Archive for February 8th, 2007

Gee, Bob, What Say We Do a Book Together?

Somebody gave me some points on SF and said they would love to read a book of collections of my writings. He asked if such a book was likely. In the Ole Bob tradition of giving long, meticulous and detailed responses, my reply is No.

At fairly predictable intervals, I get enthusiastic proposals from people who tell me how great my writings are and how they would love to collect them for the generations. They are using a very good strategy. The best way to start getting published is to ride in on the name of someone who is already publishable. That is EXACTLY what I did to move up to a major publisher with The New Right Papers.

But once I explain to them that I am now slightly less publishable in America than David Duke is in Israel, their enthusiasm collapses, as it should. It was good gambit, and it failed. Very few people who are not New York Jewish break into publication if they don’t try gambit after gambit and can paper their walls with rejection slips.

So there won’t be any book. This is NOT new in real history. Historians are always busy doing two things:

1) Trying desperately to find out more about the minds who actually predicted and influenced today and were lost in the rush of nonentities who were fashionable at the time and;

2) Getting on Larry King and talking about how the fashionable authors of today will be remembered in the future.

1) and 2) are their JOBS.

So I put my ideas into people like you. If someone wants to do a dissertation on me when my ideas take hold and I have long since topped paying for internet space for my ideas, they’ll have to do another dissertation.

It’s no big deal. Personal publicity means little to me since I retired, except where it helps my ideas spread. By the time they realize what I did, neither personal publicity nor anything else will have any priority for me at all.

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Not Speaking and Denunciation Societies

I was remembering that one hallmark of Communist societies was that nobody, not even a waitress, would smile at you. And by “me” I don’t mean just a Westerner becasue he might be a spy.

What a SILLY idea!

But you did NOT smile at strangers. In old Russia smiles were as normal as in any other rural society outside New England. But when the Communists came in, you could literally DIE in the Gulags if you looked too familiar with somebody they were tracking. Their idea was to get EVERYBODY, and it was better to arrest a hundred — to supply free labor in Siberia, after all — than to miss one. So every expression, every peson a peroson being followed spoke to, was likely ot be picked up and precious few of those ever made it back home.

Russia was what I might call a Denunciation Society. But so was New England. Your shades were not to be closed at night, which wa a regulation laid down only for slaves in the South. You were to be watched at all times, and that was the CREED of New England. You were personal responsible for anyone you spoke to. If a stranger came into town and he happened to be a Quaker, he would be hanged (oneofhte few New England traditions I approve of) and you would be lucky to get your teth knocked out in pillory.

So in New England the height of society is “The Lodges speak only to the Cabots and the Cabots speak only to God.” In the South not speaking is considered trashy. But until after the Civil War, when we beecame the Bible Belt in reaction to defeat, there wasno denunciation society in the South. There was an amazing output of open denunciations of slavery in the Deep South, even, right up till the War, though most of those who denounced the institutions, like Robert E. Lee, fought on our side.

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The Internet Versus the Bookies

“As dead as network TV” was one expression I heard on a sit-com.

Books are deader. They keep growing in sales a bit, but in comparative terms, which is all that counts, the publishing industry is dead in the water in hte area whta interests ME, which is POWER. It used to be that a book led the way for a new fashionable idea, the magazines and New York press gave them proinence, then Mommy Professor gave them to Mommy Teacher and so forth.

Now ideas do not come from books. In fact, by the time you see a book on a subject you are reminded how far behind the publishing industry is. It is hard to imagine HOW far behind they are. Let’s start with network news, which I haven’t seen in months. They led off with a story that we have all heard a dozen times that day.

You got it on cable and you got it on the net. By the time the Rathernuts get to it it is like seeing a rerunof You Are There from the early 50s. And that is a delay of hours. Publishing is a delay of MONTHS. And it is getting WORSE, not better. Mainline publishing is the only form of commmunication that is actually getting slower.

And there is NO fresh blood on the idea front. It wasn’t exactly flowing before, butnow you have to have an agent to submit aq book. What is worse, agents used to take money to read your manuscript, so at least you could BUY your way into a try for a modest sum. Now they don’t even do that. Established authors only.

Of course I never had to pay for it myself.

I mean an agent reading my MS.

New authors do break into novels, where the money is, but that has always been notoriously difficult and still is. That is a bit more open because it is the life blood of publishing, the cash cows like Stephen King. But idea books are not payers. An idea is what the publishing bureaucracy, thousands of them, at least ten of whose names do not end in stein and two of whom do not live in New York or California, decides on.

If this sounds extreme, I refer you to the one time my name appeared in the New York Review of Books. Every author’s name published inside had his name onthe cover. The cover that time was hilarious. Every name there sounded like something made up in a Nazi hit piece, so Jewish that it would sound extreme in a synagogue.

And there, somewhere near the middle, was Robert Walker Whitaker, the kind of name New Yorkers think only happens in a YIDDISH hit piece!

In 1981, the only reason I did The New Right Papers was to get a major publisher for my contribution to put my idea of Societal Property Rights before hte public. So I did a whole book so I could FINALLY counter the standard conservative line that borders should be open “to the free movement of goods, capital AND LABOR” to which both Buchanan and Sobran then subscribed.

I wrote a whole book to get two words into the mainstream where even political commentators would see them:

“Labor VOTES.”

It took two years of effort to get my first book published, and that only because the time had come. In 1974 William Rusher had FINALLY come to the conclusion that conservatives could NEVER win while they kept faith with their octogenarian moderate wing, and they would have to dirty their hands and get the “Wallace vote” that no one was going after, and that, becauesof tradition, fell to the Democrats. So he did the Foreward to A Plague on Both Your Houses, which got it published.

By a MINOR publisher.

So getting ideas to the public was like shooting with a muzzle-loader. It took FOREVER and luck to get anything into the only place where ideas were introduced, up at the New York end of the barrel. The rest ofhte loading took forever, too, as you poked the concept in in interview after interview about abook you had b een desperately tired of when you sent in the galleys.

Now the muzzle-loader is competing with a machine gun. And I don’t mean the old 600 rounds per minute WWII stuff and that every M-16 delivers. I mean those things that fire 15,000 to 20,000 .50 rounds per minute and make excellent artillery. And that is good way to think of the spread of ideas today:

Te publishing industry and its minions are still jamming a concept down the barrel and firing their one shot a year, which leds to the New York Times which leads to Dan Rather or whoever the Edward R. Murrrow is right now.

Meanwhile the internet is throwing lead, not by the minute, not by the second, but by the millisecond.

“As dead as network TV, as rotten as publishing.”

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