Danger! Byuck ahead!


The long and tortured path Byuck took to publication is over and I don't really want to go over the details. Let some graduate student from the year 2215 work it out. But I do want to consider some of the lessons I should learn.

I'm considering the what-should-I-learn question because I just read a couple articles that suggest I may be some sort of genius.

I choose to be skeptical of this conclusion. I mean---people keep telling Jonathan Safran Foer he's a genius and look what's happened. Talk about your cautionary tales.

So let's set my genius aside for a second and look outside Byuck for evidence.

(Not that eschewing the genius label much minimizes the navelgazing nature of this post, but I work out what I think by writing about it. And I then I throw it like spaghetti, onto this blog's wall to see if it sticks. And you, dear reader, are the only one who suffers.)

First, a couple things that both make me feel cocky and panicked simultaneously.

From Scott Parkin:
It seems to me that we are in the midst of a rather startling expansion of our traditional concepts of Mormon literature. As I’ve been reading Monsters & Mormons off and on over the last two months, and some of James Goldberg’s and Theric Jeppson’s short fiction over the past month I’m struck with how very different some of that work is from the traditional canon and assumptions I’ve had about Mo-lit over the last twenty years.
Obviously, being mentioned alongside James is always a thrill, and, given how much energy I put into Mormon writing, it's nice to hear I might be "making" some sort of "difference."

Second, a paraphrase of something I heard secondhand. Originally spoken by a writer I respect immensely but who doesn't know I know she said it. So we'll leave it unsourced.
Theric's a great writer, but he'll never be mainstream.
Although this was said about my work in general, I wouldn't worry had the immediate impetus been a reading of, say, Pargruffa. But it was said in response to a short story from which I had made a serious effort to excise any lingering weirdness.


Which brings us to Byuck as a test case.

As Diehard Thans know, Byuck has passed through three serious edits. Once with the to-date finest writing group I've known. Once, over about a year, with a publisher that then abruptly decided it was making a terrible mistake. And now with Strange Violin Editions, which edit is something of a hybrid of the first two. In addition, another publisher had me spend a year talking to women who [ a) were not related to me and b) did not owe me money ] into reviewing the book pro bono. Plus there were a couple other publishers that accepted it then rejected it . . . . Anyway. We're not talking about all that.

My point is this: a goodly number of people have read this novel over the years and I've had a lot of feedback. So, yes, Byuck is weird, but, yes, Byuck is accessible. I don't know what "mainstream" means, but I don't think Byuck is assuredly NOT that.

Then again.

I know one woman who was so offended she forbade her 18-year-old son from reading it.

I know one woman who still maintains a public crush on one of the novel's leads.

I know one woman, a U of U alumna, who thought it was BYU propaganda and hated it as such.

I know one woman who knew nothing about Mormons before reading it and finished the book thinking we're a-ok.

(Also men have read the book. Promise.)

Both blurbs that will appear on the softcover are from women I didn't know well at the time they read Byuck but who requested the book thanks to its reputation. Even Strange Violin contacted me to ask for a looksee. Because of its reputation.

Which reputation, may I remind you, is confused.

My Strange Violin editor was interested in making the novel more appealing to nonMormon audiences (which, natch, I was fine with). But I learned something this third edit.

Everyone reads differently.

Let's talk jokes because they probably play the most differently from person to person.

Banana grove?
Adored by some. First with-publisher edit required a lot of promprompromising that the joke worked and that people wouldn't throw the book across the room when they came to it. Second with-publisher edit didn't even blink at the joke.
No one blinked at this until the most recent edit. Then I had to battle to keep it. And I haven't looked at the version you can buy. I don't know if it made it to print. But that's okay. I'm have no plans to look at the final version for years and years. A published book is a dead book. Or, rather, it's left my womb and gone to college and ain't nothing I can do no more.
May I help you?
Not really a joke (neither was the last one), but it's structured like a joke and it helps the novel maintain its comedic tone. But any joke you have to explain isn't funny. And if reader one thinks a joke isn't funny, then that reader will not believe anyone else will laugh either. Which makes trying to save jokes from editors difficult.

Each of these "jokes" has been loved by some readers while looked at skeptically by others. Knowing that the jokes on the chopping block this time were different from those on the chopping block last time was, yes, educational.

So what do we learn from this?

I have no idea.

What I'm waiting for now is more data.

What will the ratios be between the lovers, the haters, and the indifferent?

Read the book, then tell me how much you wished more jokes had been cut.



  1. I'm ready for the canon to change a bit. And I'm going to give Byuck and The Scholar of Moab to myself for Christmas.

  2. .

    You must've been a good boy this year.

  3. What would Scott give himself if he hadn't been a good boy?

    Oh right! A Short Stay in Hell...

  4. I find this talk of me being a good boy a little odd.

    But it's true. I have been good.

    But that won't stop me from buying A Short Stay in Hell as well.