Thursday, February 10, 2022

Typesetting an Entire Book Part IV: The Content

In previous blog posts (such as seals this one) we looked into typesetting a book with various FOSS tools. Those have used existing content from Project Gutenberg. However it would be a whole lot nicer to do this with your own content, especially since a pandemic quarantine has traditionally been a fruitful time to write books. Thus for completeness I ventured out to write my own. After a fair bit of time typing, retyping, typesetting, imposing, printing, gluing, sandpapering and the like, here is the 244 page product that eventually emerged from the pipeline.

As you can probably tell, this was the first time i did gouache lettering with a brush. It behaved differently from what I expected and due to reasons I could only do this after the cover had been attached to the text block, so there was no going back or doing it over.

What's its name in English and what genre does it represent?

The first one of these is actually quite a difficult question. I spent a lot of time trying to come up with a working translation but failed. Not only is the title a pun, it contains an intentional spelling error. A literal translation would be something like The First Transmission Giltch, though that misses the fact that the original name contains the phrase First Contact. The working title for the book was Office Space in Space.

As you can probably tell, the book is a sci-fi satire about humanity's first contact with alien civilisations, but it can be seen as an allegory of a software startup company. ISO standardisation also plays a minor part, and so do giant doughnuts, unexpected gravities, a cosplay horse and even space sex (obviously).

At this point many of you have probably asked the obvious question, namely isn't this just a blatant Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ripoff?

Not really. Or at least I'd like to think that it isn't. This can be explained with an analogy: what Hitchhiker's is to Star Wars, this book is to Star Trek. More specifically it is not high fantasy, but more technical, down to earth and gritty, for lack of a better term.

Can I read it?

You almost certainly can not.

In fact, let's be scientific and estimate how unlikely it would be. The first hurdle is getting the book published. Statistics say that only one book out of a thousand offered to publishers actually gets published. Even if it did get published and you had a physical copy in your hands, you probably still could not read it, since it is written in Finnish, a language that is understood only by 0.1 percent of the planet's population. If we estimate how many people who could read it actually would read it then the chances are again roughly one of a thousand.

Putting all these together and assuming a planetary population of 7 billion we find that the book will only be read by around seven people. Thus far I have convinced five of my friends to read the preview version so there are only two slots available. Your chances of being one of the two are thus quite slim. On the other hand if you are an extreme hipster, the kind who likes to boast to their friends that they only read books in languages they don't speak and which require their readers to understand both French and Latin in order to get some of the jokes within, you may have found your Citizen Kane.

If you can find it, that is.

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