Friday, January 9, 2009

Nice Problem to Have (I guess)

Still grinding away on Mojave...I'm really getting the urge to stop and work on a short story or two, but I'm moving toward a deadline and don't want to stop.

No acceptances of rejections yet this year, but I still have 3-4 weeks on the four pending before their self-stated SLAs are up (I'm not counting Hotel Guignol's screenplay the time they were getting 300 per day--yes, day).

I just got the latest issue of Cemetary Dance, and there was an interview in there with Brian Keene. The interviewer asked him if he considered himself a sell-out because WalMart asked Random House to ask Keene (insofar as WalMart "asks" a potential supplier to do anything...they say sign here or find another channel to sell your crap in) to make a major change to his story because it might be offensive--I haven't read the book (Terminal), but apparently there is a child character who is the second coming of Christ, and the MC caused his death. Walmart didn't like it--so Keene changed it.

My wife said that's ludicrous, you wouldn't do that...would you? And I hesitated. I had to think about that, and I still haven't decided. Given my station and goals, I would have to consider it long and hard, but my gut tells me that I would probably toe the line on that. Keene's defense was that mainstream fiction is not art--it's entertainment, and must meet the demands of the supply chain. But, as the title of this post suggests: how great would it be to even to have the chance to answer that question?

Highly speculative (but hey, that's what we do!), but, what would you do in Keene's situation? If you had a rock that said "my writing is..." and two buckets, one said "demand-driven entertainment", the other "my artistic expression", which bucket would you toss into?


Jamie Eyberg said...

I would like to say I would stick to my guns but I would probably go for the coin.

Aaron Polson said...

Money, I'm afraid, drives all things. Keene supports his family through writing.

I want to say I'm an artist, but I know in reality, given the option, I would take the cash.

And that scares me more than anything I could come up with in a horror story.

Robert said...

As writers we are both artists AND business people. Unfortunately, one always has to go in front of the other.

I remember reading about how when Joe Konrath first sold his book, his editor sent him a whole list of editorial changes. He responded with a whole defense of why those things needed to stay. His editor said, that's great, but change them. Joe asked his wife what he should do, and his wife said, "They're paying you, right?" He said right. She said, "Then make the changes."

I think what it comes down to most times is that as writers our egos are very large -- we have a certain vision and don't want anything to interfer ... even when most times that vision could be even better if we just listened to others. Not saying, of course, that you should always make changes when someone suggests it, but editors are editors for a reason, just as publishers are publishers for a reason -- they know what they're doing ... most of the time.

Barry Napier said...

If Wal Mart weren't so damned evil, this might be an easier decision to make...

Aaron Polson said...

That's the hardest part...Wal-Mart.


Rob Brooks said...

I'd have to throw my rock in the entertainment bucket. It it comes down to publication over my vision, I'd take publication. I like money. However, I would love to be in the position some day where I could stick to my artistic vision, and publishers be damned. But until I get to that day, I'll just agree to make changes. (For the record, so far all the changes I've been requested to make have all improved the story.)

Jeremy D Brooks said...

Yeah, that was my thought when I read that, too: of course it was Walmart. Hell, Target would have been easier to swallow. Or a superchain that knows literature like B&N or Amazon.

Of course, if Walmart's meda buyers read this, it may be a non-issue for me one way or another ;-)

Catherine J Gardner said...

::shudder:: I'd hate to think this was the norm. Though, as long as the change wasn't too abhorrent, I'd do it for the cash. If you end up on Walmart's shelves, you're going to sell a lot of books.

katey said...

I'm no artist, I'm all about entertaining, so I do agree with him on that. Even art is useless if you don't have an audience to do their end of the deal, in terms of meaning and enjoyment. The ego loses. Smart decision on his part, by my reckoning.

That said, screw Wal-Mart. I'm a firm believer in spending money only on places and things that let you sleep at night. Wal-Mart isn't on my list, man. I agree that if it were anyone else, it'd go down just fine, though.

Rhonda Parrish said...

It depends on the change and the story. There are some stories I've written to that I have an emotional connection to, for those (few) pieces it would be difficult to get me to change something I felt strongly about. It's important to note that even in the stories I am connected to, there are changes I would make without blinking because they aren't important to me.

If the change were in one of the stories I've written that I have no emotional connection to, it wouldn't take much at all to make me change it. In fact, I've changed the name of a character (which in turn changed the whole story because it was a named Angel who went from Araziel to Lucifer) for just a publication credit :)

I didn't have an emotional connection to that story ;)