Monday, March 28, 2011

The Purpose of Fiction

We live in a contradictory time for art. Back in the heyday, hundreds of years ago, people like Da Vinci didn't create art to satisfy his publishers, "target market". The genius in his work was the only thing that mattered, and hence, a lot of the finest work the world has ever seen dates back to these time periods, (although I was in the Lurve a few months ago, and think The Mona Lisa is highly overrated. I mean who gives a shit that her smile is indefinable?)

But today we live in a time where even if a piece of work is of the highest order i.e. engaging plot, interesting characters, well written verses, if there is no target market for the piece, then publishers can't generate sales for it, thus no $$$ for them, and no publication for you. Now, there is no need to get all angst-ridden with this, it's just how it is, and if a writer is going to become successful, this needs to be addressed. But this creates a contradiction in the writer’s psyche (the real writer that is). Does the writer write for themselves? Or do they write for their target market?

Now just for conceptualization sake, I'm going to define what I believe the purpose of fiction is. I of course write dystopian fiction, because I believe it best serves the purpose of writing fiction. To me, writing is about tapping into the deepest values of your mind, and then expressing your fundamental, abstract views of existence, into a living, breathing reality, that the reader can perceive directly and respond to. This may be a mouthful to grasp, so let me break it down in relation to my novel, "Ressentiment".

Resssentiment is about two societies opposed to each other. One is poor, one is rich, one is on the east side of the bay, and the other is on the west side of the bay. The east side (the poor side), perceives the west to be evil oppressors, while the west side perceive the east side to be evil criminals. This structure explores the "us vs. them" mentality of human beings. We always want to identify ourselves with a particular group, and then create "others" to tighten our relationship with the group we believe we belong to. We can see this all over the world today, and I believe it to fundamentally be one of the greatest challenges to peace on this planet. Now, this is an abstract concept, and I just can't explain it to you in a novel. Instead I set up the scenario so it plays out in "real time" for the reader, and I explore all the ramifications of it, such as politics, society, culture and the effect it has on the day to day lives of human beings. This forces reflection.

Now, this has meaning to me because it's fundamental to how I view the world and I believe is the purpose of all art. Every artist should look at his or her work and state, "this is how existence looks to me." But your publisher doesn't give a shit about how existence looks to you, they will say, "well this is how the market looks to me, so make it fit the market, or get out of the industry."

So you got to find that fine line. You have to realize that although modernity brings with it benefits that far outweigh the downsides (in the first world that is), there will have to be a compromise made to fit the market. I suggest knowing what is real to you, and picking a target market that is closest to what you love, while knowing that you may have to change some of those things you feel "passionate" about. Sure, the idealist will say, "no fucking way, I'm an artist, and will only publish what I believe in," and this person may of read to many bio's and up lifting movies who really promote this kind of thinking, but in reality, they probably comprised too but just haven’t chosen to show that part.

That's enough for me for now. This blog is still gathering a following so please spread the world and link to it so we can get a philosophical fiction community happening!


P.S I'm reading a lot of young adult dystopian novels right now, trying to gage the market to see if I can pull off writing one or two. Reading "The Ember" series right now, and not half bad. If you're not reading novels in your market, then get on it!

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