Ombres de Wielstadt in 2002, he referred to this extended allegory, now a hallmark of New Fable, as Allégorie Inanimée. Expanding anthropomorphism to include the inanimate and subjective is an innovative literary device that characterizes my New Fable's narrative style. It introduces a unique flair and vibrancy by anthropomorphizing emotions and events in a way that contributes to the genre's growing reputation for luminosity.

Across the audience, realization arrived, got comfortable next to silence, and made improper suggestions regarding what they could get up to together.

Silence fell for a third time and was beginning to get indignant about doing so. When it fell a fourth time, it began complaining about bruises.

He walked around the dog while realization fought with disbelief, both having arrived with large amounts of luggage, only to find they'd been double-booked.

Implementing such nuanced allegory, however, isn't a straightforward task. It demands a subtlety of talent that, while rare, is distinctly evident in my work. As Clarence Addington, a homicidal librarian once told me, "The only way to do it is to do it well. Either be clever or strive not to be, but don't make an effort to be." While my natural ability in this aspect might be influenced by my IQ of 144, positioning me within genius territory, there seems to be more to it than that, considering I'm burdened with combined cognitive and creative brilliance. Explaining how I manage to execute Allégorie Inanimée so effectively is a challenge. I often sense these allegorical elements approaching as I write, similar to the sensation of an approaching train. Indeed, the success of Allégorie Inanimée relies on not overthinking it; calculation and anticipation tend to truncate its impact. It's somewhat like waiting for inspiration: you can feel it coming, and the best instances require minimal effort. However, stopping prematurely can lead to unsatisfactory results. Forcing both inspiration and allegory can lead to disastrous outcomes, much like trying to force a pooh and ruining a pleasant morning, especially if attempted simultaneously. I can't offer more advice on employing Allégorie Inanimée because it stems from my unique realm of genius, which would require another book to adequately convey, and I only have until Thursday.

While aspiring to incorporate Allégorie Inanimée is certainly encouraged, trying to replicate it well is not. True allegory will emerge if it deems you worthy and doesn't catch you seeking it. The same doesn't hold for oncoming trains, though, in which case it's best to keep your eyes open.

Polyauthorism

New Fable reimagines and evolves traditional fables to captivate and entertain new generations of readers, viewers, and listeners. A New Fablist, therefore, is a novelist who employs additional media to enrich their story world. Much of this adaptation involves infiltrating new media platforms in a process termed polyauthorism, which fundamentally transforms contemporary authorship. In other words, polyauthorism refers to the transformation of writers into media producers to engage readers across various digital platforms and remain relevant in this landscape. This approach also resonates with the modern, more sophisticated reading audience. For example, the Velvet Paw of Asquith Novels aim to reposition the written novel in a digitally interconnected world. Consequently, the books are accompanied by an array of supplementary media to enhance their story world. This includes music, videos, and specialized artwork, all distributed through various platforms, serving to engage potential readers across diverse digital multimedia environments. This shift is justified considering the way the digital world has merged and reshaped traditional entertainment into innovative formats.

This polyauthoric approach emerged in response to today's digital mashup entertainment culture, where traditional forms of art, film, and television have blended, blurred, and been shared across a variety of platforms. Consequently, merely writing books in this digital era—remaining a traditional author—is no longer sufficient. While audiences, in general, have embraced this fusion, authors must also adapt to remain relevant. Embracing these changes will not only enhance their creativity but also attract new audiences. New Fablists enthusiastically embrace this reimagining of authorship, particularly as it aligns with emerging genres. As New Fablists evolve creatively alongside changing media landscapes, their books remain relevant while transcending the boundaries of traditional written content. As a result, New Fablists are inherently polyauthoric.

This doesn't imply that New Fablists must possess the same all-encompassing creative genius as I do. Requiring such a level of brilliance would be excessive and unlikely, considering the rarity of talent like mine. Granted, my expertise arises from a clinical diagnosis of psychoenteritis or "diarrhea of the mind," a condition so rare it affects only one in eight billion [7]. Aspiring New Fablists are advised to embrace polyauthorism through collaboration with other online media creators. This approach offers the added advantage of cultivating new readers by leveraging shared audience exposure. For instance, writing songs about your characters and book scenes in collaboration with online music producers or teaming up with online artists to visually represent the same. Recently, we released our fifth Dooven Muzak album, Into The Impossible, featuring music created specifically for the books by producers MC Tasty and DJ Pooh. They gained notoriety in the early 2000s as JCMP, or Jesus Christ My Penis, with their album Done By Perfect Men. This underscores the potential benefits of long-term professional relationships for both authors and collaborators.

In essence, New Fable, epitomized by the Velvet Paw of Asquith Novels, seeks to transcend a mere book series. It represents a dynamic and vibrant creative experiment, where polymedia and polyauthorism play pivotal roles not only in the genre's origins but also in its cult-like success. Polyauthorism is both an essential requirement for New Fablists and a recognized precondition.

