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Thursday, May 9, 2013

There's No Accounting For Taste

I write pulp fiction. I'm fine with that. In fact, that's all I ever really set out to do, write trashy paperbacks. Yes, I like to try and inject interesting ideas. I don't want to write forgettable books. I don't know if I'll ever write important, serious stuff like Neil Stephenson's Quicksilver (just started it, finally) or Cryptonomicon. Maybe, perhaps, someday. I'd like to.

The promise of indie writing, to me, early on, was in publishing things that you know a traditional publisher wouldn't touch, or would want to heavily modify. Not to write things that don't merit publishing, but stretching the boundaries a bit. I equated indie with underground.

That's really not the case. Most indie books, the well-written ones, seem to be worthy of a publisher. But not many of them jump out to me as something exciting and groundbreaking. Of course, there are tons of indie novels, and many I don't know a thing about. Please don't take this as a slag on indie writers. I just have eclectic tastes.

I can't help but look at everything with a writer's eye, and I'm sure many of you are the same.

Recently, I noticed that Archer, a great cartoon on FX, was only rated three stars on Netflix. That's curious, to me. It's really witty and well-written. I can imagine that some people who rate it as less than stellar are offended by humor that they perceive to be sexist, or racist. Perhaps it's the violence. I'm at a loss to explain it, especially considering Family Guy and American Dad are both rated five stars. If Archer was an indie novel, it would be dead in the water with those ratings.

I also watched "John Dies at the End", which was written by writer David Wong. It has a real indie sensibility to it, and is well written. From the moment you hear the narration, you realize that this guy is a good writer. I definitely want to read it, now. This, at least, is rated five stars on average, and I feel it deserves it. It's funny, original, and still tries to add bigger ideas into the story. Even Hollywood couldn't manage to dilute it too much.

Two indie novels that come to mind are "What Would Satan Do?" and "The Apocalypse and Satan's Gloryhole". By the titles alone, they'd never make it onto the shelves at Wal-Mart. I haven't read the second yet, but the first calls to mind "Good Omens" by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. That's definitely a good thing. Both are highly-rated, and the titles probably do well to keep out a certain readership that wouldn't like them anyway.

This is the promise of indie publishing, to me, and one reason I still retain a modicum of enthusiasm for it. My point, if I have one, is that there is a market for strange books that defy genres and easy categorization. Breakthrough books, in other words. The trick is finding your market, and getting your novel into their hands. Of course, if I knew how to do that, I probably wouldn't be writing this column.

* Slight update. It turns out that the three stars I was seeing for Archer is how Netflix thinks I would rate it, for some reason. It's actually in the 4.1-4.2 range, which makes me feel a little better about humanity.