Alien Opportunities Ch.1 : New Opportunities Part 3
“What would you want me to do first?” he asked his new employer.
“This is Contraik,” he motioned swiftly to an alien figure, who Chris had not previously noticed, who had entered the room and was standing not far behind him. He must have just come in, thought Chris. But why had he not heard him. Did these aliens communicate in some way that he was not aware of, he wondered. “He will show you what to do. We buy and sell human cultural products, delivering them to our customers on Starmanena, and sometimes to others of our traders on Earth. Some of my people communicate with Starmanenans and find out what they want, and sell it. You, as a human, will probably be best put to use as a buyer of products and materials. Later you may become useful to us as a seller.”
Contraik was a tall slender alien, not so tall as his boss. He wore human clothing of a colourful out of fashion flowered shirt and jeans, not at all the clothing Chris would have expected an alien to wear. The long nose and quite large ears were prominent on his extended grey face, creating what appeared to Chris to be an intelligent and rather sweet, sensitive look. He looked absurdly out of place, but harmless by comparison to Urilt. Urilt was wearing a human shirt and suit as befitted a businessman doing business on Earth. Contraik took Chris out to the back of the office building, into a large warehouse. “I will take you around this warehouse, where we keep many physical products,” said this new alien. He seemed more friendly, less distant than the stern and imposing Urilt, who Chris did not yet feel he understood. Contraik seemed more human in personality. Perhaps, as he later learned, this was because Contraik had been on Earth for a lot longer than Urilt, 5 or 6 years apparently. Contraik had been one of the first aliens to arrive on the planet. Urilt, by comparison, had only been on Earth for two years. Contraik, unlike Urilt, was very willing to explain much.
They walked into an area containing books on shelves, like a library. There were books of similar genres and types, together in each part of the warehouse. These, it seemed, were collections of famous and popular published work. He saw collections of genres such as horror, crime, spy thrillers, political fiction, science fiction, romance, historical romance and fiction, classics of various types. Chris recognised some of the authors there but there were many he had never heard of. Each book was duplicated many times. Typically they had 5 or 10 copies of each of them, but there could be many more, perhaps 30 or only one in some cases. These books looked new, as if purchased recently from publishers. If all of these were being shipped to Starmanena, he guessed they must be doing a large trade. He imagined they must be making a lot of money in this trade.
“These authors are the ones which you earth people have found popular. They are all worthy of our interest,” said Contraik. “Only quality writings have been published,” he said. “However we find that there are many books and writings produced by your people which are worthy, and which are passed over by your publishers, and some of them are even not submitted to them.”
“You collect these too do you?” asked Chris.
“Yes, over here in this part of our warehouse we currently have many works which we consider to be saleable. We have persuaded some of your publishers to publish and produce many of these books and writings, but usually only when we have organised some guaranteed buyers.”
“That seems a nice idea,” said Chris. “I have always thought there must be some pleasant, and very individual, literature, which has been passed over for publication. It seems strange that it is the demand created by alien Starmanenans, rather than our own people, which enable these works to find a market.”
“It is strange to us too. But humans have told us that you have more important tasks to perform on planet Earth, and that most of your literature is a mere second rate copy of your greatest,” said Contraik.
“I suppose that is mostly true, but I think there are bound to be works of originality which are lost or never published,” said Chris. “There are many books which may not fit into the accepted confines of genres, in terms of plot types, or are not regarded as sufficiently high brow or artistic.
“Do you read much, or have you read much Earth literature yourself? Chris asked.
“Oh yes, I have. It is, of course, an important part of my job. I need to understand the ‘products’ which we are engaged in collecting and selling, but it has also been one of my greatest pleasures and hobbies, ever since I came here on one of our first ships, and realised the wonderful wealth you have here.”
The books were a marvellous collection. Chris was impressed. “We would like you to go out and find unpublished books of merit. Would you be able to do that?” said Contraik. “Are you widely read?” the alien asked.
“Yes, a fair bit, but you know I have never had all the time I want. My bookshelves contain many books, which I have not read yet. I don’t have the time,” Chris replied. Maybe if he was offered this job he would have more time to read. He understood from his friend Michael, and from general impressions attained from the general media, that alien employers never expected long hours of labour from their human employees. He hoped that was true, but was reminded of how little he actually knew of the aliens. What a foolhardy risk he was taking by offering to work for these alien strangers.
“Do you like a wide range of books?” the alien asked.
“Well,” Chris replied, “I do like various subjects – fact, fiction, sometimes humour. I can appreciate something in most books.”
“Do you have that which not all humans have. I mean what is described by the word ‘taste’?”
“I would say so,” said Chris. He had always thought so, but he was not conceited. At any rate this was surely the right thing to say if he wanted the job, and it was sounding like a more enjoyable job than he had imagined; quite interesting if it involved collecting and reading books. That was what he did in his own free time by choice.
“Do you think there are books produced which are worthy of our interest, which are never published?
“Yes, I expect there are many. I am a writer in my spare time too, even though I have failed so far to complete any of my projects. I can appreciate how difficult it will be to have a novel published. The markets for literature dictate that works must fit into genres, and be gripping and punchy. Mere good ideas and new concepts are not sufficient. Often fresh ideas are probably ignored by publishers because they don’t think they will sell.”
“Good,” said Contraik. “I think this is one task which will be suitable for you. You will go to the literary agents and look at work which has not yet been accepted, work which has been passed by regular publishers. Select those which you feel have value, and some human companies, which we have encouraged to set up for publishing such works, will publish them.”
“How many should I find?” Chris felt excited by the project. He would need a list of literary agents, or perhaps established publishers would pass on rejected works to him. Then presumably there would be a lot of reading to do.
“To begin with search out 10 books. They can be of any type, fiction, fact or humour. Search these out over time. Make a selection. Do not feel that you should select the first 10 you find, unless you feel that they are all of personal value to you. We are looking for works which you feel are of value, not what you think we, the Starmanenans, might want.”
Chris wondered what the Starmanenans might want or appreciate in literature. It seemed they were collectors, trying to build up collections of everything worthwhile in literature.