An example of polyauthorism is Extractionist artwork. Writing and imagery are intrinsically linked, as books use words to paint mental pictures. Reflecting on a beloved book, what stands out is often not just the characters or plot but the atmosphere of the scenes. Extractionist Art aims to depict the imagery I visualize in my mind while writing the books. Unlike our optical eyes, the mind's eye doesn't discern intricate visual details. Instead, it perceives emotional nuances. Stimulating the reader's mind's eye is the goal of creative writing and Extractionist art alike. It's a form of impressionism that captures emotion by extracting color and shapes from a character or scene while disregarding visual minutiae.

While writing, I recount scenes unfolding in my mind's eye. Although these scenes lack visual specifics, their emotional intensity is profound. This emotional vibrancy is conveyed through words and also through Extractionism. Stylistically, Extractionist artwork embodies what my mind's eye envisions while I write. Its characteristics of bold colors and broad shapes mirror the vague imagery within my thoughts. It's called Extractionism because it's an impressionistic style that distills the ambiance of a scene by extracting its colors and shapes while omitting detailed visuals. This art form resembles dreams in the sense that nobody else can experience the exact ambiance of your dream, no matter how well you describe it. Others might comprehend the events and sequence, but never the atmosphere. The same holds for books: each reader's interpretation of a scene within their mind's eye will be unique. While this variability is perfectly acceptable, my intention as the author of these tales is to convey the original—the director's cut—by incorporating music and artwork. Like the abstract arrangements of Matisse, Cézanne, and Derain, whose vibrant Mediterranean landscapes were depicted through bold colors, shapes, and expressive brushwork, Extractionism employs strong colors and shapes to portray landscapes from a fictional story world. I don't claim to rival these artistic masters, nor do I assert that my evident literary genius is complemented by artistic brilliance. However, consider that Matisse, Cézanne, and Derain didn't write books to accompany their paintings—something I am indeed doing.

Polyauthorism isn't a new concept. While I classify myself as polyauthoric, numerous writers have embraced similar approaches. The distinction, however, lies in contemporary polyauthors not being limited to a single supplementary media type, which is typically the case for other writers given this designation. In the digital mashup era, creativity is no longer restricted to traditional formats. While the listed authors can be termed polyauthors, the era in which they wrote didn't facilitate the breadth of creative diversity evident today. As a result, they generally produced art to support their novels, differing from writer-illustrators of children's books.

Polyauthorism involves novels accompanied by complementary supportive media. While the authors mentioned above are undeniably creative, polyauthorism in today's context refers to novels bolstered by artwork, music, and video—a comprehensive embrace of all digital media formats to convey scenes, characters, and story worlds, spanning a variety of platforms. Polyauthorism is particularly applicable to emerging genres. By evolving creatively in sync with the evolving media landscape, New Fablists maintain the relevance of their books while transcending the confines of written content. As a result, New Fablists are inherently polyauthoric.

In essence, New Fable, exemplified by the Velvet Paw of Asquith Novels, aspires to be more than a mere series of books. It symbolizes a dynamic and vibrant creative endeavor, with polymedia and polyauthorism serving pivotal roles in both its origins and its cult-like success. Polyauthorism is both a necessity for New Fablists and a recognized prerequisite.

Libratum Sentensia

Libratum sentensia is a Latin phrase meaning a balanced sentence, and it's a literary rhetorical device that I have identified and named. It arises when two parts of a sentence are parallel in structure, length, and meaning but present opposite or contrasting ideas. This creates balance and harmony that emphasizes a particular idea. Although such a device has been used in various forms throughout history in different cultures and languages, it has not been labeled as a specific literary mechanism until my clinical brilliance recognized it. Libratum sentensia is employed in film, television, and, of course, books. Indeed, I have intuitively employed it in my own writing, which is how I came to recognize it as a device. As a result, I see it everywhere, despite it not having been identified as a specific literary device until now.

Libratum Sentensia is most commonly found in dialogue because it is a character-dependent device, unless the narrator is a character, which is uncommon in contemporary omniscient narrative. It is constructed to give credence to the character speaking by expressing wisdom and a sense of the profound. When employed, Libratum Sentensia tends to truncate further dialogue by suggesting an end to the matter because of superior knowledge. Essentially, Libratum Sentensia are literary dipoles; that is, they contain contrasts joined by concise wording. Many famous quotes are Libratum Sentensia because they tend to be a succinct unification of opposites that renders them both memorable and profound. In other words, Libratum Sentensia are phrases containing opposites that are beautifully brought together by unifying dualism. Once recognized, it can be seen everywhere, though unintentionally, rather than by described mechanism.

