Infiltrating the Establishment
April 22, 2012 3 Comments
In a recent comic book (I think it’s the latest Avengers vs. X-Men, but not sure, just remember it’s one of the many running Avengers titles) Thor and Cap a little heart to heart. Without having to go too much into all the Marvel event backstory, let’s just say that Cap is now head of the global defense force. And the whole enterprise weights heavily on him. Thor tells Cap that Cap was always better when he was following his rebellious streak. But now that he is the establishment, how can he rebel. And as a result, how can he be at his best. I was happy to find, as I often do, that despite the very clear incongruities between real life and comic books, that once again I could see how these characters are made human and forced to deal with the very normal, very real questions that we do too. This is of course not to show off that I am delusional, and that I think that my own situation is comparable to, say, Captain America having to forcefully abduct Hope Summers from the X-Men so that he can try and counter the power of the worlds-devouring Phoenix which is making its way to Earth to engulf it in flame.
But rather, to say that the question weighs heavily on my mind. I truly believe in independent publishing, and in the power of individuals and small groups to change larger landscapes. And though my own work has manifested mainly in the form of me playing sidekick or asking for help, or supporting the initiatives of very good friend and I suppose I wouldn’t be wrong in calling him indie superstar Adam David, I feel that it is of utmost importance that we support and make whatever efforts we can to help develop the indie, DIY production of literature and other cultural art forms. I continue to provide what support I can to writers and groups who want to explore non-traditional publishing routes.
I am though, admittedly compromised. Since December of 2010, I have been in some way or another connected to the dominant publishing institutions of the country.
I entered the system (I was invited, but I would like to think that I infiltrated it, and that in some way I am living up to what John Fiske calls “guerrilla raids” on cultural establishments) and have been trying to change and adapt it, trying to inject not only the methods of the indie, but also the ethos and the philosophy. I like to think that I’ve done some things, pushing local publishing forward towards digital publishing, fixing contracts so that they are fairer to authors, rewriting and limiting copyright control exerted by certain publishing houses. All in all, I like to think that while the contributions I have made to the establishment have largely been nitty gritty and not that noticeable, that I am doing something to make things better, as far as the dominant literary establishment is concerned.
Still, it all weighs heavily on me. I miss the freedom, the adaptability, the ability to make quick decisions and pursue projects and ideas, and just the fluidity of movement that came with being an independent. In the establishment, lots of papers, lots of people to run things by. There was a lot of magic to Adam or someone else saying, “Dude I’ve got an idea,” and in a few minutes suddenly we were working and putting a project together.
This is not to say that the establishment doesn’t have its own benefits. Of course there are many benefits to working in and with traditional publishers. There is a reason, after all, that this is the route that most people choose to take. I have done a pretty good job too of convincing people to work with traditional publishing, and I think that on the whole they have not regretted my advice.
I think I’m doing an okay job. I like to think I can. Sometimes I can’t shake the feeling that I can be doing more outside of the establishment. But there’s also the feeling that someone has to work within the system, someone has to try and change things, make things better, from within. I know that might be dumb or delusional. Misguided at the very least. But I feel the need to try.