This post is prompted by something that Amanda said on the comments to her post, yesterday: that traditional publishing should have seen the writing on the wall when their midlist writers started leaving en-masse for indie, but instead they lashed out and called writers widgets and said we could be replaced by others just like us… which is true… to a point. The point is what they were missing: that things had changed, that there were other avenues, that the ones wedded to the old system and willing to be treated as widgets would be a self-selected population, and even those would probably not be willing to eat as much dirt as the rest of us did, when there was no other alternative.
Humans aren’t good at perceiving change, or perceiving conditions they’re not equipped to deal with by experience.
I’ve been in two earthquakes in m life, one majorish, one minor. Both of them scared me so much that 17 years ago I nixed a highly advantageous move to California, because earthquakes. (Turns out the decision was great, even if I made it for stupid reasons.)
The first earthquake I lived through, I was either 3 or 6 (these things run together in my mind) and it was pretty major, in that some houses in the village were severely damaged (stone houses, mind.) I slept through it, and woke up on the street, in my brother’s arms, blinking at all our neighbors in their pajamas or less. (Grandad got his foot stuck in the guzunder, which was fortunately clean, but he ran down the stairs wearing a chamber-pot shoe because no one wanted to be caught in the house, in case it collapsed.
Apparently, if the house had collapsed both brother and I would have died, because having bravely pulled me out of the bed, he then spent precious minutes running back and forth from front to back door in my parents’ shotgun apartment (made out of what used to be my grandparents’ grain-and-other storage rooms) because he couldn’t decide which way to go out. Remember he was a teen and we’d never had an Earthquake drill.
Years later (I think I was 21 or so, as I was already engaged to Dan) I was studying for finals, in my room, when the Earthquake hit. My first thought wasn’t that the house was shaking (even though it visibly was) but that I was so tired I was hallucinating it. Then I realized it was really shaking, and headed for the stairs. And then the phone rang, and I FELL down the stairs, counting the last flight (nine or so stairs) on my behind. (Fortunately cushioned there.) It was a miracle I didn’t break a leg. The ridiculous thing is that the phone call was my dad, who was up north where the earthquake hit first, and who was trying to warn me.
Note that Portugal is mildly disposed to Earth quakes. (For years, the North has been waiting…. er…. expecting Lisbon to slide into the sea.) In the North there are fewer than in the south, so ever ten or twenty years or so. Meaning they’re not unknown, and you know they could hit at any minute, but they’re rare enough that your back brain interprets them as impossible. Hence my brother’s reaction. And mine.
Which is why people do fire drills, and Earthquake drills, and should be doing nuclear attacks drills again, too, and more sanely.
Because unless this is trained into your backbrain you don’t recognize it. Because humans have got where we are through being REALLY good at identifying patterns like “if Ogg go play with tiger, Ogg get eaten.” Other animals learn too, of course, but we have this thing called language to dissiminate this stuff far and wide.
But we’re not good at knowing when the pattern changes. (We’re also vulnerable to faux patterns, aka faulty logic, and since, say, communism is internally consistent as a philosophy — though it has bloody nothing to do with the real world — people fall for it.) All our adaptations are double edged swords, of course.
So, five? Six? years ago I heard an editor who is actually smart saying that this indie thing wouldn’t last. When writers realized how much work was involved in covers, editing, publicity, dealing with sites, they’d come crawling back to editors and ask them to take it all over.
By then, I was already doing some indie, and knew a lot of people who were doing more. Our covers weren’t very good or trivially easy, but we were learning. And covers were the BIGGEST sticking point. (We’ve got better. The insert is novel hopefully coming out next month.) Because we, midlisters, were already doing everything else. We were having to pay to have our traditional books proofread (and this was difficult, as sometimes they got messed up after that.) We were already doing whatever publicity our books got. And the sites were way easier to deal with than publishing houses.
So I stared in some shock, that someone smart didn’t see that this process which, yes, used to take an entire publishing house and trained staff, had in fact got so massively easier, due to automation, that it could be a one man job. And that those of us who weren’t getting the star treatment didn’t really have any reason to go through the process. Well, okay, some reason, SOMETIMES. There are personal loyalties, etc. BUT we certainly didn’t need to eat live frogs to get this stuff done for us, anymore. Which is a massive game changer.
I don’t particularly blame publishing house personnel for not seeing it, either, really. It’s like me looking at my books shaking in the bookcase above the desk and thinking it was just me being tired. It’s not just that they know how many resources producing books took, it’s that they’re still surrounded by sycophantic wanna bes who think they’ll only be “real authors” if a house publishes them. In the deluge they’re likely to miss that the quality of these ah… widgets has changed, and that people with a spine are not willing to break it for no better than “publication” anymore. And PW and other publications who also can’t face the truth of the Earthquake under their feet don’t help things with stuff like “paper books are coming back, they really are.”
Now, when I talk of the changes that technology and the net have introduced in the last fifteen or so years, I usually illustrate with publishing. It’s what I know better. But it’s not just publishing.
The truth is that even those of us who believed the long march through the institutions had put a hard left cadre at the head of most things are shocked at how far this has gone, and are listening to the news about the FBI and the DOJ in something akin to stunned shock. And listening to the “defenses” of these things with even more stunned shock.
To me the whole thing looks like bullies who had been used to beating up weaker and smaller kids behind the shed, and suddenly the shed has gone transparent. A lot of this was known (maybe not this much. Okay, nowhere near this much) but couldn’t be discussed or admitted, because if you wanted to do anything you had to go past that shed and take your beating.
Now you don’t. New media/blogs/indie have carved new paths. Our brethren in education and movies are still prisoners, but I suspect it’s for less time than they expect. Actually than anyone sane expects.
This ground is moving really fast. Things are falling and rising up again. And no one sees it clearly.
Of course, after 100 years of getting in position to control all of society (the only way socialism/communism can even PRETEND to work) the left is not going to take this calmly. To the extent they’re waking up to how things are changing, they’re fighting back like weasels in a sack. This is not going to be pretty.
I keep reading and in the back of my mind I’m expecting a “black day” like the revolution in Friday by Robert A. Heinlein. A lot of assassinations and people disappearing from public life, and you don’t know why or which side is which.
I get that feeling that it’s time to assume the crash position and get ready for impact. Now, this “time” might be one or two years. It’s a blink of an eye in human affairs. But I think a great scouring, a great upheaval and shaking is coming, and when it’s past we won’t even recognize the business, or political, or even daily life landscape.
In the end, we win, they lose. Mostly because our philosophy is more aligned with reality.
BUT no one promised us a rose garden, and no one promised there would be no earthquakes.
Just try to run to safe ground, and mind you, don’t step in the guzzunder.