Thursday, July 21, 2022

Living in the Post-Fanatic World

How does one move on from an era built on false premises and hinged on dated materialist jargon that no one even believes any longer? I'm still not sure how one does this, because there are still many who think the old rules apply even though they clearly do not. We still follow aberrations and half-truth explanations from those who we know are wrong and out of touch, their philosophies wedded to a small slice of history that has long since expired. Until we finally accept that we were wrong to trail off the beaten path, and retrace our steps accordingly, we will continue to spin our wheels in a culture that has long since run out of road.

Nonetheless, we will have to move on, whether by choice or not. We can't cling to a failed past forever. Eventually, reality will reassert itself. Where will we be when it does?

It is fairly obvious to just about anyone living today that we are ruled by a class of people who loathe and look down on us, for little real reason except that we let them. It was a long and very stupid process that lead to this happening, but we still allowed it to happen to begin with. that's what happens when material comfort comes over eternal truths. Sure, we've always been ruled by other people (we always will be, get used to it) but it is only today in the modern age where it feels particularly frustrating to most of us. Why is that?

The difference might be that people who ruled you before didn't necessarily hate you. Sure, they might have looked down on you, but there was a point where they didn't see you as cartoon stereotypes they invented in their own propaganda that they then bought into themselves. They at the very least saw you as people. 

What this change has led to is a society full of Jim Jones wannabes who throw their weight around as if they are in control when the vast majority actually considers them depraved, unhinged, and loopy. Everyone wants to be a cult leader, because they hate everyone else. Once the right insane mental patient is in charge, all the other mental patients will be cured. This is the lie of Utopia we still insist on chasing.

How they see normal people

This is especially prevalent on social media were you will find no shortage of nobodies who pop up like whack-a-moles to spout declarative statements into a sea of people who have no idea who they actually are. On top of that, it is frequently objectively wrong or silly advice. There is a reason this is known as the clown era in some circles.

OldPub, as we've learned definitively by now, epitomizes the clown age we live in. They are run by the above example, inside and out. Cultists of the postmodern materialist age that has long since over still think they should rule over you.

What is particularly noticeable about such people is not what they rant about, but that their entire worldview is always pinned with undeserved arrogance and a barely concealed hatred for who they are talking to. It is as strange as it is noticeable. People who desire to assert control over others typically detest them more than they respect them.

Let me share with you a recent example of this attitude taken from where else but social media. It is the very best place to find this sort of thing without even really trying.

"Let me tell you about my Comps..."

Spend enough time on social media of any kind and you are likely to get a cavalcade of unsolicited opinions on anything and everything, and these bits of knowledge nuggets are frequently dead wrong or just plain goofy. On social media, it is unavoidable. One such example is the following speech from an OldPub acolyte on how important "comps" are to selling your books. Let us go over this advice and how ridiculous it is.

For those who don't know what "comps" are, because no normal person knows (which is part of the underlying issue with OldPub as a whole--they do not appeal to normal people) is something in the vein of "comparables" as in authors or books similar to the one you're writing and trying to sell. You know, all those useless "My book is like Game of Thrones meets Stephen King" pitches that mean nothing to anyone listening? It's just that.

Basically, they consider such a simple comparison as one of the most important parts of selling your book. More important than editing, advertising, or cover art (none of which OldPub authors have control over, yet all of which said industry is abysmal at) is a "comp" that is as useless as putting your book on an OldPub chain bookstore shelf and expecting any sales.

Why is this useless? I shall explain. There are many reasons, all of which are highlighted in the below example.

This silly twitter thread was posted on July 15th, 2022:

I'm sure you see the issue right off the bat. It's a bit hard to ignore.

This is the biggest problem with the thread: nothing she is talking about here matters at all. Nobody cares what your book is "similar" to, and will not suddenly buy it because you spouted the correct buzzwords or buzzwords. Do you know how many "Stars Wars meets Dune" stories there are out there? Take a guess at how many of them are anything like either, never mind the two combined. the answer is not surprising.

This advice is also slathered with the usual ignorant arrogance this industry is so very good at screaming at newer writers. You would be a far better writer if you never listened to anyone in the industry ever again. There is nothing to be gained here.

