Sunday, October 7, 2012

In Denial

MOST WRITERS and even many undergrounders are in denial about the nature of the established literary and media worlds, and the character of the individuals who inhabit those worlds.

Those highly-placed individuals live in a narrowly constructed, hierarchical, and very competitive environment. They've been trained to be ruthlessly conformistly competitive since the age of three. Ethics? What's that? They're amoral by philosophy. Ruthless to the verge of sociopathy.

How do you think they view undergrounders and other outsider writers?

The biggest mistake the outsider can make is believing the literary Insider has the same worldview you do.

Clueless underground writers sometimes believe that if only we're polite to the bigs, they'll be polite to us. They're waiting to welcome us into their tent! This notion couldn't be more wrong.

Those well-placed within the system, who assume their own talent and importance, look upon all underground writers not of their station as literary insects. "Losers," "bottom feeders," and all the other appelations that were heaped upon our heads because we dared demand to be treated as equals.

From the establishment standpoint, they have no choice but to scorn us. To think and behave otherwise would be to deny their lives. To deny their expensive education and training, and whatever positions they've obtained.

Literary rebels have a second strike against us, in that we're a threat. We're insects that could possibly be harmful to them, and so they'll continue trying to stomp us out.

Why then run a ULA-style campaign? Is there a way to succeed? Are the odds too great?

Those within the system are practical. They've been trained to assess weakness and power, to smell out power and attract themselves to power. It's the way of their world.

Undergrounders gain respect only through exhibited strength. The more leverage we create for ourselves and demonstrate, the closer we come to being treated as equals.

Or, we need to have, and present, total credibility.

The idea that we can approach the obsolete but hugely powerful battleships of the literary establishment in a rickety and goofy underground boat, waving signs of politeness and saying, "Hey, guys!" in a friendly way is an absurdity. We'd be blown out of the water, or more likely, simply run over, to disappear under the waves. We have to see the world as it exists in reality.

They'll respect us if we carry torpedoes.


JeffOYB said...

Hmmm, I don't see them ever respecting us. We'll likely only get respect from one or two critics. I put reviewers and critics in different categories. Critics are a larger sort, capable of broader thought. Man, we really need to find oneathem! Respect from today's Lit writers and profs? OK, maybe from a couple of them -- but, really, they might never make a peep. But that's irrelevant! Coverage of the conflict is really all that we need.

Dan H., the zinester who always hassles us in zine forums, has a bit of a point in that we need the positive and the negative. We need the Bigs to respond to our challenges, but they are dysfunctional otherwise -- for themselves and for us. They couldn't deliver anything of value to us if they wanted to. THEY have lost the reading public. They aren't fun to be around. But they're still a relevant pipeline for a certain amount of buzz, which, if it got traction there, would spin out to the wider public.

Actually, if we got buzz anywhere else, it would feed back into the Lit scene, if that mattered. But it might not. Buzz in the regular world is far better. The Lit scene is really only of value to us as a negative sounding board.

We'll need to build connections reaching around all that -- allies in the indie arts scenes.

Heck, I would REALLY like to get readers of "Field & Stream" noticing a Lit type of novel again. When they buzz they have a pro-active buzz -- no snark there. If they like, they support.

It's been a long, dry spell between the arts and the hook'n'bullet crowd! But that's only one sector of the public who's been hung out to dry, who's been given only Grisham and Clancy for decades. Any sector would do.

Anyway, I don't think we need anyone's respect for the noise-machine to work. If we lay the contrasts out there. Shed some light on the sausage-making. The wild ruckus will begin again.

I can provide some material worth reading, in both print and eBook formats. I can provide a website and a forum.

Now all we need is for a few other folks to raise their hands. We'll need a volunteer for PR, for webmastering, for forum moderation, for editing. Then we're good. Start small. Explode.

JeffOYB said...

PS: Then we need to find allies, fans, readers, thinkers. They're out there! We actually have a fair number of them -- we just gotta get em to say so on Amazon, first off. (But I don't know as we need the respect of those we attack. We do need aspects of the System to respond and show our challenges and the reactions to them.)

PPS: Ah, you probably mean "respect" as more like "willing to acknowledge existence of" or willingness to engage as fair rival. Not as appreciate in a positive way. Oh well, different aspects... all with useful aspects to consider.

...And then the main angle is to ACT. I've stated a couple times now the definite way I'm willing to act. And I've acted along those lines recently, to move the ball forward. You got that great letter run. What next?

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

While we agree somewhat on goals, Jeff, we have differences on tactics.
My idea is to go back to the way the ULA was originally run, up to 2002 or so-- not the ineffective team that followed.
There are set ways to get attention, gain allies, etc. It's not to compartmentalize. Not at the outset. To kickoff a new ULA we'll need everyone engaged in p.r. P.r. isn't just part of the game, or most of the game. It's the entire game. Everything else-- books, web site, have to complement the p.r. and feed into the p.r.
This is something I'm prepared to explain further, when I lay out my plan, but not now.
But I'll give an example.
I've been countering Tom Bissell's false narrative on us in every possible venue. Recently on Goodreads. I haven't gotten to Amazon. Why don't you and the two Pats go on there and defend the ULA with comments? Address those pro-Bissell remarks which specifically applaud his ULA essay. That's what i did on Goodreads.
Anything we do carries more weight if there's more than one guy doing it.
This is what advocacy is all about. Alone, we each have a small voice. But if we stand on our hind legs and shout together we'll make some noise.
The first part of any campaign is advocacy-- on our own behalf and on the behalf of writers like us.
THAT's how we'll draw attention and allies.
(Also see my exchange with Maria Bustillos on the ATDP blog.)

JeffOYB said...

I agree that everything complements everything else and that without attention we're nowhere. I don't think of it as compartmentalizing so much as each doing what they can. I can do PR and did a ton of it for the ULA in both early days and after, but I have less time for it now and so can support the cause in the ways I mention. Heck, if I'd had 99¢ eBooks out (and eIssues of Slush Pile) when your letter came out that might've been quite helpful -- better than paper, in ways. I agree that it would be great to have an Action Team to pitch in on the PR like we used to have. We would often have several or more of us teaming up whenever attacked or when we found a good place for making ULA advances. It worked great. It would be super to find a couple others who might pitch in, you're right. It's key. I agree. But I'll be pushed to my limit just to hold up the aspect I mention. I know that it's a slight leap forward over the most urgent need, but at least if we do find a couple who will pitch in we won't be without product to show people like last time. I'll be ready with product this time. We also will be non-restarters if we don't see hands raised for webmaster, forum-moderator, etc. POSSIBLY if we can find a little excitement I could pitch in on some PR -- respond to those various Bissell book reviews that pile on to the ULA. You're right: it's a first base project. I do care about it. So we have you and me. Anyone else out there? Pat or Pat?

JeffOYB said...

ps: Of course, you haven't said what you'd do, right, Karl? Hedging, hesitation, timing, etc. But that's just your style and so maybe we should just roll with it. You've given an idea of a first project -- to defend the ULA re Bissell in blogosphere/Amazonland. I'm saying what I'm prepared to do. With maybe a little extra thrown in if the thrill comes back. Anyone else in?

King Wenclas said...

In fact I've already said too much, publicly, about what I'd do, and will say more. Seeing as we're a good six months away from any credible launch, there's no hurry. Promotion anyway is about the dribbling out of information. You never show your hand from the get-go.
I don't have the time or energy I once had either. That's why I'll seek to use my time-- and yours-- as effectively and efficiently as possible. To do this we'll all have to be on the same page. Cohesion is a must.
Be patient. I'll have more to say about all of this.