There was a time, still within living memory, when indoor plumbing was a luxury for the upper classes. Nowadays, of course, indoor plumbing is an evil conspiracy by the American cultural imperialists; but that is neither here nor there. The point is that back in the day, certain members of the English upper classes held that bathtubs were too good for the masses. It was usual to attribute this attitude to old ladies from Brighton; and the classic form of the sentiment was this:
‘What ever would be the use of giving bathtubs to coal-miners? They would only use them to keep coal in.’
This, of course, is proof positive of how evil and reactionary the old ladies from Brighton were. Not, mind you, because they believed such things; a person may believe all sorts of things, and act on those beliefs, without opprobrium. No, no, they were evil because they said them, and that just will not do. Anyway, they erred by aiming their sentiments at the downtrodden industrial proletariat, instead of venting them upon a worthy target.
So in the spirit of the old ladies from Brighton, suitably corrected and brought up to date, I should like to say a few words about this monstrous plague of self-publishing. The publishing industry, as everyone knows, was divinely ordained to be the sole curator and seller of literature to the world. By taking their business directly to readers, these self-published cads represent a terrible threat to publishers, to all that is right and noble – to Culture itself. Of course it is impossible that this threat should ever amount to anything, because the publishing industry, being divinely ordained, will obviously exist in its present form for ever and ever. But the sheer impudence of the attack is an affront to every right-thinking literary person. It is for this reason that I offer a rebuttal.
The cads defend their horrible activities on the grounds that they are giving more money and artistic control to writers. This is a feeble excuse. For what ever would be the use of giving money and artistic control to writers? They would only use them to write fan fiction.
I intended to say more, but I have an urgent deadline to meet. You see, I am under contract with a very prestigious publisher to write a brilliant and slyly referential homage to Gabriel García Márquez. Only it’s not fan fiction, because we don’t call it that when it is Literature.
H. Smiggy McStudge
Abyss & Apex A webzine of science fiction & fantasy
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