Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Futurology of Romance


I prepared a post that was to go up Tuesday June 3 and it didn't, so I found it in blogger's listing and posted it -- but as Rowena Cherry once noted to me, when you do that blogger posts it on the date you saved it to the que, NOT the date you clicked POST.

So there is now a short (!!!) post from me inserted below on Tuesday June 3 -- and I didn't post on Tuesday June 10 because it was Shavuoth - a holiday.

So today's post is about the Futurology of Romance -- and no, it's not about computer error messages exchanged by AI's in love or inserted by AI's jealous of one another.

Jean Lorrah found the following online article about the effects of the writer's strike on Hollywood and "The" Industry.


Essentially, that article describes what my techie-son-in-law Ernest was showing me on the web when he was here -- Phil Foglio is doing an online comic that's blowing the hit stats out of the park. Others are doing stills and animateds that are capturing the young audience. Ernest knows tons of URLS -- his interest is mainly in humor.

The problem those new writer-producers will all have though is the same as with the e-book -- no editors, no "gatekeepers" to vet the work and direct it to people want that particular thing done at that particular skill level. The whole internet system will re-invent the wheel pretty soon.

People don't have TIME to hunt for the good stuff they want to spend an hour before bedtime on. They need Underwriters Laboratory for fiction. A guarantee it won't blow up on you!

There could be a product there that's sellable -- the 'zine or reviews or imprint or logo or colophon -- that guarantees the product has a certain skill level behind it, and the genre-label sorter that indicates what type of entertainment it delivers.

Do you think people would pay a monthly or annual fee to be sure that what they click on will meet their needs and not waste their time? Or would they stick with the current method of hearing about it on social networks from friends or on Lists etc?

Do you enjoy flawed fanfic more than tightly crafted pro-fic? Because that's what such independent productions often are -- fanfic in animated clothing.

How will large, international audiences respond to a flood of amateur productions online? Would such productions tend to be worse than Little Theater?

In Star Trek fanzines, the commercial forces that forged Manhattan Publishing also shaped and energized ST fanfic. Star Trek 'zines became enormously expensive to produce and someone had to upfront the printing costs and warehouse them in their basement, tote them to cons, etc. So publishers (who were often also the editors) would consider a submitted story in terms of whether they could make their investment back in time to print the next issue of the 'zine. Would this story enhance their reputation with readers who would pay for the next issue?

Readers objected to some content, others adored that content. Publishers split off whole 'zines to handle specialized content -- and re-invented genre. 'Zine buyers LOVED that guarantee of content at a certain editorial skill (readers hate typos and continuity blunders -- 'zine readers were just as picky about plot-resolution as pro-fic buyers) and 'zine buyers LOVED being able to buy the subject matter they wanted without it being polluted by stuff they didn't want.

I think the Wild-Wild-West goldrush this article describes will result in the same market forces reasserting themselves but in another way.

Video production DOES cost, especially if you want to do it well. The voracious market my son-in-law has found will demand ever increasing production values -- and actors, animators, artists, videographers, etc will want to be paid for their skills. So the most popular online fiction will bea small percentage of the BEST produced stuff.

Bandwidth does cost. Even though it's cheaper now, hard drive space on a server COSTS. YouTube is providing small spaces by selling advertising. So once more, fiction availability comes back to commercial market forces.

Amazon will already let you post whatever self-published shlock you want -- for a fee. If your stuff is not valued, or if you fail in self-promotion -- you will not make back that cost. Soon you'll be hiring an independent editor to edit your stuff before posting. Another new profession -- and I've run into a lot of them already -- independent editors.

Have you seen that commercial where, at a tennis match, everyone rushes onto the field from the stands and the announcer says if you let everyone play, you don't get anywhere?

It's a commercial for a website which posts only high paying jobs.

We hate the gatekeepers who reject us, and blame "gatekeeping" for keeping our valuable output from the hands of our audience.

Do we really need gatekeepers in the worlds of Art?

Isn't every romance that pours out of a writer's heart something you, yourself would want to read as desperately as the writer wants you to?

As artists, portraying the intricacies of Relationship, passion and love melded into something higher, how can we tell if what we produce is of any value to anyone but ourselves?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Hello, Jacqueline,

    I don't know what happened to your June 3rd posting. I did go into Draft, and publish it, as we agreed I would.

    How strange that it vanished again!

    I'm glad you are back.

    Best wishes,


  2. What an amazing number of thoughts in such a short amount of space! I'll have to give it some thought, but I did want to chime in on the fanfic vs. pro-fic--it depends on my mood.

    I can suspend my disbelief for poor production values in a film or amateurish prose, but I do need to be in a specific mood. On the other hand, there's something to be said about the passion I see in fanfic that doesn't always shine through with carefully crafted pro-fic.

    One phrase from one of the worst fanfic stories I ever read has stayed with me for over 10 years, whereas I couldn't tell you the opening or ending lines from traditionally published books that I enjoyed very much.

    so go figure.

  3. I have no experience with or personal knowledge of video production, but as far as e-books are concerned, we already have "gatekeepers" -- professional e-publishers, the Internet equivalent of the print small press, who accept only a small percentage of the submissions they receive and edit their books thoroughly. People can find a good list of publishers to start with at the EPIC site (epicauthors.com). Readers can pre-sift content in search of books that will interest them by visiting the numerous review sites that review e-books.

  4. Rowena:

    With the stubborn way blogger ignores commands, I'm not surprised you couldn't get my post to go up!

    Thank you, and yes it's a huge subject.

    You are correct that NOW the e-book field has developed some more reliable colophons. But the whole principle had to be re-invented from scratch, and actually e-books have a long way to go.

    Apparently, the amateur video is following the same developmental pathway. A whole new generation has to re-invent the wheel for itself. Again.

    Does anyone think it's important to understand the mechanism these forces produce? At the dawn of the origin of "folk music" it wasn't quite like this. The whole audience for a song was just the few dozen families in a single town.

    The mass market behaves differently. At least I think so. It's worth discussing.

    Imagine the Relationships that are being forged as these new web-based industries are formed!

    Imagine the feuds!

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  5. Here's a mechanism, Jacqueline, but almost certainly not in the way you meant!

    Skewed polling!

    "Do you Read Romance books" is a poll on MSNBC.

    The options are:
    "No way! I don't touch those books!"

    "Sometimes, while I'm on vacation or at the beach."

    and "Yes! Yes! Yes! Bodice Rippers are my ultimate escape!"

    The poll is buried in a very long excerpt of Danielle Steele's latest novel.


    I don't think we've used the term Bodice Ripper for at least a decade! I was so incensed, I kept clicking, until I came to a page for comments


    I doubt that MSNBC will take me up on my challenge, but if they do, I'd be delighted to nominate some of the best authors in each subgenre of Romance.


  6. Rowena:

    Thank you for the new ADD THIS button on the right of our main page -- good placement for it. I just added us to digg.

    As for bodice rippers -- how about Tie Trickers? We could do a whole genre of ways of using a guy's tie to motivate him at precise moments. Nice, smooth, silk tie. hmmmm?

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  7. Jacqueline,

    As you have seen on LinkedIn.com, there is a great deal of discussion and sharing on what works and what doesn't in writing and in self-promotion.

    Some techniques that used to work, no longer do. The ten-week, "Diva" contest going on at theromancestudio.com is an interesting spotlight on what is the gold standard of DIY PR at the moment.

    As for bodice rippers, I thought that referred to a disturbingly violent type of historical romance where the impassioned hero tore off the heroine's clothing.

    The only tie trick that I can think of that would equate, would be inspired by what one of Susan Kearney's heroines did with a ring in The Ultimatum.