Lulu, $15.95, ISBN 1-4116-2298-7
The genesis of Atlanta Nights is an interesting story by itself. Do you know of PublishAmerica? It is a print-on-demand publisher famous for calling itself a “traditional publisher” and using all kinds of shady tactics to fool aspiring authors that end up spending more money getting their books published and sold than they would have if they use the services of Lulu, iUniverse, Xlibris, or other POD publishers. I won’t go into PublishAmerica – you can find all kinds of interesting stories about that publishing house just by doing a search on Google.
Atlanta Nights was conceived when PublishAmerica published a website, AuthorsMarket, that pretty much called science-fiction and fantasy authors hacks and amateurs with an ax to grind against “respectable” publishing houses like itself. The science-fiction and fantasy authors are targeted because many authors of the two genres are active participants in online websites aimed at exposing businesses trying to make a quick buck out of aspiring authors. One of the accusations leveled at PublishAmerica is that the publishing house claims to read every single submission they receive but it really doesn’t. To demonstrate this, a group of authors comprising Sherwood Smith, Shiela Finch, Charles Coleman Finlay, Julia West, Brook West, Adam-Troy Castro, Allen Steele, Alan Rodgers, Mary Catelli, Andrew Burt, Victoria Strauss, Shira Daemon, Vera Nazarian, Sean P Fodera, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Ken Houghton, Charles Coleman Finlay, M Turville Heitz, Kevin O’Donnell Jr, Chuck Rothman, Laura J Underwood, Jena Snyder, Paul Melko, Tina Kuzminski, Ted Kuzminski, Robin Hobb, Danica West, Rowan West, Derryl Murphy, Michael Armstrong, Pierce Askegren, Deanna Hoak, Catherine Mintz, Peter Heck, Brenda Clough, Judi B Castro, and Terry McGarry and under the direction of James D MacDonald come together to write Atlanta Nights under the pseudonym Travis Tea.
This is no ordinary book, however. It is shockingly bad… very bad. It is pointless to explain the plot because the characters’ names, skin color, race, and even gender change from chapter to chapter. Grammar and spelling fly out the window from the first word of the “story”, and naturally character development and even consistency are nonexistent. Characters that die will reappear faster than you can blink alive and well. There is also one missing chapter, one chapter that is actually a word-for-word replication of a previous chapter, and my favorite, one chapter of nonsensical babbling created using the Bonsai Story Generator. Also present are all kinds of clichés and bad plot devices, making this book a veritable treasure trove of material for “spot the boo-boo” games. And the best thing about this book is: it’s often very hilarious. No, the best thing about this book is that PublishAmerica actually accepted the manuscript only to reject it when the authors release a statement to the press crowing about their success in humiliating that publisher.
Atlanta Nights is also very disquieting in a way because many of the bad writing and all are present too often in romance novels too much for my comfort. The ridiculous oversexed hero is here. The first chapter sees one of the female characters reduced into tears because she couldn’t bear to see an old boyfriend that she had sex with at the prom and also because she couldn’t stand up to a bad boss. There are many things that are gleefully parodied here that make me feel like I should run back to the romance reader closet again and pretend that I’m still a reader that blindly buys every book out there that won some literary prize because some of these hilariously bad parodies are actually part and parcel of the “acceptable romance” formula. Reading a quality romance novel is strongly suggested after the last chuckles from reading this one have died down.
While Atlanta Nights won’t come close to its more saucy antecedents like the famous 1969 hoax Naked Come the Stranger when it comes to being a big hit with a mainstream audience, there are some decent reasons to buy this book. It makes a pleasant novelty gift to an aspiring author friend, for example. Also, proceeds from the the book are going to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund.