On becoming the George Clooney of Mormon Lit

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George Clooney, I’m told, uses his star power for good. That is, he makes a blockbuster—say, Ocean’s Thirteen—to keep his box-office mojo shiny, then spends that star capital on getting Burn After Reading made. Or The Perfect Storm so O Brother, Where Art Thou? can exist. The Coens, it would seem, owe megamovies a great debt.

Of course, step one in being George Clooney is to be a beloved star of the silver screen, admired by men and women alike, with excellent bone structure and the slickest voice since Cary Grant. That’s harder to pull off as an author. People don’t spend their entire time reading Byuck simultaneously admiring my cheekbones.

Let’s move sideways a moment and consider the elitism in the surprisingly good New York Times article (too many books sold aint good lit!) and the reverse elitism of (not enough books sold is pointless lit!)—or Scott Hales’s look at the brouhaha for that matter—and keep all those in mind while we skip over to 2002.

2002.

Orem, Utah.

EnderCon.

I only remember a couple things from EnderCon. The first is Michael R. Collings’s excellent exegesis of the Ender books as epic. The second is bits of Scott Card’s speech, most specifically that he wasn’t going to be finishing the Women of Genesis or Alvin Maker series any time soon because they didn’t sell well and he had to write bestsellers every single time or next time bookstores won’t bother to carry the next Ender sequel since they only look back as far as the last book published. It’s bad business to write what you want when you want. It’s good business to milk the Ender cow till it dries up and the wind blows the dust from its bones. (My metaphor, not his.)

Stay with me. We’re skipping back to Larry now. Who says that if you’re not writing to sell as many books as possible every damn time (Larry’s word, not mine), you’re wasting your time.

I called that attitude reverse elitism before and now I’ll be more specific as to why I feel that way.

Essentially, elitism is saying my audience is more valuable than your audience, right? We’re most aware of elitism when it excludes the largest number of people. So college professors are generally considered more elitist than Larry because apparently people who love complicated weapons blowing stuff up buy more books than people who love sad Sally having an epiphany. But that doesn’t mean sadsacks don’t deserve their own literature.

Small audiences deserve good stuff to read just as much big audiences.

Which is why being George Clooney is a great career choice.

Step one: Become George Clooney

Step two: Alternate between massively popular genre bestsellers and the weird Mormon crap I’m fond of.

This seems pretty bulletproof as I think publishing’s changed enough since EnderCon that it might be doable.

I’m just stuck on step one. . . .

thgeorge

11 thoughts on “On becoming the George Clooney of Mormon Lit”

  1. Followed the blog track back… Wait just a minute. You can’t say “his words, not mine” after a bunch of things that I never said. That’s disingenuous at best.

    First off, to clarify I don’t give a crap what you write or what you read. I read stuff from all sorts of different genres. If you want to write in an obscure genre because that’s what makes you happy. Awesome. Knock yourself out. However, if you expect to actually make a living at being a writer, shockingly enough you need to write stuff that people will actually want to purchase. I know that many offend artistic sensibilites, but that’s how it is.

    I don’t think that any genre’s readers are better or smarter than any other, and in fact if you want to use my actual words from that essay I pointed out that genre is fake. Genre is an artificial construct that exists so that stores know where to shelve the books. So if you want to set up an anti-intellectual strawman, pick somebody else.

  2. I gotta agree with Larry. Although I will say three things:

    1. It’d be cool if all the successful Mormon genre writers would kick out a story every so often (even just every 4-5 years) that directly engaged with Mormon characters or settings. I recognize that there are very good reasons to disagree with this preference of mine. But that doesn’t change that I think it would be a great boon to Mormonism (and esp. Mormon youth) if it happened.

    2. The market for popular fiction as it is currently set up in America distorts storytelling just as much as academia and the market for elitist fiction does. I think both types of distortions are, in some ways, unfortunate (but inevitable and I’m not totally bagging on them because I very much enjoy products created out of each). But: I admire greatly those who fight against those distortions and am grateful that indie publishing is making it a little easier to do so. And, in fact, Larry’s career trajectory is an example of this.

    3. I think that’s a great goal, Theric.

  3. .

    Larry, I said “word”, not “words”—if you read that line again, I think you’ll see it’s a damn joke (that’s also a joke—almost the same joke, in fact).

  4. .

    Now that that’s out of the way, it looks like I’ll need to do the mea culpa of the failed humorist. I thought that the laser battle would have emphasized that we’re all elbowing each other here, but I guess not. I’m pretty simpatico with most of the people who’ve already written on the topic and I certainly agree that these artificial boundaries are horse snoggets.

    Most of the reason I think the Mormon lit generally promoted on this site doesn’t sell well has to do with failures in marketing, more than anything else. Larry’s work is sold through an established channel and fans know where to look. Color me jealous. But the George Clooney strategy could help here as well. Like everyone who’s commented so far (possible exception: Tyler—I don’t know for sure about Tyler), I read broadly in a number of genres. Why not follow a writer from one pool to the next?

  5. This reminds me of my reaction to learning that Richard Paul Evans has written Michael Vey, but sort of in reverse.

    Also, in case it matters, I got both the joke and the elbowing. Lasers helped. That reminds me of that Harry Potter post of mine from years ago. As Th. may recall, I got a similar reaction over a similar misunderstanding.

  6. .

    Thanks, Adam.

    Wm—I recognize that. Though I would argue that his waters got to feed into a pre-channeled river bed. I’m not trying to come of sour-grapesy, I’m just suggesting that those same river beds might be jumped from to start new ones. If you’ll allow a tortured metaphor.

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