Of course, there is another layer to the "Comp" thing. It is about how creativity works in the first place, and how this nonsense devalues it.

Here is the truth: unless you are very deliberately writing a pastiche or aping a modern mainstream formula (like generic James Patterson-style assembly-line hackwork) you are very likely not very comparable with other writers or stories. This is not to say you are a special snowflake or whatever similar outdated term they use nowadays to devalue art, but the fact is that writing is a way of filtering the way you see the world into a story. Since you are an individual, you will naturally put large pieces of yourself in whatever you write and it will show up your work in some way to be different to other books on the market, even those in the same genre. This is art; it's all like this. Rearranging tropes and speaking through our experiences and beliefs is how art has managed to last so long despite it supposedly being so easy to create in formulas and workshops. The human spirit is a fascinating thing, which is what makes art so fantastic a thing.

I can use myself and other authors as an example. Thinking back through my books, from Knights of the End, Grey Cat Blues, Someone is Aiming for You, Gemini Warrior, Brutal Dreams, my short stories, and even in work like The Pulp Mindset or The Last Fanatics, I am drawing a blank on what I should compare them to, because I didn't model them off other things when I first wrote them. There is no one in OldPub writing anything like these stories, and even in NewPub you end up with writers who might write similar themes or concepts but the final result is drastically different. This isn't to blow smoke, it is how it works with all writers.

I recently spoke of Rawle Nyanzi's Sasha Reed, for instance. He himself admits he got the central idea for the project from old Penelope Pitstop cartoons, even though he didn't do it intentionally, but the stories themselves are nothing alike and are not comparable to the cartoon at all. So what does one compare them to? What is the "Comp" in this situation? A trope is not enough to make something similar enough to another thing to make them worthy of comparison. You have to factor in theme, intent, genre, and the actual plot and characters. In this case, the work stands as what it is.

Another example would by Alexander Hellene's Pulp Rock. Who is making an anthology of music themed pulp-style stories that would be comparable to it? In OldPub? Nothing at all. Every story inside isn't even comparable to each other, so what should the whole even be compared to? The same extends to StoryHack's Sidearm & Sorcery anthology: who is even doing traditional sword and sorcery in OldPub, never mind with a modern setting twist? Even if they did, the stories inside all take the concept differently enough that they don't compare to each other.

This isn't to say these are the most original ideas in the world, or that nothing can ever be like them, but that there isn't anything quite like them, because there can't be. They were all formed by the individuals in charge who had their own idea and vision of what the final result should be. The end result is obviously not going to be formulaic modern 400 page, 100k word hackwork that gets dumped onto OldPub store shelves. Those are designed to be disposable and stock.

If you read enough (ironic, considering the OP) you would know that it a lot easier to write something not comparable to OldPub's generic modern slush than it is to write something in their frame, especially if you read a lot. Being yourself makes it harder to be a comparable. And why would you ever want to be comparable to an industry that doesn't sell? You need to move beyond it. There is no future in a dead industry stuck in the past.

As for the site listed above, well, it's silly. Here is what one gets when one of my influences, CL Moore, is put into it:

Yes, this is a real screenshot.

Should I truly go into why the above is not only stupid, but wrong? It should be very self-evident. The list doesn't even include her own husband, Henry Kuttner, whom she co-wrote with for a large chunk of her career. This isn't even going into the other two writers on the list. The long and short of it is that this supposed valuable resource is not very valuable at all.

Not only that, but the author in question is not like her "Comps" in the slightest. This is typical dead internet nonsense that is common of the modern day.

CL Moore wrote gothic stories with adventure trappings, sometimes in the distant past or even the far-off future, but her concern was more on the side of the fae and the relationship between man and woman. It isn't quite like what anyone else in the pulps was trying to do. HP Lovecraft wrote cosmic horror about man's insignificance in a universe that they can never truly understand. Cordwainer Smith wrote of an "Instrumentality of Man" and how Christianity and science would bring about a future unlike any we could imagine. Do you see how these three connect with each other? Because they don't really, at all.

None of these three writers are comparable, other than that they all wrote stories in magazines. That's literally it. At that point you might as well say Edgar Rice Burroughs is completely interchangeable with Isaac Asimov. It makes as much sense as this.

