Ok, moderate rant warning. I’ve just read another editor telling me how we poor little inferior authors can’t do it without them. Only they can save us from big bad Amazon, only they can tell readers we’re worth reading, only they can find and nurture us.
I came into this world at a very young age (and not writing at all), as a tiny rag of humanity that no-one really expected to live, with a mother whose breast-milk lasted days, and an allergy to cow’s milk. This in days before formula or goats milk being available or breast milk-banks, meant I was dead, barring a wet nurse… which they couldn’t find.
Only my mum, bless her, didn’t know what give up meant, didn’t accept that, and fed me on carrot juice… Grated by hand and wrung out in muslin. Everything I know about nutrition says I should be dead and have spared you my blatherings, but my mother once accepted a limitation, regretted it and decided thenceforth she’d do whatever it was anyway… which made growing up… interesting. As a kid you would SO like your parents to conform. It’s only when you get a little older that you realize that a mother who cut gemstones as a hobby and did woodwork was as much of a gift as father who went commercial fishing and kept bees, whereas other kids’ parents were housewives or drove desks. I survived the bizarre diet, a kid weighing half what his peers did by the time I was five. I had severe asthma at a time when that killed a lot of kids too. One my earliest memories is being so exhausted from trying to breathe, all I wanted to do was stop, and my mother saying ‘just five deep breaths. You can do it.’ And then there would be another five…
I was nurtured, I suppose, on an iron will, and ‘You can do it.’
Human behavior is shaped by a cocktail of nature and nurture, and as far as I can work out I got a double ration of bloody-minded obstinacy from long generations of both sides genetically, and three times that in nurture. So: I’m 5’6” and I have been told a stiff breeze will blow me away (No it bloody well won’t. I will wear a weight-belt if need be.). I ended up with a sports bursary paying for some of my college education, and I still take part in what (for reasons unknown) people call extreme sports.
And you know what? There was so often someone saying ‘you can’t do that, Dave.’ until they eventually gave up in disgust, because I never did listen. Eventually I suppose it will kill me. Shrug. I would rather die as I have lived, and in the meanwhile enjoy myself, especially proving them wrong.
We shape the way we see the world through our own experience, and what expect others to do and think through our own perception. It takes a rare honest man who can really get into the head of a thief for example. When I hear publishing executives whine about how people will steal everything if they don’t DRM it to the hilt… and I wonder if it says more about them and their morality, than about their customers. My own point of view is well, _you_ CAN do it. If you can’t get there by the straightforward brawn, you can get there by brain, and if you can’t do it by simple intellectual bludgeoning, you can do it by finding away around. Whether you’re talking about exceeding lightspeed, overcoming ecological disaster, or publishing… you can. Human’s have, over and over and over again. The only thing that stops them is other humans.
Where you end up may not be where you planned to go, but you won’t be sitting around on your hands waiting to die.
Which I guess brings me around to publishing. For the last twenty years at least, that has been the land of ‘can’t’. It’s the favorite tune of the legacy gatekeepers, particularly those who want me to fit their mold and sing their song. I know that song. It’s lyrics go ‘people like you, we’d be better off without’, which from their point of view, may well be true. I found it very odd, and of course being a good little sheep who always likes others to think and decide for him, I listened to every word, and gave up any interest in writing.
Or not. I always listen to people who say that, don’t I?
I’ve always avoided bringing politics into my posts, but it seems to me that publishing went wrong when they brought political philosophy into their strategy. The strategy essentially boils down to : You’re inferior. We know what is good for you. Trust us, we (the government) will look after you. Oddly enough every good communist or socialist I ever met (and yes, I have met some earnest good people believing in these philosophies), wanted to _help_ people, but assumed they’d be ones deciding what was good for those (inferior) people. Not them, of course. The first part of the philosophy is often left unstated but, hell, if I’m not inferior, why would ‘we’ know better than ‘me’ what is good for me?
And out of this Nanny-state-in-publishing spilled into a sequence of pro-their-political-outlook (because it is good for you) and anti anything that actually smelled of the individual triumphing, especially without authority helping. The core message, the mantra of ‘nanny’ is just “You CAN’T. We know what is best for you (and for readers) and you CAN’T DO THAT. If you try, it’ll all end in tears. And thus a lot of what they brought out was predictions of the misery those who didn’t sing their song (and march in time to their music) would bring. The BAD people, who weren’t good (the correct kind of) government…
Which, in a nutshell is why books with “Can-do” attitude are out of fashion. (which – as a South African, I was raised to believe was an intrinsic American value. My Dad picked it up from his dealing with ‘Yanks’ in the war. Do you know how weird I found the shattering of this illusion? It’s certainly still true of some… but there is an awful lot of ‘I can’t, nanny must. I’ll be good so she will’, which makes me want to puke in my breakfast.).
The trouble with this is that an endless diet of ‘can’t, need nanny,’ eventually has the effect of stopping many people even thinking of trying ‘can’. Yes, it does make them more governable, I suppose. But if the world — and the US — needs anything right now it’s ‘Can do’. The hell with nanny – whether she’s your big corporate (who mostly evolve to follow this trend) or a publisher, or the government… decisions they make for you are still made by individuals, and, let’s be real here, most corporate execs, editors and politicians haven’t got a lot of space (or evidence) to tell anyone they’re superior in their judgement of what’s good for them.
So: the hell with the lot of them. Trust me, not because I’m superior, but because I’ve got the evidence and experience on my side to show I am right. I can do it. So Can You. And with writing… with independent publishing, we DON’T need nanny.
If Amazon stiffs us, just like legacy publishing did, somehow the can do’s will find another way. And the CAN DO will come out in their writing.
And if I go down fighting, I’ll go down fighting believing there are readers with whom that resonates.
DOG AND DRAGON (the amazon link picture below pays me a few cents extra) officially comes out on the 4th, but I believe it’s out on the shelves at B&N (and hopefully independents, who are good to buy from if you can) is Dave writing ‘can do’. Somehow. If they put universes in your way. We can or we go down fighting.
And sometimes I will succeed.
And sometimes I won’t.
But at least I’ll have pride in myself, and not be a puling infant waiting for a nappy change.
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