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by
Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

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October 25, 2013 - 1:00 pm

Sometimes reading indie is like drinking from a fire hose, but hidden in the flood there are drops of the finest wine!

Sometimes reading indie is like drinking from a fire hose, but hidden in the flood there are drops of the finest wine!

In today’s installment of the Friday Book Plug we have an annotated edition of The Wind In the Willows.

This made me think of how Indie is a Cornucopia of Plenty, or perhaps a bazaar full of exotic offerings.

It’s not a vision of indie or electronic publishing you see often, certainly not in circles devoted to traditional publishing and never when reading articles written by people for whom traditional publishing means money and prestige.

There you hear that indie publishing is the domain of badly spelled, would-be erotica, and semi-literate romances.

But truly, it is no such thing. By its very nature, both because it only had so many slots, and because it was of necessity, mass publishing, benefiting from economies of scale, and needing to cater to a certain number of readers before it was profitable, traditional publishing left a lot of market needs unmet.  More so as, over the last twenty years or so, it became convinced it could push from above and dictate what people would like to read. What I mean is that executives of publishing companies and chain bookstores in NYC decided what would be stocked throughout the country.

The results were predictable. Print runs fell. For instance, until recently, Baen was the only publishing house taking Space Opera, which the others had decided wasn’t sufficiently “important” for them.  In fact, Baen books could be said to be a creature of filling a niche that no one else was meeting — politically diverse (including to the right, which no other house took) plot-driven science fiction.

But even had traditional publishing been perfectly sensible, it would have needed a certain amount of expected sales — say five or ten, perhaps — to make back enough money to justify its effort.

It’s completely different for the indie publisher, with his profit margins.  Say you bring out a book for 5.99 and are getting $4.50 or so per book.  you only need to sell 700 or so, to make what you’d have made from a beginner traditional advance.  And since the book remains in print forever you have a long time to make that money.

This has opened up a cornucopia of plenty for those of us who, as readers, are somewhat less than standard and “blockbuster” oriented. We can suddenly find more books on local lore, more memoirs of the Great War, more things that We just want to explore than ever.

The people who talk about indie publishing as though it were the refuge of the low-brow and unoriginal forget two things: while it’s true that many people will want to write a “romance, just like Twilight” or whatever, the people attracted by indie publishing are of all sorts. And some number of them will find in indie the outlet for interests and passions that they never found a chance to pursue in traditional publishing.

For instance, when — ten years ago, might as well be another world — Sarah got the call asking her if she wanted to write the fictionalized biography of one of Henry VIII’s wives, she wanted to write Anne Boleyn or Kathryn Howard.  She received Jane Seymour.  (The resulting book, under a house name, is Plain Jane by Laurien Gardner.)  Years later, she got to write Kathryn Howard (No Will But His.)  Judging by the sales on Kathryn Howard, since rights reverted to her and Sarah released it indie through Goldport Press, Sarah can finally pursue her interest in writing Anne Boleyn. In fact, given all the research she’s done on what she calls “the dead English Queens” she will probably in due course write all of them (including a different version of Jane Seymour.)

In the same way, one of these summers, when she gets a few weeks to herself, Sarah plans to translate The Three Musketeers and release an annotated edition.

This is a project that would be impossible under traditional publishing. Though French is Sarah’s second language, it’s not her native language and no major publishing house with entrust her with this project.  And if she tried to get it, it would take years of establishing a reputation as a literary translator.

Now?  She can do it if she wants to.

In fact, the only limiting factor on indie authors’ passions and their putting those passions and interests into publishable form, is the intense competition of other ideas (leading to a case of what Kristine Kathryn Rusch calls Popcorn Kittens) and the perennial lack of time.

Download some samples of today’s offerings, and be glad that you live in a time when such an amazing and diverse selection is available.

Never mind what the frustrated gatekeepers say.  They could never establish taste as such, only their own taste.  And when people are free to choose, their choices are both sillier than before, and more complex, interesting and satisfying than the traditional market could ever guess or anticipate.

Remember, send an email to book.plug.friday@gmail.com for submission guidelines.


