Friday, July 24, 2015

Ranting - Books Edition

A couple of weeks ago, while panicking about my impending failure as a post-graduate kid with no work experience and a short temper, I asked the question, "do people even read anymore?"

It's been on my mind for a while. At bookstores, I see people browsing before they head for the cafe. In Goodreads and YouTube, there's some energetic talk of YA releases and the like, but they don't seem to pop up that often. People are obsessed over movie adaptations and that's about the only thing that can help boost your book to wider audiences. It mostly seems nowadays that the only people keeping the industry afloat are other writers. Do you know how quickly the film industry would become obsolete if the only ones who watched movies were filmmakers? Granted, film takes more money and people to make an individual product, but it seems somewhat comparable.

The comic book industry is apparently in the toilet. The sales are mostly taken from older white men--basically, people who've been reading comic books since they were teenagers. If you ever wonder why DC and Marvel is spending so much time and effort in the cinematic universes, it's because of that--it's their way to stay in business.

Today, my parents got into a bit of an argument with my brother because he's not reading. Thing is--and I wonder if I did the right thing pointing this out--they're not reading either. My mom, a previously voracious reader who could get through literary classics before she'd even turned thirteen, would rather unwind with a K-drama. My dad has Netflix and Destiny. He probably hasn't finished a book in years.

I don't blame them for it--they work hard and I don't have a right to judge them for whatever medium of entertainment they pick, but it worries me. Worries me that a family that's always been supportive of their writer daughter, that had life long readers as the heads of the household, and that has always understood the importance and power in literature just...doesn't read.

I guess reddit put me down a little bit. There are plenty of people who proclaim rather proudly they don't read anymore, or who seem resigned to it like it's out of their hands. And those who do seem more interested in reading mostly just read successful books or those written at least 30 or so years ago. (The older they are, the more they're recommended).

This isn't, "I'll never be rich from my books." This isn't even, "I'll never make decent money from my books." This is me afraid that publishing is just not going to get anywhere. That there won't be anything left in a short while.

Is that paranoid? Probably. But I am a paranoid person. And understanding the absurdity of your worries isn't the same as getting over them.

Last thing that really made me worry was when I was reading something from another author. Her name's Danielle L Jensen and she wrote a YA fantasy called Stolen Songbird. There was a lot of buzz for this book a year or two ago, and I ordered it having high expectations for it. I did like it--haven't gotten the sequel yet, not sure if I'll be getting to it--and decided to look up the author.

Turns out her sequel almost didn't get published because the imprint responsible for Stolen Songbird was closed down. It just wasn't making any money. Jensen was left without a book contract. For six months, Stolen Songbird was out of print--in both online bookstores and places like Barnes and Noble.

But it sold. Word of mouth got out and people ordered e-books during that time. It was such a best seller that the adult sci-fi and fantasy imprint of her publishing house picked up Stolen Songbird's sequel and managed to publish Hidden Huntress.

It's good news for her, but it almost didn't happen. And what about the other authors in that YA imprint? Are they scrambling to find a publishing house that will take them? What did they do?

I know the road is hard. I know, I know, I know. And I'm not claiming I will ever stop writing if it turns out the industry collapses even before I get good enough for a contract. But it doesn't make it hurt any less.

Right now, after scavenging around for a Lois McMaster Bujold book to give to my brother, my mom sat down and started reading it again. I kind of decided if she's going to try and make my brother start reading again, she should give it a go too. It's been a while since I've seen her with a book in her hands. I offered her a trade. I'd take The Curse of Chalion off her hands and she could read Stormdancer--it was literally the only book I could think of giving her. I read it, liked it, know it's not perfect, but it was entertaining. And that's what I need literature to be--fun. Call me shallow, but that's what I want.

About a page in she kind of started complaining about the writing in Stormdancer.

And I got absurdly offended. It's so ridiculous because there are a million other books she could pick up instead. But it happened because if she dislikes it and she can't get into it, and I know in comparison that I'm way behind Rule of Cool entertainment in the prose level...then she'll never read nor like my books.

It's irrational. I'll admit it's irrational and deluded and I can't compare myself to other writers or worry about the industry all the time or even let my fears of my life and future push me away from writing. But I'm unable to distance myself from those thoughts, and as the mess that is Vanguard's Exodus comes to a close, I wonder if I'm just not cut-out for this. Adulthood, publishing, what have you.

Patience would help. A lot. But I've never had that, even in better times.
~Becky

EDIT: Here's the blog post Jensen put up a few weeks back. The first video has her talking about the struggle to get Hidden Huntress out.

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.