One bad thing about being back at The B.U.I.L.D.I.N.G. for a layover, other than coming back to it covered in katooey brains, and then entertaining way too many bollywood boys to make up for it, is looking at the big damn stack of books I still haven't read, yet.
What does SPYGOD read, boys and girls? I'll tell you what I read. Not nearly as much as I should.
One of my many jobs is to look through the galley proofs of anything having to do with national security, strategic talents, and the weird overlapping field between the two, and give the publishers a yay or nay on those particular sections. Sometimes I suggest changes, sometimes I say to kill the whole paragraph, and sometimes I piss on the book, dump it in a plastic bag, and arrange to have it nailed to the editor's desk. From Orbit.
Some might call that censorship, but I call it a necessary evil. We don't put nuclear codes in the newspapers, we don't advertise troop movements to the enemy, and we sure as hell don't want people to know everything about everything that ever happened in our entire history. Knowledge is power, and too much power in the wrong hands is a bad, bad thing.
Are my hands really the "right" ones, then? Right wing, maybe. But if not me, given my firsthand experience with the whole thing, then who?
And if you think I'm a bastard, you should know that Mr. USA used to do this, back before he realized he really did not like to read anything that didn't involve sports, light history, or horse romances.
(Westerns to folks like you and me. Really.)
On average, I vet about fifty books a year, and about ten to fifteen squeak through with major or minor changes. When Mr. USA was doing it, he let about one through, and that's only because the President knew someone who knew someone who owed someone a favor.
That favor then translated to letting a highly expurgated, virtually emasculated version of that person's book be published. In the USA, at least. I have it on good authority that better and fuller foreign language editions are printed under the table in Russia, of all places.
(And before you ask, I have no idea who could have passed that over to Samizdat Press. Really.)
That's not to intimate that SPYGOD is some limp-necked softie who's going to champion the so-called rights of journalists and historians who want to make some cred and moolah off of our highly secretive fraternity, of course. It's just to say that I actually take the time out of my busy schedule to read these things and decide what can stay and what should go.
But that's not the only thing yours truly indulges in, when I actually have the time to do so. I have a soft spot for second-person, present tense, kitchen-sink-genre, circular think pieces that challenge the boundaries of language, gender, and plot. Unfortunately, there was only ever one person who really came close to writing the literature of the 24th century, today, and he died of a heart attack in 1997.
Thankfully, he left a very long body of work to draw from. He wrote something like 100 books, only fifteen or so of which have ever been published. I feel kind of guilty sitting on the remaining 85, but he left strict instructions that no one was to see these until a hundred years after his death.
And SPYGOD does fully and firmly keep at least some promises. (Really.)
Conversely, I've also gotten into something called flash fiction. They're really short stories, maybe 1000 to a hundred words, if that. The fewer the better, oddly enough. Just enough to kick you in the junk but not enough to drag you down.
I also like hint fiction. Can you, in 25 words or less, suggest a greater story hiding behind what you've written?
The man sat on the toy-strewn porch, cleaning his gun. Someday the right ice cream truck would pass by, with the right driver. Someday.
Short, snappy, and often darkly humorous. Just like I like my coffee the morning after.
And if I get really, really bored, I like to read screenplays of the movies I've seen. I'm always interested to see what was supposed to be in the script and what didn't make it to the screen for whatever reason. If you want a real treat, read the first draft of "Apocalypse Now," sometime. It's a wonder they let Coppola keep the name,
But I think my all time favorite "book" is the one that's written all around us, every day of our lives.
I'll sit out on the balcony, drink in hand, and cast my "ears" out into Neo York to listen to people typing away, late at night. If you don't try to listen to one single conversation, they all blend together, making a strange kind of mega-conversation in which all concepts, ideas, sentiments, and intentions blend together like dots in a pointillist painting.
Sometimes Neo York opens its nasty, old windowshades for me, and lets me see what's going on in her secret heart. Sometimes I'm happy to know. Sometimes not so much. But if you want a snapshot of the human condition that so many authors try to capture, but ultimately fail, you can't go wrong with going for the source.