Friday, December 14, 2007

A True Man

So last evening my wife walked in from picking up one of my sons at the public library and handed me Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote.

I fell into it and have only just surfaced. Read it all, or all that I'd not already read or want to read just now. Reminds me how good he could be: "Handcarved Coffins" is riveting, for instance.

"You trying to kill me or get me killed?" I asked my wife once when I glanced up. "You know this will just quicken my ambitions."

On the back of the book is quoted an excerpt from the Preface for "Music For Chameleons". It says in part, famously, "...Writers...who take genuine risks... bite the bullet and walk the plank..."

He is comparing writers who go for broke to professional gamblers but he misses the mark. It's an act of redemption and you risk trading your soul for your art. As he so notoriously did with In Cold Blood and as he so vividly understood.

There is an interesting passage in this book during which he discusses having published two chapters from his work-in-progress Answered Prayers. These famously caused backlash from rich friends who felt he'd betrayed them. In this passage he says no, he merely used his material, as all writers must, and then goes on to say, much more interestingly -- because their reaction is inconsequential to him compared to what he discovered -- that after the chapters had appeared he reassessed all his published writing, and found all of it wanting, and, worse, knew why. He says he had systematically tried to conquer all forms of writing, some with great success, others with little. He says the failing he spotted was built in to each form; by following the techniques of a given form, he was forced to leave out abilities and effects he may have mastered from other forms. Thus he conceived the ambition to bring all of it to bear at one time -- everything he'd learned from novels, short stories, poetry, screenplays, stage plays, essays, reporting, and so on.

He claims this is the style one sees in the book Music For Chameleons and perhaps most effectively in "Handcarved Coffins".

I chose to read this book as a collection of high spots. Many reviewers scrambled to sneer at its lesser pieces, such as a portrait of Liz Taylor. Their loss.

There is a remarkable interview with Bobby Beusoleil, one of the Manson Family, that reveals several aspects Bugliosi's lies about helter skelter cannot cover up forever, and there are any number of amazing passages and entire pieces that sustain a focus and balance that was, and is, remarkable. He is shown to have been nothing like the effete, lisping femme of his image, but a very tough-minded, agile-minded, single-minded writer who gave everything to his art and who looked deeper and less blinkingly into evil than many a seemingly tougher guy. Maybe than any of us.

He concluded the one unforgivable thing was deliberate cruelty.

Funny how that is what so many offer his memory now.

/// /// ///

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Apocalyptic Calypso

I woke up from my second day in a row of dreaming about total destruction.  Yesterday's dream has faded but involved running through a landscape of bombed-out buildings, smoldering craters, and a panicked, dangerous populace.

In this one, first I was a kid in a school for fascists, taught to fear brutal trained chimps and baboons that would come into one's room to search out disloyal books and so on.  At one point we were encouraged utterly to destroy our rooms and all our possessions in a frenzy of state loyalty simply to prove we gladly followed any and all directions; it felt so awful.

And then I was adult me, in my old home town of Ebensburg, PA, as the fascists soldiers came with demolition in mind, literally to raze the town with the people still in it.  If we ran, they killed us.  If we hid, they knocked the buildings down on us.  I kept having to duck, and watch above me.  I-beams fell on people, little three-legged robots rushed soldiers around to shoot stragglers, and tremendous sheets of glass fell and shattered.  Flying shards cut us; my hand caught one as I blocked my face.  I saw them using small squibs to knock out supports so the buildings would just collapse sideways and take out whole streets.  I saw them torching what ever burned.  I saw them driving trucks over people and swinging wrecking balls at windows full of screaming people.  Everything was falling and crushed us, and there was nothing stable underfoot as debris shifted.  You had to run on half-crushed people, some grabbing your ankles for help.  There was nowhere to go, and as you ran from soldiers you had to try to avoid cul-de-sacs and dead-ends.  There was literally no refuge, either.  Nowhere to go, nothing to do.   It was terrifying, and it ended with me and some kid standing in a field surrounded by the debris of a housing development -- I'd somehow gotten out of downtown proper.  We stood panting and jittery, responding to every sound, and then there was a huge, deep rumble and we looked over and saw the courthouse going down in a huge plume of smoke, and in the distance we could hear more of that low sound and I thought, Ah, Johnstown's going down.  A cat came by, walking arrogantly the way cats do, and the kid said, without moving,  "We could eat that; wh didn't we kill it?", and I said, "We didn't kill the cat because then we'd be like them.  We can scrounge, though.  Canned goods and stuff. Trouble is, winter's coming, and our fires will give us away.  Unless we live in the burning rubble.  Maybe then they won't bother looking."

