We all know that it’s typical – even required, and yes, fashionable – for writers at some juncture to balk about some aspect of the publishing industry. I was going to say bitch, but that makes us look… well, rather self-indulgent with persecution complications, doesn’t it?
In my four-part epic-noir-satire saga, FORWARD TO GLORY, I very much enjoyed making a satirical approach, which is, in all modesty, the most difficult of my three tonal choices to pull off, as far as telling my tale is concerned. It’s definitely an art that I can only attempt to achieve.
That said, I was satirical, or pretty wry when considering what peeves me about the pub biz. I know I’m in good company, because all throughout the community of writers, not only are peeves typical/required/fashionable, they are almost always valid, especially when considered individually, objectively, and impartially (if at all possible).
I have no Top Ten or Top Any Number list, but the first one that strikes me is the Communication Problem. Or, substituting the milder, more vague ‘issue’ for ‘problem’, the Communication Issue, looms largest. The persistent triceratops in the room. For we non-J.K. Rowling/Stephen King/Oprah-level folks (perfectly fine by me), it seems that all too often, publishers feel entitled to be negligent – or is it just innocently forgetful? – in carrying out a decently normal correspondence. Yes, email is flaky and all that, but the ease of whipping off a concise, if not terse, response to an expectant author is insultingly obvious. But alas, shunning this convenience is a snub all too common in our barely-under-control/usually-out-of-control communication universe of today.
Oh, I know, publishers (and I use the term generically) are so overwhelmed, so loaded down, so abused, so wronged, surely such a regular onslaught renders authors’ ravings as crass egomania, readily dismissed to zones below any rotting slush pile.
OK, we could rattle on with much more vaudevillian posturing (totally appropriate) in conveying this quasi-etiquette, but what would be the purpose of such a dead-end game?
Granted, The Industry (which is what the motion picture industry likes to be called, as if no Fuji Heavy Industries, et al, existed) is pretty much wholly-owned by the mega-corporations, whether it’s the buzzard-like visage of Rupert Murdoch, still clawing for more territory to prove that his penis is still competitive, or the nouveau practices of an already prematurely-aging Jeff Bezos.
Such a dreary systematic landscape means, of course, that those who toil beneath such overarching and banal pinwheels must toe the party line. You know, lest they lose their gig. And that toehold in Trump Tower. Or that dream-chateau in second-string Loire country. This may sound like I’m a cynical dude, but rest assured, they’re the cynical ones – the corporate support units who place their own sorry asses’ first and literary activity a distant second. Lovers of literature are, at least until I have been properly notified to the contrary, a seemingly vanished race.
And why shouldn’t they be cynical? That’s what the corporate mentality does: it further isolates people into their self-preservation obsessions before all else, and forces conformity into the imperative of maximum profits all the time, and at all cost – whatever that may mean.
One of the glorious traditions of American literature, at least in the mid-20th-century context, was to explore new avenues of expression. And if any weren’t mainstream or huge money-makers, they could still be nurtured, as any anticipated niche audiences were respected, even though the takings might be modest. And there have been many noble publishers who have sought to realize such a dream, but the herculean task usually proves too much.
By the same token, the film industry has been a companion example in this respect. For decades, Jack L. Warner, of the studio emblazed with his name, the most cheap-ass mogul in the biz, fostered a ‘B’ picture unit that was extremely profitable for the studio. For a time in the period after, there was an adventurous movement in Hollywood that facilitated alternative film-making, which indeed yielded enough returns to cover costs, and served as support entities for talent to develop and move on to greater (and admittedly more profitable) achievements. In short, an incubator for exploring new frontiers.
Today, however, as has been the case a long time now, in their hermetic, corporately-owned mind-boxes, all that the studios expect are blockbusters, mainly designed for ‘tween’ audiences, as that’s where the consumer money is. This corollary naturally applies to the publishing industry, as it is equally enchained by corporate interests.
So that’s my main bitch about the publishing industry: that its corporate control has smothered creativity, and as long as whatever replaces it makes money – huge money – that’s all that matters.
Any other peeve that might happen to the surface is surely rendered insignificant in comparison to this dead-end strategy and its consequences.
– Brian Paul Bach
Butterbugs is a nobody, a nothing. But that’s not why he’s compelled to drive to Hollywood and hurl himself upon the mercy of the cinematic capital. His only dream is to act. Without any plans, resources or friends, he throws caution to the wind and embarks on a journey to the City of Angels. The trials that result pose only one question: will Butterbugs remain a non-entity, or will his big dream come true?
Facing the movie monolith’s prospects alone, Butterbugs attempts to perform dramatic scenes in front of the homeless and amongst the inebriated. Living in his car, and with dwindling reserves, he searches for opportunities, takes on a hazardous scaffolding job, and makes desperate pleas to bankers for clemency. Isolation leads to alienation, from fringe existence to bare survival, all in a city which cradles high achievement and bottomless failure. Despite his rough start, Butterbugs is strangely attractive to other outcasts turned possible allies: Heatherette – a mysterious force for good whom he weirdly rejects, and who in turn, rejects him; Starling – the thief who tries to love him; ProwlerCat – who might indeed save him, though it is far too early to know for sure. At one of his bleakest moments, Butterbugs receives his first sign of hope that his dreams remain alive: a screen test and the chance to be an extra in a major production. But now, with his first opportunity in hand, nothing seems as it should, except his going forward.
Abundant with movie lore and invention, Forward to Glory I: Tempering by Brian Paul Bach is an ode to the cinema and the bewitching power of entertainment.
Brian Paul Bach is a writer, artist, filmmaker, and photographer; he has worked across the entertainment business, in theatre, music and as an academic. He now lives in central Washington State with his wife, Sandra. His previous works include The Grand Trunk Road From the Front Seat, Calcutta’s Edifice: The Buildings of a Great City, and Busted Boom: The Bummer of Being a Boomer.