|Ramblings (pl. noun): talking or writing in a confused way, often
for a long time
Bardlings (pl. noun): Ramblings from Bard
by Michael W. Bard
©2004 Michael W. Bard -- all rights reserved
Recently the former editors of TSAT sent a plea regarding the possible failure of their e-book experiment (Infinite Imagination eBooks) and I started to wonder 'What Went Wrong?' And I came to a couple of conclusions -- one understandable, and one disturbing.
First: The reading public isn't ready for e-books yet. This, I think, is a generic problem of the e-book industry and can be boiled down to 'people prefer ink on paper'. In my case, I find it more convenient (especially when not at a computer) and more enjoyable. It's easier on the eyes. It's easy to remember where I got to (even though I'm not one of those evil book killers who fold the pages. Bad. Bad!). For others, I believe that the entire idea isn't commonly known. When a person is looking for a book, what is their first impulse? They go to the bookstore. Not Amazon.com, not an e-books site, but a brick-and-mortar bookstore.
Unfortunately, fixing this is just going to take time. After all, how many people were on the internet 20 years ago?
Second: The Transformation Community is extremely insular and afraid. Yes, this is a general statement but bear with me (otherwise I'll have to step on your feet to keep you from leaving, and 200 kg of centaur can be painful). By and large the Transformation Community is a subset of the furry community. Many TFC members are also 'furries'. Nothing wrong with that. Furries are known about by the general populace at large. They may not be understood, they may be feared, they may be ridiculed, but a large number of people know about them. Many furries are proud of their beliefs, they aren't afraid of them. They don't hide them. That's right, they don't hide their furriness. The Trans-Gender community is the same level as the Furry community. There are many more of them (compared to members of the TFC), and, although they are more ridiculed than Furries (as far as I can tell), they are at least more known about.
How many times have people commented on the TSA-Talk list that they're afraid to tell anybody? How many people wanted the list archives to be members only because they were afraid friends and relatives would find out? In my case, I haven't kept it secret, but I haven't shouted it out either. Think about it.
What does this mean for publishing endeavours like Infinite Imagination and TSAT? What it means is that there is a potential audience of maybe 5000 people. Total. Where do I get that number? There are roughly 1,000 members of TSA-Talk. I just multiplied that by 5 as an estimate. Probably 2500 of these have frequent access to the internet, probably about a thousand know about the existing Transformation Community.
The sad fact is that a population of 1000, or even 5000, is not enough to support a commercial publishing venture.
And that means that both TSAT and Infinite Imagination will remain where they are today. Yes, TSAT would love to offer actual payment to writers, but until we get some kind of income that isn't going to happen. Could we make the site charge membership fees each issue (say a dime)? I suppose we could try, but the infrastructure to support that is not quite here yet. And be honest: How many of you would actually pay? I believe that the majority of TSA-Talk members are university, or even high school students. Not all, but a majority. And they are shy about their interests. And they are not loaded with pecuniary resources (i.e. disposable income). And within this group, many have their payment options controlled by parents. If they purchased anything online, they would have to tell their parents where the money went -- and that would break the secrecy. Fear of that would vastly reduce what potential income there is.
So, what do we do? I don't know.
In my case I'm more interested in the results of transformation due to my compelling desire to understand everything. Thus I want to know what it would be like to walk with human feet, to swim with a tail, etc. Yes, I've written detailed transformation scenes. Been there, done that, don't need to do it anymore. Right now I'm hoping to break into mainstream publishing with novels. But, even if I do that, and include transformations in my novels, I will be like Jack Chalker and deal with the results of transformations, not the actual mechanism. And that won't help the problem the Transformation Community faces.
Again, I don't know what we can do about this. Any ideas?