Extra-special thanks to Dave Freer over at Mad Genius Club for bringing my attention to this article in The Guardian by a self-published author named Alan Skinner. Mr. Freer’s translation from Newspeak to English can be found here.
Well, Mr. Skinner, you found me out.
Unlike yourself, who have managed (with no doubt Herculean effort) to transcend the draconian demands of the brutal marketplace to write stunningly original novels about a 15 year old girl who discovers that she has magical powers and changes from an awkward outsider to a powerful alchemist, I am a slavish imitator of the status quo.
Yes, I’ll admit it. I jumped on the William Burroughs pastiche bandwagon with no thoughts except for how to cash in. I am sure that from your ivory tower in which you agonize over how best to deconstruct literature you groaned to see yet another story of a middle-aged man possessed by an alien intelligence who killed his own family as a child. Just like every other action hero out there, I know.
Some of us, I sadly admit, do not have the sheer genius to come up with something entirely new like YA Fantasy and are forced to rely on the standard tropes of transsexual human-plant hybrids, centipedes of molten metal, and electrified frogs.
A series of novels about a magical land in peril that can only be saved by a chosen one? Truly earth-shaking–I could never have come up with something so revolutionary. Instead I focus on the tired old issues of how human relationships change as people change and what it means to be human, just like everyone else.
Yes, you are absolutely right. Self-publishing is the death of originality. If I had been forced to go through a traditional publisher I might have been able to come up with something new and exciting, just like the novels of John Grisham and Stephen King, none of which are anything like the others, or the novels of the traditional publisher’s mid-lists, which are so very different than their best-selling authors.
Instead I simply cater to the mass market, which is clamoring for the same old thing. More stories about quasi-mechanical undead contractors rehabbing riverboats and metallic security guards searching for a traitor in their ranks. Unlike traditional publishers that care nothing for money and publish Art for Art’s sake, I shamelessly jump on the “parasitic information organisms influencing human behavior” bandwagon to produce instant potboilers.
I am still new at my craft, Mr. Skinner, and lack your extensive experience as an investment banker. Perhaps one day I will be able to come up with a concept as brilliant as “Seven unlikely heroes set out to find the secret of the blue fire and the identity of the mysterious arsonist who will stop at nothing to destroy them all.”
Give me a chance.