Have you heard about this?
Author Q.R. Markham wrote a book called Assassin of Secrets, got it published with Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown and was even receiving praising reviews when lo and behold, a few keen eyed fans notice something rotten in Denmark. Major plot points on key pages of the novel were basically lifted right out of other books. In the end, pages from the James Bond novels and the works of Robert Ludlum and Charles McCarry were plagiarized multiple times in Markham’s book and now his past short stories have fallen under scrutiny as well.
Now, the obvious complaints about the death of originality or the damaging ripple effect of plagiarism can go unsaid here. We all know them, we’ve all heard them. But what I want to talk about is how this slid through. It calls the entire system under question. Not just the publisher, but the entire infrastructure of the literary industry. I mean, we go to these companies, these people, as experts in their field and facilitators of the karmic retribution of our yearlong struggles in literary creation and what happens? We find out they actually don’t know what the hell they’re doing. In fact, they know less than we do. The pros missed this one. Not only that, the critics missed it. How many people functioning as cogs in the machine of big publishing overlooked this counterfeit? Moreover, how many of them praised it as up and coming work, an original offering, the first of many more from an exciting new author and all the other trite nonsense critics and publishers spew to sell books? None. That’s the answer, folks. Zero. They didn’t find it. It was the people, the readers, the average yokels that caught the mistake and brought it to the eye of the public.
Think about that while you’re perusing the internet for what to read. The future isn’t in these big companies, it’s in little endeavors, private, underground, independent DIY projects that can have the careful attention of a few and the rabid, piercing vision of the fans for support. I’m not saying Subtopian is more honest, or others like us, I’m just saying that if the motivation is the quick turn around of a saleable product is the goal then you’re bound to miss stuff. If the motivation is, “How many jokers can I get to buy this?” rather than “Is this good quality work, is it original?” then of course you’re going to overlook the scrapbooking novelist borrowing pages from other people’s life’s work and sneaking it into your company like a wolf in the fold.
For this lowly writer, the story of Markham is a clear indicator of the dystopian world at our doorstep. It’s a glimpse into a place where thought, study, or even fact-checking are abandoned in exchange for something that can get filtered through the system and turned into another disposable bestseller.
Today the boys at Directing Democracy, whom I’ve been following for some time now, reached their $11,000 goal on indiegogo.com. This means their tour will happen, the civilian delegates will be elected to create their own legislation, the bill will be written and the signatures will be taken. This is the kind of change we need, taking control rather than hoping someone else will be nice enough to do what we want. Like Kody said in our recent interview, democracy doesn’t end at the voting booth. Good luck, boys.
I have found this via Stepuphq.com.
The photo was taken in Hamburg in 1936, during the celebrations for the launch of a ship. In the crowd, one person refuses to raise his arm to give the Nazi salute. The man was August Landmesser. He had already been in trouble with the authorities, having been sentenced to two years hard labour for marrying a Jewish woman.
“We know little else about August Landmesser, except that he had two children. By pure chance, one of his children recognized her father in this photo when it was published in a German newspaper in 1991. How proud she must have been in that moment.”
Here we see the poetic obstinance of the one guy in the crowd booing at a rock concert, the one fish swimming away from the school, or the immovable stone in a white river. All I can say is, take the long view, sometimes it takes a while, but standing against the crowd pays off, if and when the crowd is wrong. That’s the only way we stop our dystopian spiral. The only way to win.
I ask myself this question, why make yet another magazine? Aren’t there others out there who have been doing it longer, better, and likely with more success than I’ll ever have? Probably. Maybe. I don’t know. I also wonder, do people even read these things or is it our own vanity as noobs to this whole publishing world that makes us think we’ll make something different that people will actually pay attention to. Probably. Maybe.
The question I’m asking for Subtopian right now is how to make it more than a magazine. How can people become a part of a community, a place where possibilities seem more reachable because of the people involved? We launched the Writer’s Workshop in the hope of getting young writers involved with Subtopian while trying to hone their craft. The workshop also offers the potential for publication at the end of the process. I am also in talks with several other like-minded magazines trying to build relations, a sort of sharing of resources, readers, affiliations, etc. One thing I know is that we aren’t in competition, people can read more than one thing, and we all need to help each other if we’re going to make it.
I guess a big part of my philosophy is that maybe part of the reason why the art world has, as I see it (and others like me), become sort of homogenized by work run through the same formula with the same motivation — mass appeal for mass profit — is that the only people involved in helping make the work succeed are those that stand to make money off of it. Producers, agents, managers, record labels, studios, big publishing companies, you name it, the only people that are helping breathe life into the work are numbers men with numbers for a motivation. But what do we get if there are real artists on deck? What if real artists were helping other real artists bring their work into the world? By which I mean promotion, sales, developing a following, etc. Why is it that we allow the creative process to end with the final period of a story or the last stroke of paint or the last recorded note of an album? Shouldn’t the creativity maintain throughout the process of getting people to see your stuff? If you quit being creative when the product is done then isn’t it sort of no big surprise when the creative life gets sucked out of your work in the act of trying to make it sell? It seems so.
So, when I ask myself, “Richardson, why are you doing this?” The motivation is always the same. We’re an in-between generation because so much of our vision is based on flawed assumptions and outdated philosophies. I started Subtopian to try to create something new, to mold my own market, my own tiny world, to live and work in and to help others live and work in. The magazine is only one small part of what I hope to achieve. What I really want is a community of artists that are trading their work, their goals, dreams, skills, and ambitions, for the betterment of each other and the larger “art world” that they’re a part of. That’s the only way to win the battle of Art vs. Business. It’s the only way to have the dream, making a living through your art without selling out.
Issue one is finally arranged and standing strong on our home page, thank the gods, overlords and other arbiters of fate. Check it out, really spend time with the work, it is top notch for being a first issue with a lot of mistakes (mainly mistakes on my part, my naivete in taking on this kind of project can sometimes flash as openly as Britney Spears’ hoohah).
In other news, we’ve brought some exciting new writers on board. Kirby Light will be offering up “Pearls for Swine: thoughts of a mad hermit” on a regular basis and his first contribution, “Fuck Palahniuk,” definitely deserves a second or third look. Like Kirby told me the other day, this stuff needed to be said. Also, be on the look out for a comic strip in the near future, I’ve been perusing some potentials and am whittling it down.
Next, and perhaps not least worth mentioning, I, your humble narrator, just got interviewed for my novel, American Bastards, with another new magazine, The Idle Class. Check it out here: Trevor Richardson – A Real Bastard. Also, look out next issue for my sort of ping back interview of Kody Ford from the Idle Class on his political project, Directing Democracy.
Reckon that’s the highlights for now, keep checking in as I attempt to keep these news updates more regular (even daily, whaaa?!) and we build this tiny indie cabal into something worth it’s salt.
Misers and Millionaires,