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Nate and Kelly
By AUTHOR

1915. A businessman and a prostitute find love. And hate.


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The Quivera Trail
By Celia Hayes

The Quivera Trail is intended as a sequel to the Adelsverein Trilogy, as it picks up in 1875, with Dolph Becker courting and marrying a young Englishwoman, Isobel Lindsay-Groves. Isobel has several problems, the first of them being a domineering and cruelly judgmental mother, and the second, that she has made a dreadful hash of her debut year and failed to marry – marry well, or marry anyone at all. She is plump, socially inept, loves dogs and horses and wishes wistfully for a quiet modest country life. Dolph Becker is the answer to a prayer, for he offers all that … but the price for escape from a gilded world of privilege and the casual malice of her mother and Society … is to marry a man she barely knows, and follow him to Texas. Accompanying Isobel on the journey to her new home in Texas is Jane Goodacre, her personal maid and confidant. Jane, the daughter of a small country shop-keeper, also has ambitions – and talents that she hardly suspects. The limitations and expectations for a young working-class woman in Victorian England weigh very heavily on Jane, although she does not realize that … until she and her lady mistress arrive in Texas.


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The Annotated Wind in the Willows, for Adults and Sensible Children
(or, possibly, Children and Sensible Adults)

By Kenneth Grahame, (edited and annotated
by GMW Wemyss & Markham Shaw Pyle)

The classic tales of the Middle Thames, of the River Bank, the Wild Wood, Ratty, Mole, Mr Badger, and the incorrigible Toad, have been cherished by children and wise adults for generations. Amongst those who cherish them are Bapton Books’ partners, GMW Wemyss, historian and West Country essayist, and American historian Markham Shaw Pyle. The noted annotators of Kipling, and acclaimed for their histories of 1912, 1940, and 1941, Mr Pyle and Mr Wemyss here expand and re-issue their classic annotated version of Grahame, with some 345 footnotes that explain the Edwardian scene, canals, rural JPs and Toad’s motoring offences, the sad fate of Kenneth Grahame’s son, class issues in the Wild Wood, and Classical mythology. With their sense of history and landscape, their love of this book of both their childhoods, and an eye for literary cross-references, Mr Wemyss and Mr Pyle range from the Psalter and the Book of Common Prayer to the Sacred Canon of Sherlock Holmes, from Eliot to Tolkien, Gissing to Betjeman, Kipling to Aristotle, in giving this classic new depth and resonance. Even if you have never wondered just which canal Toad was thrown into, or why Toad’s trial is only the second funniest in English literature, this annotated edition will deepen and enrich your reading of these inimitable stories. Adults and sensible children – or, rather, children and sensible adults – will rejoice anew in them.


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The Complete Mowgli Stories, Duly Annotated
By Rudyard Kipling
(edited and annotated by GMW Wemyss & Markham Shaw Pyle)

Rudyard Kipling’s tales of Mowgli, the Man-cub, raised by wolves, are not for children only. They have never been out of print, and they have shaped the English language and the British (and American) psyche to an extraordinary degree. The stories that concern Mowgli’s adventures, from his adoption by Mother and Father Wolf to his marriage and taking service in the Indian Forestry as an adult, have been collected, placed in their internal chronological order, and annotated in this volume by the historians GMW Wemyss and Markham Shaw Pyle, the celebrated chroniclers of the Titanic enquiries, the rise of Churchill, and how the US Congress, four months before Pearl Harbor, kept the draft – by one vote. As in their previous noted annotation of The Wind in the Willows, Mr Wemyss and Mr Pyle, the first a British historian, the second, an American historian, have ranged widely in annotating this classic work. It is prefaced with essays on imperialism, dryland farming, the climate and geography of Madhya Pradesh, Kipling’s tribalism and his opposition to the Kaiser’s nascent imperial adventurism, and the image of the Mother-figure. Over 350 footnotes accompany the text in this second edition, delving into ecology; irrigation; literary echoes from Bunyan, the Authorised Version, Milton, Blake, Chaucer, and Shakespeare; Kipling’s literary influence upon Tolkien and Lewis; wergild; snake-cults and Greek oracles; ethnology; mana and tapu; Anglo-German and Anglo-Russian relations; forestry; and any number of subjects with these, Uncle Tom Cobleigh and All. They have given a new generation the knowledge that the initial Victorian and Edwardian reader should have had … and much more. If you wish to enjoy these tales with deeper understanding; if you wonder what Buldeo has to do with Mr Sherlock Holmes’ antagonist Dr Roylott; if you have ever wondered just why a Gond hunter reminds you of the frontman of Jethro Tull; or if you simply want a cracking good read of stories you but half-remember: here is your book.


