When white people ask to speak to the manager and learn that there is no manager.
Some thoughts about self-publishing.
Cross-posted at Medium.
September 2012. My life changed. I self-published Fearkiller (Volume 1). Go me.
That launch day was the most vulnerable day of my life. I don’t have kids, so I have not experienced moments like that. But this endeavor…after a few years of working on the draft, off and on, then hiring an editor and realizing that I liked this story enough to invest more of my own money in it — releasing that first book was terrifying as anything. But, at the same time, my mind was energized in ways it had never been energized before. I had a story. Woo to the hoo.
Kirkus gave the characters Job Creator, Doc, Egan®, Egan, Fear, UncertainTina, Doctor Igno — all the rest — some love.
Gooooo me. Yayyyyy words.
The first few days, I kept revisiting my book’s Amazon page, scrolling through the preview and re-reading an opening that I had read on my computer or printed paper countless times. Staring at the cover that my friend Justin had designed made me grin like a doofus. My author picture, which my friend David had shot, I’d nod my head at it and say, “Looking good, dude.”
Seconds later, I would be fighting off the desire to silence my book’s page because there was some chance that somebody might buy it and dislike it.
Seconds after that, once the panic attack subsided, I again was mentally writing my acceptance speech for The Best, Most Amazing, Most Awesome Book That Has Ever Been Written Award.
While publicizing Fearkiller 1, the sequel kept knocking around my skull. Doc, Cow Jones, Algo & the Rithims — the rest of the gang of drugged-out, keg-stand-doing financiers wanted me to get off my ass and help them figure out the master plan to attain the trillions. Notes from Trillionaire Island: Fearkiller (Volume 2) went live in 2014.
Then, for the heck of it, I wrote a free story about God. Why not, right?
(Price-wise, it had to be free. Something about charging for a god-story felt ugly, like I’d be messing with the astrophysical juju a bit too much. But when you write something free of charge, say what you want.)
Writing has indeed been a ride — meeting readers, talking to other writers, hearing one person love my work and another hate it. I’m not the best-selling writer by far and still need my professional gig, but this has still been amazing. Readers rock. Since I wrote a dark, vulgar satire, sometimes I’ll hear: “Hey, I checked out the beginning on Amazon…sounds interesting…but…WHOA not for me.”
I love these people.
And I get it. Since they’re my books, I am familiar with their subject matter. Dark subjects deserve dark perspectives that can make fun of the darkness. I love the readers who tell me my stuff isn’t for them after taking the time to check it out. (Sure, not as much as the peeps who read my work and like it, but the love is still there.)
And to the non-readers who hear that I write and say, “So…what else do you do? I don’t read.”…I love you, too.
I love all of you. I write. You don’t read. And it’s all good between us. I love your ambivalence about my writing, your lack of desire to know more about it…I love it all. And I love you. Hugs.
The reason I want to express my love for these different groups is because of another group.
To the non-readers who I have to stop from cross-examining me, the fiction non-consumers who want to be waaaaayyy-too-critical about stories they have no intention of purchasing or reading, the guys who don’t read fiction yet get aggressive with me upon hearing that I have books available, I need to say this:
When it comes to my writing, you can’t ask to speak to the manager. And this isn’t some bro-macho statement like, “You can’t speak to the manager — I AM THE MANAGER, BITCH.” No. Art isn’t like that. The point is that there is no manager with endeavors like this. Not every endeavor needs one.
And white Americans are the only folks who get hung up by the fact that an authority figure didn’t okay my writing.
(Though I do hire editors to round my stories out, improve them, don’t get me wrong. Readers deserve that. Editors rule.)
Not all caucasians change their entire demeanor after hearing that I write. But the percentage of caucasians who don’t seem to understand how books work is too significant to be overlooked. I’d say 45% of non-reading whitefolk fall under this category.
White people who haven’t read a fiction book since the teacher made you read the mean, nasty fiction book in order to write that arduous five-paragraph essay — your hostility isn’t threatening. It’s sad.
