I’m delighted to announce that Subterranean Press has decided to post the complete text of “The Sagan Diary” at Subterranean Online.
For those of you unfamiliar with TSD, it’s a novelette (about 12,500 words) that’s set in the Old Man’s War universe, between the events of The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. It’s the first time that Jane Sagan, the only character in the series who has appeared on all the books, comes forward and tells her own story, discussing her life and her views on war and friendship and love and any other number of topics. For “Sagan,” it helps to have read at least The Ghost Brigades for the full impact (and if you’ve read both TGB and Old Man’s War, so much the better), but I snuck in an introductory section to the story which should give you your bearings even if you’ve read neither. And for those of you who have read The Last Colony, it’ll help put Jane’s travails in that book in a whole new light.
I’m going to toot my own horn here and tell you I think “The Sagan Diary” is some of the best writing I’ve done so far, in no small part because it’s almost entirely unlike anything else I’ve written (and released publicly). Anyone who reads me knows I’m good with dialog and action scenes and the frequent snarky aside. There is none of that here; I wrote an entire story that goes on entirely in someone’s head. I generally avoid description; this is all description. I’m good at writing men; Jane is, well, a woman. Everything I find easy to write I pointedly didn’t write here.
And I have to say, it just about broke my head. Writing this was hard, because I didn’t let myself just slide into the stuff I knew I was good at, although I was sorely tempted more than once. But there were two things going on. First, as a writer, I wanted to exercise writing muscles I hadn’t used before, and doing it in a novelette made more sense than trying it in a novel. Second, the character of Jane Sagan herself demanded this, because Jane is not like my “usual” characters; She’s not quippy, she’s not wordy, she’s not an easy communicator. There’s a lot that goes in her head that doesn’t come out of her mouth. I wanted to get at that. Sometimes as a writer it sucks wanting to be true to a character you’ve made, because it’s a hell of a lot of work. But I know if I wrote something where Jane didn’t match the way I knew her to be, and it got published and became part of the public idea of who Jane is, it would bother me until the day I died. “The Sagan Diary” was hard as hell for me to write, and I nailed it. I am damn proud of it — again, I think it’s some of my best work.
(Which is not to say that other people always agree with me. Go to TSD’s Amazon page and read the reviews, and you’ll find people who there who absolutely loathe it, or are confused by it because it’s unrepresentative, relative to other work in that universe. And you know what? I’m fine with that. Whenever you do something different it’s going to hit some people wrong. Mind you, it doesn’t make them Philistines or something for not appreciating my art — really, I’m not that precious about it. I’m sorry that they didn’t like it, I totally understand why they didn’t, they can expect that I’ll write something more to their liking soon, and I wouldn’t change a thing about how I wrote “The Sagan Diary.”)
“The Sagan Diary” text is now available online (and don’t forget the audio version is also freely available), but Subterranean is also keeping the book itself in print — indeed, Bill Schafer, Subterranean’s publisher, has just ordered a third printing of the trade edition of the book, which if I may say so is pretty damn spectacular business for a novelette in book form. I hope if you read it and like it that you’ll consider getting the book version, for a few reasons. The first is that, well, then I’ll get paid. That’s always a plus. The second is that what’s not online is Bob Eggleton’s really excellent artwork, both on the cover and inside the book itself. The third is that, well, I think the story just lives better in book form. One of the things you learn when you get published is that a book isn’t just about the text; there’s a whole aesthetic that goes with the book, and that esthetic matters. This is one of the reasons I think that printed books are going to be around for a while, in some form or another.
Suffice to say I think if you like “The Sagan Diary”, you’ll want to consider getting it in book form. Also, it makes a lovely holiday gift for the SF readers you know and love. And so on. Here it is on the Subterranean Web site (where you can get the regular edition, and where a few copies of the limited signed edition are still available), and if you want to shave a couple bucks off the asking price, here it is on Amazon.
In any event, I hope you’ll read it, and I hope you like it, and I hope you’ll see just why I’m proud of it. And I hope you’ll tell your friends! Enjoy, and thanks to Bill and Subterranean for letting it go online.