Tag Archives: Leisure

Military fiction, publishing as product takes us further downhill to total cultural illiteracy

photoWhen Americans step inside the big chain publishers’ bookstores, Barnes and Noble and Borders, they are almost always under the delusion that they are inside real bookstores containing real books. Nothing could be farther from the truth though. We instead have merely entered into the realm of publishing as product.

What do I mean by ‘publishing as product’? The answer simply put is that publishing historically was an act of putting an art form in front of the art appreciating public. That art form was called literature and you had to read to get it. Publishing was never a pure process without politics, but far from it as politics was essential to what often got published, and what did not. But todays publishing world is far different than that of the past. What does the American literature reading public run into today?

Today’s publishing world has as much to do with art (literature) as McDonald’s has to do with cooking (culinary arts). Content inside the big publishing firms today is handled like a product, not an art that has high impact on politics and national culture. Conservative businessmen still limit what gets published and what does not, but the censorship involves not censuring and disallowing individual radical authors, but censoring and disallowing entire product lines. To cover up this censorship, a whole new group of alternative products have been developed to better hide the fact that real literature is no longer a product to be carried on the shelves.

As an avid book reader since I was a kid, I have been going into America’s bookstores for 1/2 a century which has allowed me to see this devolution in process on a continual basis. So let me name a few of the new publishing product lines that have displaced the old book shelves that once were partially inhabited, at least some, by novels in translation from other parts of the world.

Americans have always been an ethnocentric society and that has been always encouraged by conservative publishers who published mainly American authors. But where once stood Steinbeck and Zola, now stands shelves after shelves of books under other categories of products instead of just Fiction , all now directed to a population segmented by market research science laboratories. We now have Gay Literature, Christian Literature, and the latest grouping something called Military Literature. Further, one finds literature now very much separated into gender categories (Thanks, Oprah! See what you helped do?). Of course, as a remnant of the ’60s we have tiny sections of Black Fiction, Chicano Fiction, Native American Fiction, though not Black Fiction from elsewhere than the US, Latin American fiction from elsewhere than the US, or Native American fiction from say Guatemala or Peru.

We also have oodles of shelves with product lines directed to UFO believers, New Age dabblers, fascist talk show lovers, ‘self help’ addicts, and this new grouping identified for product line identity sales, the US military grunt fan club of all that is weaponry and war. Hence comes ‘Military Fiction’.

There is nothing really modern about this since Hollywood keyed in on this crowd since way back even before John Wayne. (Kids, if you don’t know who John Wayne is, then text message some Dude who might know and ask him?) What is new is to see this product line as marked out, pushed, and delineated as it is today. We shall all be corporately sliced and diced down to our very genes, it seems…

So who are the ‘writers’ for this new product line called Military Fiction? Here they are in Barnes and Nobles, War and Military Fiction division. Notice all those B&N sub-divisions of this hither before non-existent category of Fiction. Notice how they tossed in Vonnegut and Hemingway to make the new product line look less superficial than it really is?

Can you imagine this sort of thing in French, Italian, or German bookstores? They don’t have half their countries’ populations working for the military-security-industrial complex though. Personally, I can see a future reduction int he Christian Fiction and Christian Non-Fiction product lines, and and even larger spread of product items in the War and Military Fiction and Non-Fiction departments. Maybe even an ICE Fiction product line, too? And Private Military Contractor Fiction area?

Meanwhile, culturally, the US heads toward being a total illiterate wasteland in the publishing of real literature in the English language, especially in the translation of foreign authors of note. The worst of all this, is that almost all those entering into these warehouses of bookfood products think that they are part of the educated just by being there among the shelves of what??? … shelves of trash. All the books have been replaced by artificial-alterficial-superficial bookfood, or spam of lit. This delusion of education being sold at the bookfood warehouses is the phoniest product line of them all.

Oh, and that photo that led off this commentary? That is a promotion from a category of bookfood called ‘Women’s Military Fiction’, which is a combo of Romance, pseudo Feminism, and Pentagon Pro-war propaganda? Here is Lindsay McKinna’s website promo comments about her bookfood.

