By Porter Anderson | @Porter_Anderson
From August 16, 2012
Part of my series of columns on publishing, Writing on the Ether, appearing Thursdays at the invitation of Jane Friedman at JaneFriedman.com
by Deirdre Gogarty & Darrelyn Saloom
In the 1980s, boxing is illegal for women in Ireland. But Deirdre Gogarty has only one dream: to be the first Irish woman to win a world boxing title. How can a shy, young misfit become a professional boxer in a country that bans women from the sport? Gogarty follows her calling to compete and journeys from the Irish Sea to the Gulf of Mexico, from outcast to center ring, from the depths of depression to the championship fight of her life.
“If you’ve ever wondered why and how people do extraordinary, almost impossible things, read My Call to the Ring. Deirdre Gogarty knocked me out with this book.”
—Ted Mann, former National Lampoon editor, television writer, and producer
Update: Laura Hazard Owen features The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl of my former home, Copenhagen, and Agnete Friis in her weekly eBook Bestseller Breakdown at paidContent. Here’s our Etherizing of Owen’s instructive, revealing series.
Greetings, Ethernaut, from the Tropic of Porter, where things have looked either chum or chump of late.
We’ve had a feeding frenzy, you know.
And we’ve had a more targeted, premeditated attack, too, by one of the biggest fish in this digital drowning pool.
It didn’t just look like a huge pair of spread jaws, it was a huge pair of spread jaws. Dripping seaweed and teeth, they rose some six hundred feet above the surface.
And what do we find VanderMeer writing now?
He‘s writing about us. About the industry! the industry! About this damned lagoon of ours.
The problem right now really isn’t the “tyranny” of big NYC commercial publishers or an Amazon monopoly. The problem is the virus of mediocre and received ideas coursing through the collective brains of the book world, infecting too many of its writers, commentators, reviewers.
VanderMeer goes on to list “a few prominent examples” in his article, Dreaming Well: Does the Future of Publishing Need More Imagination? Among his fancies of the misguided:
- War on copyright and the fervent belief that content should be free.
- Mega-selling self-published authors’ war on traditional publishing, specifically the Mighty Konrath…Any crusade against traditional publishing is selfish to the extreme—it wants to replace diverse ways to publication with One True Way.
- Advocating against the use of an agent…All I can say is, if you think agents are evil sycophants who want to suck all of your money out of you…I’ll be over in this corner getting a lot more done for more money because of my agent.
- “No one at New York publishing houses edits books any more.” This is something I really find to be propaganda in the worst sense.
- Claiming you know how things are going to look five years down the road and recommending strategies based on your Sacred Knowledge.
- Telling writers to establish some social media presence well in advance of finishing or selling a novel or other type of book. Another one-size-fits-all approach that isn’t useful for all writers or all kinds of books. For some writers, depending on their personality, it is downright destructive. For others, it is like being a hamster in a wheel trying to power your career, and expending lots of energy for little gain. Writers over-extending themselves, losing track of their art, all concerned that otherwise they’ll be rendered invisible.
Self-publishing is a tool and like any other tool it can be used well or poorly. Putting it on a pedestal is a pointless exercise.
As we near the feeding frenzy, I want you to pay close attention to this line:
Taken together, advocates for the wholesale dismantling of the current system and, to a lesser extent (lesser because it’s not as prevalent) other advocates who too frequently defend the inadequacies of the current system, represent the biggest threat to the majority of writers.
The mechanism of the problem:
By spreading a more-or-less ideological virus that is then repeated by ever-growing numbers of people who do not stop to analyze what they then put out there as gospel, a self-fulfilling prophecy occurs that may do long-term damage to the ability of writers to survive in this new age of publishing.
Near VanderMeer’s essay’s end:
We live in an exciting age for books, but the jury’s out on whether we’ll have enough imagination to make it a Renaissance or a Dying Fall…There must be better ideas out there, better ways of doing things. Before we become Locked In to just One Idea or Two Ideas.
It’s good to find VanderMeer’s eloquent intelligence in play at this point. You’ll get echoes of “spreading a more-or-less ideological virus” as we look at bad behavior, first from authors, then from a publisher.