Saturday, August 24, 2013

Getting Published After Years of Writing Character Driven Fiction

You heard the story of the rock band that was discovered after touring the Midwest for six months.

"Man, we paid our dues," said the lead singer, complaining about the bad food and long nights.

Well try 25 years of perfecting your chops, man.

I finally managed to get a publisher interested in my work. When I was 25 I dropped out of film school after getting my funding for a short film axed in mid edit. I turned to my IBM word processor, (that's quaint, isn't it?) comforting myself with the notion that nobody could take that away from me, and quickly sent off my Raymond Carver inspired short story to an editor at Esquire magazine in the mail. I never saw it again. That black hole of obscurity was an experience that would be repeated over a 25 year period and three continents, as I made my way as a journalist, activist, and teacher, never losing my faith in the power of words to evoke the nugget of truth, the Flannery O'Connor epiphany, the New Yorker mood of revealed truth about the human condition through concise and intuitive writing.

This week I signed a contract with a small publisher, Harvard Square Editions, to bring out SAVIOR, a dystopian thriller, as an ebook. SAVIOR takes place in an alternative present time, with a stagnant America beset by a powerful and evil international narcotics trading organization intent on acquiring a lethal weapon of massive, destructive, civilization-ending capability. I had a lot of fun writing it, and it shows. My move away from a purely literary, introspective, character driven writing process is no accident. As a self-publisher, I have discovered first hand that the audience for today's works of fiction is not driven by the dictates of critics or mainstream publishers steeped in the teachings of our educational establishments. Instead, the proliferation of ebooks and new reading technologies like the Amazon Kindle are growing a mass reading audience that prefers, in the words of W.H. Auden, "entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and then replaced with a new dish." I won't pretend to pontificate on the merits of genre fiction as opposed to mainstream, "literary" fiction. I just finished reading Michael Chabon's excellent collection of essays on this subject, Maps and Legends, and I will quote from it here to give a feeling for where I think we are going:

"All literature, highbrow or low, from the Aeneid onward, is fan fiction...Through parody and pastiche, allusion and homage, retelling and reimagining the stories that were told before us and that we have come of age loving - amateurs - we proceed, seeking out the blank places in the map that our favorite writers, in their greatness and negligence, have left for us, hoping to pass on to our own readers, should we be lucky enough to find any, some of the pleasure that we ourselves have taken in the stuff we love: to get in on the game. All novels are sequels. "

So I am plotting out a sequel, a Book Two of the Savior trilogy, and this will indeed take place in a future of the imagination. As the architect of this future world, I am delighted and can't wait to put it together and watch it blow apart. Writing was never this much fun.

Let's take it a step further, let's crowd source the vision. What are your favorite trends and technologies that you think will shape the world out to the year 2075? Send in your suggestions. Here's a partial list of my own.

1. Climate change driving an autocratic, benign world government behind the ethic of sustainability and geo-engineering.
2. Mood enhancing drugs individualized to DNA allowing massive public narcotization.
3. Virtual reality gaming as a relief valve and the major preoccupation of the potentially rebellious young
4. Public transport based on Elon Musk tubes connecting major hubs
5. Sanctioned, off the grid communes based on monastic, Christian and Buddhist denial of desires.
6. Personal communication devices with variable ability to detect movement inside buildings, moods, and thoughts, depending on a person's rank.

That'll give you a taste of what's coming. I'd share the plot points with you, but I'm still old-fashioned enough to believe that it's a writer's job to be on the job in the confines of his own head, for the most part.

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