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A Double Edged Wish: Book Three in the Cat Among Dragons
By Alma T.C. Boykin

A difference of opinion with her employers sends Rada Ni Drako in directions she’d only dreamed of. But dreams will become nightmares if she isn’t careful.

The King-Emperor wants Rada dead. She’d prefer not to be, thank you. Compounding her problems, Rada picks up a stray despite her business partner’s protests. Now Rada has almost everything she’s ever wished for. But wishes granted can also be revoked. Worlds shake when a cat seeks revenge.

Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin write and blog on science, science fiction, self-improvement, culture, and politics for PJ Lifestyle. Send an email to book.plug.friday@gmail.com for submission guidelines for Book Plug Friday, a weekly listing of independently published e-books.

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All Comments   (10)
All Comments   (10)
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Let me start by, again, thanking Ms Hoyt and Mr. Martin for the plug – and for this entire resource.
And now, please, let me turn to F. Burton’s plea for gatekeepers.

I understand the concerns. When I was in the hospital a couple of years ago, they had me on morphine (unlike most of my generation, I never did any drugs: I bourboned my way through high school, college, and law school instead – so this was a novel experience); and where did my mind turn? To typography, illustration, bindings, and cover art. Seriously, I was hallucinating paper. So I’m not unsympathetic.

Here’s the thing, though. On the one hand, I’m a partner in a very small indie imprint (dons publisher’s chapeau). On the other, our present catalogue consists of the partners’ books: Signor Barbieri’s magnum opus on interwar Europe is one of those MSS that takes the time it takes, and Mike’s life of US Grant can’t be hurried, and so it goes. So I have the author’s hat on the hat stand as well. Item: your craft teaches you your craft, sometimes by trial and error. Item: the market teaches you everything. And with evolving technology, it sometimes teaches the hard way. (An early e-book edition of our annotated WITW proofed perfectly in one e-reading device and was duly published. Sadly, the footnote hyperlinks didn’t work properly on some other devices. We fixed that, but it left us with a review we still wince to think of, let alone see.)

But. Howsomedangever, as we say Down Home. Our goal is to have as few literals and misprints as the average OUP publication: and nowadays, that gives us a margin of five to ten, depressingly. The traditional gatekeepers aren’t perfect. When I think back to Ballantine’s ’70s covers for LOTR…. Or look at genre covers, particularly mysteries: cringe-worthy, quite often, and either giving away the plot or amounting to false advertising. No, the traditional houses aren’t perfect. And they’re not nimble (and here’s the point). An indie author who’s serious about her work, or a small indie imprint that’s serious about theirs, can surpass the trads: we can make each publication a Gesamtkunstwerk (as we at Bapton have tried to do), from typeface to cover. And we can pinpoint our drops and associated buzz (my George Washington for July 4th, our Titanic history for the centenary, and so forth), with great precision. If Gerv were to write an account of Flers-Courcelette, we can have it drop on September 15, 2016, the centenary of that battle, without thinking twice; if I ever tackle Palmito Ranch, I can publish it on May 13, 2015, its sesquicentenary. And in both cases, we can tailor every aspect of the work to its topic, just as well as the Big Beasts can: any author or publisher can, if they but try (and the market will l’arn ’em to try). It’s the difference between carpet bombing and precision strikes. And I think that true across genres, fantasy included.

The market will correct the faults: surely that is too obvious to need saying. And it will in the end reward indie authors and publishers for doing one thing the Big Boys can’t and wouldn’t care to do: crafting each title holistically as a Gesamtkunstwerk. And most of all, the market – surely PJ readers don’t need this spelled out – unfettered, will be a far better gatekeeper than a gaggle of twenty-something NYU grads reading slush-piles grudgingly and with whatever personal biases they bring to the task. (Heinlein would fare ill with them. And, e.g., our Titanic history got its props from James Delingpole and Anne-Elisabeth Moutet; it tackles crony capitalism, Progressivism, and regulatory capture. Bar Regnery, what trad house was going to say yes to that submission, whatever its merits?) Free minds and free markets expressly don’t need gatekeepers: their own autonomy fills that function far better.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, I wasn't talking about academics, which is promoted a completely different way. If I'm reading a history of the battle for Guadalcanal, I don't need a Mort Kunstler cover showing shirtless cigar-chewing Marines rescuing nurses in their underwear from the Japanese. Although it might not hurt. Come to think of it, it might liven things up a bit.

