Dreams/Delusions of an Artistic Libertarian Utopia
The dream of no boundary between artist and audience is not an original idea. This utopian ideal is only enjoyed by a select few in a rather narrow artistic spectrum… the group that enjoys this sort of unbounded freedom is populated primarily by street performers. For the rest of society, artists appear to filtered into– usually by their own desire not to starve to death outright– into marketing departments of middle to large sized corporations. Those who prefer to peddle their own product and not write copy whose goals are wholly predefined by some soulless bureaucrat, or worse, are defined by some bureaucrat who believes they have a soul, usually interface with their audience through some intermediary medium. This medium could be anything from the coked up owner of a small local art gallery, to an agent & publishing house, to a booking agent who can get your band into a few bars (albeit on a Tuesday night, but hey that’s something right?) to whoever the fuck it is that is in charge of hiring talent at a circus.
Which brings me to the subject of this post: (in 200 point font) the self publishing revolution. My opinions on this matter have been formed based on the plethora of commentary out there, and holy fuck is there a lot (they are writers after all) and I see a clear divide on this matter. People who believe this revolution to be, well revolutionary, and preferable to the established old school routes to getting your works out there, tend not to be established writers. By established, I mean established by the establishment.
From my perspective, in the beginning, Hugh Howey’s intent was to encourage other unrecognized writers to take the chance and publish online. In the last few months, and even more so these last few weeks, it has morphed and ramped up into a bit of an anti-establishment crusade. Now don’t get me wrong, I can really get into a good anti-establishment crusade. Maybe not quite to the extent of some soon to be college drop out, rallying his friend to not only flip a car over outside of a WTO event, but light it on fire. But I was raised by a bunch of reformed hippies who instilled into me a deep paranoia of large soulless corporate organizations. For sake of full disclosure, I work in middle management for a large soulless corporation– so I’m at the WTO protest, watching people doing batasscrazy things, not actually participating.
In quite a few ways, Hugh is correct about the new paradigm– but what you must keep in mind is that this isn’t isolated to writing- but is a function of what the interweb enables in terms of propagation of information. I can go online and say whatever the fuck I want to Derek Jeter via a tweet if I so choose. That doesn’t mean the tweet is going to have near correct grammar, as if I was to build up the courage to tweet shit at Jeter, I’d probably be drunk. This analogy holds true with self publishing in that without the gatekeepers– there is a noticeable lack of quality control. This should not be interpreted as being directed at any of Hugh Howey’s works, as this poor illiterate soul didn’t find any errors, or anything at all that distracted from his text.
As I have drilled down the rabbit hole of self published works, 99 cents at a time, I have come across more gems than smoldering piles of crap. I did come across one work, one which received hundreds of rave reviews on Amazon, was filled with so many misuses of words, grammar errors, ect. that I had to stop reading. I have read hundreds upon hundreds of books- possible a few thousand. I have never quit a book. I view it as a badge of shame to put down a book once begun even if the story doesn’t go where you want it to– or you find out something questionable about the author after you have begun– or you realized you purchased something that is wholly contrary to your world view. You don’t quit. You finish it just in case it doesn’t end how your mind has played it out.
Fuck I have read all seven volumes of Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time.” I hated ever moment of the process after the middle portion of volume three, The Guermantes Way, when I realized the whole work to be the trite piece of shit it was. It took me the next nine months, at the very least, to plow through the following four fucking pieces of shit…. but I got through it. 4215 pages…. fucking 4215 pages…
I found Chuck Wendig’s musings on the subject closest to my own opinion. The market is being inundated by crap, that very soon it will be impossible to distinguish good from bad self published material. At least if you only purchase though an established publishing house, the work can be considered vetted– polished and edited. But this is my main complaint about self published works– so I am an easy sell there.
Ultimately, though Wendig suggests a second phase of (sic) self publishing revolution- and suggests a few sketches of what this might look like. I believe it is up to the futurist authors out there to flesh it out a bit and let the chaos fall into whatever ideas they pull out of their asses and make into our next reality.