As for the last piece of advice on categories, there is no reason to do this. Amazon's search feature (the only one you need to care about) is completely busted. No matter what tag you put in, you are unlikely too show up on a random search. It used to be pay to play, but it doesn't even do that anymore, mostly because the internet is dead. You should not worry too much about genre classification, as we've gone over many times. Sell the story before anything else.

This part is a good clue that the writer of this thread does not understand the audience. Nonetheless, she will persist with her arrogance accordingly.

Your book won't be shelved anywhere in a "real-live" bookstore, because bookstores only order from their corporate masters in the paper cartel. Not to mention that no one goes to these stores anymore either.

You can also forget about libraries because your librarian will not stock your books and if they do no one will check it out or know it's there to begin with. I hate to be that guy, but libraries are functionally useless in the modern day, just as the people running then are more interested in political posturing and lecturing parents than inspiring kids to read. We have an illiteracy epidemic and until that is fixed your book being in a library is not going to matter. [Note: From insider knowledge I've accrued, entire swaths of OldPub books never even get checked out once. They are eventually dumped from their listing when it is time to clean house. Librarians aren't going to sell your book when they can't even sell their corporate masters' works.] Libraries are not for reading, they're prayer chambers for Fanatics. You won't reach anyone from being stocked in one.

For the second point, I don't think I've ever seen a book and then wanted to write my own version of it. Why would I do that? I've been inspired by things I've read, but to say something like Grey Cat Blues, for instance, is comparable to Rumble Fish, a book that is of a completely different intent and genre, simply because I was inspired to write mine after reading that, is incorrect. This is how inspiration works: you take a piece of one work and translate it into something completely different. This is why "it's X meets Y!" comparisons don't work and are a very shallow interpretation of creativity. You are either not different enough from your inspiration, or you are relying on them to carry your work, if you need these "Comps" for some reason. Either way, that is not what art is meant to do. Originality comes from your take on a familiar subject, it doesn't fall out of thin air. Whatever this is, it will not foster any originality.

And again, when we get into the third point, this is not how creativity works. There is no direct line from writing due to a single inspiration into having a 100% similar stock of opinions and tastes as said original writer. I have little in common with the backgrounds of most pulp-era writers, yet they have inspired me to write many things. Just because they are inspirations does not make them comparable to each other, either. If they were it would mean my own interests and inspirations and my tastes are very limited and I' writing for personal validation.

This is strange considering the original point of the twitter thread was to chastise people for not either reading enough or exploring outside their interests. This is the opposite of that. Then again, the thread definitely comes off as someone rehashing advice they were told by an industry that can't sell water in the desert.

Many such cases!

Here we come to the silliest entry so far. If this is how your creative process works then you've probably been attending too many writing workshops. That is money you could be spending on better covers and editing, two things that will be far more valuable to you. Jargon while talking to people who will forget they talked to you two seconds after they move on, is not worth this amount of discussion. Then again, this misunderstanding of storytelling and audiences is why OldPub is dead. "Comps" do not matter.

There is nothing less creative than trying to mix and match your potential story to tropes and diagrams created by people, again, who have no idea how to sell books but act as authorities on the subject. I don't claim to be an expert in this arena, but it is fairly clear to anyone paying attention that the current day industry is such an utter failure that every piece of advice it gives out should be discarded and those in charge should be ignored. They have done enough damage to the scene already and chased more than enough people away.

The second tweet is complete nonsense. "Good sellers but not bestsellers" is silly. Books don't sell at all, and getting on the NYT best seller list is as easy as your rich urbanite publisher buying up copies for you (that you will never see a penny of) to get on said list for fake clout that normal people, again, don't care about. This is a shell game with no prize. Nothing sells, because OldPub does not sell to anyone except cultists in "book" circles who all have the same uniform thoughts and beliefs on every single issue. If you copy them, you are destined for failure. No one should want to be comparable to a dead industry.

