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Literature / Atlanta Nights

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"The world is full of bad books written by amateurs. But why settle for the merely regrettable? Atlanta Nights is a bad book written by experts."
Teresa Nielsen Hayden, book critic, editor for Tor Books, and one of the authors

Once upon a time, authorities of PublishAmerica, a print-on-demand publishing company based in Frederick, Maryland, distributed a pair of articles on their AuthorsMarket website containing derogatory comments about the science fiction and fantasy genres. This was perhaps unwise, with the company already having to contend with accusations of Vanity Publishing despite protests to the contrary (such as claiming to filter out the majority of the 70 manuscripts they receive every day). Naturally, authors from both genres didn't take it well.

Thus, led by James D. Macdonald, a group of sci-fi and fantasy authors decided to retaliate (as well as test PublishAmerica's claims) by producing the most unreadable, incomprehensible trainwreck of a book they could conceive, all under the collective name of "Travis Tea". They would create it, submit it, and see how PublishAmerica would react. Atlanta Nights is that book, and guess what? Come December 7, 2004, PublishAmerica did take the bait. At least until the authors revealed the hoax on January 23, 2005, after which PA very quickly retracted their offer after "further review" the next day.


As for the book itself, well, it's a plotless, rambling pile of nonsense, riddled with inconsistencies and typos. It focuses on a group of wealthy, good-looking Atlanta socialites who sleep around with each other. Buried underneath it all is a vague storyline: software developer Bruce Lucent accidentally kills businessman Henry Archer in a car collision, and promptly tries to make up for it by courting Callie, Henry's widow, while Detective Andrew Venice attempts to determine whether there's foul play. Beyond that, however, virtually nothing about the plot can be determined that is consistent from one chapter to the next, due to the absolutely staggering number of internal inconsistencies in the plot.

A Dramatic Reading can be accessed right here, or you can download the actual manuscript right here.


And on February 12, 2011, Brenda Clough, one of the authors, announced that some lucky person has optioned the film rights. All we can say of this film is that, if it is created, it will exist.

Compare Naked Came The Stranger, a novel written with similar intent, to show that Sex Sells even if the remainder is a rambling pile of nonsense contributed by multiple authors. See My Immortal for fanfiction written with effort and care to be as bad as possible. And The Eye of Argon, which has about the same quality but much less parodic intent.

