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Sime~Gen Inc. Presents

Recommended Books

March, 2000

"Daily Heroics of the Millenium"


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Innocent Blood by Oshram, NorthCoast Press, May 1999 -- a fanzine novel. To get this one, go to http://www.agentwithstyle.com

Xena, the television show. WB syndication

Hercules, the television show. WB syndication.

In the February column, I described how publishing has functioned via advertising during the last century with the implication that things are currently changing.

I described how, as readers, you don't get to choose from among all the works available -- others choose for you. This month I want to focus on how the changes in publishing may affect what you have to choose from, and what you do to find books to choose from.

Choosing, deciding for yourself, is a "Rite of Passage" the first time you do it. Every ceremonial initiation begins with the candidate declaring, in words and symbolic actions, the freewill informed choice to embark upon this Path.

The adolescent rite of passage of making that first, independent decision and acting upon it -- defying parental edict and taking the responsibility for cleaning up the resultant mess -- often goes awry because the child has lacked a full array of options and the training to assess those options. Often children get into drugs because they have no friends they respect who are not into drugs.

Often the Rite of Passage goes awry because the child is flooded with too much information and lacks training in sorting it out. For example, the first forray onto the internet and getting sucked into a porn site and victimized by a child molester or child-porn retailer.

Well, in this new millennium we are all as children whose information sources have been controlled by Madison Avenue even more strictly than parents censor a child's reading. We live with either a too narrow array (buying books from book stores) or a too broad array, (reading fan fiction posted on the net or by listserv and judging it all by the first two or three pieces encountered at random.)

We don't have coping strategies for dealing with the broad flood of choices introduced by e-tailing. We're comfortable with our narrow array of choices because we don't understand how the business of book retailing has denied us access to whole vistas of topics.

And if we did have access to those vistas of topics, we wouldn't know how to sort through all the titles to find the one book we would enjoy spending 2 precious hours of leisure time reading.

Jean Lorrah, ( www.simegen.com/jean ) my sometime collaborator and current business partner, taught in our most recent online writing course, The Essence of Story, that one fertile source of plot material is the motif of the mature adult suddenly tossed into a situation where his carefully developed, life-long coping strategies are no longer appropriate to the world he's living in.

From Shakespeare to the TV show, Roswell, this is a perennial classic dramatic situation because anyone who lives more than 30 years (50 in Shakespeare's day because the world changed at a slower pace) encounters it. This is of course, one fundamental motif you find in science fiction and fantasy -- "what if UFOs really landed in Roswell?"

To provide us new coping strategies appropriate to the new Millennium, on January 1, 2000, a group of writers officially founded the Electronic Author's Guild, an organization of professionals at www.eguild.org/ . And their statement of purpose opens thusly:

"Electronically published authors decided on a bold move to increase public awareness of their books while creating a labor organization. The first international labor organization specifically for the electronic medium will be formed entirely online and in the public eye, with a goal of 'coming into existence the first instant of the year 2,000 (international dateline) in the most common calendar of the planet Earth'."

There is one clause in the bylaws of the Eguild that sets them apart from other labor organizations of the 20th Century, and makes them more like the Guilds after which our online writing school (WorldCrafters Guild) is modeled.

"Those eligible for membership in Electronic Authors Guild International, Eguild, must be persons whose original works have either been electronically published and are being offered by sale by an electronic publisher, or who are seriously working toward such electronic publication....This includes self-published work and subsidy published work for which the author has paid monies to an e-publisher."

When Jean Lorrah brought the Eguild to my attention, she, being a Professor of English to whom this material is second nature, wrote the following:

"I was not on the E-guild list when this clause was hammered out, but I believe it is there in recognition of two recent events: the highly publicized success of J. M. Rose in parleying her self-published novel into a trade publishing best-seller and a movie contract through self-publishing and self-promotion on the Internet, and the recent decision of the Authors Guild, the most prestigious authors organization in the world, to turn itself into a subsidy press for e-publishing.

"What I think is happening is a return to publishing as it was in the 18th and 19th centuries, when numerous big-name authors competed with the printer/publishers of the day by having their own books printed and selling them themselves. While there were a small handful of presses whose imprint guaranteed quality, they did NOT have a lock on the distribution process--booksellers were as willing to stock self-published as "professionally" published works, and as a matter of fact that distinction did not exist. Toward the end of the 19th century things began to change--booksellers and readers began demanding the quality guarantee of books chosen by the great editors, and the great editors worked for the trade publishers.

"Then in the 20th century, publishing became an industry, hand in hand with advertising becoming an industry. Individual authors could no longer compete with the pros. In the first half of the century, editors ruled. There really was quality control at the great publishing houses, and they got a lock on the distribution system. Then the invention of the "subsidy" press during the Depression resulted in the proliferation of beautifully-printed volumes of utter junk. The imprimatur of the trade publishers became even more valuable to readers.

"Booksellers stopped accepting non-trade books. Just when the distribution system became nation- and then world-wide, self-published authors were closed out of it."

More insights from Jean Lorrah in the April column.

In the last few years, I have recommended a number of fanzines, amateur publications, but mostly not self-published and definitely not self-edited. I tend to buy fanzines from those "great editors" of the fanzine field Jean was mentioning above, who "work for" certain Amateur Presses famous in the field. Those I recommend in this column may have a few minor flaws, but generally stand head and shoulders above the best quality you can buy at a bookstore.


Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Innocent Blood by "Oshram" (available at http://www.agentwithstyle.com ) is no exception in quality, but is an exception of sorts in source. I bought it from a trusted and admired 'zine retailer at a convention. It is really two novels, two complete books, woven together to look like one novel. But it's smoothly done, and uniquely appropriate in structure.

It is set during and just after the summer when Buffy had run away to be on her own in Los Angeles, mourning Angel. The author, writing before Buffy came home, guessed accurately a good deal of what the story-arc actually would be. This writer has a mature, strong hand that controls the material very well, and makes you believe everything in the story.

The first half of the book pits Buffy against a gang of vampires in LA. The second half is set after Buffy gets home, and pits Buffy against a different, but related, adversary.

The first half sets up her emotional condition that generates the second half of the story. The two halves are overlapped and inter-cut, one chapter telling Buffy's adventures in LA, and another developing what's going on in Sunnydale. But it's the second half that introduces the most delightful twist.

Xena, from the television show, Xena, turns out to be the First Slayer, whose soul is trapped inside the circular weapon she uses, the chakram, which is now put on display in Buffy's mother's art gallery, put there by a vampire looking to attract and kill Hercules (of the TV show Hercules.)

Hercules turns up and helps Buffy free Xena from the Chakram and kill the oldest Vampire. This book changed my whole understanding of Buffy.

In the 20th Century, our common universe of discourse is television fiction, where in the 19th century it was the "classics." Today, it has been left to television to remake the classic myths in our own image.

The new generation, raised in a CopyMax world swiftly turning into an internet world, sees no reason not to repossess Mythmaking from Hollywood, and do it "right."

I would say that watching our new mythmakers go through the initiations of youth and reinvent publishing would be important to anyone who intends to do effective world-healing magick, but even more important to those who just want to locate and enjoy a good read.

So next month we'll look at the future shape of publishing, and how to find a good book, not just the ones I like, but the ones you would like.


Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg,



Until I get the direct links installed here, you can find these titles by using copy/paste (in MSIE use right mouse button to get the copy/paste menue to work inside text boxes) to insert them in the search slot below -- then click Book Search and you will find the page where you can discover more about that book, or even order it if you want to.   To find books by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, such as the new Biblical Tarot series, search "Jacqueline Lichtenberg" below. 

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Reviewed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg


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