Shaping the Future:
Protecting the Future of Transformation Fiction
by Jeffrey M. Mahr
©1999 Jeffrey M. Mahr -- all rights reserved
The lights dim and the crowd hushes. Music begins, a commanding, regal melody; first with the faint sounds of the woodwinds, but in just moments the brass section joins in and soon the volume is too loud for even shouted conversation. And then there is silence.
Five seconds, ten, fifteen. The crowd grows restless. Murmurs spread through the seated mass.
"Ladies and gentlemen. The Church of the Transformation is proud to present on this stage, for just one night, the Honorable Morphus Tiresias, Pastor of the Church of World Change. Please stand and welcome -- Pastor Tiresias." The crowd roars, aided by the applause signs as a slight, frail looking man with stringy white hair to his shoulders limps on to the stage.
Resting his cane beside the podium he tries, but fails, to straighten his back and push out his chest. He can barely raise one hand to quiet the crowd.
"My friends." The voice is as worn as his face, and he needs to adjust the microphone to be heard. "My friends. I am here to thank you, thank you all for your years of support and encouragement. Your stories, columns, discussions and debates have helped spark interest in transformation fiction. Your purchases of movie tickets, video rentals, books and magazines have done much to bring transformation fiction closer to the mainstream." There are scattered shouts of approval from the crowd.
"Yes my friends, we've done well. As I look to the entertainment industry this last year I see at least one prime time television show with two, count them -- two, supporting characters who transform.1 Also on the television, I see a remake of a literary classic with a leading character who changes shape at will.2 In the movies we have at least two movies with supporting characters who change form.3 In books we have at least one author who has brought us a story with a transformation theme.4 The crowd cheers and claps.
"Yes friends, we've done well." The cheers grew into a roar as the congregation stands, waving and pounding each other on the back. Pastor Tiresias smiles and lets them settle back down. When he once again has silence and the attention of the crowd he continues.
"But." A withered hand points shakily to the sky. "But there are dark clouds on the horizon." If possible the crowd becomes even quieter. Everyone is staring intently at the man holding the podium as if it is a replacement for his cane.
"Yes, there are dark clouds on the horizon. Did you know that the publishing industry has been consolidating? Did you know that they have been deciding who to publish based upon sales alone? Did you know that it's becoming harder and harder for a new author to become published, an author that might write stories for a minority group like ours, about a topic that might not be 'mainstream'." Invoking the dreaded word has the usual effect. The murmuring is back, but this time there is an angry overtone.
"Did you know, my friends, that one of the most prolific published authors of transformation fiction is finding it difficult to get published? Jack Chalker, author of The Identity Matrix and of multi-book series such as the Well World, the Soul Rider and the Wonderland Gambit has been more than two years without a publication? Did you know that Ballantine/Del Rey, the publisher of the first five books in the Dancing Gods series, has refused to publish the sixth and final book in the series."
The murmur was louder, interspersed with shouts of "Boycott Del Rey!"
"No my friends." The hand wobbles into the air again. "Del Rey's callous stupidity is merely expeditious business in our money-driven economy. When the money was there they were willing to publish transformation fiction and when the money returns they will publish our fiction again."
"Then what can we do?"
"Yea. Tell us. What do we do?"
"That's why I'm here my friends. To tell you the answer. No, to show you the answer."
"Tell us. Show us." The chant began and grew to a thundering roar.
Yet again, a hand crept upward and the chant cut off.
"The answer is here." Pastor Tiresias' other hand rises from the podium with a book in his hand. "The answer is here, in this book, Chalker's new book, Priam's Lens.5 Buy it. Go out and buy it. If enough of us buy it we can show Del Rey We can show Del Rey that there is a market for Chalker's books. We can show them that we make a difference, that we count, that there is a market for the kind of stories we want."
A shriveled fist banged against the pulpit with surprising force. "Go my friends. Go in numbers. Show Del Rey that we have a voice, that we have a money, that we spend money -- on the books we like. Show Del Rey that it is expedient to publish the books we want."
With a shout of joy they march as one to their nearest bookstore. With coins, and currency, and plastic in hand they buy the books. And lo, Del Rey watches their bottom line and it is good. And Del Rey speaks to its editors and says, "Publish more transformation fiction." And the world is happy again.
Jeffrey M. Mahr
May 5, 1999
EDITOR'S NOTE: Check out Mr. Chalker's website for his books.
The preceding has been brought to you by TSAT as a public service. Our lawyers insist we tell you that TSAT has no financial or other interest in Ballantine/Del Rey or Jack Chalker, but we sure like his books and would love to see more.
1 -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
2 -- The Tempest -- the made for television movie starring Peter Fonda.
3 -- What Dreams May Come, starring Robin Williams, and Species II, starring Natasha Henstridge.
4 -- Shapeshifter (Mindwarp, No.5), by Chris Archer.
5 -- Priam's Lens is NOT transformation fiction, but is quite good. Chalker finally has several books in the pipe waiting to be published. At this time it is unsure which, if any, with be transformation-related.