This deliberate trainwreck provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Bruce's mother. Or maybe she's a long-lost founder of a woman's beauty products company. See Plot Hole.
  • All Just a Dream: For exactly one chapter toward the end. And then it isn't anymore.
  • Anachronic Order: This, combined with the constant continuity errors, makes for a (deliberately) very confusing read.
  • Artistic License – Geography: As with everything associated with this book, it's surely intentional.
    • The cover of the Lulu paperback edition alone drives the point home by depicting palm trees and a beach — a totally alien scene for a city hundreds of miles inland. The fact that it is clearly an ocean sunset means it can't even be the distant Georgia coast, as that faces east.
    • Also, when Irene recalls her vacation with Henry...
      "He took me to Rome where we stood in the light of the Eiffel Tower."note .
  • Artistic License – University Admissions: Somehow, Arthur Nance went straight into medical school after graduating from high school. Valedictorian or no, that's extremely implausible.
  • As You Know: Between the doctor and the nurse on the first page.
  • Back from the Dead:
    • Rory Edwards, with no explanation. At first, the reader might think that this is just the Anachronic Order at work, but then, there is absolutely no way that this chapter is set before the one where he died. Just to make things even more ridiculous, he dies again in his final appearance. Whether he actually survived the first attack or is just another of the novel's deliberate goof-ups is unclear.
    • Steven Stuffern dies from blood loss after being shot by Isadore Trent in chapter 33, but then comes back from the dead in chapter 35 to try to blackmail Richard Isaacs.
  • Beige Prose
    "They had wild sex."
  • Bi the Way: Steven Suffern, and apparently Rory Edwards. And toward the end, Irene and Yvonne reveal that they've experimented a bit, too.
  • Big Eater: Everyone in the cast. Most of the chapters involve the characters eating vast amounts of food at expensive restaurants. In Chapter 6, for instance, Bruce and Isaac Stevens share an appetizer of foie gras, crackers, mushrooms, truffles, artichoke hearts, and pickled eggs. Then Isaac orders half a pound of steak covered in mushrooms and onions, corn on the cob, a loaded baked potato, and steamed carrots while Bruce orders stuffed chicken with truffle and cranberry dressing, baby back ribs, and a loaded baked potato. And yet, the two of them still have room for dessert.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Every male character apparently has a larger-than-average penis.
  • Bishie Sparkle: Henry had one, according to Irene.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: During a business lunch Bruce and Isaac discuss ways to improve/ruin a single malt; Isaac likes Pepsi whilst Bruce favors Mountain Dew or prune juice when he wishes to be healthy. Irene has hers with root beer but she's "weird".
  • Bloody Hilarious:
    "[He] splattered it with his blood and ichor, all kinds of body fluids, all more or less foul and sticky."
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Callie Archer is mentioned as being Bruce Lucent's younger sister in chapter 22, but is his new wife in every other chapter.
  • Butter Face: According to Irene, Bruce has a "studly body" but "the face of a turnip."
  • Buxom Is Better: Irene Stevens, Callie, and Margaret Eastman are very well-endowed.
  • Character Tics: Isaac Stevens rubbed his pepper and salt beard, then brushed backs his close trimmed hair.
  • Chocolate Baby: In one chapter, it's stated than Bruce's parents were White, but he's Black.
  • Comforting the Widow: Bruce's romance with Callie, after her husband was killed in a car crash.
  • Cool Guns: An unnamed old man owns a Desert Eagle .44 magnum.
  • "Dear John" Letter: Shortly before his death, Henry wrote one to Irene informing her that he was leaving her for Margaret Eastman. But only in one chapter: in the others, he was planning to divorce Callie so he could marry Irene.
  • Department of Redundancy Department
    • Chapters 4 and 17 are the same thing, word for word. There are also two chapter 12s, though they have different contents. The second chapter 12 and the only chapter 15 also contain similar content, and were written from the same outline by two different writers.
    • Also, because none of the authors knew where in the story their chapter would go, the same sketchy character descriptions are repeated ad nauseam.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Constantly.
    • Yvonne gets extra vodka she didn't ask for at a restaurant, so she pours it all over a plant.
    • Bruce steps on an old woman's foot at another restaurant and she yells at him, so he threatens to have her arrested and the waiters give her a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Driving Question: Who killed Henry Archer? In one chapter, it was Irene Stevens. In another, it was Isaac Stevens, Rory Edwards, and Isadore Trent.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Irene's nicknames for Henry Archer were "Daddy Hank", "Bluebeard", and "Bluebird."
  • Erotic Eating: Yvonne Perrin with a Hardee's hamburger and Callie with a cherry.
  • Homoerotic Subtext
    • Callie and Yvonne. To the great dismay of the Dramatic Reader, however, they never consummate it.
    • Steven Suffern exits Bruce Lucent's hospital room thinking about Bruce's "nice, tight ass."
  • Hypocritical Humor: One character notes that in bad novels set in Atlanta, everything is named after a peach tree. This book is as guilty of that as you can get. To be fair, this isn't that far from the truth.note 
  • IKEA Erotica: At times. Sometimes it's Purple Prose, Depending on the Writer.
  • Imaginary Friend: Either that, or it's Henry's ghost.
  • Improbable Age: Bruce is a millionaire software developer at eighteen.
  • Kaleidoscope Hair:
    • Bruce's hair constantly changes from brunette to blond.
    • Callie is usually a brunette, but inexplicably becomes a blonde in chapter 27.