Really bleak.

And just as I woke I thought, "Uh-uh; you'd have no meds.  You'd croak from the effort of scrambling for survival."

Another day in Paradise, eh?  LOL  Whoa.


Vast is the Earth, yet so is it small.  To a demon, Earth is a bauble.  To one lost in a desert, it is a solid echo of the sky.

Between those truths we live our mad scramble lives from dark to dark.

Balanced on a grain of sand called love, those truths keep each other at bay.  Size and its lack encompass us.  Micro and macro swing us in their arms.

And so we sleep.

--From the Liturgy at Hessia Abbey


A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.
-- Bertrand Russell


May I humbly suggest "Never Tear Us Apart" by INXS as theme music for this Apocalyptic Calypso dream?  Made me cry right after I wrote down the dream; elegiac defiance. J. S. Bach’s “Air On a G String” provides a nice cool-down, then, followed by "Don't Cry" by Guns & Roses for a stirring bounce-back.


Story is the song, writing is the singer.
--W B Kek, informal talk

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Cutting Remarks

I had a story I wanted to send to SYBIL’S GARAGE. It was 6300 words and their limit is 5000, so I clipped off the first five pages of the story, then read through them. When a necessary bit of information came up, I rephrased it as concisely as possible and put it back into the story. By doing this I got it painlessly down to 5000 words.

Well, almost painlessly: It surprised me, and hurt my feelings a little, to notice how many empty words I had used. There was a lot of hemming and hawing going on at the start of my story, before I got down to telling the reader what was going on and why it mattered and to whom.

I am glad I compressed my story.

This is how to compress; you focus on story points, which means information needed by a reader. Ignore the writing. Pretty phrases, detailed descriptions, and soaring metaphors do not matter to the story, nor to the reader. Nor should they matter to the storyteller.

Present story points as efficiently and elegantly as possible. Doing this allows you to retain a satisfying story while avoiding wordiness.

If in doubt whether a given item is a story point, leave it out. Does the story still make sense? If so, keep it out. If not, put it back in, as concisely as you can.

Hemingway was a master of what to leave out. One of his basic methods was to present events without mentioning their context. Instead, he implied it.

This led to powerful impressions and removed the events from specific dates and places. It lent a universal quality to the people and actions he told of.

Hemingway was also celebrated for his style. Some call it blunt, others terse. Short declarative sentences built of plain nouns and basic verbs allowed his style to paint pictures, and offer impressions, stroke by stroke. He once said he wanted to write the way Cezanne painted. This is what he meant by that.

His effect was cumulative, but notice something. Much of his celebrated style is nothing more or less than newspaper writing. It is factual and direct. He offers story points as efficiently as possible. His style came from his blunt manner of including story points. The opening of The Old Man and the Sea shows this.

Hemingway wrote many more pages than he ever published. All writers do. This points to another of his methods, which was to write everything he could think about about a scene, then cut it later. He removed all the bullshit, as he called it. He wanted to leave only what was true.

True, not factual: His goal was to write one true sentence, then another, and keep going until his story was told.

You can see how this worked if you take a story you have already had rejected a few times and look it over. First, list its story points. Once you have this list, look how they are presented.

Can you state them for the reader in a better way? More efficiently? More elegantly?

Is every sentence true?

Rewriting a story that has been rejected many times is a good way to learn how to write a better story in the first place. Go over it sentence by sentence, and take out the crap. Anything not needed by the reader to understand the story must go.

Some will wonder about descriptions.

Curious George had adventures with the man in the Yellow Hat. In those stories, the color of the man’s hat mattered. Was it a Stetson, a Bowler, or a Beret?

Did that matter?

Was it too tight for him, or did it fall over his eyes?

Did that matter?

Write as if telling a joke. Every detail should set up the punch line in a joke. No detail that does not help the punch line should be included. Extra details will only blur the joke and lessen the punch.

It is the same with fiction. If a detail matters, keep it. Otherwise, get rid of it. Descriptions should be concise if needed, avoided if not needed.

If it matters what kind of car, state it simply. If it matters what color a house is, or what the bar looked like, let the reader know. Otherwise, cut it.

A man walked into a bar.

That is a classic opening for a joke. The humor often relies on details revealed as the joke continues. Listeners perk up at each detail, imagining how it might end up being funny.

Any detail that is not funny at the punch line will puzzle the listener, and lessen the laughter. Each detail must be relevant to the punch line, or it does not belong.

It works the same with all fiction.

A short story needs a point, and anything not helping to make that point is not only a burden, but a potential sabotage. Look at your rejected story. Are there details leading nowhere? Why are they there?

Edgar Allan Poe, one of the inventors of modern short story form, advised that, in a short story, one thing happens. All supports that one thing. Every word should be chosen with an eye toward how it helps the one thing happen.

Story points let you X-ray your fiction for dead spots. Cut them out and your writing can thrive.

/// /// ///

Thursday, August 16, 2007

How to Take Control

If you want to take control, use fear as leverage and ruthless action to nail it down. Fear is the key, as Alistair MacLean once wrote.

Fear? Easy. Plant doubts, water them with possibilities, and feed them with hints and allegations. Soon you’ll have suspicion, dread, and fear; a garden you can harvest at will.

People don’t know much. They are not confident in what they know. They will listen to confident assertions. They will consider suggestions that sound reasonable. They will blame scapegoats rather than examine their own faults.

Interpreting things according to prior vague threats is easy. Bad things happen all the time. Cite them and offer reminders of previous warnings. Vague warnings work better but specific warnings can be changed in retrospect. The key thing is to hook emotion to event.

Do this and thought is short circuited. Fan panic’s flames. Shout fire in all theaters.

Once they stand, make them run. Worsen all stampedes. Increase chaos and decrease reliable information. Question real sources and point at false ones.

To think, people must be informed. Keep them not uninformed but misinformed. Half-truths work better with whole lies. Contradict yourself continually, especially in your emotional tone. Alternate panic and confidence, desperation and cockiness. Cower as you strut. Preen as you dissemble.

Confusion maintains anxiety. The unsure are more easily led. Offer false hopes and yank them away erratically. Make impossible promises and grandiose claims. Salt them with bizarre and scary details.

We’ve watched Cheney’s chaingang and Bush’s pushers use these methods to great effect. Neo con scum steal elections and laugh at even the idea of honest recounts. Nazism is back with a vengeance. Fascism dominates media distractions, corporate looting of tax coffers, and kangaroo courts of no appeal. Sadists high and low rejoice as rendition feeds torture’s sausage grinder. Color pictures of the fun go straight to the top and same-sex sex slaves are sneaked in after hours to enhance the enjoyment.

They don’t care if we know. Arrogance is part of taking control. Did Al Capone back down when tax law loopholes tangled him in jail time? Did Mussolini lower his chin when the meat-hooks came out? Did Hitler leave witnesses when he dodged the Russians near the bunker? Did Stalin stop murdering rivals, enemies, and suspected conspirators when his statues fell?

Never show even a blink of self-doubt. Never apologize, backtrack, or rescind. Do not admit error, ever. Do not allow investigation of your biggest crimes, even as you ignore charges of smaller crimes.

Use your position for self-gain and self-protection. Shield cohorts until you can eliminate them permanently. Reward loyalty above all else, and punish disloyalty in draconian ways that go well beyond sanity.

Embrace terror. It is your plinth, your foundation, your keystone. It is your blunt instrument, too. Hammer with it and resort to it continually.

Total information awareness is vital. Spy and reward informants. Punish squealers and whistle blower beyond all reason. Make entire families suffer for one person’s transgression against you.

Be bold in your statements and ignore facts. Attack reason and logic as quibblers’ games. Refute science with faith and belief. Strike poses instead of taking stances. Undermine and undercut anything that benefits others, in any way possible.

Choose corruption over competence. The corrupt can be controlled. Make fellow criminals your partners and avoid the honest and the fair as if they are fallen, sparking high-voltage lines. Anyone you can’t bribe, coerce, or blackmail is of no use to you. They are, in fact, threats. Eliminate them when you find them, these so-called honorable, honest people.

Once you have power, abuse it egregiously. Take it further than anyone dares believe possible. If observers gasp, do more. If they rebel, crush them.

In fact, crush them anyway, just because you can. Unexercised power is power lost.

And remember, any slice of pie you let others grab is one less for you. Grab the whole pie. Grab the bakery. Grab the mills, farms, and land. Grab the air. Grab it all, and keep grabbing more.

More is all you ever want. More should be all you ever take. And what you give is demands. Always more demands.

These simple principles will allow anyone to take control. Not everyone can implement them, or get away with them, but anyone is free to try. Isn’t that the glory of Rule By Fear?

And if you can bully someone, what good are you, really?

/// /// ///

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Inconvenient Facts

Al Qaeda, “the database”, was the name of the file containing a list of the Mujahedeen leaders in Afghanistan CIA was funding against the Russians.

Osama Bin Laden was one of the leaders CIA trained, funded, and armed.

Saddam Hussein was installed in a coup as Iraq’s leader by CIA.

No high-rise has, before or since 9/11, collapsed due to anything other than controlled demolition.

WTC 7, the Soloman Brothers Building, collapsed hours after the twin towers in a manner consistent with controlled demolition despite having been hit by no airplane and despite most of the fires in that building having been put out.

Despite dozens of cameras, no shot of a plane hitting the Pentagon has been released.

No airliner debris was found at the Pentagon. Debris and damage found did not match what an airliner, a Boeing 767, would produce.

Firefighters reported many explosions before and during the collapse of both towers.

All three buildings fell at free-fall speeds, approximately within 10 seconds, which contradicts pancake effect theory.

None of the core beams were left standing; all failed, from the bottom, at the same time, and turned to dust.

Pools of molten metal were found under the collapsed buildings. Intense heat of 2800° F. was measured. These lingered for weeks and maintained heat levels far in excess of what would be expected.

Samples of beams after the collapse tested out at higher than certified failure temperatures for over two hours, which was longer than the towers stood after the planes hit.

Most of the steel was sold overseas under military guard, illegally. No arrests have ever even been suggested.

Thermate produces sulfur and manganese residue, which was found on steel samples from the collapses.

Masonry damaged Bldg. 7, having been expelled with enough force to hurl it that distance and punch it through a building’s exterior.

Video of the collapses show huge chunks hurled outward in arcs, as if explosions were involved. Squib explosions venting smoke and dust are visible racing ahead of the collapse on the videos.

Steel skyscrapers have burned for days and none has ever collapsed.

Three high-rises, two of them among the highest ever built, came down in their own footprint at free-fall speed, despite supposedly being hit by different circumstances, (either one of two planes, or debris from planes and falling buildings).

Investors made millions selling off shares of the WTC in the days before 9/11 and a high percentage of people failed to show up at work that day.

BBC reported the collapse of Bldg. 7 twenty minutes before it actually went down. They also reported on the causes before it happened.

The Soloman Brothers building, Building 7, contained all the files relating to several major scandals then concerning the Bush administration, including the ENRON and other notorious ones, all of which went away after the collapse.

George Bush’s cousin was in charge of WTC security until 9/11.

The 9/11 Commission does not mention the collapse of Bldg. 7.

Dick Cheney took personal control of several military exercises from his command bunker and repeatedly waived off suggestions of scrambling jets to intercept the stray airliners. He did not order jets up until the Pentagon was hit.

The Pentagon was hit in the one section under construction, where only certain officers who were out-of-favor with the administration were working.

No air crash investigation was done for any of these alleged air crashes.

No human remains or body parts of any kind were found at the site of Flight 93’s alleged crash site. So little wreckage was found it cannot demonstrate that an airliner went down there. The crater supposedly made by a 767 moving over 500 miles per hour was ten feet deep, ten wide, and twenty feet long, and looked as if it were a hole made by a back hoe or bulldozer. No large field of debris were found, despite every other major air crash producing large fields of debris.

On 9/11, physics was suspended, if one believes the Official Version. Planes vaporized, buildings went straight down, and people vanished as never before.

