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I spent today learning how to use paint.net to design logos for t-shirts. It'll most likely be one of those things that I'm never really happy with, the result of which means that it will never see the light of day, but it's interesting from a personal stand point.

Anyhow, as I've been doing this, I've been thinking about dead things. The supposed death of science fiction, death of short fiction, death of genre, and the death of music. (There was more, like the death of the slinky, and the death of zombie jesus, but there's no need to list everything.) However, as you may have guessed, I've never much believed in the death of these things: if you're producing anthologies that sell a thousand copies, that's hardly dead. But then, you know, the truth is, all of those things aren't talking about real death... they're talking about the ability to make a livable income out of the item. When someone says, "It's the death of short fiction," what they're really saying is, "I can't afford to pay the rent with short fiction alone."

Hardly death, really.

Short fiction is strong and alive and fucking annoying, in most cases. You don't believe me? Go and find a fan fic archive, an erotica site, anything where people can upload their piece to be immediately consumed. If you remove the equation of making money from it, and short fiction is found by the fist load on the net, existing in all it's shades of quality, ranging from genius to utter stupidity. Strikes me that a when people start talking about the pulps in the early to mid twentieth century with that sigh and nostalgic little weep over things they never really experienced, they're missing the new pulp, which is the internet.

There's more. The music industry is constantly talking about how downloading is stripping cash out of the hands of teenage pop icons, and that we're all witnessing the death of the music industry as we know it unless something is done, like locking up fourteen year old boys with a hard drive of eminem and porn.* But while they say that, I can't help by notice that corporate controlled downloads of new releases are set up through websites as a way that listeners can sample new albums, thus suggesting that the downloading debate is somewhat more complex than they would like. Personally, I've always suspected that the corporate giants of the music world have disliked the fact that downloading takes the control of how music is feed into the minds of an audience out of their hands. My theory for this is based of the fact that, when you stop to consider it, there's a fuck of a lot of free music out there. It fills the backgrounds that you enter, from shopping malls to theatres to your car. You go into a music store and 'popular' albums are placed into cd players with headphones for you to sample. And all that free music is being pumped into your consciousness with the express purpose of making you buy a certain album... but downloading, on the surface, removes that control. You can avoid the new pop icon moment with downloading, and find something different, something that those who spend hours trying to devise new and interesting advertising schemes to make you part with your cash, have got to absolutely hate. Independent thought doesn't breed a happy advertiser.

Assuming, of course, that you buy the idea that death translates into no money, it opens a whole new way of viewing the supposed death of things. If you're one of those people who want to make buckets of cash with new enterprises, the death of these things is a door open for you. Doesn't mean your idea is going to work, but there's a lull, and you can step in and fill it with something. Of course, eventually you'll face your own death, since that's the nature of business. Should it really be such a shock that short fiction couldn't sustain the economic health it hand in 1930? How many other things have faded or changed over the years, just to keep economically viable? In the case of the music industry, of course it's losing money--that doesn't have anything to do with downloading, in my mind, but with the growth of a global community and a consumer who can now, with a few clicks, jump from Australia to Japan to Iceland and back again. You give a consumer more choice and the old favourites will start losing some of their money. You can hear Hollywood complaining now, but give them another five years and they'll be complaining just as loudly as the music industry about downloading and bootlegging, never once addressing the issue that perhaps the multi million dollar payments given to stars and directors and budgets for films has had to eventually yield some sort of financial downturn.

Of course, you're welcome to argue that. My rational behind business is simply that you go up, you go down, you go up, you go down. You cannot maintain a consistent rise upwards. Of course, in our capitalist society, all we want is the ride up, and not the one down, which is why as soon as you stop being able to make solid amounts of cash out of a thing, someone cries, "It's dying!"

I don't think that you shouldn't be able to make money out of doing what you like. I don't want anyone reading this to think, "Ben thinks artists should work for free!"

You're wrong if you think that. Firstly, I don't think the majority of people producing music and prose and visual art and where ever else an artist might be found... I don't think most of those people are artists. Being sixteen and learning how to wiggle your ass to peddle a sexuality you know nothing about doesn't make you an artist; being forty and pumping out a by the numbers fiction novel/cookbook/whatever doesn't make you one either; same goes for being a director, and an actor, and whatever other thing you do and you say, "I have to do this to pay the bills." Do it, I don't care--that doesn't mean the work is shit and in some cases I'll even like it--but if you're doing it to pay the bills, it's just a job, man. And like every other person under the yellow sun, you can like your job as much or as little as the next person. And secondly, I don't wish anyone a job doing something you don't like on anyone. I'd much rather you make glorious amounts of money for something you like. You only remember one life, after all.

And who even knows what the fuck art is anymore, anyway. Maybe it was nothing but a state of mind to begin with. Maybe calling something art is nothing but artifice and wank to justify work you know doesn't contribute to making the world a better place, in the way that a cure for cancer would.

But, whatever.

This is about the death of things and to me, that death is freedom.

Death means new rules, new ideas, new ways of doing something. It means looking at the things everyone told you before weren't commercial enough, and doing them anyway.

It's about saying, "Just fuck it."

In the end, you won't make money anyway.




* You know, I've never read about the porn industry complaining about downloading and how it's killing their industry. Now, granted, I don't exactly travel in the porn industry circles, so it's not like I'd find such an article unless it hit a major news site, but if there's any one industry that is downloaded like it's nobodies business on the net, it's porn.

Comments

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mariness
May. 6th, 2005 12:26 pm (UTC)
The chief difficulty with downloading at the moment is that record companies want to have it both ways: they want to control the distribution of music, which, since it's their business, is understandable -- but they also want to use downloading to promote their albums. So when Big Record Company tells random 16 year old that she can't download anything by Fiona Apple, said 16 year old can be forgiven for thinking, "But YOU'RE telling me to download this stuff, so clearly, it's not wrong."

The second difficulty of course is that music, especially before the record industry was created, and now, in the Internet, is not a product in the same sense that a book is a product, an actual object that you can hold in your hands and rip up and feed to your dog or whatever (don't mind me, feeling my writing a bit unloved over here at the moment, but never mind me.) Previously, musicians were paid of a very strict per work basis (you write this symphony for this party, I'll pay you 50 pounds), as sort of "artists in residence," (you live in the palace and write songs for me and entertain me and I'll feed you) or for actual performances; the concept of copyright and constantly receiving royalties just because your music or performance was being heard multiple times is of course a consequence of the creation of records, which turned music into a specific, hand held product.

I feel differently about copywriting of books vs. music, because from a product point of view, we are talking two different things. And while yes, I'm a writer, I've also made considerably more money from performing music than writing.

benpeek
May. 6th, 2005 12:34 pm (UTC)
there really is no one simple way to look at downloading. not one way for you to say, 'downloading bad' or 'downloading good'. the problem with the debate in downloading is that people want it to be one or the other (and lets face it, even i, when i talk about it, approach it mostly from a downloading is good point of view). that said, even publishers are getting into the same thing as record companies, with some of them releasing a backlist of a series of something for free download to entice someone to read the latest.

however, on the topic of fiona apple, the only way you can get her third album is by downloading it. the studio apparently refused to release it, and you have to hunt the tracks out online. it's kind of odd, really.
ashamel
May. 6th, 2005 11:26 pm (UTC)
I believe the mags like Penthouse and Playboy get very upset by the scanning and downloading of their stuff. (Or did Penthouse go bankrupt? I canna remember.)

Anyway, most people like to complain, whether things are dying or not. That's just people.
benpeek
May. 7th, 2005 04:06 am (UTC)
it's funny how playboy and penthouse don't exactly mean the porn industry to me, but oh well. and you know, i haven't heard many people mention penthouse. maybe it did got bankrupt.not that i particularly care, mind.
kylaw
May. 8th, 2005 10:28 pm (UTC)
My favourite is still the death of the author. The idea's been around for long enough now that I think most people ignore it, but when I was at university it was quite big. And the obvious reply was and is, so who wrote the book then? Yes, 'Stephen King' can be a brand and the reader contributes their own context and interpretations, but neither they nor the marketing dept. wrote the damn thing.

I then go on to say that I think traditional narrative structure is a good thing and am ostracised by my Film, Gender and Desire class.
benpeek
May. 9th, 2005 12:33 am (UTC)
the death of the author. you know, i've never actually had a conversation with someone who believed that. thank god, i think. still, now i reckon somene should make an anthology called 'dead authors' where everyone names their story after a dead author and tries to emulate their style.
kylaw
May. 10th, 2005 10:26 pm (UTC)
Okay then, Ben; which dead author would you try to emulate? I think I'll go for Huysmans myself. Only -- I could only do it in translation! Sigh. Wilde then. I don't lack ambition.
benpeek
May. 11th, 2005 01:28 pm (UTC)
i'd emulate lewis carroll. i could have fun with that.
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