Even the uncalled for and probably inaccurate stereotype of the NYU gatedink is going to bring more skills to the table than the "market." The market will do great when faced with a line-up of good talent. They'll do less well when faced with anybody and everybody, as the ability to discriminate pro-levels of writing and artistry is simply something unavailable to the general public, as are stock tips and dissertations on typography and whether Lee's army at Gettysburg was too large. An industry itself has to maintain certain standards or you risk having no standards. National Geographic used to be famous for setting photographic standards. Now everyone has a camera, thinks they're artists and the ability to recognize or care about those standards is kaput. The democracy of everything has killed it.

I'm not sure what autonomy has to do with it so much as the ability to discriminate, which autonomy does not grant. As for Heinlein, he was part of a self-aware culture that was engrossed in doing a certain thing in a certain time and certain place, not someone "interesting" pulled off a pile. That culture and sensibility doesn't exist today, and that's what I'm saying - it's a free-for-all. When it comes to literature, (not history) one needs to create a school of design and thought, a culture, a movement, not leave it to the masses, because they'll never do it.

There is a magic behind art that is invisible to the consumer. When the consumer tries to mimic that end result, all you get is decades of tradition, craft and artistry thrown to the wayside. The remark below about "Wool" addresses that. "Wool" is only mesmerizing if you erase everything before the year 2000. For me it was a snooze-fest, not even as good as the average short SF stories in the "Best of..." anthologies of the '70s. Please save me from more "Wool."
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I’d say there’s a right smart of a chance we’re not going to agree on this one.

I don’t believe my remarks are restricted in their application to academic works – not least because what we publish is (I like to think) scholarly but definitely popular history (and Gerv has a novel coming out right soon). In my more curmudgeonly moments, I can almost agree with you that the culture is rotten to the core; but if it were, that wouldn’t much help your thesis, I think, because the culture we have is an artefact … of generations of gatekeepers and their control of traditional publishing. Let me resort to anecdote. Some years back, I won a series of juried screenwriting awards (the law firm I worked for then enjoys the dubious distinction of having nurtured me as well as a young John Lee Hancock in its day); and an agent – no minor one – was panting to represent me. And then did the hot potato drop when she discovered (she evidently hadn’t read the actual screenplays first) that my politics and hers didn’t match for sour apples. So I don’t know that I’m being unfair about the sort and quality of gatekeepers we have.

