Saturday, August 22, 2015

The New Cinderellas- A Modern Fairy Tale of Writing and Publishing

Let me tell you of a kingdom that possessed many small magical items of bound paper. These items contained stories, and had been produced for hundreds of years, and there were more of them than a person could look over in a lifetime. Some items could be used for knowledge, some for entertainment. Not everyone used the magical items, but those who did and used them wisely enjoyed them and had their lives enriched.
These items were created by men and women who crafted the items and tried to sell them for gold so they could have more time to create even more magical items. And though people could get many of these magical items for free, still they paid for some. 
For many years, the sale of magical items was done mostly to shops throughout the land, and was controlled by the city of Kroywen. The shops would then sell to those who wanted the items. There were many factions in Kroywen directing the lives and careers of those who produced the magical paper items. Many of these controllers cared about well-crafted items and the folk who produced them.
Then came The Time of Consolidation, when factions rose and fell, until there remained only five large factions of controllers. Though most were owned by foreign kingdoms, these factions built ornate palaces in Kroywen, and entertained themselves with rich banquets and lavish lifestyles. They had huge staffs to support the controlling of items. But they began to care more about the gold the items brought in than the items themselves, the ones who made them, or the ones who bought them. They made great sums of gold from tales of sparkly, blood-drinking, romantic, creatures, or tales about creepy, rich, older men tying up and seducing young women, but all the while they insisted that they were the arbiters of taste. They grew haughty and proud, and no longer wished to have those who made the items to approach them directly.
So they determined that item-makers must use Fairy Godmothers, who would screen all magical items, and only send a small portion of those to the palaces for perusal and possible purchase. The Fairy Godmothers would now be the deal-brokers-- and by default, the judges of what would sell. For this, they would take a goodly share of the gold that the items sold for. Some Fairy Godmothers had worked in the palaces and could bargain well in an item sale, and procured a larger share of gold for the item-makers. But anyone could set up as a Fairy Godmother, and some made horrible deals that cost the item-makers much gold, and even careers.
To sell an item, a maker had to send a carefully-written scroll to the Fairy Godmothers, describing the item. Then the maker must wait for long periods of time, in hopes that the Fairy Godmothers might read the scroll and ask to see the item. Those the Fairy Godmothers deemed that had potential to make much gold they passed on to the palaces, and there was rejoicing when items were sold, and all shared in the gold. After another long period of time, the items went to the shops, where the people of the land might come and buy.
The item-makers whose items sold well were elevated as princes and princesses by those who lived in the palaces. The top makers were exalted and showered with honors and riches, and were said to be anointed and above the common folk, true nobles of worth. For their items provided those in the palaces with fine lives.
Many item-makers throughout the kingdom dreamed of making an item of true worth, and being noticed by the palace people, and maybe even becoming a prince or princess. They were Cinderellas, waiting for a Fairy Godmother to come pretty them up and stamp them with approval to prepare them to meet a rich, powerful, noble of the palace who would snatch them from a life of drudgery. So they made items and wrote scroll after scroll to the Fairy Godmothers, who had such a backlog of scrolls to read, they sometimes never responded to many of the petitions. And thousands of fine magic items went unbought by the palaces, and unsold to folk who would delight in them.
For hundreds of years, the magic items were made of paper. But then the koobe was created, and magic paperless items could be sold to everyone, even to those who lived in faraway huts, without access to a shop that sold magic items. It was a thunderous change, and caused a great turmoil in the land. Still, the old ways were best, and continued much as they had. Those who lived in the palaces sneered at the new way, and knew their grip on paper items was eternal. And since the shops that sold magical items refused to sell items not blessed by the palace seals of approval, it seemed true.
But a wizard named Sozeb opened a shop that sold magic items, both of paper and of the new way. He called it Nozama, and would sell any magic item from any maker, to all parts of the kingdom, a shop that was always open to all. He would even have the item delivered: without paper, one could use it instantly, and even the paper items were brought to one's door in mere days. And many of these items sold for far less than palace prices. The folk of the land embraced this new way, and much gold flowed to Nozama, causing the palace folk to wail and gnash their teeth and rant against the wizard Sozeb and his creation. For each piece of gold that went to him for items was one that did not go into the coffers of the palaces. Yet though they cursed him and his shop, the palaces still sent him their items to sell, a curious thing.
With the popularity of Nozama and other shops like it, the item-makers realized they now had a way to sell magic items to people without great expense. They no longer needed the palaces, whose doors were mostly closed to them anyway. Nor did they need the Fairy Godmothers, and the long wait to get one. They took joy in this new way, for Sozeb and his shop paid them more for each item sold than even the palaces did. They did not care to deal with the palace people, many of whom looked down upon item-makers as cattle of the field. The palace people scorned the small amounts of gold earned by independent item-makers, not understanding that to these Cinderellas, some gold was far better than no gold.
Some independent item-makers even grew rich and told many others of the new way. A maker called Htarnok even said that paper items were not as important as the koobe, that his wealth came from Nozama and the new paperless items. He taunted the people of the palaces, who issued many foolish proclamations.
Those who had been treated well by the palace people refused to consider the new ways. They enjoyed being royalty, and saw no reason to change. A famous Prince, Izlacs by name, proclaimed that he was being offered a mountain of gold for ten years of service and thirteen magic items. This was wonderful news for him and for all item-makers, but some said that if Izlacs had left the palaces, he could have made two mountains of gold if he had done as they counseled. They said he should not be happy with a mere mountain of gold. Izlacs, who had won the palace game, laughed all the way to the counting house.
But even some princes and princesses who had lived long in the palaces were troubled. The new palace model was to go big, or go away. There was far less gold being paid for each item, and many makers were banished from the palaces because their items had not earned enough. They craved the boon of staying to rub elbows with the glittering palace nobles, but now they would have to go to the markets and hawk their items, just like the independent makers. Many of the lesser princes and princesses were being offered so little for their items, they found that astonishing numbers of the village makers earned more gold. And they were stunned to find that they themselves might make more gold away from the palaces. This was magic indeed.
In the village marketplace, the item-makers had no servants, just temporary helpers they would hire to assist them in making and selling magic items. Many helped each other, and saw the way of mongering as cooperative, not competitive. They found new ways to sell their wares, and shared this information with other sellers. And some prospered. Most found it worth their while to keep making and selling items, which was better than before, when they could sell nothing.
Some did not do well, of course, with items of poor quality and worse selling techniques, and these were the ones the palaces seized upon as examples and denounced as typical of non-palace goods and sellers. The palaces and their sycophants paid heralds to cry out against the new ways, the independent item-makers, and most of all, the wizard Sozeb and his successful shop. But it was like shouting against the incoming tide. Villagers would pay for good magic items and did not care where the item was made, or which noble of which palace had blessed it with approval. Without a palace to support, the independent makers could sell their items for less than the palaces charged, which meant people could buy more of them. And this made everyone but the palace nobles happy.
Don't you just love a happy ending?

1 comment:

  1. Writing about the evolution of publishing as a fairy story seems strangely appropriate. Nice job.