Friday, July 22, 2016

I tried to watch a panel on publishing on C-span the other day, but could only make it about five minutes in.

The condescending elitism was overwhelming. (Not to mention, all five panelists represented the Big Five. What kind of panel on publishing these days wouldn't include a ebook specialist?)

So this may be an overdrawn analogy, but I've been reading and watching shows about the impressionist art movement of the late 1800's. At the time, if you wanted to make it as an artist you needed to be included in the "Salon," which was a judged competition.

In response, the Impressionists mounted their own exhibition. It was filled with such unknown artists today as Cezanne, Cassatt, Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Sisley, know, slop like that.

The Salon exhibition was filled with such great artists know......uh.......

It seems to me that all gatekeepers eventually turn into group think. Almost by definition, anything that breaks the cultural norms isn't going to make it through the cultural gatekeepers. 

So what's really hitting the audience's button today?

Think of all the movies and TV shows that are made from comics.

I think this is because the comic market is relatively open to new ideas, is not constrained by phony measures of what is literary and what isn't. New and fun and exciting and off the wall are not only not discouraged, but are rewarded. One of the interesting things about comics is that I've always found it somewhat difficult to divide them into genres (other than the obvious Superhero genre, which itself can be split into many types). I think the reason for this is that comics much more often blend genres in interesting ways. Is "Saga" a fantasy? A SF? what is it exactly?

What it is, is good.

When I was growing up, there were books that weren't accepted in the reading lists that are now considered classics. And interestingly enough, a lot of them would technically be considered genre if they hadn't been elevated to classic status. (Drives me nuts--books that are obviously SF or fantasy like 1984 or Brave New World, are lifted out of the genre...) I remember having to ask the teacher permission to write a paper on LOTR's, which wasn't part of the approved curriculum.

I never set out to read classics. In fact, I probably avoided them. I read books that seemed entertaining. But now, when I look at the all-time lists, an amazing number of those books have moved into the pantheon.

Ebooks are open to anyone who wants to write a book, and I'm betting that in a hundred years the same thing is going to happen. The authors who people will remember will have gone outside the Salon, breaking through the culturally ossified standards of the gatekeepers.

Like I said, it's probably an overdrawn analogy. But I do think that the gatekeepers closed the gates just when they should have opened them, that group think among critics and bookstore owners and most especially publishers is endemic.

Thirty-six years ago when I first started at Pegasus Books, what I carried was well outside the mainstream. I haven't changed. The mainstream has moved in my direction, thanks to movies and TV and most of all, thanks to a bunch of great writers who ignored the Salon of the day, and wrote what they wanted and persevered.

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