My “Censorship is Good, Actually” post did really well, so the temptation is to follow that up with another angry conspiri-post. But I must not give into the temptation. That’s how these mediums control the message.
McLuhan is famous for that line, “the medium is the message,” and it means many things, but mainly that a message will eventually be tailored to whatever helps the medium itself. On Twitter, for example, it’s rage posts, or those ones where a hot person pretends to be depressed. Those get the likes, keep people on the site, and thus more people begin making those posts, and before you know it *boom*. It’s all those posts. All the time. The medium has created the message.
I’m not feeling grouchy or bitter today, so I don’t have it in me to force it. Can’t pretend. Instead, today I’m thinking about books, particularly this tweet from pal Lucas:
I’d go one step further. Not only do books not have to follow a three-act structure, books don’t have to follow any structure at all. They only have to be interesting.
There will forever and always be a contingent of trve book fans who want their novels to be 300+ pages. They want character development, an airtight plot, and a good ending that wraps everything up. They don’t want a book that looks like a collection of ideas, or a screenplay. They don’t want a book that’s 90% dialogue (unless it’s George V. Higgins). They don’t want a book that’s very short, that has a lot of white space. They don’t want a “kenning novel” or a “collage novel.”
Strangely, these people will buy your book, out of the tens of thousands available for purchase that do exactly what they want, and become frustrated that your book (out of tens of thousands) does not do the same thing those other tens of thousands do. They will call the book “bad,” not because the book fails to live up to its own goals, but because it fails to live up to their impression of what the book should have been. This might create an impression that you’re doing something wrong. You’re not.
Here’s why: while book bloggers might be confused by the book, and mass audiences might hate it, you are slowly but surely creating an “out-of-the-loop” fanbase that absolutely loves your shit.
I’m beginning to think that the winning formula goes something like this: “originality + consistency + strong stomach.” An ability to weather the storm, to understand that on the surface it’s going to look like no one likes what you’re doing. But remember, you don’t want your fanbase to be made up of book fans. Book fans love so many books that they don’t have space in their heart to truly love your work.
I was listening to the CONTAIN podcast the other day (which is also where the “consistency” idea got hammered home) and the host kept mentioning Chief Keef. I liked a lot of what the dude was saying about various non-music-related ideas, so I went over to Spotify and started playing different CK albums. For whatever reason (maybe I was primed to like it?) the music clicked for me. Before this, my exposure to CK had been through some 2012-era dubstep remixes of “Love Sosa.” Those were the days.
CK has a ton of albums to get through. He reminds me in a lot of ways (release-wise) of someone like Bones, who puts out 4-5 albums a year. Neither of these artists tend to appear on mainstream outlets very often (although I might be wrong about that), but I guarantee you that their originality (the music is strange), their consistency (output), and their ability to get through tons of Top 40 fans telling them they’re trash (this has to happen, right?) has created a cult following. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they’re “underground,” “cult” has the right ring to it. It’s worthwhile, too. CK is worth a million bucks.
The trick that I’m still trying to figure out, however, is how to get this underground thing started off without that initial boost. Chief Keef, for instance, had his early hits, and is known as one of the original drill rappers. Almost every podcast or album I listen to had that one leg up that allowed for the underground shit to start snowballing. I suppose all you can really do is remain consistent and keep your fingers crossed. You probably won’t make it following the playbook of the people who came before you. You have to do the opposite of what they say.
No rules, make shit you think is cool, be consistent, and listen to absolutely no one. Do Every Thing Wrong.