JOE LINSNER introduces This Bastard Planet

From Joe Linsner's introduction...

When Cliff asked me to paint the cover to his first collection of short stories, he told me that its title would be Crib Death & Other Bedtime Stories. Sounded fair enough. In chatting, he told me that his wife was expecting a baby.

“Isn’t that nice,” I thought. “A man expecting a baby is putting out a book called Crib Death. Okay...”

I figured that this could mean one of two things. Either Cliff was an emotionless creep with one very weird sense of humor; the kind of guy who probably collects videos of highway accidents and grisly news footage like the on-air suicide of Bud Dwyer... or Cliff really was a writer; a writer being someone with an interest in exploring very personal, dangerous things. If he was a creep, I was just gonna do my thing, fulfill my obligation, and then say, “See ya!” And if he was a writer, then I would put my heart into it and enjoy doing his cover.

As it turns out, I had a great time doing his cover. Upon reading the title story “Crib Death,” I was convinced of that one very important thing -- Clifford Meth is indeed a writer. A writer is not just someone who writes, who types, who strings together sentences. Any old sap can do that. Just imagine the results of giving a typewriter to the town idiot. If he pounds away long enough, he might produce some masterpiece, but I don’t think anyone can afford to waste that much paper. With the amazing amount of fiction we are assaulted with by television and other junk culture in this, our sparkling utopian society, it would be next to impossible for any fool not to be able to string together storyline with subplot and ending. From there, he could go out to Hollywood and “write” the next big action film, or stay at home and turn on the housewives with a series of Harlequin Romances. Is that assembling a story? I guess so. It might have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But is it writing? Not to me -- that’s too safe to be writing. Real writing is dangerous business.

It takes courage to be a writer, the courage of the inner explorer -- the cosmonaut of inner space. A true writer cannot pull back from what he finds because it shocks or upsets him, or because he fears the disapproval of the reader. A true writer has to have been there. I don’t mean the Hemmingway thing of getting veins in your teeth. I’m talking about emotional contact. The touch you cannot fake. It either is or it isn’t.

Crib Death most certainly is. Clifford Meth deals with things very real and very scary. There is no dancing, no romanticism. He takes you to a frightening place and shows you the sights. You, the reader, have it easy. After buying the book, the only price you have to pay is the time you put into sitting down and reading it. Cliff has to pay a different price... But that’s all right. It’s his job, his lot in life.

He’s the writer.

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