The transformation from what the literary industry was, to what the literary industry is becoming reminds me of when the Berlin Wall fell. Like many of you, I grew up during the heydays of the Cold War. There was no more profound a symbol of the s-e-p-a-r-a-t-i-o-n between the free world and communism than that cold, graffitied stone barrier. It divided a city, a country, a people, and a way of life.
Construction of the wall was started on 13 August 1961. I remember while the communists preached daily about how much better their system of government was - on the other side of the wall, the 'free world' was busy protesting, striking, speaking out, and speaking up about their religious and political beliefs, their jobs, their education ... their i-n-d-i-v-i-d-u-a-l rights! Such chaos ... such disorder!
It was the Communists who built the Berlin Wall, supposedly to keep out the rampageous influence of the West. They too had gatekeepers ... ones that wielded sub-machine guns and who would shoot you on sight. The odd thing was - the only ones they shot down were the ones trying TO LEAVE!
Almost 26 years later, In a speech at the Brandenburg Gate commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin, on 12 June 1987, Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the wall as a symbol of increasing freedom in the East. It's important to note, though, that President Reagan was only asking for something the ENTIRE WORLD was demanding by then.
In 1989, the communist way of life was exposed for what it was - a system to keep one group of people in control of everyone else. By that year, the system behind the wall had become unsustainable, and so the system crumbled and fell - and when it did, so did the wall.
Not everyone was celebrating though. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, French President François Mitterrand warned that a unified Germany could make more ground than Adolf Hitler ever had, and that Europe would have to bear the consequences. Yet, today, Germany has become the central power of the unified European Union.
When we think of the demise of the Berlin Wall, we think of Ronald Reagan making that impassioned speech, but the true heroes of the day were the ones that stood up and said WE DEMAND CHANGE! They were considered dissidents ... rogues .... mavericks, but it was those mavericks that overcame the Goliath system in place. There were some notable figures - some well-known now and some who perished in relative anonymity, B-U-T it took more than one voice to bring about change.
27 years the wall stood ... 27 years of struggle ... 27 years of persecution (except for an elite minority, talk about class inequality) ... 27 years of iron-fisted rule with little to no rights afforded to the folks ... 27 years of separation from the rest of the human brotherhood and sisterhood -- and it all came to an end in the time it took for the first sledgehammer to punch a hole into a bright, new world.
The story doesn't end there though, it only began there. For it's not enough to just do away with tyranny, if it's to be replaced with freedom, that freedom must be nurtured, defended and protected ... and new voices must continue to rise up to be a voice for everyone else.
In the literary industry, we have our generation of pioneers - they taught us about the myths of traditional publishing, they taught us that we had options, and they showed us how to set out on our own, on trails into the brave new world they already forged. A number of us answered their call. We bucked the status quo, wrote our stories and published them on our own. In a time when some agents and traditional publishers threaten us with blacklisting, we persevere. We write and publish with our own money and our own time and our own skill and our own management. We take our lumps and show a stiff upper lip. Some of us wear out, burn out, pack up and leave - but the rest of us remain. We stay because we are, after all writers!
Most of us don't make enough money to buy our spouse dinner and a bottle of wine but everyday, some of us compete with Goliath ... and win!
So I say damned the torpedoes and full steam ahead - let's continue to tell our stories and share them with the world.
Long live the mavericks, you know who you are ... my brutha and sista storytellers! You're ALL my heroes!