Saturday, April 02, 2005


They made me read J.R.R. Tolkien in high school, which is probably why I've only read one of his books. I never responded well to the whole compulsory reading thing. Turns teachers into Book Nazis and gets most kids to thinking, Hey, there might be something to that whole Farenheit 451 deal.

Somehow we survive high school and the Book Nazis, but the scars remain. Not having read more Tolkien or ever wanting to made me apathetic about seeing the LOTR movies, but I finally did my authorial pop-culture duty and rented the DVDs sporadically over the last year.

Some decent special effects. Orlando Bloom finally made guy-elves hot. Ghosty army backing the King guy was a decent twist. I'm trying to think up nice things to say here so I don't rile the Ringites. Yo, very manly stuff. Way Catholic. The little bug-eyed guy (I can never remember the midget freak's name) and the Precious thing was annoying, but Frodo was a cutie, the poor slob.

That name was a problem for me. Frodo. Go, Frodo. Go, Frodo, Go. Do you like my hat? No, I do not. . .

Hold the hate mail. I expect that someday I'll overcome the psychic damage inflicted by my ninth grade English teacher, grow up and give the man's books another shot. Thing is, the other day LOTR provided me with a good analogy for writers and publishing, and since analogies are like cockroaches, it led to another.

Being an unpublished writer is pretty much being Frodo. Only you're taller. There you are, living in your happy little shire, hanging with the other hobs, wondering what's out there. Next thing you know, someone decides to stick you with a gift of unimaginable potential power that will probably destroy you and sends you on a quest.

Writing books is magic. Being a writer is becoming a magical being. Getting published is the ring.

Now, for most of us hobs, the quest is going to suck. With filed teeth. All the other magical beings look bigger and prettier. They definitely have better wardrobes. We're expected to do big magic. Everyone wants to be your pal, but most of them only want to cop a feel of the ring.

And the quest beats the living crap out of us. A million times on the journey to the dread mountain of bestsellerdoom, we're ready to chuck the ring in the nearest pond and limp back to the shire. Because the shire was nice, wasn't it? And peaceful. And filled with hobs like us. And no one wanted to be our friend for any reason other than friendship.

But . . . we've got the ring. We want to use the ring. Like writers who say that the money doesn't matter, until they're offered a big heaping pile of it. Once you get to a certain level, baby, that money is nice. So is having fans. People you never met, from countries you'll never visit, are going to adore you. Important people hanging with you on the quest start asking you for advice. The really scary part is when they start depending on you for it. You can actually screw up other people's quests. Other people's lives.

So, when you get the ring, what do you do? Hell if I know. That's your quest, I got my own to worry about. I'd recommend you not turn into the little bug-eyed guy and piss and moan about My Precious. This industry already has enough of those characters. Plus you'll probably end up running around half naked and biting the heads off things.

Maybe all anyone can do with the ring of publishing is to hold on loosely. Knowing you can let go of it, chuck it in the nearest pond and walk back to the shire frees you from being a slave to it, and Sauron.

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