Friday, November 26, 2021

A Promotion to the Bigger Sandbox

When you attended your favorite elementary school, you looked forward to the time when you would be shifted from the smaller play area and its smaller sandboxes to the play area on the east side of the main building.  There awaited not slides not swings but large wooden packing crates in which the mere setting of a foot caused an immediate transformation and a major supplement to the imagination.

You are of an age from whose heights you can see traces of evolution in the social and cultural forces that forged you or, better still, caused you to forge behaviors, attitudes, techniques.One such cultural force was the era of printed materials into which you were born, an era where the so-called "Pulp" magazines flourished.

Although you fancied comic books as a younger reader, this pulps lit up news stands and magazine racks with a dazzle of color and adventures opening the outskirts of such terrains as the Western, the mystery, the "other' worlds of science fiction, and those shrewd, beguiling outskirts of fantasy in which things were as they seemed until they became portals to other universes and rules of behavior.

Your early hopes for publication offered you realistic rates of payment, both financial and artistic terms.  If you wrote well, you might be paid as much as a penny a word.  Someone who read such a story might remember it with fondness for a few days after reading.

A recent trip to the Amazon books page caused you to see one of the many effects of your previous age and your present one. There, along a book you'd written under the pseudonym of Craig Barstow back in those speculative, adventureous days of 1961, offered itself as an item for sale in the same panel as a book you wrote under the same pseudonym, which will be published in February of 2022.  No typos there.  A sixty-one year gap.

The publisher for the first book has long since vanished from the list of active producers of novels in a publishing era that might well be called "the massmarket paperback era."

This is not to say that your forthcoming novel will be in any form other than a massmarket paperback, but the former had a fifty-cent price while the latter lists for seven ninety-nine.

The years have been good to the earlier work; it now lists for fourteen dollars (none of which you will see as a royalty or merest acknowledgment of your efforts).

Your takeaway from nostalgia after viewing the two titles in such proximity--at the time of writing the first, you were aware of the desire for a sufficient speediness to allow you to write enough words per month to pay for rent and groceries.  Your rate of production has vastly declined because of your immediate goal now.  Every word must earn its keep.  Every scene must interest you, keep you alert, wondering what those individuals of your creation are up to.  What will they do next, and how well will you be rewarded for the outcome of their interactions.  No amount of money can pay for anything less.

Thus have you moved from the small sandbox for writers to the larger one.

When you removed your shoes after a day in the small sandbox, your toes were covered with granules of sand.  When you remove your shoes from a day of working at this stage of your life, your toes are covered with the granules of unfinished narrative.

No comments: