Friday, April 25, 2014

The Tsunami of Crap is a Load of Crap

 I almost fell for it. It's easy to get caught up in the miasma of information, opinion and other stinky rubbish swirling about on the Internet. I follow a lot of industry blogs, and when you hear something over and over....and over, it has a tendency to sink in.

A lot of people are bemoaning the "tsunami of crap" spawned by the self-publishing revolution. (because of course there was no crap out there before....oh. Right.) It's partially true, I'm sure. Once something becomes cheap (or free) and very easy to do, you get a flood of claim jumpers. I love that term. You get old timers and newbies alike all rushing for the mother lode and they all have a shovel and a sluice and....

Well, that's a different story.

But when self publishing became cheap and easy...and somewhat effective. Everybody became an author. In fact, you didn't really even have to know how to write a book, because you could happily recover a public domain classic, post it everywhere with a mocked up publishing house name and go to town making money.

I'm not arguing that this isn't a bad idea. Bad. Bad bad.

Still, the reaction to this flood of quick-fic was a resounding wailing and pulling of hair. A rending of clothing and moaning about the death of the industry. The tsunami of crap would sweep us all away and literature would die a quick death by drowning in it's own....well you get it.

Except I don't think it works like that. Yes, readers will have to put on hip waders for awhile. Authors will have to shine brighter, but I don't believe for a second that the tsunami of crap can kill Literature because, you see, I have a fine arts background. (hard to believe, I know) Publishing is not the first art form to go through this, and I think it's pretty safe to say we can all relax.

A tsunami of crap will not drown literature. I have two words for anyone who thinks it will.

Bob Ross.

Now, to be fair to our happy squirrel friend, he wasn't the only one involved. My personal favorite was The Magic of Oil Painting. I spent hours in my youth listening to his heavily accented, "Darker, darker, darker." I learned how easy it was to paint, and so did the rest of the universe. In fact, for about two decades, everyone was an oil painter.

They churned out seascapes and mountain scenes in their living rooms by the metric ton! They painted flowers and still lives and....okay, mostly seascapes and mountains, but still. Oh, you'll say, but they didn't have the Internet, they didn't have the public eye....

Enter the family restaurant. I can't remember sitting in a restaurant as a child that wasn't virtually wallpapered in crappy oil paintings. They had pretty (god-awful!) frames and hearty price tags and suddenly everyone could be an artist.
I bet some of them sold too.
And you know what?

Fine Art is doing just fine. :)
Just. Fine.

Because it's not the same thing. And because eventually, the living room painters who realized they weren't making a ton of money quit, the ones who didn't care kept painting, for themselves, their families, whoever. The ones who were dead serious about their art got better...moved up, etc.

And the best part (I'm not cringing, I swear) is that a lot of people LIKED this living room art. They bought it and they enjoyed it and there isn't a damn thing wrong with that.

Art is taste based, people. Literature is taste based. We can set up a scaffold of craft and style and critical analysis, but in the end, people will want different things. People will like and appreciate different things. People will pay money for different things.

And if you don't believe me, cruise through Art History. Cruise through LITERARY history for that matter. What is good CHANGES. I know we hate this idea, but it's true. We may not even like what becomes the Literature of tomorrow. (I have my suspicions, and they look a lot like WHAT GAMERS WANT) We can strive to be our very best, and that is all we can do.

But worrying about the Bob Rossian rubbish  flooding our Amazon channels is wasted angst. Save that drama for the page. Literature will survive....but don't be surprised if it looks different afterwards. We can all focus on our own ability to adapt and relax a little about what other people are doing. Float along with the tsunami and just see what happens next before we get our knickers in a twist. Don't panic, just keep swimming. :)

"Darker, darker, darker."



Jaleta Clegg said...

Great post. I love how positive you are about all of this. I really think it's all a tempest in a teacup, myself. No one outside of the publishing industry really even noticed much.

So just keep writing, just keep editing, just keep telling good stories...

Frances Pauli said...

Thanks. I realize it's a simplistic argument. That art and industry are not the same thing and you can flood a market. However, the art world is similarly divided into "fine art" (read that literature) and "commercial art" or illustration (commercial fiction) and they have gone through the same sort of things we are. They have also stretched and survived and come out with some brilliant new dimensions. I hope the written world can rise to the challenge as well. I'm an optimist at heart. ;)