Guest-blog: GARY McMAHON

Today’s special guest-blogger is Mr. Prolific himself, Gary McMahon, author of such works as How to Make Monsters (Morrigan), The Harm (TTA Press), Rain Dogs (Humdrumming), and also ahort stories collected in Different Skins (Screaming Dreams) and Pieces of Midnight (Ash-Tree). Forthcoming from him are two Angry Robot books, Pretty Little Dead Things (2010) and Dead Bad Things (2011), and a little project due to be launched at FCon 2011 (about which I am saying little at present). He is currently working on the Concrete Grove series of books for Solaris.

Recently, I’ve written a couple of posts on my dislike of e-readers (for purely nostalgic and romantic reasons, admittedly). Here, Gary looks at things from the opposite viewpoint and makes the case for such devices.


Loving the Onion

When I was a small child I hated the taste of onions – and I mean fucking loathed them. Nothing made me feel more nauseous than the thought of onions on my plate. Whenever a meal containing the wee stinkers was served up in the McMahon household, I’d carefully, methodically (and probably a bit obsessive-disorderly) pick out every single piece with my fingers and put them on a small plate next to me before I could even think about eating my dinner.

As time moved on I began to realise that this hating of the onions was a difficult (and rather unfair; I mean what had they ever done to deserve that level of prejudice?) way in which to live my life. Every single recipe I enjoyed contained onions. Onions were, in fact, the bedrock of culinary creativity. You struggle to make a decent meal without them. By this time I was about twelve years old and despite what anyone tells you about that squashy-faced boy with the thin arms who lives in our cellar, my mother didn’t raise no fools.

So I embarked upon an ambitious project focused around the notion of forcing myself to like onions. Not just to live with them, or to tolerate them, but to enjoy them. Perhaps, I thought wistfully, even some day I might even learn to love them.

At first I would continue to pick out something like 90% of the onion in my meal, and ate the remaining 10%. As I got used to this the ratio altered and I was soon eating 50%, 60%, 70%, and then – oh, day of days! – 80% of the onion from my plate.

After what seemed like a year but was in all probability about a week-and-a-half, I was no longer removing any of the onion from my dinner.

Now, aged forty-one, if someone tried to take my onion from me I’d probably kill them. I like the onion. Onions rock. I heart the onion. Often, I pretend that I am the onion.

All of which, of course, brings me to the subject of e-books.

No, it does. Really.

Stay with me on this; there’s logic here somewhere. There’s a point to all this random onion-based blathering, which will eventually show itself like the creamy-white flesh beneath the papery husk of a good shallot.

A year ago I despised the very idea of e-books. I raged passionately, to anyone who’d listen (and even some of those who stuck their fingers in their ears and went “Tra-la-la. I’m not listening”) that e-books were: B.A.D. (that spells ‘bad’, by the way), and that they were in fact the tools of the devil. I waxed lyrical about the feel and heft and, yes, even the smell of real books as opposed to the empty plastic non-feel, non-heft and, well, non-smell of e-books. I was a zealot, a man on a mission. I fucking hated e-books!

No way was I reading an e-book.

Not for me, buddy. Uh-uh. You can stick that thing in your cyberspace.

And I certainly wasn’t ever going to buy an e-book reader. Not on your nelly. I laugh at your poxy little e-reader. I fart in its general direction. Twice.

Then, about a month ago, I began to realise that in the very near future e-books are most probably going to dominate mid-list publishing, pushing physical books further towards the margins, the niche markets, and making them specialty items. Economics dictate that in far fewer years than we might all like to imagine, we’re going to be downloading and reading stories on our little hand-held devices instead of from between the (wonderful, glorious, rather nice-smelling) covers of paperback books.

That was the point, the “nuclear moment”, when I decided that rather than fight the future I’d prefer to tentatively embrace it. Technology wins, you see; it always does. Haven’t you seen The Terminator? He never really dies; he always comes back for the sequel. In T5 it’s rumoured that he’ll be carrying an e-reader.

As a writer, you need to be open to new ways of getting your work out there, especially if the market is slowly beginning to shape the nature of those new outlets. And if you start early enough, you might be in with a chance of staying the course.

I’ve already made my choice in this invisible war.

I’m getting a Kindle for Christmas.

I already have the Kindle for PC downloaded onto my laptop and I’m willing to use it.

It’s all about changing, adapting, making it work for you the best way you can. It’s about surviving those changes.

It’s about forcing yourself to love onions.


Some very good points cogently made there, especially from the writer’s point of view. I am not entirely convinced, but neither am I dismissive of the whole enterprise. I guess I will always be one of those hopeless (and hapless) romantics who will desperately cling to a portion of the past when it comes to books – I guess it’s been bred into my very genetic structure.

Many thanks to Gary for writing this – and for shining a light on the other side of the coin, and for providing some balance in the debate!

4 Responses to “Guest-blog: GARY McMAHON”

  1. Great post. I love real books, but think it’s definitely wise to give readers your work in whatever format they want. A combination of both sounds good to me.

  2. Mick Curtis Says:

    Good post, Gary – I think e-readers are going to end up sharing a house with my books at some point, simply because that may be the only way to read some stuff.
    I do prefer the idea of a shelf full of books to a sleek gadget, but there’s no reason the latter has to replace the former; they can happily co-exist, I reckon.


  3. Paul Bradshaw Says:

    Hmmm, so you change your opinion for professional reasons as opposed to general reasons. Deep down, you really still despise them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: