(Go here to read the story first, if you prefer not being spoiled!)
For longer now, than I care to count, most of my creative efforts have been oriented along the lines of creating a book for my brother. The idea was first born from an off-side remark by him, saying that he wanted to see something written by me in print. As I recall, it was said as a compliment for my christmas gift rhymes (one of the few traditions of that holiday that I can say without hesitation that I like), and — flattered — I decided this would make for a suitable birthday present, later christmas gift, later still birthday present, and so on… The book was finally finished in December last year, and though the stories stay with me, I must say that I am glad to finally be able to put the work behind me, as unfinished projects always tend to clog my creative pipes and give me a terribly bad conscience in the progress.
As per usual, I’m going write something about the creative process here; if you prefer reading without any imposed prejudice, I suggest you go here for downloads.
It has been a mixed blessing working on the book. As I said above, it has tended to be in the way of new projects, not suitable for its (admittedly and consciously very broad) scope, but am happy with the outcome and I have learnt a lot working on it. But I think I will start with a brief note on the…
The book is a collection of texts I’ve written over the past years, some with the book in mind, some that made it there by providence. If you’ve visited this place before, you may already have seen much of it, as the bulk of it has been published here already. The book’s first three texts are the short stories “Stenarna“, “Soluppgång över Änggårdsbergen” and “…vad som räddas kan“. Also included is a letter I wrote to a friend as a companion to a small plaster sculpture I made for him; these have also been published here previously. There were also some text written for it, that never made it, either due to practical considerations or simply because I didn’t like them. Some of that may find it’s way here eventually, but for now — if you’ve already read the stories listed above — the new stuff is mostly in the form of an essay justifying on my unhealthy relationship with caffeine, and in the wrapping.
That being said, I’m very proud of the wrapping, though it is perhaps a bit cheesy: the stories are tied together by a loose framework story, introducing each chapter, illustrated with three black and white drawings. The story follows two mythological characters, as they traverse a sinking city on a search for things to read (I’m hoping that they also find some texts by other authors, or they may get a very odd view on the culture they are exploring).
This story, too, is wrapped in yet another story, told only by the two images framing the entire manuscript, the first of which can be seen to the left. There is, as you may have realised, a lot of “meta“. I guess much of the symbolism I use — in particular for the outermost layer — is probably lost on a reader who doesn’t know me personally, but I think that it may still be enjoyable and meaningful — much of the point of the middle layer story is that the reader’s interpretation is much more important than whatever the original intent of the writer may have been; if it speaks to you than that is the intent, whether I thought it or not. (It should be noted, in this context, that the author doesn’t necessarily agree with the conclusions and thoughts of the two protagonists, though at times they come uncomfortably close…)
Of course, the book is also framed by it’s cover. For the manuscript I used LaTeX and learnt a lot from the experience, but I’ve used LaTeX for many years already; not so with GIMP, that I used for the cover. The cover pays homage to two works by one of my favourite authors and is, as with most things I do, crawling with numerology. I don’t want to give away what two works, but a small hint is in that the numerology of the cover (including the binding) is a reference to one work, whereas most of the rest of the layout is a reference to the other (I’ve only made two copies so far — one for my brother and one for a friend — but I promise to bind and send a copy to anyone who can pinpoint which works are referenced and how). The motto (and choice of language for the same) for the stated publisher is, however, another personal reference — my personal creed of sorts.
For the texture of the cover, I also had in mind memories from the island Hidra, on the southernmost tip of Norway, where I spent many of my childhood summers. There, I found, grows a type of seaweed that makes excellent (albeit reeking, at least until it’s thoroughly dried) paper. I was planning on using that for the cover, but I never got hold of enough of it.