Nothing quite compares to the tone-deafness of the third point, however. "My book is like the Sopranos" is a dumb enough statement on its surface, a meaningless comparison, but its fairly clear what that means. No one who hears it is stupid enough to think there will be actors speaking Italian or a bopping soundtrack when they flip the pages. "One specific element" to focus on is, again, pointless. It feels like you are pathetically trying to glom on to something far more popular for your own gain. You really don't think the average person who hears this won't just roll their eyes and silently pass on your book? They already do this now.

Of course it isn't about the average person, at all. OldPub gave up on appealing to normal people decades ago, chasing away everyone they could to appeal to upper class urbanite cliques and their personal fetish material. they'd rather rule the world instead. You will never appeal to normal people by using OldPub's methods because they were never intended tor reach normal people in the first place. It's a waste of time.

That is what makes this thread doubly ridiculous. It is saying how to be successful by doing things that will provably not make you successful.

Speaking of "disrespectful" …

Saying "I don't have any comps" means you think enough about your story that you believe it can stand out on its own. The only "comp" you have is that it is part of a genre like adventure, mystery, or romance. It is not disrespectful to not want to lower your work and works by others by insinuating they are prepackaged tropes that can be exchanged at random to be sold piecemeal as gruel. By writing what you can, the best you can, you are a creative maverick, because you are writing the sort of stories only you can write, and not what out of touch overpaid book execs think you should. Your only "comps" should be that is a part of a series or of a wider genre. That is it.

You should not follow other people or approach them with the sole intent on profiting off of them or their audience, as this section of the tweet thread implies. Find like-minded creatives, sure, but do not befriend them just because you think their audience will like your stuff so you can squeeze a few bucks out of them. Creatives interact because they like each other and enjoy talking shop, even if they don't sell the same thing, at the end of the day. Friendship is exchange and back and forth interaction, it is not a transactional relationship where one must profit off the other in equal amounts. Follow who you wish to follow because you like them before anything else. Following someone because you think you can get something out of them is doomed to fail the second you don't get what you thought you should have gotten. Human beings do not work or operate this way.

I shouldn't even need to address the third passage which contradicts everything she has written so far, and even in the same section of the tweets. If you're an upper class bored urbanite (like everyone in OldPub is) then there are plenty of people already writing the same grievance fiction and nihilist philosophy you are. This is the easiest thing to find similar works in, because they're all the same. Your "Comps" are that point are simply other cultists who will not even buy your work at all, because their attitude is all for show.

Much like this tweet thread, it all goes nowhere. You gain nothing by following any of this advice.

As if proving my above statement, misunderstanding writing as a whole is all this section is. We've gone off from "loving" chastisement to outright condescending here. You should not think about any of this when you write your own work, you should only focus on the story. Bending to weird elitists is how normal readers were chased away to begin with.

All of this material she is talking about is "issue book" material. It's already narrow in scope and guaranteed to appeal to a fringe minority of potential buyers regardless of how you try to sell it. If you're aiming for mainstream success with a book that has an extremely specific niche or appeal then it really doesn't matter what amount of advertising or self-promotion you do for it. There is a limit to who you will reach.

At some point it became standard in the industry to think that anything publishers want to sell should automatically be mega sellers or there is something wrong with audience. Frequently, this attitude just means that publishers have extraordinarily limited taste that is out of touch with the common man. Nonetheless such groups assert that it is the audience's fault that they won't buy their wares, even in a time where people read less than ever before.

No matter what your "comp" is, if it's an "issue book" then people who don't care about the issue will simply tune out immediately. That is just the way it works.

She even admits as much when she finishes up in the last few posts:

None of this matters. If you're a writer and you're considering an agent, you are wasting your time. It is the 2020s, not the 1970s. Hilariously enough, for a thread professing to inform people, it does little but parse outdated advice around like candy at Halloween. None of this applies to a new writer coming up in the 2020s, in any way. If it does, then your work will likely be little more than the factory-pressed assembly-line hackwork OldPub desires--the very work we already know normal people do not want anything to do with.

This entire twitter thread is a waste of time, even more so if you're an aspiring writer. As a writer, I can tell you that it is pointless advice to follow.

Once again, here is a little bit of insider information for potential writers. Agents, publishers, and editors, in OldPub, literally do not care about your theme, dramatic arc, setting, style, or "big idea" at all. They do not consider it when looking at manuscripts handed to them from their goon agents who work for them. You are not creating anything when you work for them: you are producing product they can weaponize for their pet social causes.

