Hampton Sides challenged himself on his latest project.
The Santa Fe-based author is gearing up to released “The Exotic: Intrigue and Cultural Ruin in the Age of Imperialism,” on Wednesday, Sept. 15. The release is a Scribd Original.
Scribd is a reading subscription service that provides access to ebook, audiobook, magazines and podcasts.
“It was a pretty cool opportunity to work with Scribd,” Sides says. “They are trying to publish stories that are longer than a magazine article, yet shorter than a book. I hope this story telling format gets traction. It’s a nice length at 20,000 words and allows the story to breathe.”
Sides took about six months to work on the nonfiction novel.
He says it’s partly an adaptation from his forthcoming book about British explorer Captain James Cook’s third voyage.
“This has a travelogue and personal essays,” he says. “It’s a hybrid form that I haven’t worked with that much.”
The story follows Mai, who is mentioned in Captain Cook’s third voyage travels. Mai hitched a ride from Tahiti with Cook and became the first South Seas islander to set foot on English soil.
“He’s mentioned as an afterthought and Mai is hovering in the background,” Sides explains. “I thought, ‘What if I were to elevate him and turn him into a major character?’ Especially in recent times, we’ve seen this correction in history and academia where we are increasing interest in telling the stories of marginalized people. I think this change needed to happen.”
Sides was drawn to Mai because he is an Indigenous person who traveled with the British explorer.
By turning the table and telling the story from Mai’s point of view, Sides was able to capture the character’s essence.
Mai is the major character in the book’s first half. The second half begins with Cook’s journey to Alaska.
“Everyone seemed to grow to love Mai,” Sides says. “There had probably never have been an Indigenous person so well-documented and so vividly described from the king of England all the way down. Mai was charasmatic and he won people over.”
Sides says Mai’s real purpose for journeying to England was to learn about weapons and acquire them.
“People said that he didn’t know how to think strategically or play the long game,” Sides says. “He was playing the long game and winning at the same time. Mai is an interesting character.”