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The Past | The Previous

Tomorrow I begin work on campus. Time to use that office, interact with other post grads, and see what kind of free food I can scrounge up on a daily basis.

As you can see, I have high standards for my office usage. There's a computer in the room, but who knows what kind of condition that is in? Last year when I was hanging around on campus for teaching, the computer I had access to didn't have a browser that could support gmail. Still, it should be any hassle to fix that, I suppose, if it's still the case. Anyhow, for those of you who are out around the UNSW Campus, feel free to drop in. Room 115. Least, that's what it says on the key that they made me put a ten buck safe keeping deposit on.

This little break has been neat. Lazy, pointless shit was the name of the game. I made a pie, watched some movies, played video games, read most of Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore (I'll finish it up today), and had some thoughts about short stories and markets and that sort of business. Last day, so like I said, I'll finish up the book, maybe make a pie again, but who knows? About the only thing I didn't do is that I meant to write myself a short story, but other than scribbling down the ideas and mapping it in my head, it didn't happen. Fair enough. Serious time in front of the computer wasn't going to happen.

This post, if you can't guess, is a lazy directionless thing.

Yesterday I was reading a conversation on the vision list about Australian authors selling stories to the American market, and it got me thinking. When I began the short fiction deal, I was told by those before me that the big professional markets were in the States, and if you were a good little author monkey, that's where you would go. I took that in and submitted dutifully for a while, but long reply times, costs, and the fact that I didn't find much of interest to read in those mags meant it drifted off. Nowadays, I don't much submit to the American magazines because the net interests me more, and because I just don't care about them. Sure, the cash would be nice, but that's not going to make a difference in my daily life, so I don't stress it. But yesterday, as I was reading messages where people figured out the percentage of how many Australians appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction and those other mags, it occurred to me that that kind of mentality was just, well, kinda lame.

Suddenly, that attitude linked to a whole lot of other issues for me. It connected to a cultural thing, that maybe everyone else talks about and I'm just slow to voice, but still, this is post is being written. Basically, culturally, there's an attitude where Australians, in general, place an importance on American culture and appearing within it and then, as readers/viewers/listens/whatever, digesting it.

I'm not talking about the short fiction authors mind, here. Think general. Hit a cinema complex here and what is on? Checking my local cinema, I count seventeen films. Out of those seventeen, two are Australian, and the rest appear to be from the American machine. Just another day in the cinemas from the burbs, of course, but checking through the listings of those close to the centre of Sydney, there isn't much difference. A lot of American films.

The Australian film market is a struggling thing, but that's nothing new. There's more cash in it than literature, but it doesn't produce films on the scale of the American market, despite the fact that Sydney has become the cheap hole in the ground for American crews to come down and make films. Look for parts of Hyde Park to be some place in the States when Superman is released. When the Matrix films were being made, I was around for a scene that involved a helicopter. Lucas does a chunk of the Star Wars films here. That's just off the top of my head, of course, so there's bound to be more. However, it's worth noting that the facilities for producing films with huge budgets are here, and that when those films are released, Australians flock to them... but when an Australian film is released, it struggles more often than not to gain even half those audiences.

The thought continues: Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, pick yourself an Australian actor in the American film industry... they never had the name value that they do now. They never had the press, the spotlight, anything, until they got to the States. For bands, it's the same. Jet's first album, Get Born, was a big thing overseas, and thus, one could theorise, was an even bigger thing over here. There are other examples of this, of course, and there are examples where this hasn't happened--much as I despise Matthew Reilly (author of the novel Ice Station and more), he appears to be a drooling idiot monster that Australians have created themselves, just as Delta Goodrem is.

But there's this predominant attitude in Australia that America is where you go to be successful for the arts. It's not a thought that has been created simply through an American cultural dominance, either, since Australia has long given any person who is not involved in sport the short end of the stick, from Government support to media coverage to basic respect. In addition, when it comes to literature, Australia is part of the Commonwealth market, which means that a lot of our books are part of the British publishing range, and from what I understand, the street for them coming here is predominately one way. Anyhow, despite all this, what I'm saying is that the result is that for many people in the country, we're always looking outside it to build up a reputation or to receive respect or to see what local born artists are doing that we should place at the pinnacle of our peer mountain.