OldPub cares about which demographic your book can be used on to milk media attention and gather headpats from their cult pals in the media. All you have to do is not be a part of one of these groups, and your book will never even be considered at all. Doubly so if you disagree with them on the wrong issues. Therefore, whatever book gets into the pipeline is by definition already going to be formulaic hackwork meant to be sold as product over any attempt at art or entertainment. In such a case, this advice is pointless because it is the publisher's job to fill in the blanks for you. If you are independent, you are not selling prepackaged wares to a prepackaged audience, therefore it is completely unnecessary to even try engaging in this practice.

But that is the whole thread in a nutshell. It is pointless.

So now that we've entered the post-Fanatic world, what is the future? Where are we going now that these old ways have finally passed away? How can we correct the damage that has been done by an industry that neglected its job for so long?

Right now, all of that is still up in the air. We do know the future does not lie in a class of people who at best are ambivalent to the majority of people they are supposed to be working for. That era is over, and it isn't coming back. There is too much competition from too many other mediums to allow poseurs and irony-poisoned self-hating misanthropists a space to ruin the image of your scenes any longer. This includes reading, most of all because it is one of the oldest ones. For reading to be saved, it must be returned to the average Joe again.

The above attitudes are not just an obstacle in one industry; material Fanaticism has been a big problem for a long time, long before any of us alive today were born. It's going to take time to wean ourselves off of it. There is no sense in getting upset about those still trapped in that mindset, even if we also still relapse into it. That has just been the most standard way of thinking for so long that it won't be easy to shake off overnight. We still have to wait for the remnants of the 20th century to burn off first before we can finally focus on how best to move forward.

Until then, focus on your craft, get as good as you can, and learn what you are able along the way. Put your work out there, connect with others, and do what you must do for your audience. There is no formula for success except to just do the best you can as only you can do it. As of right now, it's really all that can be done. Creators should create, after all. Worrying about the above nonsense, like in the Twitter thread, will not help you at all.

Just be aware that there is no guarantee that you will see tangible results off the bat. It could take a long time, it might not even happen in your lifetime. What is important is that you do what you are able to do. As long as you stay away from writing workshops, agents, and OldPub advice as a whole, you will at least be on the road to becoming the best writer you can be. This is what any writer should care about above all else. What makes your writing stand out? That answer, is you. You are the only weapon that no one else has in their arsenal.

It might sound corny, but that doesn't matter. It's true. The content of what you're doing is the focus, and the identity you press into it is what allows it to stand out from the crowd. You are you, and that is what you have to always remember when creating. Attempting to slide yourself into broken and proven unsuccessful corporate molds will only end in disaster, as we've seen by the state of OldPub today. That past is gone and never coming back.

I surely am grateful for that, as we all should be. The past is over, and we're lucky to finally be able to move on.

"JD has been naming names and documenting the decline and fall of genre fiction for a long time. It wasn’t always like this and his work is important to the question of why it’s like this now." ~ Conan, Esq.


  1. Not sure if this comment will get through, what with Google's new comment tech. Anyway, I enjoyed your post, even if I don't entirely agree with everything in it. I think libraries still have merit. I got to be a guest author on a library book club group because they had all read the ebook of my clean werewolf romances. (They were sick of the dirty ones and were super excited to find mine). Libraries are also great for kids, if you're careful. But yeah, I never comprehended the thing about comps, beyond basic genre classifications. I just reviewed Sea and Soul by Shari Branning, and it's kind of urban fantasy ... but not. It's kind of modern fairytale where princesses arrive to balls via helicopter. I've read books sort of like it, in the genre, but it's entirely different from everything else out there, too. And like the snooty Twitterista up there, I do read extensively, so I know these things.

    1. I think the idea of libraries are good, but I think they require a complete overhaul in how they function, and from the ground up. Ideologues who don't care about reading as a hobby should not have any sort of power over it.

      Commenting on blogspot has been weird for awhile now. I try to let every comment through I can but it seems some get stuck in spam. I tend to let them through if I see them.