I wrote of stories once, back when the internet was young, and used a fishing metaphor. The sea is wide, I wrote, full of mysteries below, and worked by desperate fleets. This crew fishes for romance, that for suspense. and that fleet over there, why, they have cast their nets for adventure, and hope to drag in a big one. That’s all, in fact, they fish for: they want the big one, today’s best seller, tomorrow’s classic. They scorn the simple outrider, the lone fisher sculling near the horizon. Never mind he may hook a big one. That’s not the meat the fleet’s are after. They want flesh by the ton, not the pound. Theirs is the mass market.
Well, perhaps you’d think my heart’s with that sculler out near the horizon, working the depths for something new, but you’d be wrong.
Okay, the ocean is deep, and it’s full of fish — we’re pretending here that stories are fish, right? — and it’s a simple matter of throwing a line over the side and pulling up something strange and wonderful, but the market is with the fleets. No matter how long you sweat to pull in a masterpiece, the product must still be gutted, skinned, filleted, packaged, branded and sold, or all you’ve got is sweat, scales and stink.
So now you’re thinking, whoa, this dude’s from marketing, right? Nope. Wrong again.
Fact is, I’ve always sailed near the horizon, and the fleet stays close to shore. No communication out here. I hauled one in, once, and sold it to the Doubleday fleet, who handled the scaling and filleting. I did the book tour, the signings, and the interviews, and then I went back to sea. I only look back at that with regret when I consider what I’d like to leave above water after the coming storm.
For me, it’s enough to know the depths are unknowable, the air is just another sea, the stars reflections off an undiscovered interface, every bit the same mystery, and my nets themselves are woven of dreams. We’ve built astrolabs and compasses and forgotten that North is just a marketing convention. Those fish, though. They are something else. Dreams at worst, and maybe more. Maybe they follow, in their depths, truer lines of lattitude and longitude than we reckon with. And even if they don’t, well, we can live on their flesh while chewing on the mystery.