Which is really kind of lame, when you think about it.

Comments

benpeek
Apr. 26th, 2005 02:46 am (UTC)
sure, it happens. i can think of a few authors who sell to the american market. i just don't get the big deal--in a general way, it doesn't interest me. a lot of my writing has a lot of australian influenced themes in it. not all, granted, but a chunk of it, and i'd rather see it published in australia than abroad, though it's not always the case.

i guess it's just the mentality that interests me. i'm not saying selling to the states or anywhere else is inherently better or worse. it's neither, and in the end, i'll go where my work sells, and that's what any author should do, but i don't give or expect more respect based of publications in the states when compared to here or say china.

i'd like to be published in china, myself.
jonathanstrahan
Apr. 26th, 2005 10:00 pm (UTC)
ben, you don't think the reason that so many people focus on making it in the united states is because that's where the money is, and where the markets are? at its simplest, there are more books published, more magazines published in english language in the US than anywhere else. that equates to a somewhat greater chance of getting published and, when you do, to getting more money for it. now, i'd be the first to agree that art isn't about making money, but paying the rent is. if i'd written a story i thought was good, i'd start submitting with ellen datlow for twenty cents per word and make may way down to the markets that pay in copies. if i had a novel, i'd start in new york. why? money and exposure. - j
benpeek
Apr. 26th, 2005 10:10 pm (UTC)

sure, i take markets and money to be the prime motivator. but you'd be hard pressed to find more than a couple admit to it, since it's just not cool, y'know?

for markets, well, you go where the markets are. i won't argue with that, and i've done much the same. but money--i don't buy money and paying rent as a motivation anymore. this is just me personally, of course. but fiding yourself in the middle of the states isn't necessarily going to mean that you can write full time or make a career. more often than not, you have to keep a full time job, and write in the hours around it.

which kind of renders the idea of money as a motivation a bit pointless. if you remove it, then what have you got? and what makes the american side of things more important than say something in the uk?
jonathanstrahan
Apr. 26th, 2005 11:25 pm (UTC)
I think an artist needs to work out what they want, what works best for them. If working full-time and getting paid for it is the model you want, you should go for it. If you're writing science fiction or fantasy in the English language that means at least trying US markets. If you don't want to work full-time at your art, or your work is sufficiently idiosyncratic that you're unable to find a larger audience, then there is little to attract you to overseas markets. You might as well set that aside.

In fact, if you set money and markets aside, there really is only one reason to try overseas markets: sentiment. I grew up reading and I'd like to be published in it. It would make me feel warm and fuzzy.

One other thing: breaking into the US is no better to breaking into the UK - it's simply easier. My experience, and what I hear from others, and that the US is more open to work from Australia. The UK is much more reluctant to take work from here. It does, but less often.
benpeek
Apr. 27th, 2005 02:09 am (UTC)
that's what i was looking for: sentiment.

money isn't much of a concern for me, and if i can or can't work full time at this is something onlytime will show, i suspect. assuming i can keep publishing, assuming i can find regular places for novels, and grow, it could happen. i'm not idiosyncratic enough for that to be an issue, but it's something that won't happen for a long time. so removing them, i was caught up in why people did place the american markets so high, even when they themselves removed it, and i think that's why i'm missing: the sentimentality of it.

i didn't grow up reading the american magazines. i didn't grow up reading any magazine, to be honest, and the first short story worlds i found were related to peter mcnamara and maragaret winch. i got sentimentality for that, which is why landing in what was their last project together was a warm and fuzzy thing for me. so that's cool, i get the sentimentality angle. it begins to fill in some of the other stuff for me.

lastly, uk and us mean much the same to me. US might be more open as you say (and i agree, for what's it's worth) but they have the same internal value for me.