Historically speaking, January 23 has not been a noteworthy day. Google reports only two historical events of note on this date...
January 23 in 1556 CE marked the occurrence of the deadliest earthquake in human history, epicentered in the Wei Valley in China and killing upward of 830,000 terrified victims.
On the other end of the calamity spectrum, January 23 in 1957 marked the date when the Wham-O toy company purchased the rights to market and sell the aerodynamic wonder we now call a Frisbee...to the general indifference of the human species, but the eternal rapture of border collies everywhere.
Falling somewhere between the calamitous and the ridiculous is the event that occurred on January 23 in 2023 — the publication of Hollow Crown of Fire: A Discovery of Meaning in the Coronavirus Pandemic and Its Predecessors. Although its topic more closely resembles the Wei Valley earthquake, I hope that its appeal will more closely resemble that of the Frisbee. Only time will tell.
I must admit that it was with extreme joy and relief that I held the print proof of the Beast. (See the above selfie.) Selfies are a form of photography that I normally avoid like...well...the plague. But there were several people who deeply deserved to see this evidence that their work had manifested in a lovely (albeit imperfect, but that’s what proofs are for) incarnation. And I’m glad to have memorialized that moment, if only to remind myself of the laborious work, and exhaustive teamwork, that was required to bring the Beast into printed life.
There are now many more than that one flawed copy, and they are all remarkably free of flaws. Only a few flaws that I cherish as equivalent to the intentional flaws that are woven into Persian carpets, flaws that are meant to prevent the weavers from trying to emulate the gods. (Clearly, the Persian culture has a concept similar to hubris, and good for them.) It is probably the case that the real flaws in Hollow Crown of Fire lie beneath its rare typos and countless omissions. But it’s too late to worry about them now. The Beast is born!
The most important and tangible feeling I have when I hold Hollow Crown of Fire in my hands is the same feeling I had when I held my first copy of Unholy Hungers in 1996, a feeling I still have for that dear first book. Now the book can hold all those awful facts and stories, so that my loyal and long-suffering body doesn’t have to. My beloved first editor, Dave O’Neal, once told me that every book has its own destiny, regardless of its author or its marketing plan. Sink or swim, each book will live out its destiny, he said. Dave was right about Unholy Hungers, still in print after all these years. Now we will see what Destiny has in store for Hollow Crown of Fire.
Happy birthday, Beast!