What is it about pirates that intrigues us so? Is it because they do things their own way, going against the bandwagon? Is it because they don't settle, instead wandering from place to place having adventures often viewed as glorious, although maybe on the gory side of glorious? Maybe it's their willingness to get dirty and not mind. ;-)
As anyone who has been reading my ramblings very long knows, I'm a big fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and not only because of Mr. Depp looking so adorable in his pirate garb and with his graceful swaggering. It is funny, though, that before the movies, the mention of "pirate" made me roll my eyes. I don't like the skull and crossbones symbol that now graces all children and teen clothing. It's rather a dark, depressing image, and I tend to shy away from that. And of course we know the horrific stories of murder and rape and plunder. Pirate was not something I had any interest in considering.
One thing I really like about the movies, though, is they made me think. They aren't simply entertainment. They are historical, dealing with issues such as the East India Trading Company, and ethics, and moral code, and blurring the lines between who is "right" and who is "wrong" depending on the situation and particular viewpoint. It shows that although an action might look completely self-serving and impractical, there may be undercurrents behind the action that turn out opposite of that, benefiting the many instead of the one (sorry, Star Trek flashback).
In a previous post, I compared pirates to indies (minus the gore other than for horror writers, of course). I see them as much the same. The pirates came into being when their countries' ruling authority began to make it impossible for them to work, other than as minions. The authorities overtaxed them, added tons of restrictions, and ran them out of business until the only option left was to take it on the run (REO flashback) and work illegally. Either that, or give in to a too highly controlled government which continued to make its populace weaker and poorer while stuffing its own coffers.
Today's indies are doing much the same. It started largely with music and bands that decided to forego labels that restricted what kinds of music would be allowed for sale and recorded on their own. The punk era was heavily responsible, and although punk isn't my style of music, I applaud their efforts to say, "Hey, we're artists and won't have our hands tied by you guys in suits telling us what YOU want to hear." They didn't get huge sales like mainstream music, but then, without wide mainstream media coverage, which only the big companies can afford, you don't get huge sales. Sales are much more about promotion than about genre or quality. Still, they are now firmly entrenched in our music history. And they opened the door for other indie musicians. You find them everywhere now, some moderately successful, other very successful. With the internet and outlets such as Myspace that provide free promo, indie musicians have the capability, after decades of struggling against the stigma, to completely support themselves.
I applaud every one of them doing so. I have nothing against mainstream music and I buy a fair share of it, but I'm spending more time finding indie music I like and supporting them.
Now we have a bunch of writers following in their footsteps. Like the music industry, the publishing industry is controlling what genres get published, who gets promoted, and setting advances and royalties on a scale where the publisher makes more than the author (at least in many cases). Heck, even Amazon makes a fair amount more on each book sale than an author makes on it.
[for those who haven't heard of the Amazon controversy: http://lkhunsaker.blogspot.com/2008/04/amazon-and-pods.html#links ]
Bestseller lists are also manipulated. Why does every store in America have to wait to put out a book on its exact release date and not 2 hours before? It doesn't actually matter if one reader gets it two hours before another reader. They do it for bestseller lists. If a particular book sells the best on one day, which is most easy to control upon its release, it's marked as the #1 bestseller. They know about buying schedules and what day is most likely to provide the most sales and they work with that. They also know that the more the public hears about a book everywhere it turns, the more it will sell. How well the book is written is besides the point.
Of course, they also accept only manuscripts that will fit in their "high sales" brackets. Where does that leave the rest of us who don't write within that particular niche?
We're becoming the indies. We're standing up and saying, "You can't tell us we can't share our work just because it doesn't fit your model." Luckily, this is getting much easier for us to do, with a plethora of options. Unfortunately, the ease of it leads to a reader having to filter through a ton of books that weren't ready to put out to find the ones that were. *shrug* We have to do the same with music, whether or not it's indie, and with traditionally published books that also may not be good quality.
The stigma for indie authors is now what it used to be for indie musicians. I'm an indie. I've had plenty of doubts about whether I was hurting myself by refusing to join the mainstream. At times, I've nearly at least partially given in. But I've changed my mind about pirates (not about the gory parts). Sometimes we have to stand up to the authorities and say we won't be held back and be denied our right to work in our field in our own way, or be willing to accept everyone else making more from us than we make ourselves. We don't have to accept it. We have a fight on our hands, but we're making history.
"I don't make movies because I think audiences will want to go see them."
"And usually the studios they don't want you to have credit for your movies because they want to take credit for the movies because if you get credit for your movies they've got to pay you more."
"I like to make pictures about people who make a difference."
"Because you can't do anything halfway, you've got to go all the way in anything you do."