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.
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.