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Big Bigolas Energy
Or: This is How You Lose the Time War is a NYT Bestseller! Or: What Just Happened???
Two weeks ago we left for a Hawai’i vacation with my in-laws. Until this trip our kid had not flown since before the Pandemic, had never seen the Pacific, had barely eaten in restaurants. I’ve been very busy for a long time, between parenting and writing (or, honestly, revising), so I set a forbidding out of office auto-responder and looked forward to an interval of recuperation, a brain-in-neutral period, not thinking about publishing, not trying to write, just existing as a person with his family, by the pool, in the ocean, whose hand would be graced occasionally by the transient presence of a banana daiquiri.
The vacation did not go as planned.
The short version is:
This is How You Lose the Time War is now a New York Times Bestseller, because of a viral tweet by a fan account for the Trigun anime, maintained by a charming and deeply genuine person by the nom de clavier of Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood. Specifically, this tweet:
You may wish to know the long version.
It unfolded for me in fits and starts, and almost out of order, as one would expect of a book about time travel.
While we were in transit, a friend who often texts us about Time War sitings in the wilds of social media sent my partner a screenshot of The Bigolas Tweet, which at that time had 12,000 likes.
I thought, how wonderful! Nice note to start the vacation. And also: what a great screen name. My brain was in vacation mode already, so I didn’t think about the numbers too much. As I’ve been told many times, Twitter Doesn’t Sell Books.
Later that evening, Amal (that’s my New York Times Bestselling co-author Amal El-Mohtar, to be clear, though at this point we were neither of us New York Times Bestselling co-authors) sent me a screenshot of the same tweet; the numbers were much bigger (Bigolas-er?). I thought: wow! It’s really taking off. But still: Twitter Doesn’t Sell Books.
As they say: lol.
I don’t use the internet on planes. I like to imagine it doesn’t exist, isn’t an option: I’m there with my family, books, and maybe a video game handheld if traveling in decadence. When we landed, I turned off airplane mode.
There’s a Calvin and Hobbes strip where Mom discovers to her shock that Calvin has “cleaned” his room. Then she opens his closet door, and is engulfed in an entire room’s worth of highly pressurized mess.
This was like that, but notifications. And, like, good mess.
This is How You Lose the Time War had risen to #31 on the Amazon charts. In “Books.” Not “Epistolary Time Travel Romance Books,” not “Science Fiction Books,” not even “Fiction Books.” Just… book books. We were two places above The Very Hungry Caterpillar. And y’all, that caterpillar… he’s really hungry.
It was wonderful, it was absurd, it was flummoxing and flabbergasting and almost hallucinatory. What an intense pop! What a miracle!
And as I read the tweet, and the replies, I felt so charmed: they were a wonderful mix of people reporting successful purchases to Mr. Bigolas, and fans of the book joining in with their full-throated endorsements. I’m used to tweet replies being, well, neutral-to-awful, but here was this delightful community of interest and enthusiasm. The tweet seemed to be a lightning rod for the many, many folks who’ve loved this book we wrote together to share their joy, again, and all at once. I was overcome.
You have likely heard that, in the Roman Triumphs, as the conquering general proceeded in glory through the city, a crone would perch behind in the chariot, to whisper in his ear: “thus passes the glory of the world.” Enjoy this if you must, but don’t get attached. Hold the joys of victory lightly. She sits somewhere to the north and right of my heart, whether I want her there or not. Sometimes her voice is welcome; sometimes it’s so piercing that I cannot hear any other.
But in this moment, the balance felt right. I felt the gift of it, the grace. And yet, the Amazon sales rank algorithm is… opaque, maybe even to Amazon, but one thing I have heard is that it’s highly sensitive to abrupt changes in velocity. A big pop of sales one day could shift rank by a bunch—fast up, and fast down. Still, it was huge wonderful news. We found our rental car, made our way to the hotel, checked in. I got a daiquiri and spent the afternoon with our kiddo in the pool. He laughs, constantly, while he’s swimming.
The next day I woke up to find a text from my agent saying that we were at #21.
At lunch, we were #15.
I got in the pool. When I got out, we were #7.
We peaked at #3, and stayed there for days. Over, among other things, Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead. Which, as you may have heard, won the Pulitzer Prize. Last week.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go.
The week got… weird. There were interviews, inquiries. There were huge ranges of feeling: gratitude, abundance, absurdity, plus deep emotional jags into less obvious territory due to the pure chaos of it all, in a moment where I’d let down my psychic guard. Amal maintained an awe-inspiring archive / running commentary on the phenomenon, on Twitter itself, which I joined as much as I could—which wasn’t all that much, given the presence of my family. Between interviews and phone calls and all the Publishing, I gave as much of myself as I could to my kid, family, to pools and the ocean and paddle boarding and physical presence. If you are a parent, you know, but if you’re not: the experience expects, and rewards, all the energy and awareness you have in the world. When I was by myself, answering email, on calls, trying to participate in the Moment of it all (which Amal, thankfully, was able to be more fully present for), I was caught up in this wildly transformative situation; when I was with our kid, it felt like a fever dream, a vivid hallucination. Time was out of joint, as the guy says.
