Friday, February 25, 2011

Oh don't pretend, 'cause I don't care: reader punk


I used to just read. You know, back when I was younger and more naive and didn't think that people would judge the fuck out of me based on what I read, didn't read, and most importantly, what I was seen reading.

Maybe it's because I grew up in a place and among people where (outside my own family) reading itself was seen as a little outré. I had a couple friends that read sci-fi and fantasy. One girl, she read romance novels by the bucketload. I tried a few, checked them out from the library before I knew I should be embarrassed being seen with a handful of Harlequins. To the librarian's credit, she didn't bat an eyelash. Or when I requested just about every book Harlan Ellison ever wrote through the interlibrary loan system.

That was my literary circle. For a really long time. I'll tell you some stories someday.

Then I started writing. Restarted. And there are stories about that, too, but not now. The more I write, the deeper down the rabbit hole I go. Somehow I ended up here.

Here being the kind of place where you get shit like the > kill author Indie Lit Community Survey[1]. Up front, I enjoy > kill author, and I love what they're doing. They say clearly that there's no subtext intended in the questions. But read the answers. There's a whole fuckload of subtext being answered. And I applaud every motherfucker who's owned their social neurosis.

But, seriously, what the fuck, people.

They are books and stories and poems. They are a private act between you and the author, the closest you will ever come to being inside another person's brain. There is no experience more intimate, more exposed, more vulnerable, than that between writer and reader. And it goes both ways; the reader gets to enter the writer's mind, but god, the things that happen in there. That is literature.

And it is a mindfuck.

We're doing surveys on this? Really?

The indie fiction world is so fucking tiny. And so fucking dependent. There is no media machine, just readers. You want people to read your shit, you gotta get them by word of mouth.

Which brings me to what started this thought-train along its inevitable tracks. This is the locomotive, baby.

Spreading the word is not accomplished by being ashamed to talk about what you're reading, what you enjoy reading.

I can put whatever shit I want up on my Goodreads banner. I can review it in all the right places, comment on all the right blogs. I know what's hip, who's overrated, who's up and coming. I been told, and I can pass for indie, pass for literary. While I'm reading Dan Brown on my Nook.

Oh yeah, that's right. Not one of those indie-popular authors. Not even Amy Tan or Junot Díaz. Dan motherfuckin' Brown.

Don't you fucking judge me, either. You'd never know if I didn't tell you.

There's this fear, being among people who are so fucking talented and so fucking smart. I'm afraid they might catch me out. They might realize I'm not smart and I'm not talented. That I'm not one of them. That I've got Dan Brown on my Nook.

And here's the kicker:

There are people that have been indie for, well, eons. Before it had a name. Before it was cool. Way before. The people that laid the groundwork for what has become "indie." There are people with a surfeit of talent, and by talent, I mean they are some hardworking motherfuckers who are shaping the destiny of independent literature in what is the most revolutionary time for literature since Gutenberg. Those smart, talented motherfuckers I was talking about before. And they are so inclusive and so non-judgmental, they will welcome you with open arms. They don't care what you read.


I've got this thirty-second rule.

In a new space, new faces, I give myself thirty seconds for the knee-knocking, bladder-weakening social fear. "Omg, what if they don't like me, is my hair okay, I'm gonna sound stupid, I don't think I should've worn this, does my breath stink?"

Then I turn that shit off. Because I am awesome. Because I am fearless. Because it's gonna be a shitty party if I spend it hiding in the coatroom.

And at the end of this really long, really rambling, really alcohol-fueled blog post, that's what I hope you, dear reader, gentle reader, kinda hot reader, will take away.

Read whatever the fuck you want. Comic books, Playboy, Harlequin romances, Dan Brown, Twilight, Dzanc. Whatever you love, own that shit. Celebrate it. Not everything has to be about image and what's indie (and what's not).

I'm not gonna judge you.

There aren't enough of us.

[1] The Indie Lit Community Survey 2011