A different kind of loss in Night Shade’s collapse.

by on May.24, 2013, under Observations

This post is not going to deal with how or why Night Shade collapsed, nor is it going to deal with the choices that authors have to make dealing with the purchasers. I really don’t know anything about either of these, and what little has reached me I read in the same places you have. I am writing this post about something different–what we in the community lose in this transaction.

About eight years ago I managed hurt my hand pretty badly. I ended up having some very expensive surgery, and a very extensive physical therapy regiment. For some reason I cannot recall at this time, I ended up scheduling two events a few hours apart on every Wednesday near St. Luke’s Hospital. It wasn’t enough time to go somewhere else, so I often wandered a few blocks down to Borderland’s books in the Mission to blow the time between the sessions.

As it so happened, Jeremy Lassen was working the counter at Borderlands on Wednesdays at that time. It was pretty dead in the bookstore just after noon, and during these weekly visits I got to spend a lot of time with Jeremy. I learned a lot more about who he was, what inspired him. He managed to convince me to try out books I really thought I wouldn’t like, and I loved every one. Jeremy was good at listening to people, and a fantastic sense for bringing people together with things they would enjoy.

Even more interesting, however, was listening to Jeremy talk about Genre. He loved horror, he loved fantasy, and he loved science fiction. He loved books that broke all the rules, as he loved books that followed the genre rules like a textbook. These were our shared Squee! sessions, but every week Jeremy would share pure joy in some of the oddest bits of fiction I have ever read. Jeremy loved the genre(s) in a way that trampled right over my cynical nature… it was such a pure feeling, it felt mystical to me. I was in awe of it.

Eventually my physical therapy ended, and my interactions with Jeremy fell down to random encounters at conventions or in the bookstore. But I always stopped to chat with him, to spark memories of those hours squeeing about this or that thing we loved or hated, or loved to hate.

Some years later I started seeing Night Shade imprint on books, and I remember pumping the air and saying “Go, Jeremy!” (I had a mistaken impression that Night Shade was Jeremy’s bedroom project until very recently.) Then came some really good books. And then came Awards. It seemed like a meteoric rise, a prairie wildfire from the sidelines. But it didn’t shock me one bit–if anyone, anyone asked me who I personally knew could pick a good book, I would have sent them to talk to Jeremy. It all made sense to me.

Reading the blogosphere over the last two months, it appears that the fire burned a lot of people. Unfortunately, I can’t help anyone on any side in this. I don’t know why Night Shade failed, other than the same blog posts you have probably read. I don’t know if the authors are being offered a reasonable deal or not. I don’t believe I’ve ever met Jason Williams, and I wasn’t even aware Jeremy had a partner until news of their financial troubles became parlor talk. I am as far from this transaction as a person can be, other than having bought a lot of books from Jeremy.

I am writing about something entirely different. I am writing to express my personal sadness that the fallout from the Night Shade deal is likely to make it much harder for Jeremy to bring new works to us. A lot of people feel burned. Regardless of fault, Jeremy is going to find it harder to work in the genre than before. And I find that really sad, because he brings such a talent, such belief, such love to the table when finding truly great books and sharing them with us.

Due to Jeremy’s well-known tendency to dress in suits, my girlfriend calls him “The Pimp”. This always makes me laugh, because if he’s the pimp, I’m one of his customers. I like what he sells. I don’t know how much Jeremy is to blame for what happened, and I’m not going to speculate about that. All I can say is that I look forward to the day that Jeremy can bring positive energy back into our space.

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