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[personal|travel] At the Mountains of Madness – more thoughts on Antarctica

I’ve given some more thought to the idea of going to Antarctica, and done some additional research.

First of all, if I am going to do this, I simply have to take [info]the_child. I can’t imagine not doing that, but it literally doubles the cost of the effort, which makes the fundraising that much more daunting.

Second of all, my original thumb in the air estimate of costs was about right for a basic trip through Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego. $15,000 will get a person there from the United States by air, keep them in hotels and daily expenses as needed, and put them on a cruise across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic peninsula with some opportunities for landing on the Antarctic shore, with a bit left over for clothing and gear. That’s a two- to three-week trip, door to door from the United States.

The other obvious option is to leave from New Zealand (which for several reasons I find mildly preferable), but the base cost is rather higher for that trip than for the Argentina option, running closer to $30,000 per person. It also takes more time.

The South Pole is possible, by the way, but is closer to $50,000 per person by the time it’s all rolled up.

And then, of course, double the cost for including [info]the_child.

Even the most basic approach is $30,000 under these parameters. That seems like an awful lot of money for a Kickstarter effort, though it’s well within their parameters. (I checked.)

The other issue, of course, is the creative positioning. That’s essential for the Kickstarter funding model, but also very important for me.

I see several angles here, both positive and negative. One is the journey through from the cancer being taken by me and [info]the_child. The idea of going to extremes to celebrate having gone to extremes. Another is a continuation of the travel blogging and photo blogging I’ve been doing for years, on my trips to China and New Zealand and around the United States. Another is bringing the adventure aspect home to all of my readers with the same prosaic approach I’ve brought to the cancer journey and everything else.

On the flip side, I’m already a well-off American white male with all the privilege that implies. It’s hard to escape an appearance, and even a reality, of entitlement and privilege, regardless of my conscious motivations. If I am going to ask other people to pay for this, I have to deliver some specific, focused value — in the form of entertainment and education, pace my role in the world as a writer and blogger and a creative artist.

So I’m thinking the creative output has to be layered and meaningful. For example, a high-end, limited edition hardcover book of photography and essays and some Antarctic specific fiction for top tier-donors, and possibly later limited sale. The donors would receive some personalized premium content from me as well. I’d produce a more accessible trade edition of the same book for mid-tier donors and general sale. An ebook edition for all donors, and general sale.

The name of the project, naturally, would be At the Mountains of Madness.

All of this has to include [info]the_child of course, her essays and her art and photography. And I’d being blogging the entire process from the very beginning, so the donor experience would be a reader experience, along for the ride on my metaphorical shoulder.

A question that I need to wrestle with is how much to frame this as a cancer/post-cancer project? From my internal perspective, that’s kind of the point — aiming myself at something audacious. So there’s an emotional journey here, from a hospital bed in Portland, Oregon to the polar ice cap, that would seem to underpin everything. At the same time, I don’t want it to be morbid.

Likewise, do I seek direct sponsorships instead of Kickstarter, or try to build a more traditional nonfiction trade book deal to support this project? Etc. etc. etc.

A lot to think about in order to make this make sense.

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