Dear Planet Earth: If you are a can’t-take-it-er, a wussy, a chosen blind person, or preferred bed-wetter, please don’t read this. For all other brave bison, graze at your leisure.
In the spirit of the election season, that oh-so-bitter(sweet?) season that rolls around every four years and makes you scratch your head and wonder why the crap you vote at all, and if you really believe in the decency of the human race and wasn’t he in that movie that one time? and yada-yada, I figured I’d dust your intellectual minds with a bit of my perspective on the topic of politics. No, this isn’t a Demi / Republican debate, a jackass/elephant debacle; it’s more about the politics of the written word, or better, the politics of an entire industry.
Any author or aspiring author should be aware of genre and style and what’s popular in the market place right now. Because as much as we’d all like to live in Candyland (sans the irritating Snoop Dogg and the recently possessed half-alien, half-female Katy Perry…seriously, Wikipedia totally said that), we live in the real world where royalties are paid as a result of books sold. Oh, and literary fiction (unless you’re sought out by Oprah or you’re John flippin’ Irving, and you decide to write a book every five years that just so happens to catapult to the bestseller list) you’re in trouble. Genre fiction sells. Thrillers. Romance. Witchcraft. Oh, did I say witchcraft? I mean, Harry Potter. And let’s not forget the recently throned literary genre—the mighty epic masterpiece genre—known by and large by the moniker PORN. Oh, not porn. What are all the cool kids calling it these days? And by cool kids, I mean housewives who tell their husbands not to look at Playboy but go out and buy Thirty Shades of…something unimportant. Man, what is it called? Erotica. Yes, that’s it. Granted, one could argue that literary genres are all just euphemisms at the core. Thriller just means eerie, psychological, and twisted. Horror is a synonym for insipid (which actually isn’t fully true). Romance is just another way of saying, yes, women everywhere have agreed it rocks, their boyfriends hate it, but the story’s been done a million times and the public eats it up. I mean, the list goes on and on. Call these genres and titles what you will, the fact of the matter is the green drives the publisher/marketplace, which in turn drives the desperate, egotistical, uncertain author back to his or her laptop in efforts to spin the latest trend to suit their needs. Sometimes (now most definitely included), I want to just check out altogether. Realize this is a fucking joke and refuse to be led by the throat.
Originality is totally dead. I mean, how many more crummy vampire shows, books, movies do we need? Is there another werewolf tale we can “spin”? When will Nick Sparks give it up already and write a book that doesn’t involve a misfit loner in search of true love, who wanders into town, meets the love of his life (who just so happens to be either single or recently dispatched from a lousy relationship, may or may not have a kid), and after falling in lust together, someone dies, causing the audience to get all choked up…and then roll credits. You leave theater wondering, I’ve seen that song and dance before. It’s a game. I know, I know. You could say I’m a ripoff of X-Men. I’m a ripoff of Firestarter. I’m a ripoff of Carrie. Or name any fantasy/supernatural/psychological book out there, and I hijacked their idea. Maybe. Hard to say how true that is, though. Oh, Estevan, stop being a baby, you’re thinking. But hey, this is my rant. Let me roar. I do seem to think there is some originality to my work, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing it, but heck, most of the time, people don’t give it a shot enough to even test it out. Look at my abysmal amazon rankings and you’ll see. I have amazing reviews, but where are the people buying my books? Blame me for not promoting enough. Blame the publishers for not spending enough. You’re right on both accounts. But the bottom line is the people are too comfortable. They don’t like POV changes. They think I’m a cynic. There isn’t enough formulaic writing, not enough “plot”. Frick, I lose track. Can I please everyone? Not a chance. It’s not gonna happen, no matter how hard I try. And I guess that’s what this post (rant? BF? Soapbox serenade?)… That last one was clever. Admit it. : ) … is all about.
Like this jacked-up bogus election, I’m not content with the way things are going. I’m not content with mediocrity hitting the bestseller lists. I’m not content with movie after movie after movie being the same fricking thing. Oh, here’s an idea…let’s do another this or another that. Why? Because the masses are easily swayed and will eat it up. The least amount of thought, the better. No depth. No window into the soul. Just Keisha. Just fricking Bella and her dead boyfriend for the fifth time. Just another blow em up flick with no plot. (Transformers trilogy excluded) Ooo, can’t wait for the next James Patterson abortion (does that guy even write anymore, or just put his name at the top once a month when his next book hits the market?) No integrity. Publishers have become a bunch of desperate, greedy, lazy bastards. They’re all basically the same, and they’ve all bought into this philosophy, a high school philosophy really. What’s popular is good and what isn’t, well, isn’t. It’s kind of unavoidable, but so true. We’re trained what to like, what not to. Told whom to vote for and whom to hate. Told that Jesus is evil and every other religion is the way to go. Everyone should be gay and straights are the antichrists. Kill babies and disrespect fathers as long as people get equal pay and you get to keep driving your lame Prius because gas prices are so high you have to work two minimum wage jobs just to avoid driving to and from work. Please, make this carousel stop. I want to get off.
But can I?
From an early age, we’re taught to believe in democracy, but time and time again the system fails us. Why should the business world be any different? Publishers just want to stay in business. If you don’t make them money, or they think you won’t make them money, why should they care about you? I guess that makes sense. Cue eye roll. The world’s not as pretty up close, is it? People tend to look a lot uglier once you see the cracks in the skin, the holes in the heart, and the blood on the hands.
You want to survive? Don’t be a writer. I do it because of a passion in my blood that won’t quit. But it’s a path that doesn’t lead to gold. You want to survive as a writer (as paradoxical as that statement seems to be considering my previous supposition)? Then know what sells, know whose chapped butt to kiss, know which blogger to say the right thing to, know that you, like all other authors, are a fad—temporary. Know that your publisher (and I’ve had four) doesn’t want to spend a dime marketing you but expects you to do everything, and be willing to grab your balls and shotgun and go to town. In order to stay relevant, you need to be trashy. You need to have the shock value (which I’ll admit to giving into from time to time). You need to write thrillers and avoid anything with too much soul-searching, too much God, too much innocence or depth. Just stay on the surface. That’s where the industry wants you. That’s where O…I mean, the government, wants you. That’s where you should be, right?
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