When Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story came out in 2011, I was livid. And, yes, it was all based on petty envy and outrage at the publishing industry. At this point, I’d already written Bacon and Egg Man and had tried to interest a number of agents, none of whom were interested. It would be a hard sell, not quite in any genre.
Then this guy comes out with a dystopian novel set in a future New York and gets about six million glowing reviews and awards and the like.
Now I could have gloated that, once again, I’d been right and the brainiacs in the publishing industry had been wrong. Because you know how much money angry gloating puts in the bank. Besides, there was a bigger issue. No one was going to want to publish another dystopian novel set in a future New York. So I read Shteyngart’s damn book and liked it. And not only because it really had no overlap with mine!
Thankfully, Mike Bloomberg decided to over-reach with his idiotic large-soda ban and that drummed up just enough interest to get someone interested in the book. I’m under no delusion that I’ll reach best-seller lists or win any awards for this. But at least I can feel pretty smug about what a visionary I am. After all, the basic idea for Bacon and Egg Man came to me in 1994. And I had the first draft finished well before Bloomberg was mucking around with calorie counts and soda bans.
So, yeah, Ken Wheaton, super prophet. Or so I thought. Then along comes J.D. Tuccille at Reason magazine. He was kind enough to do a write-up of Bacon and Egg Man. But during email correspondence, he asked if I’d ever read a story called Lipidlegging, about a butter and egg dealer in a land where cholesterol has been outlawed.
I had not read such a story. Now I have. Here, you can read it, too. It was written by F. Paul Wilson. IN 1978! The main character sounds quite a bit like “The Old Man” in my novel. Part of that is due to the expository nature of both of them, but there’s still a tonal similarity. The crazier thing is that I’d originally called my book Butter and Egg Man (because of the jazz song, more than anything else).
Wilson, of course, is going to come across as a super-duper visionary when you consider the current legal landscape and the year from which he was writing. And apparently he was. (He’s won numerous awards and it seems Lipidleggin’ was made into a short film.)
But the fact is, America was in the grip of one of its many cyclical food freakouts around that time. I’m currently reading Michael Moss’ Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us and I’m being reminded how many freakouts we’ve had. Remember when eggs were going to kill us all? Wilson’s story does! (Of course, considering the Federal government’s own part in contributing to our over-consumption of certain foods–like cheese–who the knows who to believe anymore. Though I’m sure Wilson would agree with me in saying this is what happens when your government goes involving itself in shit it was never supposed to get involved in.)
So, yeah, my super original bright idea has been done before–as I guess most of them have. Now, I have to go check out this Chew graphic novel series. My friend Jason tells me it’s set in a world where poultry has been outlawed and the FDA must find chicken-smugglers.