Welcome, Salman.

I was drolly amused to read in the Graun this morn’ that old mate Salman Rushdie is joining us here at Substack. The wide boys running ops at the Stack have not been backward about coming forward to poach hundreds of journos from dying newspapers and magazines all over the world. They’ve grabbed up a heap of ‘citizen reporters’ and hot-take merchants too. As soon as they heard that Fairfax had given me the arse in the opening weeks of the pando they were up in my DMs, trash-talking the alternative platforms like Gumroad and the much bigger Patreon.

For what it’s worth the gummy bears didn’t need much talking down. That platform is pretty much self-trashing. But they had a job convincing me I shouldn’t hang my shingle out at Patreon, again. I already had a nice set up over there, writing books in public, or semi public. A subscriber column seemed an obvious next step.

Long story short, they did convince me and Alien Side Boob took up residence here.

I do wonder what they offered Rushdie. Substack have more of the folding stuff to throw around than your average book publisher, even one of the Big Five. A recent offer they’ve been making is to pay some writers a big whack of dollarydoos up front for an increased take of their subscription fees down the line. Or something. The sums vary but they’re not nothing. Like, a hundred thousand plus for a years output. Them’s real dollars too, the green sort. No the Pacific peso.

The Graun’s story, and Rushdie himself, make it seem like lockdown boredom and frustration might have contributed to his decision to experiment with a new form. “I got very attracted to the idea recently, in this strange year and a half, of trying out things I’ve never done before.” But I’m sure his agent, the carnivorous Andrew Wylie, would also have enjoyed running the numbers in Substack’s prospectus, and perhaps even hinting at all the Big Tech riches his boy could trouser if the old skool publishing houses didn’t make with the spendy advances in future.

Anyway, good luck to him. I might even subscribe, just a for a look. I do wonder how he’ll go in the back-and-forth of writing in public though. Perhaps I should get Insomniac or Elana to running the blue pencil over some of his posts.

It will be a digital experiment in serialising fiction (“the way [it] used to be published, right at the beginning”) with new sections coming out approximately once a week over the course of about a year, he says.

A surprising number of the classics were originally serialised: Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers is the best known example, but there is also Madame Bovary, War and Peace, and Heart of Darkness. Rushdie references the experience of Samuel Richardson, who serialised his novel Clarissa in 1748.

“His readers expected that she would, in the end, fall in love with the guy. But then he rapes her. Richardson had quite a lot of correspondence from readers who said that, in spite of that terrible act, they still wanted what they would consider to be a happy ending – and he very determinedly would not give it to them.

“I’ve never had that before, to be publishing something where people can say things about it while it’s going on.”

Is he open to the idea of feedback from readers shaping the story?

“It would have to be a very good suggestion,” he says.