So does DB have the marketing chops, the ‘Fu’ so to speak, to market their new, nationally-targeted children’s fantasy series?
Perhaps. They’re certainly making a game attempt at it. Hoping to capitalize on the Harry Potter et. al. phenomenon, DB’s Shadow Mountain Books (their national imprint) is publishing “Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo” — the first in a planned series by writer Obert Skye.
As Andrew Hall pointed out on the AML List, that’s almost certainly a pseudonym. And Deseret Book is playing up the mystery. Here, for instance, is the author’s bio/mythology of the story from the DB Web site:
“Obert Skye slipped into our building (Shadow Mountain Publishing) like a shadow. We looked up and there he was standing against the wall and smiling. He told us the story of Foo and of the gateway and of Leven, claiming it was a real place whose story had real consequences. His tale immediately captivated us.
“He showed us the pages of his work and objects that he felt proved Foo’s existence. We were in awe at the idea but told Obert we saw the story as fiction, not reality. We then suggested a series of children’s fantasy novels beginning with, Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo. Needless to say, Obert was offended and left as quickly as he could gather his things.
“The story stayed with us, and the marvelous idea of Foo was one we could not shake. Three days later Obert returned. He looked tired and worn, as if he had been across the world and back. He had also come to the realization that the tale simply needed to be told and that if we weren’t wise enough to see the truth, and insisted on calling it fiction, so be it. We were more than happy to oblige and publish his fictional story.
“We understand that there are those who might think Obert is, well, unbalanced, but we at Shadow Mountain think he’s just misunderstood. After all, some people believe in Santa. Some people believe in fairy tales. And we think some people will soon believe in Foo.”
I’m not sure that the specter of mental illness (no matter how benignly presented) is the right way to go about things. The whole schoolmarm, single mum thing that J.K. Rowling has going on seems like a better hook. But, hey, at least DB is trying to do something fun. It’s also not clear to me why the photo of Skye shows him jumping off a boat in full scuba gear. That doesn’t seem like something a fantasy novelist does, but perhaps that’s more reflective of my own biases.
At any rate, you can read the the first part of Leven Thumps online. There’s not enough to it to really get a great impression of the story, but it’s clear that Skye has decent writing chops and it seems like an interesting premise.
There is also a groovy official Web site. The countdown to “April Foo’s Day” is a great touch. Click on the “Obert Skye” link for another fake bio. Not bad stuff — although I find the “help children use their imagination” thing to be superfluous and pedantic. Readers of fantasy don’t need to be told to use their imagination.
A Utah book tour begins March 28 (see the official Web site for details). If any AMV readers decide to attend a reading, I’d love to hear a report of the event. E-mail me at motleyvision AT gmail DOT com.
NOTE: Do you think Skye and Deseret Book are aware of the urban usages of the word “foo”? I suppose that it doesn’t really matter. It’s a children’s book. But “Journey to Foo” would actually be “Journey to Fool” here in the Bay Area. And according to the Urban Dictionary, it also is a slang term that programmers use. My hope is that there is a certain silly/humorous aspect to the novel that will mitigate this issue. Cause if we’re supposed to take ‘Foo’ as seriously as we would take ‘Rivendell’ or ‘Gilead’ then this might be a problem. I do, however, have to give the author major props for his main character’s name. Leven Thumps is a great name (albeit a bit Lemony Snicket-ish).