An end-of-year review seems obligatory on New Year’s Day, and 2012 was an interesting year for me personally, for writing, publishing, and fantasy fiction, and for the spiritual development of humanity. So I’m going to review 2012 in this post from those angles. The world’s political and economic developments have been thoroughly covered elsewhere, so I’ll skip them except as they impact those subjects.
For me personally, it was a year of struggle with marketing. I suck at that. I moved from Facebook to Google+ in terms of social media, which amounted to making a fresh start, and I’ve begun encountering people there who know a lot more about how to create exposure for an author’s books than I do, not that this is saying much. So I have reason to hope that 2013 will be better in that respect. People who read my work all seem to like it, but few know it exists.
Creatively, it will be hard for 2013 to top 2012, though. I finished and published two novels, The Green Stone Tower and Goddess-Born, which are the first two books in the projected Tale of Two Worlds collection. I’ve begun work on the third volume, The People of the Sea, and my goal is to have both it and the final volume, Light and Shadow, finished and available by the end of this year. I also started writing this blog and this is my 56th post over the part-year I’ve been keeping it. So far, I haven’t failed to put a post up at least once a week, usually more often.
My “day job” consists of writing freelance for various clients, and the business continues to grow slowly. That’s not where my heart is, though it pays the bills. I’ve had a delay in my long-term goal of paying a long visit to the island of Corsica, which I had once hoped to do by the end of 2012 or in early 2013; it will be a few more months minimum.
On the subject of publishing, the big news for 2012 is the growth of the e-book, the continuing shrinkage of what we must now call the Big 5 publishing companies (it was the Big 6 through most of 2012), and the continued rise of self-publishing. Self-publishing has now become the default for most writers. Another thing we’ve seen is the rise of new small publishing companies. American Publishers lists 2660 publishing companies in the United States alone. For a writer of any sense, if self-publishing is the default option, seeking a small publisher who isn’t part of the Big Declining Number is or should be the first step up from that default. One common quality of the small publishers that are springing up today is that they offer a writer help with marketing to readers. (Remember I said above I suck at marketing? This is something I should consider for the future.)
Regarding fantasy fiction, well, let’s take a look at what’s selling well in the Amazon Kindle Store in fantasy fiction as of today.
The no. 1 seller is 11/22/63 by Stephen King. I haven’t read this. I don’t know what it’s about except that obviously it’s a fantasy take on the Kennedy assassination. It’s published by Simon & Schuster, despite which it goes for the very reasonable price of $3.99. Maybe that’s because it’s from 2011 and the price has dropped (although for a Big 5 publisher to drop e-book prices that far is almost unheard of), and maybe it’s because if you’re Stephen King the publishers pay attention to what you want. Either way, it looks like a decent deal and King is always good.
Second is Cold Days by Jim Butcher, a new book in the splendid Dresden Files series. I love that series. But I absolutely refuse to pay $14.99 for an e-book, knowing that the author will receive a grand total of $2.54 out of that. Bah. Mr. Butcher, on the off chance you read this blog post, take note. You could make the same money per volume if you self-published with Amazon and sold the book for $3.65. And then I’d buy it.
No. 3 is A Different Witch by Debora Geary, self-published, $3.99. It’s a contemporary fantasy about a witch, one of a series that looks amusing and I may have to check it out. (The Harry Dresden series by Butcher is also contemporary fantasy, about a wizard detective.) Remember that as we skip over the next few titles, which are George R.R. Martin’s things and Tolkien.
Justin Cronin’s The Twelve is also contemporary fantasy of the apocalyptic sort.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is next, and is quite difficult to categorize, but could be uncomfortably considered contemporary fantasy as well.
One has to come to the second page before encountering a book that isn’t contemporary fantasy or historical fantasy (other than the aforementioned Martin and Tolkien stuff) and that is a new volume in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth/Confessor series, ho-hum.
Past that, and we do begin to see a mix of contemporary with other-world fantasy, but the trend here is that contemporary fantasy is on the rise in the world of fantasy fiction. It isn’t effacing other-world fantasy, which is a good thing, but it is pushing its way into our consciousness. Magic is asserting its place in our lives alongside of advanced technology. We no longer consign it to a world other than this one, wistfully imagined, knowing such things don’t happen in real life.
And that brings me to the final observation about 2012. This was a year in which those who do not belong to any established religious tradition decide the course of an American presidential election. (See, politics did intrude, but in this case it’s relevant.)
According to the Pew poll on religious affiliation in the United States, the category of “unaffiliated” rose to 16.1 percent of the population. This category includes atheists and agnostics, but they make up only a small minority of the unaffiliated, most of which are religious believers of some kind, but do not consider themselves believers in any faith’s teachings in particular. I fall into that category myself. What’s more, Gallup found that Americans’ confidence in organized religion is at an all-time low of 44 percent.
The interesting thing about this in terms of the presidential election is that this demographic, although it constitutes less than twenty percent of the population, voted for Obama by a margin of more than 70 percent. That’s a bigger win than the president had with any other demographic except African-Americans. Obama lost the votes of both Protestants and Catholics, but the huge margin by which he won the unaffiliated made up for this and gave him his reelection.
Puzzling out why, I came to realize that the unaffiliated, although a majority of us are spiritual or religious, do not accept the authority of religious organizations. Among those who do accept that authority, some will be persuaded by the arguments of the religious right and some will not. Either way, their votes may be swayed by some other political factor, so that (for example) a pro-choice voter may vote Republican, or a voter opposed to gay marriage may vote Democratic, but statistically it will go the other way. But it’s safe to say that none of the unaffiliated will see the religious right positions as anything but the authoritarian stances that they oppose viscerally. With the Republicans coming out so strongly in support of cultural-right positions last year, it should come as no surprise that the unaffiliated opposed them by huge margins.
If this category of voter continues to grow, it will not mean a permanent victory for liberal and progressive politics, except in this one respect. It will mean the end of religious authoritarian right-wing politics, that bizarre aberration in the American political environment.
I also firmly believe that it is a step forward in the spiritual evolution of humanity. In an age when information about religions not one’s own is available in seconds on the Internet, the mental isolation that allowed sectarian exclusivity is a thing of the past, and the growth in the ranks of the unaffiliated is predictable. Religious authority has served as the greatest barrier to spiritual enlightenment. Break that authority, and the barrier is gone. Other barriers exist, but this is a big step forward.
With all that in mind, we bid farewell to 2012, and face the new year with cautious hope and optimism.
Image credit: volkoffa / 123RF Stock Photo