Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Adelaide Heat, the Icelandic MP, and the Gay Oracle of 1996

The Adelaide heat is making headlines -- as well it should. We had the hottest day since 1939 yesterday ... 45.5C, which is something in the order of 115F, and remember, that's a shade temperature. In the sun it was ... much hotter.

The forecast for today? The same. They forecast 44 yesterday, and we're going to the same again, and there's little in the way of relief for the next week. Click this to get a version large enough to read:

It's a question of survival ... and trying to get some work done on the side. For this reason (!) you'll forgive me if I'm a bit brief!

Two items landed on my desk late yesterday, and one gives cause to rejoice while the other has that sepulchral sound ... like the thuddd you hear when the door closes on a tomb.

The good news is that Iceland is, by all accounts, about to elect an openly gay PM, who's a woman to boot. Fantastic. See the story on Huffington:

I could wax rhapsodic about this, but -- today? I'll just give you think link and defer the celebrations!

The second item is a strangely oracular feature article dating back about 12 years now:

It's an old article, and permission is granted on it to forward, copy, and so on, so I'll save you the trip over to the above url, and will paste the whole thing in below. Remember: this was 1996! And every word the article said has come true in spades. The feature was a call-to-arms for readers in the GLBTI community to "support your local," and I fear, too few of us heeded it. At the same time -- late 1990s -- along came Amazon, and suddenly we had access to used (gay) books for .70c, and the rest ... is history.

Fact: used books and remainder stock hurt publishers. Publishers and writers only earn their grocery money and rent money when a brand, spanking new copy is sold. Used book stores (of which Amazon is the King) don't do the traditional publishers, and their contract writers, any favors. Amazon is great for used book vendors, and utterly indispensable for POD publishers! This is the way of the future ... and part of the process of evolution is the gradual, unavoidable atrophy of the deadwood: the traditional publishers who brought the rot on themselves by seeking ever-greater profits via the business model of Mergers and Conglomeration.

In fact, I was just saying all this yesterday, in my response to a wonderful comment from Mark Coker of Smashwords, on a previous post of mine. If you're undecided about POD -- and particularly if you're a fresh, (largely) unpublished writer hoping to break into the market today, you owe it to yourself to read Mark's comment, and my response:

(Also, if you're just happening upon this post, it might be useful to read this -- On any Saturday ... except this one -- my post for January 24, in which I fielded a reader's question, "How difficult is it to sell books on Amazon.")

And now, that oracular feature article ... read this and shiver. It all came true:

Gay and Lesbian Words Are In Danger Today

Please consider this before you make your next book purchasing decision. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered bookstores exist in a fragile ecosystem made up of the members of our community who support them with their purchases, the small gay, feminist, and lesbian publishing houses which supply them, the authors who write the books, and the stores themselves. This living web is very fragile and easily disrupted. It could possibly even be destroyed if we let the large "discount" chain stores influence us into "discounting" the efforts of all these people and saving a few cents on the purchase of a book, even the latest Times bestseller, at the expense of our sisters and brothers and friends.

Make no mistake, our bookstores are under attack, as are all independent bookstores. The large chains (and there are only a very few) want to control all our book-buying decisions and are deliberately targeting areas where large independent stores have a loyal customer base. You'll pardon me, I'm sure, if I say that I believe feminist, lesbian, and gay stores are under particular assault. A recent issue of Ms. Magazine (May/June, 1995, Volume V, Number 6) had a graphic illustration of this in the form of a photograph of the new Borders Bookstore which "just happened" to open up directly across the street from Sisterhood Bookstore in West Los Angeles, California. Look it up if you haven't seen it. It's scary.

Fight back! If you're browsing in a big chain store and see an interesting title your local store might not carry, jot down the name and author and have your local gay and lesbian bookstore order it for you. They need the business and you need them. Many of these stores,and the publishing houses and authors who depend on them to sell their books, may not be there when you want and need them unless you continue to support them with your purchasing power and with your time.

If you can't buy a book today, do something! Volunteer to help out with publicity, help with a book table at a local Pride Festival, or any other needed task; at least tell another woman or man about our stores and ask them to buy their next book from one of our stores and keep our stories being told.

Community Losses
Old Wives' Tales in San Francisco, CA
Judith's Room in New York, NY
31st Street Street Bookstore Cooperative in Baltimore, MD
ClaireLight in Santa Rosa, CA

All these stores share in our common problem, in spite of large and active gay and lesbian communities in their immediate neighborhoods they have closed their doors and can no longer serve us. There are others whose names do not appear on this short list who are also gone or are in serious trouble. The people who run these stores share a common dedication to making it possible to find gay and lesbian books, to support our common community, to furnish a forum for those who want to publish works that might not find a ready market outside our community. There's not much money in it.

The large chains don't care whether gay and lesbian publishing of our thoughts and issues continues or not. They're really only in it for the money. They're glad to skim the "cream" off the top of our literature, the most popular titles, but won't be there to support us when it counts. The gay and lesbian publishing houses cannot survive if the only titles they sell are the one or two most "mainstream" every year. Think of what our world of books would look like with no Seal Press, no Knights Press, no Cleis, no Firebrand, no Naiad, to name only a few of the small presses dedicated to publishing gay and/or lesbian words.

Our words make a difference. They count. Please make your money and effort count by putting it where it can do us all some good, into the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community.

Hopeful Note
I didn't want to end this in a completely gloomy vein. There are still people opening new gay and lesbian bookstores and I don't know about all the gay and lesbian bookstores there are. I'm sure I've missed a few, maybe yours. If you know a store I've missed that carries a large selection of books that empower lesbians and gay men (and doesn't carry books that oppress them), please tell me so I can share it through this list. These new stores are part of our common hope for the future.

Most of the books sold in this country are purchased by women; doesn't it make sense that we could support any kind of publishing business we really wanted, if only we all worked together?
These stores, and the many other stores already on my list, are here to serve us now. Please help keep them open and make them a success.

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...Chilling, isn't it?


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