In copies of the novel published after 2005, Palahniuk included a brief afterword detailing how the cultural impact of the book and film have affected his life. He also reflects on how the novel came to take shape. Palahniuk starts with a humorous anecdote in which he is seemingly the lone participant on the "Haunted Tunnel Tour", hosted by a cowboy who has been drinking. The cowboy recites the line, "The first rule of the Haunted Tunnel Tour is you don't talk about the Haunted Tunnel Tour." Palahniuk informs the cowboy that he wrote that book. The cowboy's response is, "There was a book?"
Palahniuk reflects on how his short story went on to become a novel, and then a film. He mentions how the look of Fight Club film was appropriated by fashion icons like Donatella Versace and how Dolce Gabbana launched a men's line that copied Tyler Durden's wardrobe in the film. Tyler Durden himself became a shorthand for rebellion. Actual fight clubs were discovered in universities and in the basements of Mormon churches. Rumble Boys, Inc., released a line of mens' grooming products labeled with Tyler Durden quotes. The author received photographs from strangers with bruised and battered faces, evidence of their own fight clubs.
Before any of these things happened, Palahniuk says, there was a short story that he wrote to get through an afternoon at his job. Palahniuk desired a way to cut from scene to scene in a written story without losing the reader. In this manner, he could focus on key moments in a story and then leap to the next moment, in an almost cinematic manner. He decided that he needed something like a chorus, a "transitional device", to signal a change in scene to the reader. Palahniuk decided on the rules of fight club first. "The fighting wasn't the important part of the story. What I needed were the rules. Those bland landmarks that would allow me to describe this club from the past, the present, up close or far away, the beginning and the evolution, to cram together a lot of details and moments - all within seven pages - and NOT lose the reader." Looking back at the novel, Palahniuk repeats the rules of fight club throughout the novel. Repetition is a device he also uses to guide the reader and to allow the reader to connect various elements of the narrative.
As he was setting to work on this short story, Palahniuk says, he had a "lingering black eye" from a fight he had gotten into during his summer vacation. He noticed that no one he worked with had ever asked him about the black eye. He found this of particular interest. "I figured that you could do anything in your private life if it left you so bruised that no one would want to know the details." Consider this while reading the passages detailing the Narrator's dealings with his boss, and how his boss is unsure on how to deal with him.
Additionally, Palahniuk says he saw a Bill Moyer television report about street gangs. The report found that many of the young men in the gangs were raised without fathers, and were trying to help each other enter manhood. "They issued orders and challenges. Imposed rules and discipline. Rewarded action. All the things a coach or drill sergeant would do."
Palahniuk also suggests that his story was in part a reaction to the number of books in stores that presented a social model for women to engage one another. "Bookstores were full of books like The Joy Luck Club and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and How to Make an American Quilt. These were all novels that presented a social model for women to be together...to share their lives. But there was no novel that presented a new social model for men to share their lives."
He decided that his story would need the dynamics of a game with rules and roles, but that it could not be overly sentimental or emotional. He jokes, "It could have been 'Barn-Raising Club' or 'Golf Club' and it would've probably sold a lot more books." If it were too sentimental, it would not connect with male readers.
Instead, he settled on a seven-page short called Fight Club. It would go on to become the first story he ever sold. Blue Heron Press bought it from Palahniuk for fifty dollars and published it in an anthology called The Pursuit of Happiness. The short story version would become chapter six of the novel.
Palahniuk decided on the length of seven pages because his writing teacher, Tom Spanbauer, "had joked that seven pages was the perfect length for a short story." For content, Palahniuk drew from stories his friends would tell him. There was a friend who spliced pornography into family films, and another who urinated in soup as a banquet waiter. Palahniuk claims that years after the book and film were released, he was in London when a young waiter at a five-star restaurant told him that he loved how he had captured waiters spoiling food. When pressed for specifics, the waiter added that he had spoiled Margaret Thatcher's food on at least five occasions.
Palahniuk describes the novel as "apostolic fiction", meaning that a surviving apostle tells the story of the hero. In this sense, he thinks of the novel as an updated version of The Great Gatsby. "There are two men and a woman. And one man, the hero, is shot to death", he writes. Considering the somewhat open-ended final chapter in the novel, it can be debated as to which man actually survives.
Palahniuk sold the novel to W.W. Norton for an advance of six thousand dollars, something he later learned is referred to as "kiss-off money." The advance is so low that the author is supposed to be insulted and refuse the offer. Palahniuk, however, took the advance stating that it would "pay my rent for a year". He then embarked on a three city book tour that was sparsely attended. Book sales were poor. Many reviews of the novel were also not flattering.
However, the novel won the 1997 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and the 1997 Oregon Book Award for best novel. A few years later, the film adaptation of the novel came to fruition. Palahniuk claims he has received many thank you letters as well as letters from people claiming they invented fight club years earlier. Palahniuk adds that the first rule of fight club now is "There is nothing a blue-collar nobody in Oregon with a public school education can imagine that a million-billion people haven't already done."
To illustrate this, he ends the afterword discussing the festival of "Tinku," celebrated by indigenous population in the Andes mountain region of Bolivia. There, he says, men drink and fight one another while chanting "We are men" repeatedly. Sometimes the women may fight each other, too. After the fighting, when they are exhausted, the men and women go to church and get married. "Being tired isn't the same as being rich, but most times it's close enough," he says. Using this analogy, Palahniuk seems to suggest that there is something particularly human about the act of ritualized fighting that lends a type of wealth, albeit not a financial one, to the participants' lives. In short, it makes them feel alive in a way that material wealth never can.