Take this example, "The way to start is to quit talking and begin doing." (Walt Disney): the libratum (opposing factors or dipoles) are stop talking and begin doing. "The mind is an amazing servant but a horrible master." (Robin Shama): the libratum is amazing and horrible, servant and master, or amazing servant and horrible master.

Examples in New Fable:

"The secret, Miss Lydia, is finding meaning in yourself, rather than elsewhere.” -The Returned Poet. -6BSC:14

"We may suffer alone, Mironaelk, but must struggle together.” -The Returned Poet. -5ENB:25

Agona

The characteristically large casts of New Fable give rise to protagonists and antagonists in the plural, rather than individual characters in main roles. This is known as agona. The use of agona in New Fable is important because it helps avoid cliched animal symbolism by introducing an additional dimension of relationship tension, known as vertical hierarchical complexity. This increased depth to both character relationships and story development provides avenues of interaction that helps prevent one-dimensional characterization. Moreover, agona provides alternative storytelling points of view in addition to those of scene characters and the narrator. This is particularly important when considering the genre’s absurdism, which benefits from alternative perspectives when conveying its sophisticated slapstick humor, which is an observational form of humor. While lavatorial humor is also observational, it is quite slippery and, in some situations, completely ruin the carpet.

Agona permits a broadening of the language repertoire by using a variety of idioms that give rise to innovative linguistic conventions, particularly when considering the narrative, which is omniscient. Not only does this permit greater convolution in relationships but affords alternative views from within each side of the story in addition to each side of the story. In order to qualify as New Fable, and to be a New Fablist, your efforts require large casts and agonists in the plural.

Absurdim

In New Fable, cats and dogs do not symbolize people, even though they act like people. In essence, while they represent human traits, their behaviors are not judged accordingly. By highlighting these characteristics through animals, New Fable introduces an alternative societal framework that lends considerable credence to a set of rules different from the norm. These rules, in turn, give rise to absurd scenarios and ludicrous plotlines that accommodate innovative and original storytelling, marked by a high degree of unpredictability courtesy of the absurd. This unique perspective allows lessons to be imparted subtly and skillfully. In fact, the best lessons are often taught when they appear to be absent.

[1] That’s Simon’s initial description when he read an early draught of The World Is Badly Made, which I feel says more about him than me.

[2] Again, Simon’s responsible for all this as I just want to get on with writing the things. But because Pandabook has received “an unparalleled quantity of interest in this speculative genre—really, it’s massive, you have no idea”, I am contractually obliged to write this over a weekend to appease my agent, publisher and the incessant reading public, all of whom should leave me alone to get on with more important things, like finishing the Morigan Trilogy. Also, I much prefer putting the motivation for this book in a footnote because it’s all that Simon deserves.

[3]  There’s a solid chance I’m related to Jesus, actually. See my second Wrong Book, Wrongly Writing, chapter 8.

[4] Jesus Christ My Penis, a pop duo that had mild success in the late 90s with tracks such as Waiting For You and Cosmo Girl.

[5] Green, M. C., & Brock, T. C. (2000). The role of transportation in the persuasiveness of public narratives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79(5), 701-721.

[6] Mar, R. A., Oatley, K., Hirsh, J., de la Paz, J., & Peterson, J. B. (2006). Bookworms versus nerds: Exposure to fiction versus non-fiction, divergent associations with social ability, and the simulation of fictional social worlds. Journal of Research in Personality, 40(5), 694-712.

[7] See Writing Wrongly, chapter something-or-rather.

NPR Interview

As recounted in his Wrong Books, Thomas Corfield was ordered by a federal court to 'cease and desist' writing his books due to concerns for the well-being of the reading public at large. This action was brought upon him not by readers, but by industry professionals. It marked the first time the publishing industry had initiated legal proceedings against a writer, and the entire saga unfolded in the public arena, voraciously reported by the media. Stephanie Mills had an opportunity to interview Thomas to discover how the experience affected him. The following transcript was later used in court as part of further legal proceedings recounted in his second book, "Wrong Book, Wrongly Writing."

"Thank you for agreeing to talk to me, Thomas. And thank you also for the sandwiches."

"Well, although it’s a pleasure, Stephanie, I didn't have much choice in either. The court has ordered me to do all sorts of things I’d rather not, such as make sandwiches and talk to people. Both of which I loathe. Not that I have anything against sandwiches per se, I just don’t like making them. In general, I think sandwiches are great. They’re such an efficient way of conveying condiments. In fact, I think sandwiches are taken for granted to such a degree, it borders on insulting."

"Yes, well, these are particularly good sandwiches."

"Aren’t they though?"

"Are you saying that the court specifically ordered you to make sandwiches?"

"Yes. It might seem silly, but the more time I spend making sandwiches, the less time I spend writing, which I understand to be the crux of their argument."

"They’d prefer you to make sandwiches rather than write?"

"They’d prefer me to do anything rather than write. I think sandwiches just came to mind at that moment. It was nearing lunchtime as I recall."

"But that’s bizarre!"

"Not really. The hearing had been going solidly all morning."

"No, I meant about their wanting you to make sandwiches."

"Not if you’d read my writing. Regardless, my barrister argued that having me wield sharpened cutlery was far more dangerous than wielding a pen."

"That sounds like a reasonable argument. What was the result?"

"They broke into hysteria and asked whether my defense had read my writing."

"This seems to be the pivotal point in this saga of you facing the publishing industry: why are they taking out injunctions against you writing?"

"Because my writing’s ghastly. It really is dreadful. I mean, it's clinically appalling. And I’m the first to admit it—which is encouraging according to Doctor Marjorie."

"Doctor Marjorie?"

"Yes. My psychiatrist. Have you read my books?"

"I intended to, but my editor told me I’d be fired if I so much as peruse their covers. Which is odd considering she’s generally keen to encourage research."

"Don’t worry. It’s probably just as well. Even the cover is misspelt. And it’s printed upside down. At least on the first book. The second one was missing its cover altogether."

"Who on earth agreed to publish them in the first place, if they’re so dreadful?"

"Me, of course. I self-published. Do you honestly think a real publisher would misspell the author’s name, or get the page the wrong way around?"

"No, not really. Did you not notice yourself before they went to print?"

"Yes, but I thought I’d leave it in the hope it might distract from the writing."

"But surely they didn’t sell particularly well?"

"They didn’t sell at all. In fact, even the printer went bankrupt shortly afterwards. I bought a copy though. Two, actually. One for me and one for my cat. My mother bought a copy also. She didn’t read it though. Instead, she burnt it."

"Burnt it?"

"Yes. While I was watching. She hates me, you see."

"Oh, I’m sure she doesn’t hate you, Thomas!"

"She does. She told me. She even wrote it down on my arm."

"On your arm?"

"Yes. In cigarette burns. I’ve still got the scars. See?"

"Let’s get back to the reason you’re in this situation. The entire publishing industry has taken out a class-action injunction to stop you writing. Correct?"

"That’s right. As far as I can understand, it's an industry thing. My books are so dreadful, that the publishing industry as a whole decided I was a menace to the unsuspecting public, and that I had to be stopped."

"That's an extraordinary accusation!"

"Not as extraordinary the consequences of my writing. Apparently, from what I can gather in court, illiteracy is now something to aspire to. And book burnings have gone up solidly since the things were released. They’re now almost as popular as the Eurovision Song Contest."

"Really?"

"Yes. But with less singing, obviously."

"So you, perhaps being the worst writer ever, the publishing industry as a whole wants to stop you in order to protect the public."

"Yes."

"That’s pretty a severe reaction to your writing!"

"Well, to be fair, my writing’s pretty severe."

"You don’t seem visibly upset by the accusations."

"Stephanie, this has been going on for some time now. Frankly, if it wasn’t for my weekly court hearings, I’d lose my sense of routine. They’re oddly comforting in that way. And I know most of the staff. Particularly since I often bring them sandwiches."

"Nevertheless, to have an entire industry insisting on how dreadful your writing is must take its toll."

"Oh, absolutely. I have about as much money left as someone who has none."

"And I imagine it must hurt your feelings?"

"Not as much as you might expect. These were industry professionals and not my readers. I think if the latter were up in arms about my books, I would have been far more distressed."

"So why do you think your readers weren't up in arms about it?"

"Because I don't have any readers."

"But defending yourself from a commercial industry must take a huge toll mentally, let alone financially."

"Of course. But then again, my mental health is responsible for getting me into this situation in the first place."

"Well, despite how dreadful it all must be, the public certainly seems to be fascinated by its drama."

"Yes. Sadly, I’d prefer them to be fascinated with my books. The media have played a huge role in my admonishment, primarily because they’re funded by the publishing industry. The Guardian newspaper in particular seems to take a very dim view of me indeed. So dim it’s quite bereft of wattage."

"The Guardian certainly does seem to be leading the assault, it’s true."

"I consider them the public face of the industry. I’d like to sue them for defamation. But I can’t."

"Why not?"

"Firstly because I’m bankrupt, and secondly because they’re right."

"I must say, you do seem to be remarkably accepting of the situation."

"It’s a bit like death, Stephanie: no amount of arguing is going to make the slightest bit of difference. It’s also very painful and often involves drugs."

"Well, may I say thank you for taking the time to speak with me."

"You may, Stephanie, but we both know you wouldn't mean it."

"That's true. It's more for my readers and a vague attempt at professional courtesy."

"You have readers?"

"Yes."

"Can I have some?"

"No."

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