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From: "Chris" 
Subject: Re: (urth) GW sightings
Date: Thu, 14 Aug 2003 17:50:50 +0000

>On Wednesday, August 13, 2003, at 09:57  PM, Lisa Schaffer-Doggett wrote:
>>On Wednesday, August 13, 2003, at 08:43 AM, MBS 808 wrote:
>>>GW mention: In today’s climate, an acknowledged master
>>>like Gene Wolfe would never have gotten a second or
>>>third novel published. In fact… I would hazard to say
>>>that without David Hartwell, most of Gene Wolfe’s work
>>>would not be in print today. As a senior editor at Tor
>>>Mr. Hartwell has done a great job of advocating for
>>>quality material. And Patrick Nielsen Hayden -- who
>>>oversee's the Orb line of classic reprints -- has
>>>helped ensure the genre’s history won't be lost. But,
>>>at the end of the day, even senior editors at one of
>>>the largest SF/Fantasy/horror publishing houses find
>>>themselves at the mercies of big media accountants and
>>>marketing types that insist a book is only as good as
>>>its initial six months of sales.
>>Don muses:
>>Technology will change this, I think.  Just like with the music industry, 
>>it is becoming less and less expensive to do things yourself with a good 
>>degree of quality.  And as the world becomes smaller and smaller (barring 
>>apocalyptic calamity) marketing becomes cheaper as well.  It's only a 
>>matter of time before the myth of literature existing  only through the 
>>graces of a publishing house loses it's meaning.  Almost everything prior 
>>to the twentieth century was self published and I think it will go that 
>>way again, with the added benefit (or curse depending on your view of the 
>>masses) that those of small means can find the funds to bring their 
>>cherished works to print without interference from anyone on high.
>But if all of 300 million people in the US alone had 12 self-published 
>novels, how would one decide what was worth reading?  A hierarchy will 
>still present itself with, perhaps more difficult, obstacles to obtaining 
>an audience.  One could easily imagine that publishing houses would simply 
>become marketing houses for literature, with the same kind of standards.  
>Given that anyone near a Barnes and Noble can publish something for a small 
>fee, I guess this is already beginning.

And there's the rub. Nietzsche lamented the coming of universal literacy and 
advanced printing methods (whether he was serious or joking, I couldn't tell 
you) because he foresaw something like this coming. And it's been happening 
for a long time; the number of books out there is staggering, and even 100 
years ago you could probably count on many of them being garbage to your 
taste. We cope with it by relying on a kind of consensus/trust system: we 
trust that if X publisher put the book out it may be in a subject we're 
interested in, and that it has at least some minimum standard of quality; we 
trust that if a lot of people are buying it, it must have at least some 
charm; on a more direct level we trust readers we know who have similar 
tastes, and if they recommend it we have a reasonable expectation that it 
will be worth reading. A self-published author is obviously at an enormous 
disadvantage, as he can only rely on the last of these methods to start 

But the internet *is* making it easier to do this, and quickly - it *has* to 
just to make itself navigable, because it has an even greater explosion of 
information than exists in the printed world. Thus you have portals, 
filters, networks of people who share trusted sources of information and who 
in turn link with other networks of people... So I think it's very possible 
that a self-published writer could establish a buzz in this day and age. But 
it doesn't sound like a great solution for someone who depends on writing 
for their living, because god knows how long it would take to get 


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