I didn’t have to learn just GIMP for the cover; the book also had to be bound somehow. For this, I found this excellent guide on how to make a Coptic binding stitch. I recommend that you try it out, if you are at all interested, as it is very easy, but looks great and makes for a very impressive gift. Here are a couple of things I learned doing it:
- The thickness of the finished book depends to a very high degree on the thickness of the thread, so if your not using a very thin thread, don’t let it run double. I did this on my first attempt, and it made the book look very tapered when viewed from above, and besides this it obscures the beauty of the knots forming the binding somewhat.
- Pull stitches tight, taking care to figure out in what direction to pull in order not to tear the paper (this differs, depending on at what stage of the binding you are).
- Don’t pull stitches too tight, as this will — once again — obscure the beauty of the handicraft, and also increases the risk of tearing the paper.
- Especially, don’t tie the stitches that fasten the cover to tight, or the book may not close properly.
- If the paper should tear, this is by no means a catastrophe. Simply glue a small piece of paper over the tear on the inside of the signature (this is enough, but you may want to repair all torn pages just the same) .Once it has dried completely, continue where you left it.
- When you get to the end of a signature, I would suggest that you tie it as if it were the first stitch of the next signature (which it is) and not as if it were the last stitch of the current (which it, confusingly, also is…). This will make the top and bottom rows of stitches look better, as otherwise they come out quite thin. (Don’t worry if you don’t get this piece of advice now, you will hopefully understand it once you try it for yourself — feel free to contact me otherwise!)
Though the placement of the binding stitches may look random in the above picture, there is a pattern to their intervals and the distance to the spine of the holes in the cover. This has to do with the numerology mentioned above.
I have chosen to release all my works, including all parts of this book, under some kind of Creative Commons license. For the book, the license is BY-SA-2.5-SE. The reason for this is not simply a general dislike of the concept of copyright. It is my opinion, that if I have taken part of a any work of art — be it a movie, a book, a painting, a song or anything else — I quite literally take a part of it with me. Whether I like it or not, I will internalise it, make it a part of me. Make it mine. Copyright denies us the opportunity to act on this, which makes me furious. Relations between people, should in my opinion, not be decided by laws and regulations if it can possibly be avoided. It’s undignified.
I do realise, that there will always be people who would treat my works irresponsibly (from my perspective). My view on humanity is rather more pessimistic than that, in fact. But that doesn’t mean that we should deprive good people of the opportunity of doing good things. To put it bluntly: arseholes will be arseholes, regardless of what laws apply to them; it is worth much more to me to encourage others to be nice, than vainly attempting to stop stupidity. Creative Commons is the political vehicle I have chosen, in my attempt to get this point across. I do, however, appreciate knowing what happens to my works, so if you’re planning of using it, remixing it or spreading it, I look forward to hearing from you!
Come and get it!
Finally, I’ve said what I wanted to say. I may add comments in the future, just as I will keep correcting any errors I may find in the book. The latest version of the book can be downloaded in the following versions:
- Version for on-screen reading, covers included: boken_screen.pdf
- Main version of manuscript (a5-format): boken.pdf
- Same as above, but imposed for double sided printing on a4-paper (signatures of 12 pages): boken_imposed.pdf
- Fullsize covers for printing (see note * below!): book_front.png, book_front_B.png, book_back_B.png, book_back.png
- Fullsize illustrations (in order of appearance): bildA.png, bild1.png, bild2.png, bild3.png, bildB.png
To keep track of changes, I also took the opportunity of learning Git, and the whole project, including TeX-files, illustrations and scripts, can be found at Gitorious and GitHub for the interested reader. The book and all of it’s contents are released under the Creative Commons licence BY-SA-2.5-SE.
*) Printing the cover of En bok:
Please note that the cover pages in their native resolution and dpi are 154 mm x 216 mm, that is a little larger than the 148 mm x 210 mm of the normal a5-format used in the manuscript. This is intentional, as slightly larger cover is easier to work with when binding.
The *_B.png files are mirrored versions of the background used in the front and back covers, meant for use on the inside of the cover, if this is desirable; see boken_screen.pdf for an example.