Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Blue genes and gay publishing

As you go by the solstice of winter and don't have anything bright and shiny to look forward to until your birthday (which is a date of mixed blessings: My gods, are you still alive? How old are you? You're kiddin. Be fair, nobody's that old!), you start to ponder upon the meaning of Life, the Universe and similar Jazz. The days are short, gray and bloody damned cold (this is the coldest winter in anyone's memory), and you wonder what you were bitching about last summer, when you were flaked out on any available horizontral surface, chugging anything cold, and begging for a flurry of snow. Of course, come January and February, you'll be saying the exact same things again ... humans are not terribly adaptable.

There's a bright, lurative future for the geneticist who isolates and markets the adaptability gene. They'd sell it by the pill or by the shot, and you'd go get your shot in, say, October, and start mutating for summer. Your body would change shape and consistency between then and Christmas, and by New Year you'd have the body and constitution of a Masai warrior, to whom 110 degrees is peachy. Then, you'd go back to the clinic and get another shot in April, and by June you'd look like a native Siberian or Canadian or Alaskan ... Inuit, or Inupiat, or Yupik ... folks to whom 50 degrees is balmy and warm. On a day like today (the forecast is for 12 degrees Celcius, which is something like 54 in real degrees), with your Inuit body and constitution you'd be sipping on a cool drink, lying on an air mattress by the pool.

Was talking to the other side of the family (in Alaska) at the weekend ... they're having the coldest summer in anyone's memory. They've tickled 60 degrees F on a couple of occasions in Anchorage, and in the Valley (Mat-Su), it snowed last week. In July. Most of Alaska is rain-soaked, and folks are wondering where in the hell their summer went to --

And here's Keegan bitching about the climate, the winter, while "enjoying" almost identical weather. Yes, BUT --

It's what you're used to. You get acclimated to summer, and then it ... stops.

Okay, I'll shut up about it now.

There's a new screensaver at the Tenth Dimension (the members' zone at MK Online). No hunks this time -- next time, guys. Be patient. This one is an SF screensaver which is rated "office safe." You can go ahead and install it wherever, without getting glares. I'll save you a trip to the website, and give you the direct links right here:

Click on this to download the XP self-installer;

Click on this to download the file for Vista
(This Vista one doesn't instll itself. Extract it from the archive to your desktop, double-click it, and you get a pop-up menu.)

And a very good question from a thoughtful reader, while I'm here. This visitor from the UK asked, why did GMP cease to be, as a publishing entity? It's a long and complex story, but I'll try to be brief. The business was started quite a long time ago now, by a group of people (I think there were five guys, Richard Dipple, Aubrey Walther, David Fernbach, and two others) who were all investors in the enterprise and worked for GMP too. The business started with a couple of books and at its zenith was doing 26 new titles per year -- which was the point where Keegan signed with them. The future looked bright indeed; at that point, I had no idea Richard Dipple was seriously ill. Richard was one of the nicest human beings I have ever known, and his death was not merely a tragedy in human terms, but also for gay publishing. Without him, GMP unraveled itself. The four other founder members went in different directions; two stayed (Aubrey Walther and David Fernbach), but things were not as lucrative as they might have been, and ... frankly, I should think the inspiration had gone. When the joy goes out of something, it turns into work, and sometimes damned hard work. A day arrives when you're glad to let it go. That day came, and GMP passed into the hands of Prowler Press. Now, Prowler was a magazine publisher which had become interested in having a gay book list, and it might have worked out, if Millivres (the big, BIG gay magazine publishing house) had not assimilated Prowler in the perfectly natural process by which huge publishing combines consume their more modest competitors, in order to iron-clad their market share. Here was the problem: Millivres had no interest in running a gay book list. Over the space of several years the last titles (which had already been contacted for at the time of the takeover) were published; anything else was scrapped; on-shelf stock was run down, and ... it was over.

The really sad thing is that with the loss of GMP, gay publishing outside the USA suffered a major blow from which it's never, really, recovered -- or at least, not yet. Many writers (myself among them) are out there on the Internet, breaking trail, and doing very nicely at it. But (and I cannot stress this enough!) writers like Keegan had an existing "name" to tout, when we started self-marketing. MK could quote a stack of titles from GMP and Millivres, and even a credit from Alyson (Breakheart); I could rattle off the reviews I'd received yonks ago. All this builds a foundation under the new Internet book marketing project. Gay books, any kind of books, makes little difference: you have to find readers and get them to part with their money. And it's easier to do this when they either know you already because they have a shelf full of your old books, or they're reasonably impressed with the fact you were professionally published much more than one time.

Not for a moment am I saying that new (gay or otherwise) writers can't make a go of markering their books on the web: they can. Have you heard of a book called "The Didymus Contingency", by Jeremy Robinson? No? Google it. Seriously. It was self-published, he paid Kirkus Reviews their pound of flesh for a write-up (and they have become bloody expensive), and before you know it's he's signing a contract with a pro publisher. Another writer who went the DIY route and succeeded massively was Matthew Reilley: from self publishing to signing a high-six-figure contract with a major UK house, in about three years flat.

I guess what I'm saying is ... new writers have to be prolific, dedicated, incredibly talented, and have quite a lot of money to invest in promoting their books. Then, they need some real, genuine luck. Not everyone has the investment capital, or the luck. And I think it's so sad that a good, solid gay publishing house no longer exists -- a house that's been established so long, the publisher can afford to take a risk on someone new.

This is what happened for me: Richard Dipple took a risk on Mel Keegan. Now, ICE, WIND AND FIRE got some stinking reviews (for being sexy; can you believe that?) but Richard looked at actual sales figures, which were good, and gave me another shot...

That next shot was DEATH'S HEAD. The rest is history. DEATH'S HEAD had a good many teething problems of its own, but David Fernbach and I got through it, and ... here we are.

The bottom line is this: I would love to see another publishing house come along to fill the void left by GMP. I'd be involved with it myself, on some level, if I were given the opportinity. And now --

I have to go back to work, guys! More tomorrow.

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