‘Lindsay McKenna (A.K.A. Eileen Nauman) is the best-selling author of Valkyrie and 75 fiction books in the last 20 years. Known as the “Top Gun of Women’s Military Fiction,” she created the sub-genre of military adventure/romance and covers a mainstream women’s market having sold over 10 million books worldwide.’

Who needs international literature in American bookstores when there is this sort of crap to sell? That’s why literature by authors from other countries just really is not there anymore. It has been replaced by bookfood spam.

Cable Montana

I wasn’t sure I could do it. I spoke brazenly on the phone, like a dog on a chain, like a dog who barks louder maybe because he’s on his chain. Well, that’s speculative isn’t it? So I tossed off my chain.

I got up there on Tuesday. It was way past dark. She was at the bar but went home to meet me. She had tried to talk me out of it before I came up and she started again but I made her lead me back to the bar. It seemed part of her was pleased and intrigued with what might happen.

She pointed him out. He was bigger than I expected. Of course I had pictured him ugly and so he was ugly. I left. She’d given me directions to his apartment and I made my way there. He lived above a tobacconist. I would wait for him on the stairs.

I realized I didn’t know what she was going to do. I couldn’t imagine she’d warn him, or get the police. At worse perhaps she’d show up with him and try to talk it out. But that would still be a betrayal so I didn’t expect it.

I put what I’d concealed on its side, into the shadow of the step, and held a decoy which I’d thought of on another operation. Once before I’d waited in the hall with a single rose that I’d bought at the airport. When neighbors passed me they smiled and greeted me, thinking I was on of course a different mission. This guy had misrepresented himself as gay, so I figured I’d enhance his false pretense. Ha!

Was I thinking straight? If I was seen at all, an investigation would reveal me. It could go that far of course. I didn’t know how badly I would hurt him.

I was uneasy about how hard to hit him. I’d read that where amateurs fail is in cringing at the point of impact. I could imagine that instinct holds us back from upsetting the equilibrium of someone’s well being. But would I overcompensate as a result and fracture his skull? It didn’t occur to me that I would kill him.

What was I after? She had not forgiven him, but word had gotten out through her friends and as a result he’d tried to approach her about clearing his name. She told me it was sufficient punishment that he was in a panic about his reputation: he’d have trouble pulling this on another girl. I intoned that his reputation had little to do with how he’d gotten past her defenses. She was drugged, she doesn’t remember anything. She remembers fighting him off in the bathroom.

For me the issue was that she was violated. Or might have been. Her body, in the scheme of things my body, our shared sexual temple, had been sacked or might have been. Not knowing, it became untouchable as if it was.

I was avenging myself. I was frustrated that she was in large part responsible for having been drunk enough, or for having entertained miscreants among whom lurked a social criminal. What she did was out of my control. That she could now be pregnant or terminally infected was the untenantable. There was nothing to do about it except get rough justice. In the name of deterrence for a next crime, whatever.

Every campus should have a secret greek society for meting out swift retribution. Two other suspects at the party, whose faces she couldn’t later differentiate from typical party guys, had made an early remark about slipping her something. They joked that while she had left her drink unattended someone could have dosed it with a “Roofie.” Would they have made that joke if somewhere outside lurked a Frappa You Upsilon, behind the trees on a dark quiet week night?

Thus a founding member, protector of sacrosanct, sat waiting for this jerk to come home, hopefully alone, hopefully stumbling drunk. If he wasn’t the one, let him sort it out with whoever was. He was complicit as was everyone who was there, stoned or drunk in the various rooms inattentive.

Let him stumble with his head bleeding, his eyes dilated from a concussion as he scrambles for sympathy and protection. I will have told him that I would be back to hear his confession but tonight I was showing him my anger. Later he could tell me the specifics about what he did and what mud he’d dragged into my life, then I was going to fuck him up again. He brought this on himself for being a dumb shit, for being a thirty year old dumb shit with no business on a college campus except apparently to rape college girls. Was I envious? Was I furious because I didn’t dare try what he was doing? Well isn’t that hard to say? But tonight I was making sure he ran smack into the consequences that keep me at bay.

It started to get light and as I write this now I am thinking about angry dogs.

Reprinted from Aberrant Books