Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Atlanta Nights: When Bad Writing Becomes Comedy Gold

It is roughly the tenth anniversary of the publishing of a hilariously--and intentionally--terrible book called Atlanta Nights, give or take a few weeks. Atlanta Nights was not written as a serious book--it was written as an experiment to see just how little Vanity Publishing companies like PublishAmerica actually cared about the quality of the work they published. Well, PublishAmerica did fall for the hoax and published the book after the authors, a group of sci-fi novelists lead by James D. MacDonald, paid them to do so. The experiment was successful.

The authors revealed that the book was a hoax a few weeks after it was published, causing much embarrassment to PublishAmerica. They didn't stop there. The cover artist got in on the fun, too, and thus the cover of Atlanta Nights features palm trees and an ocean sunset.

And now, here is a map of Georgia, so you can tell just how close Atlanta actually is to the beach. 

Look at the map. Now look at the book cover. Now look at the map again. Now look at the book cover again. Now look at the map, then the cover, then the map, then the map again, then the book cover, then both simultaneously, and then look over the book cover and then the map one last time. 

For comparison's sake, imagine if the book were set in Seattle, but the cover showed a picture of Haystack Rock. Or, for my family on the East Coast, imagine the book cover showed the Montauk Point Lighthouse, but the book itself was set in Philadelphia. Believe me, this is the least of geographical inaccuracies in this book. 

You probably won't notice those blunders, though. You'll be too busy having your brain tied into knots at the nonsensical and completely random changes in the sequences of events that barely hold what little plot there is in the story. Not even the characters themselves are described consistently. The main characters actually change ethnicities in one chapter before becoming white again by the next chapter. One character is a man for most of the book, until he randomly becomes a woman for one chapter, and then returns to being a man again. The main "plot" of the book is set in motion when a character named Henry dies. However, Henry turns up alive in one of the chapters and talks to the other characters as though they had simply invited him over for dinner. A chapter later, he is dead once again. These occurrences are treated as mundane and normal in the context of the story, and once they're over, they're never mentioned again. 

The book is full of grammatical errors throughout. One of the authors, taking cues from many a bad fanfic, writes as though he has no idea how to properly use a comma. The storyline is clunky and disjointed because each author wrote their section separately. Because they wanted the story to be as incoherent as possible, they did not read each others' contributions, and had no idea which chapters were supposed to flow into each other. This would have been more than enough, but one author upped the ante and decided to change between past tense, present tense, and future tense at random intervals during his contribution to the story. One chapter is computer generated by the Bonsai Story Generator

Also, this story has penguins. Vicious borrowing predators that live in the Sahara and howl at the moon after dark. No, seriously. That is really how the book describes penguins.

I have decided that even though this book wasn't intended to be taken seriously, that doesn't mean that I can't make fun of it. Some spots will be a challenge, though...they really kind of make fun of themselves for me.

My mockery of chapter one will be out pretty soon, hopefully by tomorrow night.

Oh, and if you look at book cover, you'll see that Atlanta Nights was written by "Travis Tea." Since that somehow didn't give away at least part of the joke to the people in charge of PublishAmerica, I imagine that the quality of their employees is roughly equal to the quality of the books they publish. 

No comments:

Post a Comment