The fact is, there are times when I can say I am the last liberal democrat – in the accurate sense: a Classical Liberal who believes in the people. And the market, like Soylent Green, is people. Yours isn’t the first voice – not by any means – to disparage the ability of people to know good work from bad and to vote with their pocketbooks: for most of the history of publishing, there have been plenty of people saying that. About an unlicensed press. About cheap editions for the masses. About the worthlessness of the novel as a form (Nineteenth Century parents were in a moral panic over the novel – and that “orgiastic, African dance,” the waltz). About those notorious indie sorts, Fielding and Dickens and Austen. The publishing model – staffed by apparatchiki and run by members of a nomenklatura – for which you’re nostalgic, is a recent and (it increasingly appears) transient development. There is not, in fact, a Gresham’s Law whereby bad writing drives out good: books aren’t currency. Look, I’m a twelfth-generation Southerner of – as my Christian name suggests – no mean family, a W&L man, and inclined to think myself as well-read as I think myself well-bred: pride is my besetting sin, and snobbery is something I must always guard against. But I’ve never lost faith in the market – because I’ve never lost faith in the people. It may be that the majority of folks couldn’t articulate precisely and to your (or my) satisfaction just why they find one work, or one edition of one work, more satisfying than another; that isn’t at all the same thing as their being unable to choose wisely, on grounds they can’t articulate. I’d need a right smart of proof that the public are incapable of discriminating in their tastes before I’d accept your bald assertion of that claim. So, by the way, would Gissing have needed proof. This notion that an industry will “maintain standards” for the good of the public rather than in its own narrow pecuniary interest is simply wrong, and you don’t have to be Coase or Buchanan or Alchian to recognize that: it’s simple economics. And the notion that, without an industry’s engaging in rent-seeking and all the other ills “self-regulation” is heir to, there’ll be a free for all, is equally bad economics. Books, on one level, are more dangerous than nukes, yes: Solzhenitsyn proved that, among generations of others. But they’re not like lamp-cords or cars or generators: there’s no need to have them tested and certified lest the public hurt themselves. They above almost all imaginable commodities can be left to the people to judge. As for me and my house, we are content to abide by their judgment.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm not talking about Dickens or the history of the novel. I'm talking about a very specific genre of fantastic literature. The idea the average person is innately a connoisseur lacks merit. Even if I throw in history, how are they going to judge "White Mughals" or an SF novel in a real sense, other than "I like it, I don't like it." Are they going to critique James Darymple's Urdu and scholarship? No. Are they going to appreciate where Peter Hamilton fits into the evolution of SF? Hamilton purposely wrote Night's Dawn with a keen awareness SF history in mind, so he could bounce off it. That's why it thudded with the SFWA. Look at this year's Hugo and Nebula nominees - it was a disgrace. This is why the world needs educated editors and curators.

And industries don't maintain standards for the public, but for their own integrity. Filmmakers are fully aware the public isn't aware of the nuances of editing and cinematography or how "Palace"'s opening paragraphs worked as info dump and advanced the story without hurting the story. It was a work of subtle artistry. There is such a thing as an expert. We recognize that when it comes to fixing a computer, painting or playing a piano, but not the more ephemeral arts like writing, yet it is there. You're essentially arguing the entire audience could jump up at a piano recital and do the job. Well, they can't do it with writing and art either.

The question isn't one of gatekeepers but the literary education of those gatekeepers and also the audience. It worked fine for Arkham House, because they understood their genre and served an audience also educated in the work. It's not working so fine for Star Trekky-Star Warsy SF with political correctness thrown on top marketed to mom and pop and fans of Buffy and Dr. Who.

Most of the best all-time SF novels were written from '55 to '75. What do we have in the last 20 years? Self-pub certainly can't address that nor can the general public, whom you seem to trust as walking museums and depositories of SF history. The idea a Sam Moskowitz has no value over some nobody who simply casually likes SF doesn't work.

Go ahead and have a people's museum. They may not hurt themselves, but they'll certainly hurt whatever culture they choose to show their expertise of.

The average SF public isn't going to know when something has been done before or not, and they don't know the link from Munsey to Burroughs to Merrit to Lovecraft to Weird Tales to Heinlein to Zelazny. Therefore it is impossible for them to be truly discriminating. When Jack Vance recently died, some multiple Nebula award-nominated goof said, "I've never read Vance. Should I?" That's a writer dude. Not exactly keeping the old flame alive, is she? I like Dickens and Austen. I don't want to read them all over again every 10 years cuz the guy at Jiffy Lube fancies he's a writer and frowns on naughty gatekeepers (professionals).
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nope. Still ain’t buying it, as we say down here in the bottomlands. Not least am I not buying this bill of goods because you’re conflating things – and not just fantasy, where you began, “far from the fields we know,” with SF, hard or soft.

Take your recital analogy. You’re conflating “audience” with “pool of potential performers.” I’m not arguing that the populace as a whole is an untapped pool of experts; nor that at the end of, say, Stephen Hough’s recital, the concert hall can or should or ever will turn into open mike night. What I am arguing – rather clearly, I’d thought – was, to use your analogy, the ticket-buying public may not know split beans from coffee about theory or technique or Schenkerian analysis … and they’ll still decide, and decide quite well and discriminatingly, what performances they’re willing to pony up ticket money for, and which ones they aren’t willing to sit through even if they’re free. Price is the ultimate means of communicating information, and sales will follow the good, and even the most self-adulating would-be writer will eventually realize that, if he can’t make a sale even without the overhead and barrier costs of trad publishing, the opportunity cost to him of beating his head against a brick wall has gotten right steep. And he’ll fade away into the night, and no one but he harmed by his wasted effort. One more time: people don’t have to be able to articulate a theoretical basis for their preferences; it suffices that they have them, and, in the aggregate, the market – people – will be right in the long run.

