Atlanta Nights

The thing is progressing, still, which is good. But in the meantime, I thought I’d indulge by sharing some truly wonderfully awful writing.

There’s a shady-not-really-professional POD “publisher” called PublishAmerica. A number of professional writers, editors, and copy editors, mostly from the fields of fantasy and science fiction, many of them author advocates, abetted by two teenagers, and a text generator, decided to find out once and for all if PublishAmerica will truly publish anything. They will.

Each writer contributed a chapter, following a chapter by chapter skeleton outline for a novel (remember Naked Came the Stranger?). These writers engaged in public cacosyntheton, synchisis, acyrologia, alleotheta, amphibologia, anacoluthon, and every vile cliché, transparent plot device, and literary offense ever to have thrived in the slush pile.

I give you Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea (say it out loud).

“He didn’t seem like the kind of man who died,” Irene said. “Sometimes, when were in bed, making love, at the very edge of the surf where the waves washed over us again and again, I looked at his face and saw something there that not even all the forces of erosion could ever wash away. He was a determined man, and in his position he had to be: and I knew that, too, looking up at him wanting only for him to be there forever. He was old, you know: he was around in the seventies and everything. But there was an agelessness to him, a beautiful eternal foreverness that shone from him like the light from a lighthouse, or like the sunlight from the sun. He made me feel like a child again, and I wanted to stay in bed with him, feeling him warm my world, cooled by the waves that washed over us, until the stars went out. That what I expected anyway. That’s what he promised. And now he’s dead. His heart’s stopped.”

This is hilarious stuff. As one of the collaborators, SF writer and fellow New Hampshirite James D. Macdonald, writes:

You can read the acceptance letter at

You can read the sample contract at

Never again let it be said that PublishAmerica is “selective” in what they accept. Never again let it be said that they reject the majority of the manuscripts they receive. Never again let it be said that they are anything other than a vanity press.

PublishAmerica’s offer to publish Atlanta Nights indicates that PublishAmerica is not a genuine book publisher. No reputable publisher would have accepted Atlanta Nights and no one literate in English can read it without mirth.

You can read reviews or buy your own copy of Atlanta Nights here. Once the authors received the PublishAmerica contract, thereby proving their point, they went public with the hoax. PublishAmerica subsequently withdrew their offer. The authors decided to share their art with the public via Go buy a copy; the proceeds will benefit the Science Fiction Writers of America’s Emergency Medical fund. Plus, it would be a shame to miss prose like this:

Yvonne poured herself a drink and melted into the chair across from Callie. She brushed a strand of moltenly hair from her eyes and proceeded to carve the ham. Callie watched intently. Juice streamed from the ham in rivulets like saliva drooling from the fierce jaws of a wild dingo poised over the dead carcass of its prey in the dingo-eat-dingo world.

Edited for specificity 1/27/2005
Update: You can read the official press release for Atlanta Nights here.
Update: 2/03/2004 Added a link to Derryl Murphy’s post about the writers.

The Macclesfield Psalter

I’m going to cheat by starting with an excerpt from a press release sent out by a British cultural charity, the National Art Collections Fund.

The National Art Collections Fund is spearheading the campaign to save the remarkable 14th-century Macclesfield Psalter for the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

The Macclesfield Psalter is a jewel-like treasury consisting of 252 richly-illustrated pages providing a fascinating record of medieval English humour, and teeming with highly surreal and imaginative marginal illustrations. This exquisite manuscript was sold to the Getty Museum, California, at auction in June for £1,717,335. However, the Government’s export system, which recognised the outstanding importance of the Psalter to this country, gave the UK the chance to match this sum.

As of today, only £96,511 more needs to be raised in order to keep the Macclesfield Psalter on view in the UK for all to see. We have until 10 February 2005 to raise the remaining funds.

Ordinarily, I’m in favor of the Getty buying manuscripts; they’re in my back yard, so to speak. But this is a special case. We know a fair bit about the manuscript; it was almost certainly a local product in every sense of the phrase, created in East Anglia (likely in Goreleston) for a local landowner. There are incredible miniatures, and fascinating marginal figures. The miniatures, which are of such high quality that it’s clear they’re the work of a master, include images of the patron saints of Suffolk and the Gorleston church, localizing the manuscript. The marginal “border” illustrations are particularly interesting because they feature the kind of “world upside down images” that are subversive comments on the main images, or, more likely in this case, (following Dr. Ruth Mellinkoff’s argument) attempts to distract or avert the devil or other evil influences.

The scribe of the Macclesfield Psalter is likely the scribe of the no longer extant Douai Psalter and the Gorelston Psalter. Some illumination by the same artist was part of the Douai Psalter (destroyed inadvertantly because of poor storage during World War I when the Douai Psalter was buried in a zinc box to hide it from enemy troops).

You can read more about the Macclesfield Psalter here, and see some images here, and donate online here. They’ve come very close to matching the Getty price; they’ve enough for 245 of the 252 leaves.