Executions and Beer Money

In R.A. Lafferty’s great science fantasy novel, ‘Annals of Klepsis’, the protagonist is visiting a strange planet while posing as a well-known historian. The planet’s ruler advises him that he had better do or say something distinguished every few minutes, or risk being executed immediately.

Luckily, authors face a lesser challenge. Our problem is that posed by Robert Heinlein: we’re competing for Joe’s (or Josephine’s) beer money. If a potential reader decides that a six-pack has more entertainment value than the author’s latest and greatest, the author will–figuratively, at least–go hungry.

Starving in a garret is still a lot better than execution, of course. But as A.E. Houseman famously observed, ‘Ale does more than Milton can / To justify God’s ways to man.’ In other worlds, beer is a really tough competitor. Still, I’d point out that books–some of them, anyway–are capable of giving the reader a lasting glow without the punishment of a hangover.

And with the rise of the e-book, things are looking up for poor starving authors. Now a reader can grab an entertaining book for, in many cases, less than the price of a single bottle (especially if you’re talking craft beer).

Let’s hope brewers don’t up the ante by developing some kind of e-beer. That would be just wrong.

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