Prior to 9/11, George W. Bush was already a lame duck, unable to walk openly to the White House on his inauguration day due to jeering, angry crowds and openly mocked as weak, bumbling impostor who had stolen the election and was not the legitimate President.

The only accounts worse than the Official Version are the attempts to debunk the basis for questions asked by the 9/11 Truth Movement.

Ten of the named hijackers were found alive within a week by BBC reporters, yet their names are still used in official reports and discussions.

Investigations and information on the attack were ignored repeatedly by those at the top. Incompetence or complicity, these people were never held responsible. Scapegoats such as George Tenet were fired, but no one was ever persecuted.

These and so many other facts are inconvenient to the powers that be, and the many actions they’ve taken since, using 9/11 as an excuse, so don’t expect them to be addressed any time soon.

If ever, willingly.

We’ll have to remember all this, and tell our children, and let them tell their children, until someone down the line can gain access to what ever evidence may be left, and only then might we have some chance of pinning this crime to the criminals who perpetrated it.

Suffice it to say that it was obviously an Inside Job, whether it was a crime of commission or of omission. It may have been a little of both.

Cui bono - who benefits?

Not we the people.

Never we the people.

/// /// ///

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Questions Carefully Unasked

A conspiracy is a secret plan agreed on by two or more people, focused on a hidden goal, usually for their benefit. Conspiracy implies risk, too. Conspirators are risking something, be it reputation, freedom, or life. A conspiracy starts from within, is an inside job, and tries to remain self-contained.

A conspiracy theory is the deduction of a conspiracy from various signs, hints, and implications. It starts from the outside and tries to go viral, or public.

Theories are informed guesses. The amount of information varies from zero to many libraries’ worth. Theories are by definition well-substantiated by fact and confirmable observation. They are meant to be tested.

This means that any theory of a conspiracy must have its proposals investigated. As facts are confirmed and rejected, the theory must change. Eliminating error refines a theory toward reality, just as multiplying error lets a theory slip back into hypothesis, then conjecture, then wild guess, until it is meaningless and unreal.
9/11 was an inside job. That statement announces a conspiratorial view. It hints that, because 9/11 benefitted the neo cons so much, there must be complicity. It is inarguable that the neo cons have clung to 9/11 as the excuse for all manner of excess. Extreme measures have been justified in all spheres of government, the military, and private life by intoning the mantra of 9/11. But exploiting events is not the same as causing them.

Often criminals are caught as they try to cover up their misdeeds. Was there a cover-up for 9/11?

Was the physical evidence, analysis of which would have answered many lingering questions, disposed of with undue haste? Was it done in a literally guarded manner, and under cover of night? Were investigators barred from the scene until the physical evidence was gone?

If yes, then how else but cover-up can such actions be interpreted?

If we look back to what was going on in government, business, and the military on 9/11, do we find uncomfortable facts pointing toward collusion?

Were America’s air defenses shut down and kept down until the attacks were over? Did the Vice President take charge of several military exercises and repeatedly refuse to allow interceptors to fly? Were there deals made in the hours and days leading up to 9/11 that bought and sold stock directly related to the events of that tragic day? Did huge profits result?

Was a white elephant taken off the WTC’s owner’s hands?

Were data banks full of embarrassing, incriminating, even damning evidence against government and business leaders destroyed when Building Seven, the Solomon Brothers building, fell? Was it unscathed after the attacks, yet fell anyway, hours after the twin towers had fallen?

Was it reported fallen hours before it actually fell?

Was it reportedly “pulled”, meaning demolished, hours before it fell?

Did three high rises fall almost perfectly into their footprints supposedly by three random sets of circumstances acting upon them? Has any other high rise ever fallen, even from much worse fires?

Since 9/11, has the act of asking questions been condemned and labeled unpatriotic, if not outright treachery, by the very groups who benefitted so egregiously financially and politically from the tragedy?

Have even scientists been impugned, and had their careers and reputations destroyed by vicious character assassinations and worse, simply for wondering aloud how physics could be contradicted so many times in one cluster of events?

Were there prior calls for such an event? Did the key neo con written plan include the assertion that “we need our own Pearl Harbor”? How far can coincidence be stretched in order to brush aside legitimate investigation?

Are we afraid now to even think about such things?

/// /// ///

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Books? Nah

A new way of getting out the word, and a new way of distribution, is needed; ask any writer.