  • Kudzu Plot: It's hard to tie threads when there's a different writer for each chapter, and the authors have no idea what's happening beyond a sketchy outline.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Penelope thinks to herself that she looks like the heroine of a tawdry romance novel.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Completely averted. The narrative stops dead at several points to inform the reader of irrelevant details like which president founded EMS, the kind of stone used in Bruce Lucent's shower, the color of Yvonne's pupils, and the inner thoughts of a cat and an apartment doorman.
  • Likes Older Women: Bruce gets married to Callie. She's in her forties and he's eighteen. He also had sex with Margaret Eastman at his high school prom when she was in her twenties.
  • Metaphorgotten:
    "The waitress jotted down Isadore's order, then looked at Isaac with the patience of a saint who has to work tables in order to support a family and possibly just a writing habits, not to mention, pay bills and federal taxes."
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Yvonne and Isaac get it on under the table at a wedding reception.
  • Malaproper: Everyone, though Callie's use of phrases like "dingo-eat-dingo world" and "I heard through the cherry vine" stand out.
  • No Sympathy: After accidentally shooting Steven Suffern, Isadore Trent tells him to go out on the porch because he's getting blood all over the kitchen floor.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with Richard Isaacs, Isaac Stevens and Steven Suffern. And as if to demonstrate why this trope exists, the novel gets these three characters mixed up several times.
  • Plot Hole: Since the authors had a very rough outline and didn't read each other's chapters, this occurs every few sentences.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Henry's death is what sets the whole plot in motion... assuming it ever has.
  • Quote Mine: One of the blurbs suggest this:
    "...this... book... makes... for... wondrous... reading..."
  • Race Lift: In one chapter, Bruce and Callie are black and speak in Jive Turkey, and Bruce is trying to find his long-lost mother. In every other chapter, they're white (Callie's pale skin is explicitly brought up on several occasions), and this subplot is never heard from again. Bruce is also Asian briefly.
    • Gender Flip: Isadore Trent is a woman in one chapter, but a man everywhere else. Presumably, his original character sketch didn't specify and one of the writers was unaware that 'Isadore' is normally a male name. This gets what may be a Lampshade Hanging later when he is described as "gender-confused".
  • Random Events Plot: The entire book was written with only a vague idea of the plot and a list of character names available to the authors (see "One Steve Limit" and "Significant Monogram" for the significance of the latter). Each author, in turn, wrote their chapters without ever discussing it with each other. Some authors missed the deadline, so those chapters were left out. Two chapters were written from the same piece of outline. Then, to make sure it would never make any sense, one chapter was created entirely by a computer making randomly-constructed sentences.
  • Significant Monogram: If you take all the named characters' initials and arrange them properly, they spell out a Take That!.
    • Penelope Urbain + Bruce Lucent + Irene Stevens + Henry Archer + Margaret Eastman + Richard Isaacs + Callie Archer + Isaac Stevens + Andrew Venice + Arthur Nance + Isadore Trent + Yvonne Perrin + Rory Edwards + Stephen Suffern = PublishAmerica is a vanity press.
  • Southern Belle: Arguably all the female characters count, given that they are all Georgia natives.
  • Stealth Insult: This blurb:
    "[ATLANTA NIGHTS will] draw readers like a magnet draws hungry flies!"
  • Straw Vegetarian: Penelope, Callie, and Arthur Nance, though Penelope eats a rare steak, Callie Swedish meatballs and slices of ham, and Arthur a ham sandwich before their vegetarianism is mentioned.
  • Stylistic Suck: Deliberately designed to be as grammar-deficient, incoherent and inconsistent as possible...
  • Take That!: a subtle potshot against PublishAmerica, accusing it of Vanity Publishing.
  • Textual Celebrity Resemblance: Andrew Venice looks like George Clooney on good days and Rowan Atkinson on bad days.
  • Torture Cellar: Henry Archer had one in the chapter where he's stated to have been a Serial Killer.
  • Trivially Obvious: Some of the blurbs.
    "Maybe once in a lifetime, there comes a book with such extraordinary characters, thrilling plot twists, and uncanny insight, that it comes to embody its time. ATLANTA NIGHTS is a book."
    "Only a sequel could follow this!"
  • Troll Fic: Could be the Trope Codifier for how it was executed. In this case, it wasn't meant to troll the reader; it was to troll the publisher.
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers: There are two Chapter 12s, and no Chapter 21.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Cowfish udders" for breasts.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma:
    "All dead guys are irregardless of how they lived their rotten, two-timing sadistic, pathetic, discombobulatedly senseless, irreligious, unthinking, flakes, debauched, foulmouthed, obnoxious, deviant, gross, adulterous, murderous, gluttonous, alcoholic, lazy, indolent, filthy, grotesquely indecent, lunatic, lives", "She preened. He turned away with me! Quickly! Inside!"
    "It's full of sick, people!"
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Chapter 34 was generated entirely by computer, namely the Bonsai Story Generator, which was used on the contents of the other (wetware-spawned) chapters.
    "I know I was hungry, and impelling him lying naked. She slowly made for a man could join you I know what I ought to take you probably should have. He wants it worriedly. About think what to wear?"
  • Yandere: Irene in one chapter where she killed Henry before he could leave her and then put his ashes in a jar of alcohol so they'll always be together.


Example of: