My modest goal as a kid was to be immortal. Well, maybe not a kid so much as an adolescent, but close enough. That didn’t mean living forever in the flesh, which never seemed like a good idea, but immortal in the way writers like Louisa May Alcott and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jane Austen seemed to me to be. I read voraciously, but socialized only moderately. There may have been some cause-and-effect going on there. And wanting to write books worthy of becoming immortal definitely had an element of “showing them” even though I knew already that “they” would never consider literary brilliance as preferable to being attractive, feminine, and popular.
At any rate, I planned to be a writer, but without an actual plan. I wrote plays in elementary school in which my reluctant (and even resentful) classmates were forced to participate when holidays rolled around. I wrote bits of poetry in lieu of doodling during boring classes. In high school I won a couple of essay contests. But that was only playing around with the tools I’d gained from so much reading. In college I got by in the same way, but acquired more tools and more data in the memory bank. One very perceptive professor said that I could write a “tour de force” without having anything particular to say.
My goal kept on being a “some day” affair for a very long time. I’ve gone on at far too much length about that in previous posts, so I won’t go there now. I did, after amassing a good deal of life experience, find things I wanted to write about, and managed to publish short stories often enough to encourage me to keep on writing. It turned out that what I had to say was more along the lines of light entertainment than deathless truths, but having some minor success in fantasy and science fiction, and then some moderate success in erotica, was (and is) seductive. So is editing anthologies. I sometimes think of writing and editing fiction as a form of sculpture, bringing together just the right elements, carving away whatever obscures the true line, balancing the curves and hollows, the smooth and the rough, making a shape emerge that’s more than the sum of its parts, or at least does justice to its parts. I admit that this is an ideal seldom even approached, but that’s the way goals tend to be.
By now I’ve given up on the goal finding immortality through my writing. The kind of fiction that could escape being out of print and forgotten after four or five years is not the kind of fiction I’m drawn to write. Pretty soon, with the accelerating flood of work being published, almost nothing will be able to rise above that flood for very long. In spite of this flood, though, it turns out that traditional publishers don’t live forever, either. The publishing world as we knew it has been quaking under our feet.
Early in my editing career I worked with several small publishers who folded more or less under me, good people with admirable goals who couldn’t manage the business part, which, for the idiosyncratic type of work they wanted to publish, was probably inherently unmanageable. There were some medium-sized publishers in the erotica genre who did seem to have a grasp of what it took to survive, but eventually sank under mergers and acquisitions by conglomerates that decided books weren’t profitable enough. I eventually achieved a goal I’d had for some time of doing free-lance work with a publisher who did have good business sense (however frustrating that might be when I wanted to do something that wasn’t likely to sell well) and was known for the quality of its products. Their books are carried in major bookstores.
Seven years later, “major bookstores” are on the verge of extinction. Barnes & Noble continues to close its branch stores, and has been returning vast numbers of books to publishers for refunds, books that have often been languishing in their back rooms and warehouses for years without making it to any shelves. Publishers are taking a major hit. At the same time publishers who started up their businesses years ago, who were groundbreakers for genres like erotica, are getting older and wanting to retire. Who could blame them? So one of my publishers (I work mainly with two—let’s not name names, even in comments) has been sold to a company that has been buying up quite a few small presses. The same staff (slightly reduced) is still there, doing their usual good work, but there’s some inevitable chaos during the transition, and a major slowing down of production to the point where I’m beginning to worry about attracting good writers when I have two completed anthologies waiting in the pipeline, one of which may just barely make it into print late next year, with no estimate at all of when the other will get some traction. I have an impression that the number of new releases is being decreased, while some of the backlist is being re-introduced. This may well be a good business decision, and I have hopes that things will work out just fine eventually, but it’s still unsettling.
These days my goals have become short-term affairs. I’m still addicted to editing anthologies when I can, and I have a new call for submissions out now for something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. The somewhat overheated working title is Thunder of War, Lightning of Desire: Lesbian Historical Military Erotica, for my alternate publisher, and you can find the guidelines on my blog, http://sacchi-green.blogspot.com, or on http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/AR/Erotica_Authors_Resources.htm
As for immortality, I think of that now as a more nuanced concept. Anything we do that affects someone else’s life can make a difference in the future, even in the tiniest ways, kind of like the butterfly effect. I know a few people have been touched by my writing, and there are probably a few more that I don’t know of. More significantly, I’ve helped some beginning writers and encouraged them to keep on writing. That’s a goal I didn’t think about, back in my callow youth, but it’s become important to me, and best of all, it’s achievable. Why ask for anything more?