Robert Stikmanz interviews Robert Stikmanz

For people who are not Robert Stikmanz, how are you?

Physically, I am mostly okay. Covid-19 caught me during what was going to be a short visit with family in January. As a result, the short visit extended almost to mid-February. The doctor called mine a “light” case. It was still no joke. The infection had cleared by ten days after the initial positive test, but its shadow lingers. I still have no stamina, and sleep a lot of time that I would rather be otherwise productive.

Psychologically, the answer is more complex. I currently reside in Montevideo, Uruguay, immersively studying Spanish. Living outside the U.S. complicates almost every practical issue of a small business, even one that operates entirely online. Most recently, I found it impossible to access the Texas Comptroller’s website from here. I couldn’t even land on the home page. No matter where I carried my laptop, I reached only a rude screen that informed me the computer’s IP address was blocked from the Comptroller’s site. This was when I was trying to file a 2021 sales tax return in advance of travel. The most frustrating part was that Stikmantica had zero direct retail sales last year, and so zero sales tax to report and remit. I still would have been hit with a fine for late filing had I missed the deadline. Fortunately, I reached Texas the day before the deadline and managed to file my zero report by telephone. It was a clear example of the degree to which connectivity remains an illusion.

Does this figure in the recent social media post soliciting offers for Stikmantica?

Yes. It was one more in a series of obstructions that range from inconvenient to intractable, and it still looms large in thoughts of the future. What if I cannot travel to Texas early next January?

Is the solicitation for the total package only, the whole of Stikmantica? What if a potential buyer wants only part of the catalog?

An offer to take over the entire publishing operation would be delightful—depending on terms offered, of course. Really, though, most problematic to sustain are the four titles that constitute the Dvarsh cultural references. Those books (Dvarsh, An Introduction; Dvarsh Workbook; Nod’s Way, the Author’s edition; and The Song of Worlds) contain essential material or consist entirely of text in the Dvarsh language. The narrative fiction can shift to ebook format and continue indefinitely. The cultural references—my most ambitious and least understood works—are absolutely dependent on the Dvarsh typeface. That complicates ebook publication beyond my ability to resolve. Should a buyer take over those four titles, files for installing the Dvarsh typeface will come as part of the deal.

One point to clarify: what is for sale is a license to publish, not the copyrights of the works. The copyrights stay with me.

Apart from a cure for the practical headaches, what does Stikmantica lack?

The critical missing pieces are, first, a competent publicist and, second, resources to underwrite publicity. I have exhausted my ideas for promoting the Habdvarsha project, and have no more than pocket change to throw at the problem anyway. Because the works are unique, they require someone with polish and expertise to present them to the market. If they were categorizable, the task would be simpler. It’s a rare individual who grasps uniqueness without being given a road map. Unguided consumer tastes run overwhelmingly to what is already familiar and more of the same. Overcoming aversion to terra incognita demands a specialist’s touch.

What is the state of Stikmantica the business?

Except for vanishingly small sales figures, the business is in great shape. The titles are available to and through any retail outlet that handles books—the great shoe store on the web, Am@zon, basically offers them worldwide. There is no debt. The sales tax report to the Texas Comptroller was made on time. I slowly rework the web presence, but the sites are stable and sufficient. Besides being an excellent author, visual artist and designer, I’m a highly qualified administrator.

Is there a time frame for a sale?

It would be really nice to be able to close the Stikmantica sales tax account with the state of Texas before the next report is due in January 2023. That’s not a hard deadline, but it would be nice.

How does the state of Stikmantica reflect on the work?

The state of the business and the nature of the work are apples and oranges. The business is well organized, and the books themselves are objects of immense pride for me. I’m convinced that I’ve done a good job of realizing the vision that inspired them. There is a disconnect with potential audience, but that is because these titles are products of my entire self. They mix literary experiment, conceptual art, deadpan humor and imaginative play in a well crafted reflection of their author. There isn’t a generic label that applies, and that complicates things.

What does that audience disconnect say about Robert Stikmanz?

It likely says a lot. I am, in a phrase made famous by Greta Thunberg, “a person with a diagnosis.” This has been very difficult to talk about, not least because whatever I have tried to share has usually been dismissed out of hand by neurotypicals as of no importance. Despite those closed minds, I move ever closer to writing about the diagnosis in order to directly confront that dismissal. I’m not there yet, but a long “Musings” column slowly assembles in the background. There are essential ways in which I am not like other people. The work I create reflects this fact, and so does who I am—and am not—in relation to society.

Finally, what does Stikmanz the creator have in progress right now?

Intensive Spanish classes and associated homework take much of my time right now; however, most days I manage an hour or so of drawing. Curiously, the illustrations have drawn some interest here, both carefully plotted images associated with Habdvarsha and looser, ink and colored pencil impressions of Montevideo. There are even rumblings about a commission.

I also remain a person who hangs out in coffee shops when I can. One thing I do over coffee is write poems in Spanish. Some of these I have shared with friends and teachers in order to make sure the texts are grammatical and properly idiomatic. A couple readers have encouraged me to publish, although as yet I have no idea where.

After everything else, narrative fiction still remains a living presence. Every week I squeeze in some revision of Entranscing, the second of the Habdvarsha novels. It will go public whenever I’m finally willing to live with the state it reaches, although probably only as an ebook. Besides Entranscing, a never before published novelette, The Seven Jewel Bird, begs for completion. That may be a project for the next break from classes. It’s under eight thousand words and nearly done.

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