The future is going to need smart people to figure out how to save the planet. Your ethos and view of the world threatens this possibility. But…your negative energy helps Elon Musk get richer, right? And that’s all that matters.
This negative energy, it’s like Nazi Germany has this lazy, insecure, petty, resentful, willfully-ignorant cousin and I have met its citizenry in the time since September of 2012. Unlike Nazi rallies, rallies in this country would get sidetracked by rally attendees arguing over which arm should sport the armband. While the sides come to blows, billionaires would be in the box seats ordering champagne and toasting each other on their new tax shelters, all while wagering on which group of rubes would win the armband fight: the Left Arms or the Right Arms.
My products are books, mostly under $5. The small dollar amount that I am asking from people makes non-reading whites’ freakiness even more stupid. But I know that the dollar amount does not matter. Books, over the course of history, have been seen to contain subversiveness and evil within their pages.
(Which, if you ask me, fucking RAWKS.)
Though if I look at these conversations in another light, these people have allowed me to look at another side to the power of books that I never could have comprehended otherwise.
Writers need visceral experiences to fuel stories. Thanks for the visceral, icky experiences, my fellow caucasians.
Interacting with willfully-ignorant white people has been like this deep-dive study into both the human psyche and America’s racial differences. I wish this article shouted to the world that the greatness of America’s budding fascism lies in its multicultural tapestry of oppressive thinking woven with one another, that all colors of the rainbow are coming together under an umbrella of lazy autocracy and judgmental people of all races seem to be united in blowing a gasket upon hearing that I wrote something without someone else’s permission.
I wish this were true. But nope.
It’s just a minority of caucasians.
And the more money they make, the creepier they are. The energy I get isn’t due to a lack of educational opportunities. It’s fear.
When I was rewriting and rewriting my first book, not once did I think that my books would one day serve as portals that would offer me views of how authoritarianism works and what the beginnings of Nazi Germany might have been like if those late 1920s/early 1930s Germans were dumber and more of its population surfed porn.
The doubt-filled guy with a story that he was afraid to show anybody — it’s funny to look back at his world. I had yet to experience the weirdness of having talk of my book writing trigger feelings of existential regret in folks who make ten times the amount of money that I do.
(Oh yeah, along with the knockoff Nazis, another type of non-reading white person that book writing seems to torque: the deep-down-unhappy types who use the word “successful” way too much. But that’s another article.)
As a lifelong reader and English major, I saw the raw power of the written word as evidence that we humans are connected to the divine.
After tackling my first book, I found a new respect for books just from assembling one of my own using nothing but the thoughts in my brain.
But I never got the 360-degree view of fiction. I knew its positive sides only. I had to launch my book to grasp their dark side.
Now, thanks to talks with paranoid non-readers, I have learned that books pose a danger just by existing. Because this view is abhorrent to me, I rarely had conversations with these types of folks before. It’s weird when you’re an unknown writer who most readers wouldn’t know from Adam, but due to the fact that you have books available, you’re legit enough to pop up on the radar screen of mentally-soft people who seem like they’d be good at wearing armbands.
Before, I thought these non-reading types just weren’t fans of reading. I didn’t know that they want books to cease to exist.
Of course, these are the people who say they hate political correctness but use the guise of nationalism to squash free speech. Authoritarianism. America is falling under its spell. I’ve been feeling the vibes since September of 2012.
This energy keeps billionaires swimming in yachts and divorce lawyers. It is why white people are dying.
These are dark times, folks. Don’t let the Investor Class gaslight you. Your feelings of concern are valid. When people of color express that America is getting more violent, believe them. When women say that equality is spiraling backward, believe them. When LGBTQ folks tell us about increasing threats, believe them. I am scared for the future.
At the same time, damn: writing is so much fun.
During the last few years, while I was scared for the future, I also minimized my conversations with Nazi knockoffs and worked on a new idea instead. Another direction, outside of the Fearkiller universe.
It’s almost ready for prime time.
Chris Maley lives in Denver, Colorado. His books are available at Amazon.