You may argue that SF relies on being a self-referential genre that none but the elect can properly enjoy and understand, let alone write in, and that the beloved gatekeepers of yesteryear were Platonic guardians who preserved that pristine state. Now, I think that’s horse manure, but let’s assume arguendo it isn’t. Well, I happen to be a big fan of Carolina beach music, which has its own history of self-referential “shout-outs” in lyrics; but if it’s actually necessary to know all that before you get the urge to shag when you hear the Tams, then grits ain’t groceries. If SF relied on being a self-referential genre that none but the elect can properly enjoy and understand, let alone write in, that wouldn’t be a problem with the public; it’d be a fault and failing in the genre, and one that’ll come back to bite it in the southbound parts of its northbound self.

Now, having mentioned opportunity cost, I must say, in that vein, that as we are clearly not going to agree, I’m going to have to let this go. I may come back to it in time, but I do have some other calls on my time just now – Game Three of the Series coming up among ’em.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Really? You're serious? You miss gatekeepers?

E-books are a few years old. Individuals are still figuring out what works.

I'm expecting, within a few years, that authors will contract out for cover design, copy- editing, and other functions. And, more to the point, that they'll mention these smaller, independent companies by name. Like " copy-edited by Correct House." Or, "cover by so and so."

How about the very obvious point that I don't care for what the gatekeepers let through the gate, except occasionally? And that I rely on voracious reader recommends, rather than librarians or professional book reviews?

And, well, five pages- that's less than five minutes to see if a book is a trainwreck? That's the sample that most e-books have as an option. There's at least one "must read" that I can't stand the first pages. There are unknowns- where the author is marvelous. Hugh Howie, the bookstore clerk, wrote a short story more mesmerizing than most bestsellers- and the Amazon reviewers justly pushed it to the top.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The relationship between gatekeeper, author and consumer has been a complicated and ever-changing tripod in the last 100 years of fantastic literature.

If that tripod is now weighted to be author-friendly, that is not necessarily a good thing for the consumer, as mid-list, brilliant and plain bad now has no scrim other than at the end, the consumer. The consumer may know what they like but they don't know what's good; if they did they would be author, editor, designer, illustrator and typographer. Those are all magicians who work their skilled and unseen craft. Knowing what you like when presented with Top 10 is going to result in something different than when presented with Top 1000.

Like it or not, there are in fact some important elements mixed in this brew that are experts who are not authors, such as those purveyors of typography and illustration. Some of the uses of typography in self-pub are so bad one can easily imagine the art is at a low ebb in its history, as what is good is invisible to a consumer, which is the point of a gatekeeper, and where a gatekeeper was useful. All things being equal, if typography is taking it on the chin, the even more subjective art of literature is doing so as well, and illustration alongside each.

The bottom line is what is filtered, and not filtered, for our perusal. If you look at the cover stories, and covers, of SF magazines from the '50s, the results range from brilliant to interesting. Did the constraint of gatekeepers act to enhance that, or was it a coincidence? Today the result in SF ranges from barely interesting to incompetent. People can't even give their short stories away, and SF and fantasy webzines are alleys of artistically uninteresting, not to mention racist and sexist, garbage. People think correct politics is correct business and art - it isn't.

Whatever the case, in a country with more than 100 million more people, where is a Kelly Freas and Frank Frazetta? Where is the stunning typography and design of the noir paperbacks of the '50s? Where is a Vance, Heinlein or Van Vogt?

Selection was so diverse back then there was even a comic book called "Camera Comics," where every story had something to do with cameras. Pulps 10 to 20 years before had equal diversity.

I think there's something going on here besides publishing models, and what has been lost outweighs what has been gained. A democracy of plenty weighted to benefit authors isn't necessarily benefiting the end product and the reader. Freedom of action isn't art, and in fact can work to constrain art, despite having ten times as many authors, illustrators and designers. There is at least some evidence that constraint produces great art.

