January 18, 2009

Slice of PIE -- Acts 16, the Demon and Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing

Weird connections, I know, but bear with me for a few moments as I outline the bits of data drifting into my head and I’ll see if I can make my case. It all started as I read the following verses from the MESSAGE:

I. “One day, on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortunetelling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her. She started following Paul around, calling everyone's attention to us by yelling out, ‘These men are working for the Most High God. They're laying out the road of salvation for you!’ She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, ‘Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!’ And it was gone, just like that.” (Acts 16: 16-21)

II. The Recession is on my mind as well, now that one of the Big Three/Four/Five/Six science fiction and fantasy print magazines, Fantasy &Science Fiction is going from a monthly magazine to bi-monthly. Newspapers are closing down right and left (the Star Tribune of Minneapolis is now officially bankrupt and the Pioneer Press is a shrinking interest…). Book publishers are declaring acquisition freezes (except for Danielle Steel, Stephen King, Jodi Piccoult and other blockbusterwriters). Borders is either gonna get bought by someone or go totally belly up.

III. Even so, people are reading more according to The New York Times online (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/books/12reading.html?_r=2 ).

IV. Add to the mix the clarion call from sundry publishers, web mavens, writers and agents that bellow: “Books are dead! Long live the Kindle – or whatever takes its place! Viva la Presse sans r├ędacteurs en chef!” (That last part, for those of you who don’t read French, was “Long live the Press without editors!”)


Isn’t this what the whole “revolution” is all about: people getting rid of the editors? Without realizing it, we’re looking at the total democratization of the publishing industry. I can go online and read whatever I want – ANYONE can publish ANYTHING they want and they do. At long last, the publishing industry is free of those pesky editors – the demons have been exorcised! Writers with important things to say and publishers who have the equipment to publish a zillion books or a single book can get together, exchange their dollars and publish or print anything they want to with no one to gainsay them.

I'm not talking about the disappearance of copy editors – we’ll still need those people to read and make corrections when writer’s who don’t know where to place apostrophes’ make miskates. We’ll still need agents to make the cash arrangements with the publishers. What I’m talking about are the men and women who look at a “submission” (don’t you hate that word and what it implies?) and decide most of the time to send back notes saying, “Dear Contributor, Your attached/enclosed submission does not meet our present needs. Thank you for submitting…”

Editors who say “No, thank you” are no longer necessary in the New Publishing Order. With the internet, anyone can create a niche for those who are writing what they want to read and welcome contributions from like-writing people. Together they can run an online magazine that’s slick and cool and very, very focused.


I predict that with the casting out of the editorial demon, awards will disappear as well: the Hugo, the Gandalf, the Lovecraft, the PKD, the Rita, the Stoker, the Edgar, the Seiun, Locus Readers, the Newbery, Anlabs – all of them will be gone. The reason might be summed up in the querulous voice of individual writers, “Who do They think They are? Our writing is just as good as Theirs! We’ll make an award and give it to ourselves! Who is ANYONE to tell Us what is good or best or award-worthy?”

"Years Bests" will also disappear enmasse: A recent casualty of the recession – I believe a result of the exorcising of editors – is the anthology, Years Best Fantasy and Horror (http://lcrw.net/wordpress/?p=768). If anyone can select stories that me and my niche like, print it and slap a slick cover over it and call it the Year’s Best, then who will gainsay us?


By the way, the end result of the exorcism of the demon from the girl is outlined in verse 22 of Acts 16: “When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square.”

Without them demonic editors, I believe that publishing might degenerate into tiny, tiny cliques of self-congratulating writers who break their arms by patting themselves on their backs as publishers, who are open to any deal involving cash, willingly publish whatever said writers want to be published.

I’ll leave the interpretation of verse 22 as it applies to writers and publishers to your imagination…

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