Re: Dead Again?

File Name: 0014.FEM

  Msg#: 782                                          Date: 07-12-98  19:46
  From: Donna.                                       Read: Yes    Replied: No 
    To: All                                          Mark:                     
  Subj: Re: Dead Again?
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@RFC-X-B5: No one listens to Zathras.
From: "Donna." 
Reply-To: "Donna." 

On Wed, 1 Jul 1998, Marc Brode wrote:

>  Like I said about Kate Millett... want to get published? Write
>  something people want to read.

Wellllll, that doesn't quite accurately reflect the state of publishing. 
(I understand most within science fiction fandom already know what I'm
talking about, but here's a stab at explaining it to Everybody Else.) A
little more correct would be: 

"Want to get published?  Write something =the people with the power to
market it= are willing to market."

In the real world, marketing is what sells things.  Marketing is made
easier when coupled with name recognition, but forceful marketing can make
household names out of unknowns, a la Bradford Morrow on the literature

Witness VHS taking over Beta in the mass market.  Witness the IBM
outselling Apple in the early 1980s.  Witness the current state of the
_Star Trek_ franchise. All examples of form over function prospering in
the Real World of capitalism.

In publishing, it's little secret that bestsellers are made through PR,
not content.  The editors at a house decide which few titles they're going
to pour most of their marketing budget at, and those are the titles for
which they get the authors to go on book-signing tours, talk show spots,
etc.  The buzz, then, makes the sales. 

Stephen King tells a story about, after achieving fawning adoration from
publishing circles, trying to sell a story without his name on it.  He
couldn't.  Slapped his name on it, and it got bought immediately.  Not
because it was good, but because King's name was on it.  And let's not
forget his _Bachman Books_, a collection of short stories he couldn't sell
as a beginning writer but which earned beaucoup bucks for his publisher
once he gained name recognition and the stories were marketed with King's
name attached.

(Lest my intent be misconstrued here, I'm not saying King's a bad writer.
I'm off my King kick for now, but I still respect his writing.  However,
the world is full of good writers who most of us will never read ...
because, for one reason or another, they're unable to convince someone
with power and a big advertising budget to take a chance on them.)

Oprah Winfrey broke the mold a little bit when, by dint of =her= cult of
personality, she managed to make bestsellers out of sleepers just by
recommending them to her Book Club.  But that =still= didn't solve the
problem, it only gave publishers one more venue to explore for their PR
campaigns: convince Winfrey that such-and-such title is A Good Read.

To get specifically feminist about it, since the invention of porn we've
been told that only men are interested in visual porn, which is why there
are picture books for men's fantasies and romance novels for women's
fantasies.  The argument goes that "women won't buy visual porn, so we
won't make it".  Yeah, well, the same sorts people who make that argument
USED to tell us that women didn't have any sexuality at all, so there's an
idea how illogical their thinking is.  I'm not intimate with the genre cuz
personally I don't go in for porn of any kind, but every so often I run
into (1) het women who buy porn aimed at gay males cuz that's the only
kind of beefcake they can find, and (2) het women who create visual porn
for other het women.  I try sometimes to help these two groups meet each
other, but that's not always easy to do; a lot of it still goes on under
the table, even these days.  The point is that I'm sitting here knowing
that there truly is a market for visual porn aimed at het women, but as
I'm not a big publishing house sitting on a huge marketing budget there's
little I can do, personally, about it.  Meanwhile, the women who create
this stuff have trouble selling it, not cuz it's bad, but cuz they're also
not sitting on huge advertising budgets, so they rely a lot on
word-of-mouth, and the women who like to buy this stuff often have trouble
finding it, cuz they might not know the people who spread word-of-mouth
about visual porn. 

For the power of Taking Chances, I'll point back to science fiction
television.  The same decade that gave us _Star Trek_ also gave us _Lost
in Space_, _Time Tunnel_, _Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea_, and other
series with good, healthy runs, often longer than _Trek_'s run.  Yet it
was _Trek_ that got One Person to persist in a letter-writing campaign, a
few other people to do conventions, a few others who got their fan fiction
spread around, and that kind of stuff kept the _Trek_ buzz alive.  After
the movies, when Roddenberry decided to try television again, _The Next
Generation_'s success convinced other studios to give SF a try.  Only,
instead of opening the door to other SF, what the viewing public got was a
lot of attempts to clone _Trek_.  And, as with most clones, most of it was
shlock.  Enter _Babylon 5_.  Studio after studio turned it down, "because
it isn't anything like _Star Trek_, and we know _Star Trek_ sells".
Finally Warner Bros. gave it a chance -- but only through syndication,
where they could afford to take the risk -- and the show created enough
buzz that it was worth a bit of merchandising, a level no other SF
television show (outside of cartoons aimed at kids with the intention of
marketing Stuff to them) had yet achieved.  And now, with the end of
_Babylon 5_ not quite upon us, other shows are trying to clone IT.  The
current _Trek_ series have been obviously influenced by B5's arc; _Earth: 
Final Conflict_ was decided to be a predetermined arc as well, despite the
fact that Roddenberry's original notes apparently didn't call for that
type of treatment; and now all sorts of B5 elements are cropping up all
over the tube, even outside of SFTV.  All because one studio took a

When it comes to feminist-style writing, what's "in" these days is
Trashing Old Guard Feminism.  If one does not wish to whine against men
for _Ms._, one can whine against one's mothers and grandmothers for every
other mainstream publisher. The only other option, which Millett seems to
have chosen, is writing for alternative press.  Now, alternative press
doesn't have the same profit potential as mainstream shlock, but I notice
a raging business around it, suggesting (1) people do wish to read it, and
(2) people are willing to pay money for it.  Personally, I wish Millett,
Ehrenreich, et. al would discover self-publishing, but then they'd have to
get into marketing their work, and in my experience most writers don't
make the best agents, n'est ce pas?

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