Monday, September 09, 2002

Finding myself somewhat stuck again on Muse, I checked out the link on Sheila's Blog to Paula Guran's little article on horror. I don't write horror, and I don't read it, but I found it interesting to see her pull up the same tired little lines about epublishing that people used when pulp paperbacks first hit the stands. It's the ruin of the genre, and the end of literature as we know it. Exaggeration there, of course -- but her tone suggests it.

It's easy to blame epublishing (as she does, in large part) for the woes of the horror-writing world. It's always easy to blame the new innovations. And I won't deny that there are a lot of poorly written ebooks out there.

But there are some damn poorly written print novels as well, and in all genres.

Epublishing is going to go through all the changes that pulp did -- from wild, wide-open frontiers where everyone tries their hand, and quite a few fail, to an accepted way of publishing. Some, who would never have found a market in the current print publishing world, will draw audiences because they've found something that those people want to read. Others will learn that the readers are far more discerning than they might think, and find that writing in either medium -- print or epublishing -- is hard work. The readers will be the final judges of whether a book makes it, no matter how it is published.

New e-publishers are not springing up as fast as they had in the first few years. Many are dying out and closing shop. I hope that many of the better publishers will survive, though even in the print medium that isn't what always happens. While POD publishers like Xlibris make it possible for 'anyone to be a writer,' actual epublishing houses do have submission standards -- some better than others, of course, but the day of 'we'll take anything' died about a week into the process.

And there's another point. PG, like so many others from their lofty perches on top of print books, makes no distinction between good and bad publishers. For that matter, she doesn't make any distinctions between the differences in taste, either, or why the print publishing world has gone the way it has -- too King's padded Carrie, which is very popular, for instance. There seems to be some odd undertone in her piece that publishing is the end of the line, and that there are no readers -- and if they are out there, they just don't know any better than to read crap and like it. And it has to be all crap if she doesn't approve of that type of material, right?

It's all fine and great to say that the genre has fallen, that the writers are no longer of the caliber that they once were, etc. I can't judge that part at all, since I don't even read Stephen King. However, every time there is a shift in what is popular, someone will cry out how the good, old genre has died and there's nothing but crap out there now. To them, it's true.

But genres change. Sometimes they just cycle around through a set of usual tropes, but now and then they just outright shift, and the old fashioned views get lost in the new overlay. It's not always for the better. To be honest, I miss the old-fashioned Mary Stewart adventures and the gothic 'Woman running away from castle' books that were popular in the 70's and early 80's in what was then called romance. I've found very little in modern romance books that appeal to me.

Hey, who knows? Maybe I'll write some myself, and see if I can't start a resurgence of that type of material in epublishing. You see, that's where epublishing has it's greatest power -- the ability to publish material that would be too marginal for print because of the great cost of print publications.

As for only being a writer if another writer tells you that you are... I had to laugh at that one. Writers write. There are no other qualification for that title. Published authors are another matter, of course, and other writers have nothing to say over that, either. In fact, there are so many of them belittling the others in their fields that you'd probably come out about even for any writer on the 'Paula Guran are you a writer' test.

You know, it's a shame Emily Dickinson (among several others who were published posthumously) was never a writer during her own lifetime... Makes you kind of wonder what exactly she was when she penned those wonderful poems.

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