Joys of the moment, they are many: becoming aware of, and briefly communicating with, Mr. Bigolas, who conducted himself with utter sincerity and commitment to his vision throughout this process, to the extent of “shooting his shot” in a moment of national media attention by asking Dark Horse to reprint the (long out of print) Trigun manga. (Which DH is now doing! It’s out in December! & They say they had planned the reprint all along. Perhaps. Though I can’t but imagine that their production timeline has shifted a bit…) Having the director of Trigun: Stampede buy This is How You Lose the Time War and then tell the internet he had done so. Wolfwood cosplayers taking photos of themselves in costume reading This is How You Lose the Time War! Waterstones joked about putting a sticker on the book saying “Recommended by Bigolas Dickolas.” Porter Square Books really did produce such a sticker! Our Italian publisher now has Time War editions with a wraparound praise sheet that’s just The Tweet printed on it. A host of truly wonderful fan art has emerged (and apparently an attached fanfic)! Emails from friends I haven’t seen in years! Even the small joys of caring and being cared for—my family checking in and sometimes gently prying me away, Amal taking so much of the point role for social media. And the sneaky joy of all this happening while I was seaside, leading to a sense that I was sort of a secret agent, in a very book-appropriate way. Bigolas Dickolas trending on Twitter. Time War trending, again, on Twitter, as the wave of people who bought the book, read it and talked about their reading. Knowing that Bigolas Dickolas was being discussed in Serious People Meetings at Simon & Schuster. Receiving at least two graphs describing the “Bigolas Dickolas effect.” Having my friend the Romanist Anise K Strong translate “Bigolas Dickolas Energy” into Latin:
The involvement of Trigun itself in all this is also wonderful, since Trigun was one of the first anime I ever saw, though I only saw four episodes of it on an anime club VHS of dubious origin in the early aughts. (I didn’t watch TV as a kid, outside of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the only video game console I owned was an original monochrome Gameboy, so there’s a pile of media I encountered glancingly at friends’ houses or in club viewing that took root in my brain as I tried to imagine what the rest of it would look like. Final Fantasy 7 is a big one, but the early episodes of 90s Trigun do constellate a kind of reluctant or reformed-weapon vibe common to a subset of 90s shonen anime, which was a huge influence on some sections of the Craft books in specific… And, for that matter, Red as a megaviolent posthuman cyborg sort of person attempting to articulate a heart or soul of which she’s only sort of conscious.)
We stayed in the top ten for a week, then started to drift back down—but drift, slowly, a place at a time. (We’re still in the 30s?) One doesn’t hope for the New York Times Bestseller List, especially in paperback, especially in these days in which a squadron of Colleen Hoover titles hang ominously overhead the way a fleet of Star Destroyers might, prior to orbital bombardment. Certainly one does not expect it. But we were manifesting. And then, while I stood in bright sunlight at Transit Town in Griffith Park, the call came. If by call, I mean the pile of text messages saying “why haven’t you picked up your phone??”
The answer is, I had been on a tiny diesel train with my kid, during the crucial interval.
It turns out, as of Wednesday, This is How You Lose the Time War is a New York Times Bestseller.
I feel a need to bring all this back ‘round, but that implies that I have some sense of the shape of “all this,” and to be honest I do not. This was a moment beyond me. It felt like surfing: the waves was there before you. There’s the perfect viral tweet, the perfect screen name, the perfect, let us say, energy. There’s the community of folks who have loved this book in the last four years: the people who read it and reread it and gave it to friends and lovers, who got tattoos and wrote fic and made art, who read the book aloud with folks they’re now married to, or in serious partnerships with, the people who showed up. There’s the community of others who participated for the sheer joy of making something happen. It’s bigger than us. (Bigolas-er?) It’s transformative. Amal and I feel it in our depths. We’re so grateful.
As someone said, this feels like an op of Red’s, or Blue’s, or both.
Who knows. Maybe they really, really wanted a deluxe hardcover Trigun reprint.
It seems silly to report on any kind of “usual business” after that, but it’s been a while and I don’t want to let some things slip through the cracks…
Martin Cahill has an excellent review of Dead Country here. (And the book, of course, is available wherever fine books are sold, including Amazon, B&N, and Porter Square Books (or your own local indie!))
I wrote a short essay for Tor about tabletop roleplaying systems that might be suited for a Craft Sequence game! (I’m also drifting through Apocalypse Keys and digging it—might be a good source of ideas.)
And, you know. We’re New York Times Bestselling Authors. I feel a sudden onset need for a tattoo.
Take it easy, friends. Work for the liberation of all sentient beings. Me, I’m going to spend some preschool hours this coming Monday lying down.
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