Okay, why do people buy books? 

Impulse accounts for many sales.  A bright cover and a cool blurb at the grocery store and wham, a paperback sells. 

Curiosity explains a good many.  Generate a buzz, the publicists all say.  This means get people talking about it.  If a new celebrity biography comes out and all the sudden talk show hosts, coworkers, and bloggers are blathering about it, that book will sell.  People want to see what all the fuss is about, even when they know it's fake buzz stirred up by publicity flacks.

Most books don't get this treatment, though.

Oprah proved a long time ago that merely mentioning a decent book on TV can affect sales.  It helps when the show is as popular as hers, and it also helps when an audience seeks to emulate the host, as hers does, but still, any exposure boosts sales.

Most books do not get promoted.  No ads, no sales reps talking up the book to buyers from franchise bookstores, and no peddlers bribing booksellers the way record companies bribe DJs to play songs. 

Most books are published, sit on very limited shelf space for three days to three weeks, then get remaindered.  Paperbacks have their covers torn off to be mailed back to the publisher for credit, while the books themselves are pulped.  It's cheaper to throw them away than store or ship them.  Secondary sales at a later time don't factor into such profit-loss calculation.  

Remaindered hardcovers are bought at cost and sold at discount to recoup as much as possible.

So how can a book that is getting no promotion, and causing no buzz, sell?

Sheer chance.

The average print run is between 1500 and 5000 copies. Random luck might place the book in front of 1500 - 5000 people who just happen to be interested in it, and have the money for it.

Chances are slim that print run will equal number of interested customers, though, let alone find all of them.  Sales decline steeply when it's hardcovers, which are going for an average of $25 each, but mass market paperbacks now cost the best part of ten bucks each, too, so even they have a sticker shock factor.  

What is lacking?  

Word of mouth has no time to make the rounds, when a book has a shelf-life that is often shorter than that of cottage cheese.  Creating a buzz needs to be done before the book hits the shelves.  That means advance copies, and lots of marketing nonsense, such as phony jabber about how it's the book that did this, or made someone say or do that. 

Wouldn't you buy, "The book that made the President scream"?  Sure you would.

But of course, you’d have to manufacture a fake incident on which to hang such grandiose claims.  Perhaps write a fat book, take a galley proof to the President, and drop it on his foot.  "Made the President dance with outrage," would then be available.

No time for such things?  No access? No money for travel? No stomach for pranks?

Beginning to see the difficulties stacking up like a log jam?

What else is lacking for the average book?  It is born in obscurity into a world that neither asked for it nor wants it now that it's here.  It means nothing to anyone, having not caused even a minor celebrity flap.  And its contents are mysterious because no one has read it yet. People prefer sure things. They want what they already know. Reinforcement, not surprise.

It's lacking an advertisement.  No one's going to seek it out if they don't know about it, what ever it is. Especially a book.

People try all the time to use the internet to get out the word.  Look how blogging has blossomed from a cottage industry to a kind of flash flood threatening to overtake print journalism.  People have something to say and by damn they're going to say it.

Trouble is, they say it so much.  With so many words.  Look at this piece.  It's overly long and has no bullet statements in it.  Bo-ring.  No one will get this far.  I could put in a recipe for currant jam and no one would notice.

So is it hopeless?  Is the average know-nothing book doomed to be pulped after selling to the writer's parents and the few of his cousins deluded enough to think sucking up to a writer will get them anything worthwhile? 

It is hopeless, in the current system, yes.  Unless it's a genre novel, in which case there is a chance it'll sell a certain base number of copies automatically to those who buy books by category.  It happens often enough to sustain some publishers.  

A new way of getting out the word, and a new way of distribution, is needed.

Everyone will immediately think of the internet.  Everyone needs to go lie down 'til that thought passes.  The internet is not a magic solution to anything.  It's too crowded, too clogged, and entirely too splintered.  No way exists to ensure reaching even your best IM friend, let alone masses of people who might like the book you've forced upon the world.

Sure, it can help.  You can now have a website, and you can write on your book, your stickers, your posters, and your children's tee shirts.  Why not?  A few who see it might even be stirred to check it out.  Not many, though.

If you came here for answers, I have one for you.  You want to be a writer?  

Pick up a camera.

