Most authors are stupid. It’s not something we wish to hear, but it is true. Oh, we may have the story to end all stories inside of us and may well have written it. A token few of us may have bothered to learn enough about the publishing business to put our work through multiple rounds of professional (not uncle Bob or your friend Suzy) editing before putting our work out there. That, however, is as smart as most of us get. If you believe you are the exception to the rule, then, most definitely you are deep within the rule, not the exception. As they say in the grift world, “you’re the mark.”
Coming to grips with the reality that everyone is a mark is the first step to becoming successful, or at least less of a victim. Way back when Linked-In was a relevant site, before it went the way of MySpace countless other “hot” sites we’ve all forgotten about, I used to belong to a writers group on there. It was just a moderated forum where writers would exchange ideas about publishing, writing and the self-publishing world. Yes, we had a few agents and lawyers who hung out there, but it was mostly writers with a few books under their belt and a whole lot of people who wanted to have a few books under their belt. Well, before the group got overrun by spam and people trying to turn these marks into cash. I had always known there were organizations willing to prey on fledgling writers but until I saw all of them fighting to get into the group, I had no idea just how many and to what lengths they would go.
Another thing which shocked me is just how gullible as a group writers are. Time after time we had people coming into the group who had been scammed by infamous scammers. By infamous I mean that even the most casual of searches in the usual places would turn up a litany of shady and/or outright criminal activity associated with those organizations and/or individuals. Then, reality set in. Far too many people have been sold the Amazon bill of goods. There is this “philosophy” out there that they can “get an Amazon lottery ticket which never expires for free.” They all bought the white elephant before the auction even started.
Before you even think about releasing your work anywhere or doing business with anyone in the publishing/writing world, at a bare minimum, you need to look them up on Writer Beware. I am always stunned at the number of people I encounter who claim to be authors and have never heard of this site. Slimy agents, fraudulent publishing houses, its all there. Granted some of these places change their names and relocate often to escape criminal prosecution, so simply not finding their current name on the site isn’t a gold seal, but if you find them on here…
While we could fill hundreds of posts talking of publishing industry slime that is not the point of this post. Here is a couple of other places to look at:
The point of this post is that as a group we are stupid. Believe it or not this post is also a result of scanning through my rental list. I’m going to talk about one of the more divisive topics in a corner of science fiction. I must confess that I’ve never read the Starship Troopers book. I do own 3 of the movies which now appear to come in a bundle.
The original Starship Troopers movie is my all time favorite science fiction film. I’ve watched it many times. It is now old enough that many of the cable stations run a heavily edited version of it almost weekly. Despite the cheesy factor associated with it, the movie had some powerful concepts as well as bold predictions. The best of science fiction is based both on science and predictive fiction. There were some subtle yet deep science and philosophy topics covered early in the film. More important was the bold prediction women would fight alongside men in combat. Probably the more shocking prediction was co-ed barracks as well as communal co-ed showers. While a great many lambasted this as pure fiction some 20 years ago when the movie came out, we’ve all heard the recent news about combat jobs being opened up for women.
Our military is doing away with male only career paths. The co-ed barracks with communal showers isn’t that far away. If you think those topics are still controversial now, just imagine when the book was originally published in 1959.
Now we get to the great divide. Coffin vs. Landing Craft
People who read the book tend to take large issue with the movie using landing craft to ferry troops to the surface. The book used individual drop pods, nick named coffins that disintegrated in the atmosphere to provide protection from anti-aircraft fire. According to many things you read, the movie was only loosely based on the book but that seems to be where the line in the sand is drawn.
This is not just an argument only a few science fiction fans should pay attention to. Every author must pay attention to what became of this property.
If you do a search for “starship troopers” at cafedvd you will see there is a good number of animated Starship Trooper movies as well. The animations were created by people who read the book so they veer wildly from the movie. Not just veer, characters who die in the movie are still alive. They use single soldier drops instead of landing craft containing entire units. The list goes on and on.
My first impression was the movie. Fell in love with that. The other two movies aren’t so good, but the first was landmark. I made it through “some” of the animated movies, but really couldn’t deal with them. Not because they were animations, I really like some animated movies, it was the shredding of story from the movie. In short, I am the other side of the coin. People who read the book think the movie shredded the story line.
How does this happen?
Most authors are stupid.
When some agent or publisher contacts you and says they have a movie deal for your book, you basically stop processing information at that point. They all know it. You get some pittance up front and if your agent doesn’t completely screw you, some percentage which doesn’t disappear in the Hollywood Accounting system.
Your eyes have glazed over and you begin seeing your massive mansion on Rodeo Drive or whatever palace you dream of. You see yourself attending massive parties with hard bodied willing groupies just like in the movies. What you don’t see are the phrases in the contract giving the producers complete creative license over the movie. What you don’t see are the phrases stating when this becomes a multi-movie franchise you don’t get squat from or have input to the additional films. You sign your child away then sit in front of your computer hitting refresh on your bank screen just waiting to see your pathetic balance sky rocket from all of those royalties and residuals. You might see some additional book royalties if your publisher doesn’t use a Hollywood Accounting system but I wouldn’t hold my breath. It’s not like you have any method of auditing those returns they charge you for. Maybe they don’t have a full Hollywood Accounting system, perhaps it’s just a Bollywood Accounting system?
What we have now is a very large fan base which fights with itself. It’s a case of eating your young instead of feeding a growing entity. Had this unending battle not started, the fan base of Starship Troopers could be just as big as Star Wars and just as ardent.
Take a good look at the community behind Firefly. Joss Whedon was able to control the first impression, in part because the series was so short lived. The fan base grows every year though. They are one of the best attended portions of ComiCon. And just the turns fans rabid.
We are all stupid at some level. The difference between an author who sold a few extra books from a movie deal and an author who created a living breathing property that has a growing community behind it is controlling the first impression.