I'd like to talk about my good friend, the wellest-dressed chap in town, Ryan Oakley. Ryan is a dapper gent, a clever wit and above all, a fantastic writer. I've had the pleasure of reading Ryan's last novel TECHNICOLOR ULTRAMALL. I even did this cover illustrations for it. Set in the future, where the outside world has become uninhabitable, people have taken to massive indoor, multi-level structures, or malls. There are the Greens, the upper level, rich and privileged, the blues, the working class below, and then the reds, the lower levels, a swarming mass of ultra-violence, sex, drugs and mall gangs. Our hero Budgie, is in one such gang, the Jabberwocks, and is struggling with the lifestyle and the possibilities of getting out and moving up.
It's a visionary work, really. The thing is a slab of absolutely visceral brilliance. So, where can you buy this amazing novel? At your local Barnes and Noble? Why no...you can't buy this book, because it was never published. You see, the world of science-fiction publishing is a tiny, fickle, dying thing. There are fewer and fewer books being bought every year, thus fewer and fewer being published. And those that are being published are generally the safe "name" authors. The few sci-fi publishers left are loathe to take risks on unproven talent.
Now, in the world of comics, Ryan would have a clear solution to his dilemma. He could simply do what I did with my first book Lost Dogs, and self-publish, gain a bit of buzz and indy cred, then take his next book to TOR or whoever the fuck else still publishes sci-fi. But, you see in the world of "real books", self-publishing is a dirty, dirty word. Unlike the alt-comics scene, it does not carry any hipster cred, in fact, it kind of makes you into a sort of literary pariah. Only those who can't get published, self-publish. And if you haven't been published, you'll never get published. So to be quite frank, Ryan is fucked. He'll keep writing his brilliant fiction, with no real end game in site, because that's what real writers do...they write, no matter what. And, maybe a lucky few, like me. will get to read them. All of this seems quite shitty to me.
I don't know that there is a solution to any of this. The publishing world is clearly at a crossroads. Graphic novels are one of the few "genres" in book publishing that are currently growing. The rest is slowly dying off. The possibilities of online publishing and distribution are rich and full of potential, but still hasn't developed into any kind of valid, or cohesive form yet. Maybe Ryan's future lies here on the world wide web one day, as an Internet Literary Superstar and Fashionista. Or, maybe he should do what everyone else and their brother is doing and turn to writing comics...oh sorry "graphic novels" (or, maybe Ryan should write that historical fiction novel about his Irish Grandfather and the founding of The Donegal Express that I know he has in him, use that to get published, then go back to sci-fi? hint hint Ryan). I don't know where else this post is going, I guess I've blown off my steam, and made my point. And, you should all go to Ryan's blog. That's all.