Do a video blog or make a movie.

Books, outside the corrupt publishing industry, aren't the way to fame, fortune, or influence. No one reads anymore. Oh sure, more books are published and sold than ever before in history, but that’s a function of population density. The same percentage of people read in any given age as in all the others. Higher literacy doesn’t equate to higher book sales. Not in a direct way.

Unless the Republicans pay you to write propaganda, you won’t make money and no one wants the book you’ll write. Worse, it requires reading. Who’ll bother? Why should they?

Answer those questions and you might have a chance of finishing your book, getting it past iditors, getting it published, getting it distributed, and selling a few copies.

Then what?

Unless you genuinely enjoy putting words in order, there is no reason to write. Writing is thankless. No one cares, there is no feedback or even reaction even when something is published, and the only thing you will ever be asked for is free writing and more free writing. Oh, can you write an article for our newsletter? Oh, can you please sign this?

No pay, no respect, and no chance of figuring things out so that writers are suddenly profitable again.

Only the exploitative, lying publishers can squeeze profit from books. And they neither admit this nor share.

So let’s step back. Are you writing in order to have a book in hand? To make a physical object? Or are you telling stories? Do you care about the fiction delivery system used to get your voice to the audience?

Audience means those who listen. It’s about storytelling, which predates writing and is based on the oral tradition. People sitting around campfires at night listening while one of them talks. And the one talking learned to tell stories in a way that kept people listening.

If that’s what you care about, then how your story reaches others is immaterial. An CD is as good as a movie or book. It does not matter, except of course that each format has different requirements. Something intended to be spoken must be different from something intended to be studied on a page. Movies and even plays are entirely different, again.

If you can separate fiction from its format, you may have a chance of making some kind of dent. You could find a job writing ad copy for TV voice-overs. Or telling stories to kids at camp-outs. Not much money in either, but it’s at least making money by using words. Isn’t that what you want?

Why, then, do you write?

Is it really to see a book on a shelf with your name on it? Is it really to fulfill some dim fantasy of celebrity writer, jetting from convention to bookstore, signing autographs and being interviewed by jovial TV hosts?

Are you really that naive?

Not even the rich, famous ones live that more than a few weeks out of every few years, and even they have to court it to get it. Mostly, if they have books out there being sold, it’s because they wrote them. They put words into order.

Which brings us to content. We’ve decided the kind of bottle doesn’t matter, and the label is easily changed. What people who actually read the books they buy ultimately want is content.

What does that mean? A books content is what the words in it add up to. For a reader, it’s an experience. People read books for the fun of it, and to get something out of it. Often, that latter part means they learn things. A book that combines interesting facts with a fun experience will sell. Ask Dan Brown.

Many criticized The Da Vinci Code as a movie in book form. They cited its cinematic attributes, and spoke of its lack of literary ones. There is some validity to this. And it explains why the book is so popular. People reading it enjoyed the experience because it replicated many of the things they enjoy about movies.

Movies immediately involve viewers. Sight and sound, faces and voice, people, places, and things all captivate us.

Put those things into your book and it helps draw an audience.

Literary snobs will sniff and point to one of Proust’s paragraphs as if it’s sculpture. They’ll speak about how one must sift through it over and over to glean all its meanings. They’ll claim literary values, meaning references to other books, allusion, and book-rooted metaphor are somehow more valuable than movie echoes.

This is categorical thinking at its most bigoted.

Fiction changes with every epoch, usually with technology. Cinema has long influenced the written word. Fiction has adopted many cinematic techniques, and vice versa. The two have grown toward one another like spouses in a good marriage.

Denying this is absurd. Embracing it, and seeking further to bring in other kinds of influences, from the internet for example, will expand fiction’s vocabulary and lead to new forms. This will keep it pertinent and allow it to flourish even as conventions change.

Producing a book is only one small way to deliver fiction to potential fans. Those of us who grew up with books, and who love books, will always cherish them, but we who write must realize there are other modes.

We can create those elusive, naive things mentioned at the start of this disjointed, rambling essay: A new way to publish, and a new way to distribute.

We can create such new opportunities for writers by trying new things, exploring new ways of reaching people, and letting each other know what works. By doing this, we can bring fiction with us into the future, no matter how changed and strange it may be.

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