E N E M Y
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the publication of my first novel, Enemy, the book that would go on to inspire this whole Silverthought thing, I've decided to give it away as a free PDF download. The book is still available in print form, but I'm not giving those away for free. I'd considered the idea of re-releasing the book in a limited, illustrated tenth-anniversary edition, but like most ambitious plans you make when there's a new baby in the house, it was quickly buried under a pile of diapers and burp cloths.
To contextualize the novel, the main idea for Enemy began as a short story I wrote at age 14. By age 16, I had completed the first hand-written completed manuscript of the novel in three spiral-bound notebooks. Another hand-written version in an even bigger spiral-bound notebook followed soon thereafter, then a type-written version. I spent the summer before taking off for undergrad typing that type-written version into my shiny new computer.
I mention the different versions because each brought a new level of editing and sophistication to the story. The first computer version remained largely untouched (although I did draw from it to write a screenplay version) for four years. In 2000, when I heard about a company called GreatUNPublished that took digital files and made printed books out of them, I thought that was just about the coolest thing ever. I didn't want to send them my little Enemy baby first, just in case it was a tremendous scam, but after being reasonably satisfied with the publication of my experimental non-fiction Deconstruct, I went for it. Enemy was the 47th book GU published.
Cover templates came and went as fast as GU's staff. GreatUNPublished became Booksurge became CreateSpace or whatever they are now after being acquired by Amazon. Somewhere along the line, I wrote two semi-sequels to Enemy and founded my own publishing company. Silverthought owes its existence to this little book. Fun fact: The original made-up word that appears in this book was silvervioletthought, not silverthought. Cocaine is a hell of a drug. There is also an unconfirmed report that Enemy was among the coursebooks used in an English class in Costa Rica, but I have no proof of that.
I have an uncomfortable relationship with Enemy. My later novels would both go on to receive critical praise and generate some attention, but this book is always there in the back of my head, begging to be revised or honed just a little bit. There's an itch to change a name here, drop a line there, just make it a little less adolescent-desperate. My revisions have been the subject of much heated debate among friends who want me to just leave it alone, and I think I've done an okay job at that--this version of the book has been static since 2003 and is likely to remain the definitive version of Enemy in standalone form.
My discomfort with the book comes from the fact that in sections it is glaringly, atrociously cliche, more a string of pickup lines set to sci-fi than a serious narrative. The aforementioned desperation of adolescence is a recurring theme that revisions throughout my twenties did little to contain. You just don't see these things when you're still living in the context of perceived abandonment and loss. And portions of Enemy seem almost quaint in their pre-9/11 worldview--a war with Quebec? Seriously? So yes, my discomfort sometimes borders on outright embarrassment when thinking about this book. I realize that I'm most likely just being unfair, as a 32-year-old looking back half of his life ago at a teenager trying to put such big ideas into words.
But at its heart, Enemy was a book with good intentions. I don't know if it deserved half of the praise it received, and I can't honestly say that if it popped up in the Silverthought slushpile that I would give it half a chance. You'll find spelling and grammar errors, inconsistencies and disregard for formatting, ALL CAPS and "What the hell was that?"s, basically everything I tell writers not to send me. But beyond the rough edges, I hope that you'll also find a book is enjoyable even as it challenges.
So happy birthday to Enemy. I hope you enjoy it.