Pulp, Porn, Punk: Antistyle Artistic Movements As A Function Of The Cost Of Technology

This year’s great controversy is between Traditional Publishing and Independent Publishing.  To sum up a great many words into a pair of drastic oversimplification,

Traditional Publishing: “Independent Publishing is no good because the production standards aren’t as good as Traditional Publishing.” 

Independent Publishing: “Independent Publishing can be  good because the production standards can be as good as or better than Traditional Publishing.” 

After having read many, many words written to support or attack both of those positions, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t care, because all those people are fighting the wrong fight.

The question that isn’t being asked is, “How much do production standards really matter to readers?”

In a gross sense, of course they matter.  A book that is unreadable is not going to have any readers.  However, as we parse the issue in increasingly finer scales, we reach a point where we are dealing with issues that are of great importance to editors and matter somewhat to writers, but most readers don’t care much about.

To illustrate, let’s look at other cases where the decreasing cost of technology opened the door to lowered production standards.

Paperback printing technology allowed for cheap books, which created a market for genre fiction churned out in vast quantities.  Production values suffered, not just in terms of the physical books but in terms of the editing and book design.  Readers, however, gobbled up paperbacks by the millions.

Drive-in movies created a market for cheap, quickly made films.  Companies like American International and House Of Hammer sprang up to fill that need.

Then came VCRs and the death of the Drive-in.  Some companies adapted to direct to video, some didn’t, and new companies like Full Moon (producers of the Demonic Toys and Puppetmaster series among others) sprang up.

The music industry has been hit with a series of drastic shocks, beginning in the 1980’s when the cost of production started going down, leading to Malcolm McLaren inventing Punk Rock and minting pots of money in the process.

Then CD burners hit the market, followed by peer-to-peer file sharing, and suddenly not only did everyone have a band, all of them recorded albums.

The point to all this is that there are more important things than production values.  The raw energy of an album like The Dead Kennedy’s Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables shows how powerful an antistyle aesthetic can be when combined with a passionate disregard for the way that things “should” be done.

Underground comics, Art House Films, Pulp Magazines–the history of media is full of the successes of artist who were more concerned with what was possible than what is permitted.

The root word of media is “medium”–that which stands between the extremes of artist and audience.  The voice and vision of the artist is transmitted through the media, sometimes well, sometimes poorly, but what is important is the relationship between artist and audience.

The professionals in the Industries–publishing, music, film–get hung up on the quality of medium and forget the relationship.  So they have a way of producing beautiful books that no one wants to read.

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About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire, On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Pulp, Porn, Punk: Antistyle Artistic Movements As A Function Of The Cost Of Technology

  1. The relationship with the reader is most important. I totally agree with you. If readers like it who cares where it came from. Nicely said.

  2. Dave Higgins says:

    Possibly arguing over quality is a displacement reaction: many writers find sales/advertising the least enjoyable part of the profession; whereas, focusing on quality and writing about quality all falls within our primary interest, expressing the picture in our head to someone else.

  3. M.Gate says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. We are witnessing a great change in the way artist can deliver their work. Now everyone is making movies, creating video games, and writing novels. It’s gonna be crazy, but I like crazy 😈

  4. sknicholls says:

    I loved this post Misha. Right on the money, yet again.

    My daughter and her one time boyfriend produced an underground music CD and traveled across Canada from Montreal to Vancouver promoting it. They earned just enough money to get to the homeless shelter in the next town, slept on park benches and in her car. They even managed to get the CD to the Canadian Top 4 for a few days. While I was frightened for her. I never underestimated the value of the learning experience.

    We have readers whom we owe a degree of respect to, but the point is: We have readers, many of which are very glad that our work might not fit into the traditional publishing realm of material. If they are satisfied, who bloody rotten well gives a damn how the satisfying material was produced. If it is was something that did not fit into the specified box, but pleased people none the less, then it is like art, Pollock or Rembrandt, but art none the less. As writers we are all artists.

  5. Pingback: Creative Expression to Collectively Open Minds | S.K. Nicholls

  6. As a voracious reader, I can say both traditionally published books and self published books have mistakes in them. Editing is the true missing piece on whether a book is easy to read or not. A poorly edited (or unedited) book makes me want to quit reading. If the story line is compelling enough, I stick with it, but if the non editing gets in the way, I may never know the storyline was good. I’m a huge supporter of indie authors. But they need editors. Everyone needs an editor.

  7. Matt M says:

    Wow! This looks cool! I’m looking forward to reading your posts!
    Nicely Done!
    Matt

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