Is Traditional Publishing A Black Hole?

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I didn’t write that.

I found this graphic somewhere or another on the internet when I should have been writing or working instead. It stuck with me, and while I may not agree or disagree with it, it proposes serious questions.

Is traditional publishing a black hole?

In 2017, is there still a stigma against self-publishing?

As with most topics, it depends on whom you ask. I’ve never had a problem with it; in fact, out of my six chapbooks two were self-produced. There is a lot of bad self-published work out there, but there is a lot of bad writing put out by major publishers as well.

However, I would hesitate to call out editors as elitist with asinine egos. Firstly, that is not fair. Secondly, I’ve been on that side of the desk and can assure you that editors are not out to destroy the dreams of their writers… that would be rather counterproductive, don’t you think? I would also hesitate to call these small magazines pathetic. The small press has been very kind to me, and while I am far from famous, the only reason anyone knows who in the hell I am, is because of the small press magazines/presses which found some sort of value in my work.

I don’t have a problem with the publishing game. I don’t have a problem with the hustle, the research or submission process. I don’t even have a problem with the rejections. It’s all part of this writers life we committed to.

For me personally, the problem is a lack of truly experimental presses. To make it worse, out of the handful of experimental publishers I find, most of them do not accept unsolicited submissions, or are closed to submissions entirely. I’ve been sitting on two manuscripts for quite some time, submitting them when I finally find an appropriate publisher… obviously that has not been fruitful. It’s frustrating. Because of this, self-publishing has an appeal.

Does it matter how these manuscripts find their way into the world? I’m not going to become rich and famous writing experimental texts. The type of people who would look down at my writing because it is self-published, would likely look down on it even if it was published by Penguin.

Ironically, I have self-produced noise/sound art for many years, as have most of my contemporaries. In the music world, D.I.Y. art is not looked down upon, but celebrated. Why the difference between the music world and the literary world, are we as writers that pretentious and self- important?

So what do you think?

A Few Words On Karma

In a recent discussion, a friend asked me about my thoughts on the nature of karma. Quoting an excerpt from Cosmic Trigger by Robert Anton Wilson, he referred to karma as a “blind machine”. He asked me if I could validate this take on the subject. I’ve never read any work from Wilson, but I have at least read enough on Buddhism for said friend to come to me for an answer. I’m certainly no expert on the dharma; I often refer to myself as the world’s worst Buddhist (see the title of this blog). In fact, I would be hesitant to refer to myself as a Buddhist at all. However, that’s not enough to deter me from elaborating on my own modest take on Karma.

Buddhist texts, much like that of any other religion, are often interpreted several ways, but I feel that Wilson was accurate when he described Karma as a blind machine. While Buddhism may preach kindness, one must remember, it is also a religion without God. Therefore, free of much of the rigid dogma of most western religion.

Karma does indeed align with the scientific concept of natural law. The word karma has no theological or religious connotation. Remember that the word Karma literally translates to “action”… and much as in physics, each action has an equal and opposite reaction. Karma whether good or bad yields fruits of action and this is all tied up in the wheel of life and reincarnation. While people (myself included) may debate reincarnation or the idea of an afterlife at all, I think everyone can agree on Newton’s third law. Buddha said:

“According to the seed that is sown, So is the fruit you reap The door of good of will gather good results The door of evil reaps evil results. If you plant a good seed well, Then you will enjoy the good fruits.”

In short, whatever you send out into the universe you will receive back.

Of course, Buddhism splintered over the years into many schools and some traditions added theological aspects such as treating Buddha as a God, and adding the caveat of heaven and hell to the Karmic concept.

I mostly studied the Zen tradition, which elaborates:

“Our karma has no self-nature, but is created by our minds. If our mind is extinguished, our karma is extinguished. When we see both our mind and karma as empty, this is true repentance.”

That might make it more complicated or clearer depending on how you look at it. For me it is an illumination. It makes Karma something I can grasp in my daily life, independent from concepts such as reincarnation, samsara, etc. The above quoted paragraphs explain why Buddhas are free of karma, because mind is extinguished. Accordingly, I do not wish to accrue good or bad karma, I wish to be free of karma. I wish to be empty, which I do not mean in a nihilistic sense, rather empty like a starless sky, like a blank canvas, like everything and nothing. Much like the bowl made useful by what it is not.

A Humble Re-Beginning

It’s been about six months since my last post. What excuse shall I use? There are so many. Sidetracked by a day job, distracted with other projects, crippled by self doubt, all of these have been applicable at some point. With that said, I am back feeling like myself again.

I am working on a new experimental text, but in the meantime I will be sending out some new shorter writing to various literary journals or perhaps posting some here. I feel some of this is the best stuff I’ve written in a long time. Also, I am exploring the possibility of a return to live spoken word. In short, I’m excited about writing again.

More imminent on the horizon is a renewed focus on sound as well. There have been a few Blk/Mas shows in the last few months and SPNF8 is coming up quickly. Also expect some new Blk/Mas recordings too.