The world's worst novel -- Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea (say the author's name out loud) -- is now available online. As Teresa Neilson Hayden said:
"The world is full of bad books written by amateurs. But why settle for the merely regrettable? Atlanta Nights is a bad book written by experts."
Why would about 30 pro SF writers (including me) attempt such a project? Blame PublishAmerica.
PublishAmerica is an Internet-based vanity press. They publish anything that gets sent their way, and make the author pay for the privilege of calling themselves a "published author." What makes them a bit more unsavory than the average vanity press is the fact that they pretend otherwise. They claim to be a "traditional" royalty publisher, and even send their authors $1 in payment to "prove" it.
What they don't say is that they overprice their books and set things up so that bookstores will not stock them without money up front. Authors end up paying for books for friends, for reviewers, and to leave with bookstores on consignment. PA gives no serious marketing help and bombards its authors with e-mails giving them "deals" on buying their books.
PA also insists that they don't accept every manuscript sent to them. And, when several science fiction authors started alerting people about their scam, they put up a web page indicating that SF and fantasy authors are all just hacks who can't write the type of first-class fiction that PublishAmerica publishes.
Of course, we took that as a challenge.
Jim Macdonald gathered together around 30 SF writers. Our mission: to write the worst possible novel. We were all given outlines and a sketchy synopsis and told to write as badly as we could.
The result was Atlanta Nights, 72,000 words of utter dreck. Misspellings and bad grammar were a given. Wild consistency were expected (one character is described in various chapters as white, black, and asian). Every single bad writing technique was attempted and stomped on. One chapter was computer generated.
The final result was sent to PA. They accepted it, showing their true colors.
Of course, several hours after the hoax was announced, PA sent an e-mail suddenly withdrawing their acceptance. They claimed their editors discovered that one of the chapters was pure gibberish. Of course it was -- the computer generated one -- but shouldn't they have noticed that before the acceptance had gone out? So they are admitting that they accept manuscripts without reading them through -- not something a traditional publisher would dare do, but what a vanity press does all the time.
Jim put the book up at lulu.com, a legitimate POD publisher, and it is available for your purchase. Proceeds will go to the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund.
A copy in RTF format, which can be read by most word processors is at Jim Macdonald's FTP Site. You can also download the acceptance and contract.