Bring Those Savages to God
For a book written in the 1800s, I'm not going to worry too much about posting spoilers. However, I'm only about a third of the way through Malaeska: The Indian Wife of the White Hunter, so I don't have much I could spoil for you anyway. But I will tell you, this book has been a challenging read sometimes, in part because of the "purple prose" and in part because of the story itself, which appears to be about bringing "savages" (Native Americans) to Christianity. But why am I reading it at all, and how does it relate to modern writing and publishing?
I chose to read this book—as an e-book downloaded from Project Gutenberg, a process that would mystify and possibly scare the people who published and originally read this book—because it is the original dime novel, the book from which the term "dime novel" arose. If you look carefully at the cover, you will see that it even carries a label as such, i.e., "Beadle's Dime Novels Number 1." And dime novels are an interesting thing to compare to modern books because, adjusted for inflation, a "dime" novel now would cost around $2.80 -- very close to the common $2.99 pricing of indie e-books, and nearly three times as expensive as countless 99-cent e-books (such as my Journey to Yandol, and other stories). Read on for more thoughts on this connection!
"Dime novels" are generally considered to be quickly written and mass produced to meet the casual reading interests of average people. They're not expected to be great literature, nor a significant investment for the writer, publisher, or reader. This is not a bad thing, it's just one part of the book market being efficiently served.
Now replace "dime novels" with "many indie e-books" at the start of the prior paragraph, and it's still a reasonably accurate statement. When I made that connection, and saw what a dime "back then" (when the first dime novel was published) would be equal to now after inflation, I became more intrigued about the first dime novel. I decided to read it, not to learn anything in particular but just to have the experience, to see that long-ago cultural contribution, albeit well out of its original context. (Hopefully there aren't people still calling Native Americans "savages.")
I originally started reading Malaeska in calibre on my PC, but it's not an optimal reading environment and I didn't get far. I recently received my first e-ink e-reader, a Kobo Glo HD, and decided to see how easy it will be to grab books from sites like Project Gutenberg. I picked up a fresh copy of Malaeska as an ePUB and it opened right up, a fairly slick process. Now that I have a more comfortable way to read it, I'm making progress and may be done by the end of the month.
If you take the time to read Malaeska, or if you've done so in the past, I welcome your comments. Just no spoilers... ;)