Before we move on to further reviews, let us pause a moment to remember what came before. For example, remember those guest posts from the last few weeks? Well, there's one more column still outstanding, courtesy of AugieDog: not just a talented author, but probably the best-credentialed ponyfic writer I know. So naturally, when he agreed to write a guest post for me, I gave it a special place of reverence in my posting schedule.
No, wait, that's not right. What I did was misplace the e-mail and forget to schedule him entirely.
Man, I suck.
Be that as it may, here's said post, reflecting a unique and fascinating look at ponyfic through the eyes of a man with more writing experience than the entirety of FIMFic's feature box, on a typical day. Click down below the break for wisdom.
O Brave New World, That has Such Ponies in't!
Of course, with my college days literally thirty years behind me now, I find myself, according to every brony survey I've yet seen, skating way out along the far, thin edge of the bell curve age-wise. It also makes me one of the few people within the virtual sound of my voice to remember a time before there was an internet, a time when the few available computers covered whole desks, sold for thousands of dollars, and were less capable than the average modern cell phone.
Ah, the Brave Old World. The one in which, after taking the very first computer class my high school ever offered--a math teacher showing us how to write programs in Basic on several of Radio Shack's finest TRS-80 machines, cassette tape players plugged into the backs to save any programs we might actually put together--I came away completely unimpressed. Computers? Phooey! How could a thing like that have any sort of practical effect on my life?
I then proceeded to type all my essays throughout college--and I mean on an actual clickety-clack Smith Corona manual portable typewriter. That's how I wrote the first short stories I ever made any money from, too, and the scenes that eventually grew into my first published novel.
These tidbits, I hope, will serve to show that I have very little idea of what's going on around me. So if you do come across anything that appears to be advice in this essay, I would advise you to take a good, long, critical look at it. Because the preponderance of the evidence suggests that I seldom know what I'm talking about.
Fortunately, my underlying cluelessness never posed an obstacle in the Brave Old World of the writing business. All I had to do was poke at some words till they sang and danced across the pages like stars on a summer night, stuff those pages into a big manila envelope, and include an empty envelope adorned with stamps and my own address. Then I'd send the whole package off to an editor at a magazine or a publishing house to see if he or she wanted to buy First North American Serial rights or the like and print the thing.
Most of the time, the editor would send the story back inside the return envelope with a little, "No, thank you." I would sigh, send the pages to another editor, and then start working on my next story. Those times that a small envelope came back instead, a "Yes, thank you" from the editor inside with a contract, I would let myself bask for a moment, then get to work on that next story.
Throughout the 1990s, that was pretty much the process to get written work out into the wider world. Fanzines existed, of course, but they had very limited circulation, and for someone like me who was Fluttershy even before I knew who Fluttershy was, the whole social aspect of fandom just made me all twitchy. Still does, for that matter.
But whether fanzine or prozine, only one up or down thumb mattered back then: the editor's. If my story appealed to an editor, then it was through the gate and off to however many thousands of readers that editor's publication might reach. Otherwise, no one ever saw it except the editor and me, and if every editor passed on it, the story became doomed to gather figurative dust on my hard drive, finished but never to be read, a sort of Schroedinger's cat neither fully alive nor completely dead.
That, though, was the Brave Old World. Sure, certain aspects of that world remain: a handful of SF and fantasy magazines still come out on paper; a couple webzines have figured out how to make enough money to keep themselves afloat; the book houses continue finding novels they think will sell and then find ways to sell them.
But publishing's Brave New World isn't somewhere off in the distant future anymore. It's here right now. I have a couple friends who are selling thousands of copies of their novels without benefit of a publisher. Closer to home, I read work on FimFiction from folks like Applejinx, Aquillo, Bad Horse, bookplayer, Cloud Wander, Cloudy Skies, Cold in Gardez, Horse Voice, Skywriter--how 'bout I stop before I end up importing my whole Watch list?--and they're giving away what I consider professional-level work for free just because they can and just because they want to.
OK, maybe it isn't exactly a case of us all disregarding Samuel Johnson's two hundred and fifty year old dictum that no one but a blockhead ever wrote except for money. I mean, Skywriter's had a thriving venture with Shaenon Garrity and their "Skin Horse" webcomic for more than half a decade now; bookplayer has a non-Pony fantasy novel due out later this year; Daetrin's novel came out last year; I've got my own second novel finally seeing print this summer and some short stories surfacing in a couple anthologies. But there's been a fundamental shift in how writers can approach the whole idea of "writing for money," a shift I can only think will be good for readers.
After all, in this Brave New World we've entered, universal distribution is a given, not the prize at the end of the process. Writers just learning the basics of putting sentences together are posting their stories to the same section of the worldwide web as folks who have ten or twenty stories under their belts. And it's not some magazine or publishing house editor that authors have to court in order to gain readers. It's the readers who come wandering by on their own, wanting to be courted and looking for interesting things to read.
And yes, there are places like Equestria Daily or Equestria After Dark to help readers find interesting stories of one sort or another, but the stories themselves already exist. They're just as accessible as every other story on the web, and these aggregator sites are less gatekeepers, allowing only certain stories to make the jump from invisible to actual, than they are sign posts that point to stories the folks behind the sites think their readers will like.
That might seem like a small change, but it's a big step toward what I'm looking forward to--with a quick glance back at the evidence presented earlier in this essay concerning my lackluster performance as a soothsayer. Because we've all found authors whose work in the wide world of Pony we enjoy, and I can't help but think it's only a matter of time before more of those authors unveil non-Pony work that they can legally sell to us through the small-press or Amazon's various self-publishing programs or with a Kickstarter campaign.
And I plan on being right there when it happens clicking Paypal buttons or the equivalent.
O Brave New World that'll have such Ponies in't! The paddock gates have been flung open, and some of the writers who've been learning the ins and outs of storytelling 'round these parts might just be eyeballing those open fields, might just be thinking about trotting out that way to see what they might discover there.
I for one can't wait to read about it when they do.