Twitter is a funny thing. It connects us, it gives us access to horrors beyond the pale in our daily news cycle, soon, it will stream Tucker Carlson to bigots around the world. One thing it rarely does is sell books, especially ones that have been out for a few years. That is, apparently, unless you’re a Trigun fan named after the sizeable wang of one of its heroes.
“Read this. DO NOT look up anything about it. just read it. it’s only like 200 pages u can download it on audible it’s only like four hours,” Twitter user @maskofbun—known by the username Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood in reference to the cross-wielding assassin Nicholas D. Wolfwood from the anime/manga series Trigun—wrote on May 7 to their approximately 15,000 followers on the platform. “Do it right now i’m very extremely serious.”
The “this” in question is Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s This Is How You Lose the Time War, the 2019 Hugo and Nebula-award winning sci-fi epistolary novel, telling the tale of two rival time-traveling agents working against each other and then falling in love through the letters and notes they leave for each other across time and space. In the days since the tweet went viral, on Bigolas’ recommendation, sales of the book on Amazon skyrocketed, landing Time War into the site’s bestsellers list as the sixth most popular book on the platform as of writing.
Of all books. Not just LGBTQ+ sci-fi, where its Kindle version is number one, nor in the wider genre of sci-fi romance, where the paperback is also number one. Not just in Time Travel sci-fi, where its audiobook sits at... well, number one. All books. On the biggest e-commerce platform in the world. Even the producer of the recent reboot anime Trigun Stampede, Yoshihiro Watanabe, has gotten in on the fun, simply tweeting today “Have I bought the book? Yes.”
This isn’t just an anomaly, in that social media trends rarely drive book sales specifically. Especially so with contemporary Twitter, as it seemingly circles the drain of relevance the longer Elon Musk continues to poke at it in his era of chaotic ownership, drowning in a sea of crypto scam ads and the people with the worst opinions on the planet paying eight bucks a month to make you see those opinions. But it’s also in the fact that This Is How You Lose the Time War is four years into its release cycle at this point. It was very successful at the time of release, garnering widespread critical appraisal, and as previously mentioned, winning the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella in 2020. But outside of major books and franchise stalwarts it’s rare to see a four-year old novel hit this kind of resurgence.
It’s an event that is similarly baffling to one of its authors. In a personal blog post titled “I tried to title this post for 20 minutes and failed,” El-Mohtar expressed her own bewildered delight at the situation, both in Time War’s sales boost and in the discovery of Trigun fandom, and Trigun fandom centered around horniness for a giant-cross-gun-wielding space assassin specifically. “As far as I can tell, someone going by the name Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood runs a fan account for a 90s anime called Trigun which was recently rebooted, and tweeted about loving Time War with imperative enthusiasm, and somehow over the course of 24 hours that tweet went viral with people chiming in to say how much, how passionately, how violently they love the book, and it blew up,” El-Mohtar wrote. “Despite the fact that Twitter Does Not Sell Books enough people bought our book in a short enough period that whatever algorithmic alchemy determines Amazon’s best-sellers took notice, and the upshot of it all is that corporate marketing people at Simon & Schuster now know the name Bigolas Dickolas.”
It’s a fascinating insight into how Amazon and its algorithmic-driven storefront have dominated the bookselling industry in its decades-long rise to dominance—and how on a whim a change in the search and trending data that drives the entire internet at large this point can either doom media to obscurity or propel it to bizarre new heights. We are all at the behest of the almighty grip of SEO existing online, a great equalizer that unites everyone from award-winning sci-fi authors to anime fans.
“I cannot explain it, and am releasing the desire to try,” El-Mohtar concluded. “This is lightning striking repeatedly into the same bottle, and all I can do is marvel at it and give thanks for it. Not just to Bigolas Dickolas—blessed be their name—but to every person who read this book and loved it enough to share their passion for it at any point in the last four years. Max and I are so grateful, so overwhelmed, and so delighted.”
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