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ECU writer markets novel in bits and bytes

(Sept. 15, 1994)   —   Roger Schlobin’s first novel reached the public last week, but don’t expect to find it in bookstores. Instead, the East Carolina University English professor’s epic fantasy of cats and dragons, is available only through the wizardry of electronics.
His story, Fire and Fur: The Last Sorcerer Dragon , is an electronic book published by OmniMedia. Unlike regular books found in stores, this volume comes on a disk or over a computer network.
“I think it is a good way to get a book before millions of potential readers,” said Schlobin, as he discussed his choice to market his electronic book to people who would rather push keys than turn pages.
From a computer network such as Internet, a reader can download about 20 chapters of story and read them free of charge. A password to read the remainder of the volume is $7.95.
Electronic book publishing holds several advantages, according to Schlobin. He said the complete book costs much less than new hard cover novels. In addition, readers get to peruse a significant portion of the story before buying.
Schlobin said he only sold the electronic rights to the novel. “I still own it if a publisher wants to put the book in print or if George Lucas or Steven Speilberg wants to turn it into an animated film,” he said.
The story takes place on the Gobi desert before the time of humans. The characters, both real and mythical, include a lone dragon who holds the powers of a sorcerer but is also a social misfit who makes immature and idealistic decisions. The dragon, Ao Rue, must save other less powerful dragons from an ancient enemy. Ao Rue is aided by a blunt-spoken, clear-headed, silver-mackerel tabby, named Mei-chou.
“Cats can still speak,” said Schlobin with a smile, “but no one interests them enough to bother anymore.”
Some early reviews of Fire and Fur have praised it for its “cinematic descriptions” and for the way the author weaves “real love, emotion and humor in a fantasy novel.”
These elements make the book much more fun, according to Schlobin, than his six other books that were scholarly in nature. He has also written over 100 essays, poems, short stories and reviews and has edited more than 50 other volumes.
His interests, in addition to fantasy literature, include science fiction, medieval literature, pedagogy, feminism, shamanism, linguistics and microcomputers. He is one of the founders of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts and is the editor of the association’s journal.
Schlobin holds a 12-month appointment as a visiting professor and scholar in English at ECU. At other times, he is an English professor at the North Central Campus of Purdue University in Indiana.
The author said he is especially fond of cats and dragons. He collects reproductions of the latter and often wears their likeness on T-shirts and says he “dreams of a female dragon.” As for cats, he said he still morns the passing of his own silver-mackerel tabby named Joshua. The cat was the model for the main character in his novel.
A sequel to the book is in progress.