Sunday, August 25, 2013

Of Artistic Integrity, Dignity, Zombies, and Paris Hilton’s Sex Videos


I recently heard another writer talk about how many more hits he gets on his blog every time his subject of conversation is zombies. This got me to thinking about what would attract people to my blog. Is it as simple as mentioning Vampires, Hobbits, Werewolves or Aliens? Or could I get a million eyes upon my blog simply by referencing a famous movie such as Harry Potter, Twilight, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or the Godfather? Not that I would do such a thing, of course, and if I did, it would only be as an experiment.

After all, it would invariably be a disappointment to whomever stumbled upon my blog to find their favorite movie or television show, such as Fringe, Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Lost was mentioned merely as a way to get someone to click onto my blog.

It would be a cynical ploy to make mention of the Kardashians, Honey Boo Boo, Selina Gomez, Angelina Jolie, Hunter S. Thompson, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Anniston, Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Lawrence, Jennifer Jones, or Johnny Depp. The truth is, I’d be more likely to garner negative attention by doing such a thing. Still, I have to admit to a certain amount of curiosity, whether or not I could direct traffic to my blog through such means. I guess another way of going about it would be by checking out what is trending now, like baby pandas, Ben Affleck as Batman, Anthony Weiner, Martin Luther’s I Have A Dream Speech, etc. But the truth is, I’ve never attempted to be a trendy person, and really don’t see much to be gained by associating my novel, The Amazing Morse, with the ephemera that flits past our consciousness briefly and then is never thought of again.

I’d like to think that my name might better stand with the giants of fiction, people such as Jack London, Victor Hugo, William Shakespeare, Joseph Conrad, George Bernard Shaw, or Oscar Wilde, that my work might someday sit on a shelf next to the likes of Brave New World, Pygmalion, The Picture of Dorian Gray, or The Scarlet Letter. But this is an extreme burst of vanity on my part. Truth be told, I’d be content to have my books sitting next to the likes of James Patterson, John Grisham, George Martin, Dan Brown, or Terry Brooks.

I sometimes wonder what kind of person would want to read my book in the first place. My ego says it would be people who have read Plato, Socrates, Erich Fromm or Lao Tzu. Only slightly less egotistical would be to think that those who have the same influences as myself might enjoy my writing. Perhaps those who have read Alan Moore or Steven R. Donaldson might see a little of them in what I do.

In truth, music seems to have been an even bigger influence on my life than books. I can’t help wondering if the works of The Beatles, The Kinks, The Animals, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, and King Crimson have somehow shaped me as an author. Again, I am not name-dropping. If I were, it would be silly to waste space by naming such obscure influences on me as Stackridge, echolyn and Änglagård.

I know that ultimately a writer will be judged by the work he creates and not by the company he keeps. And I know that getting people to my blog is far different than getting anyone to actually read it. Still, the life of an unknown author can make a person feel like a voice in the wilderness. It would be nice to think that there might be easier ways of connecting to an audience. And self-promotion, no matter how unsavory a thing it is, is part of any artist’s job.

And who is Matt Kenseth, anyway, and why is he trending?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Indie and Proud

When I was in the process of writing my first novel, the idea of self-publishing never entered my head. But by the time I had completed it and was wondering what to do with it, self-publishing seemed the obvious choice.

Like a lot of others, I tended to view self-publishing as a route for those who were not good enough to get a publishing deal. This was a bias that had been ingrained in me despite the fact that I have never held contemporary fiction in high regards. I am just as susceptible to lazy thinking as anyone else, and so the idea that acceptance by the authorities equaled quality found its way into my thoughts, despite the fact that my general observations have been the exact opposite. I have always tended toward the independent film or the indie rock band. If I am looking for a book to read, the last thing I would think to do is look on the New York Times Bestsellers List or read some trade publication that is supposed to tell me what is new and important at the moment.

The comparison to music says it all for me. I look at my music collection and find next to nothing from any of the major labels. Surely there are the established classics, The Beatles and The Kinks, just as my bookshelves hold Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky. But when it comes to recent music, bands like Änglagård and Echolyn stand head and shoulders above anything I can find on the radio, despite the obvious lack of resources. Let’s face it, the corporate influence dictates that the central focus be on the bottom line rather than the actual worth of the art being made. Rather than allowing an artist to express his or her opinion, focus groups, spread sheets, and people in cubicles dictate what the final “product” should be.

If you read only the first chapter of my first novel, The Amazing Morse, you will know that I express a dislike for “the corporate mindset that crushed wonder”. Virtually everything you read, see or hear nowadays is delivered through the corporate entertainment machine, or is a reflection of same. While I believe it is still possible for an artist’s voice and vision to get through, it is increasingly unlikely to happen, at least not through the major channels. Corporations rule the way we think today in the same manor the Catholic Church ruled European thought in the Middle Ages. So deeply engrained is the corporate mindset that we are not even aware how much it shapes our perceptions. So deeply engrained is the corporate mindset that I held a bias against the indie writer despite all personal evidence to the contrary.

So I am proud to consider myself an indie writer, happy to sit outside the mainstream and thus be in a position to see and critique the dominant paradigms of our day. My voice is wholly my own, uncensored by any person or persons that are part of the groupthink that is inevitable in our corporate era. Without the voice of the indie, the range of vision for our society will constantly shrink as the variety of voices will be silenced. In the place of innovative filmmaking, you will have a constant barrage of sequels to Adam Sandler films.

Yes, there are obvious advantages of having the financial and promotional backing of an established company, but the corrupting influences are too great.

Perhaps you have found the spelling error I had in the fourth paragraph and thought to yourself: “Strictly amateur. Assuredly, if he had an editor, that would have been corrected.” Well, perhaps it would have been caught. But the tradeoff would be that I would need to be branded as a particular type of author and sold to a particular market. My writing would then have to reflect what the market thinks is hot, rather than what I want to write. I would be just another commodity to be sold on the market. The edge of any point I try to make would have to be softened until it was incapable of offending anybody. It is not my intention to offend, but it is my intention to make a point, to tell the truth as I see it and permit the reader to decide what my opinion is really worth. I do not need nor do I want someone to change my writing in order to maximize profits and appeal to the proper demographics. I just can’t think like that, and if I could, I probably wouldn’t be writing books.

And that is why I am Indie and Proud.