The digital age isn't as much an opportunity so much as a hard reality where opportunity has been forced on us all. The fact is, just a handful of crucial gatekeepers that acted as a conduit and gateway to our genre's literature has been crucial in the history of fantastic literature.

Think of the Munsey magazines, Frank R. Paul and Hugo Gernsback, the Ace Paperback editions of E.R. Burroughs and what Frazetta, Krenkel and that brilliant typography meant to the stories. Think of what editors John Campbell, Frederic Pohl, artists Walter Baumhofer, Norm Saunders, Rafael De Soto and the brilliant cover designs of the '30s meant.

Something is missing, some crucial element. It is the gatekeeper - the typographer, the editor, the designer - all working in tandem to complement one the other.

What's Burroughs without Frazetta and St. John? What's Heinlein, Van Vogt and Asimov without Campbell? What was The Shadow and Doc Savage without Baumhofer and Rozen? What's Carter Brown without McGinnis? And that's not including the nameless typographers and designers who worked with Maguire and Robert Stanley to make E. Stanley Gardner, Rex Stout and Ellery Queen sell.

That complete package has been missing for almost a half-century now and by an amazing coincidence, the amazing literature that went with it. Coincidence? One would think that in an era of increasing Comic and SF cons, and where all elements of the genre are thrown on top of one another by that and the internet, it would enhance a mutually supporting world of editor, designer, illustrator and author.

I have no answers, but something is missing, and that something is something for me to read. There are dribs and drabs of greatness here and there: "Judas Unchained" or "A Storm of Swords." Not enough.

Authors may not like someone vetting their brilliant work, but having nothing between them and the reader is just that, nothing. Seeing typography off center, stretched to the edges, and in completely unnecessary italics, all evidently done cuz it "looks cool," is a tell-tale sign that the writing may be just as clueless.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Organizations are forming even now (e.g., http://www.wifwa.org) that hope to take the place of the "editing / selecting" function the conventional publishing houses could once be trusted to perform. We shall see how well they do at it, and whether consumers can trust their integrity and competence.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Interesting, especially the part about "avoidance of excessive narrative intrusion and eschewing 'telling' in favor of showing'”

In my mind, that would fix many of the problems in fantastic literature, as artists who had something to say would be forced to actually do that. Of course, with standards, one risks conformity, probably the biggest drain on art there is in the genre.

Bradbury said to stay as far away from writing classes as possible and Clark Ashton Smith and Lovecraft probably wouldn't fare very well in WIFWA, not to mention Burroughs and Cordwainer Smith. Writing workshops, touted as such a great thing, are probably helping to kill the genre. Politics is also not helping. The latest "great" SF novel all the rage in the PC camp is wonderful cuz it addresses gender-neutral terms. The fact it's boring hasn't really seemed to matter.

When mainstream interest pours into a marginalized and eccentric genre, mainstream sensibilities, (read redneck, repetitious and dull) must be addressed. The bizarre dreamers are kicked to the side of the road. The old Weird Tales catered almost exclusively to that more dreamy side of the genre, which is now completely gone. Some of the short stories of Heinlein from '41-'42 seem almost Lovecraftian compared to the politically and artistically conformist reads we're being handed.

Brian Aldiss used to write about the difference between the "dreaming and thnking poles." For me, reading Stephen King after Lovecraft was like having the air sucked out of the room.

I was concerned about the "adequate" cover art. Cover art and typography doesn't need to be adequate but a full and equal partner, even a star. The problem is that costs dough. Getting a Glenn Orbik cover might be 3 grand and if you want the rights to it, 5 grand. But you could sell t-shirts and posters alongside the book and make a little world of the whole thing. Orbik's few retro SF covers are fantastic.

Hardcase Paperbacks is using McGinnis and Orbik. Not sure how that house is working out, but they have the right idea.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh, granted that conformity can be a problem. Indeed, much of the malaise that afflicts fantasy today is directly attributable to conformity. Nevertheless, there are particular sins that make a book near to unreadable by even the most determined aficionado. Those sins are avoidable -- with the provisos that:

1) In fiction, there are no absolute rules; there are only guidelines of varying strength; and:

2) The writer is expected to use his judgment and knowledge of what has gone before to know when he can profitably ignore them.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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