THE MISCONCEIVER rises from the ashes
August 1, 2022
The world went upside down for me in July. Maybe it did for you, too. On the one hand, extreme heat broke records everywhere; on the other, the Brits finally rid themselves of Boris Johnson. What sent my personal world topsy-turvy was the sudden renewed interest in The Misconceiver, my dystopic 1997 novel that foretold the overturn of Roe v. Wade and its aftermath. I'm delighted to report that this novel, long out of print, is finally available again.
A little background: I wrote The Misconceiver during the Clinton administration, when the Republican party had seized control of both houses and progressives were worried about attacks on reproductive rights. I wondered what would happen if the worst-case scenario – the complete overturn of Roe v. Wade – were to happen. I set the novel in 2026, two decades after the imagined Supreme Court decision and a decade after the passage of the "Human Life Amendment"; my narrator was an abortion provider ("misconceiver") born at the millennium and subject to the political currents of her time. Simon & Schuster published the novel with a beautiful cover, and reviews around the country were generally glowing. Unfortunately, I had published another novel, Against Gravity, with S&S the year before. Through a series of coincidences that no one would believe if I put them into a novel, the wife of a radical Christian preacher whose doppelgänger played a bit part in that book decided to sue me and Simon & Schuster for libel. The lawsuit cropped up just as The Misconceiver was released, and the publisher's policy was not to distribute books by any author under such a threat. A number of people contacted me, but my hands were tied.
And so The Misconceiver languished for six months, until the suit was dismissed, and the world had moved on. My sales figures were underground, and shortly thereafter the book was remaindered. I licked my wounds and moved on with the world. Every now and then, when a right-wing justice was appointed to the Supreme Court, a bubble of interest in a reissue would arise. But I didn't know how to proceed. The book had foreseen 2026 with all the crystal-ball vision a mortal possessed in 1997, which meant there were Minilaps instead of smartphones, disklets instead of wifi; the World Trade Center remained intact, and Iraq had dropped a bomb on Tel Aviv.
Then came the Supreme Court decision of June 2022. The ever-watchful Ron Charles of The Washington Post drew attention to The Misconceiver, of which perhaps two dozen copies still remained in the world. Within a day, those had all sold. Lucky for me and the book, the generous and nimble folks at Wandering Aengus Press, which will be bringing out my Meditations for a New Century next year, were up to the challenge of reissuing a novel that not only was long out of print, but also had been written on floppy disks that were now corrupted. We scanned a book; corrected the myriad errors caused by OCR conversion; converted that file to an e-book version; and converted that version to a print proof. I have now proofread my own book at least four times. I chose not to update my technology or other predictions; the book is not about technology but about what happens when a society turns against women's free and informed ability to make their own decisions – and on that point, I fear The Misconceiver is not far off the mark. Thanks to the generosity of Honi Werner, we were able to use the original cover design and to augment it with an image pointing to some of the tensions in the book and in our post-Roe world. It is now available as an e-book at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble; by the end of October it will be available as a print book. All the proceeds that come my way from this miraculous reissue will go to help shore up reproductive rights. I hope you'll join me by purchasing a copy, telling your friends, posting reviews, and spreading the word.
Hoping you are keeping well in this difficult summer,