As far as Thomas is concerned, success is just another four-letter word. And that’s not just because of his appalling spelling. When Janice suggested he consider crowd-funding to help get his books into something resembling coherent text, he was dubious. Having never heard of crowd-funding, he was concerned it required him to make financial contributions to a loose aggregate of individuals in an effort to bring them physically closer together. Why he should pay complete strangers to gather was beyond him. The most crowding he’d experienced was in the closing hearings of his recent court case, and most of those who’d gathered did so with the sole intention of dousing him in phlegm—and the notion of having to pay them to do so was so outrageous that it seemed more worthy of criminal prosecution than he was.
Nevertheless, once Janice had explained the premise, Thomas was encouraged. But even this left him dubious, as the only thing he’d ever been encouraged to do in his entire life was stop writing. Which is where the court case came in. In addition, he realised one fundamental flaw to Janice’s proposal: that he had no friends, and there’s no point asking for money if there’s no one to ask. Janice then pointed out a second one: that there had to be something worthy to fund, and because his books had brought the wrath of an entire industry upon him, that didn’t give them credence for financial support. The problem was that Thomas’ books are so badly written, that even he had no idea what was going on in them. In order to get the ideas down quickly, he omitted punctuation altogether.
“It’s not that I omitted punctuation intentionally,” he said, during one of the earlier hearings, “it’s that I don’t understand it. And there’s no point writing down stuff I don’t understand, because no one else will either.” When the prosecution pointed out that having some attempt at punctuation would be beneficial in distracting readers from the quagmire of unadulterated manure his attempts at writing were, Thomas agreed, and then asked for some paper and a pen so he could take notes—before asking how to spell punctuation. And quagmire.
This is why the books in question have animal characters, rather than human ones; because he doesn’t understand the latter. In fact, so dreadful is his basic grasp of social conventions, that his disregard for them was responsible for him being known to the courts in the first place.
“I’m not making excuses,” he said, during a different one, “but none of this is my fault. I wasn’t trying to scare those women, I’m just not very good at getting to know people. I find people rather confusing and unnecessarily complicated. So when I began following women around in an effort to be normal, I wasn’t aware that staring at them for hours on end was considered inappropriate. I just thought it was a way of making my intentions unambiguous.”
It was these intentions that were reported to police.
After three restraining orders and a written apology, Thomas realised that his books contained animal characters for a reason: he understood animals far better than he understood people. Moreover, his complete lack of social awareness could be transplanted as an entirely new etiquette of social convention, which results in eccentric behaviour being the norm, rather than the exception. As a result, the books in question have a colour and flavour that is highly unconventional—at least they might were written well.
Which is where the crowd-funding comes in.
Janice hoped that an editor might be able to extract something of said flavour from the turgid, self-indulgent tripe that are Thomas’ books. But as a result of the case against him, even the suggestion of editing the things was considered conspiring against the course of common decency, with any attempts at editing resulting in a prison sentence of up the seven years, with no chance of parole for good behaviour because none was demonstrated in having to be charged in the first place. In the end, it became academic, as no one contributed to their funding project anyway. Not even Thomas, as he’d already been bankrupted by legal proceedings. Janice didn’t dare either, lest he misconstrued her donation as some sort of marriage proposal—a not unreasonable concern, considering what Thomas did to a young lady in a cafe a year earlier.
“I didn’t do anything,” he said, during yet another appearance in court. “At least, not maliciously. I just wanted a friend, you see. A girl, ideally, because I’ve seen them in cafes. You know, with men. And I’m a man. At least, in the conventional sense—albeit an unconventional one. They sit together and chat. They do, honest. They chat about things. I don’t know about what, which is why I imagined that sitting next to one, I might find out. So I did. I sat next to this woman and waited for her to start laughing and saying things that would make my life as bright as all the other men I’ve seen chatting to women in cafes. But she didn’t. In fact, she did the opposite. It was only when the police arrived that I realised I’d done it again.”
This was followed by some commentary from the prosecution, suggesting that although Thomas is socially retarded, it did not negate the woman’s distress.
“But I didn’t mean to distress her,” Thomas said. “I didn’t mean to anything at all, except make a friend. But when she just sat there and refused to laugh, I did instead. Quite a lot, actually, because I had to do my bit of laughing as well as hers, which had me flailing my arms about in feigned hysteria and flinging scalding coffee at her—though I still refuse to take responsibility, considering it was her coffee.”
Ironically, the scarring that resulted makes it impossible for the woman to laugh at all, lest her face splits.
“I offered to marry her,” Thomas said. “I really don’t know what else I can do.”
Not throw scalding coffee in her face and disfiguring her for life would be a good start.
All this aside, the fact remains that for all Janice’s good intentions, crowd-funding without a crowd is futile.
Unless there are family and friends to draw upon, it amounts to no more than e-begging.
And Thomas has neither.