Slavery…. So what’s the Big Deal?

Here’s a question for you to think about — and I mean THINK about it, don’t just knee-jerk in your reaction. What happens when the anti-Confederacy revisionism — the (disturbingly successful) efforts being made to ban any display of a Confederate flag, remove Confederate memorials, forbid identitying Confederate soldiers’ graves as such, etc. — the movement to demonize anything and everything that has any connection to the Confederacy because of its perceived ties to the institution of slavery — reaches the point where so little evidence of the Confederacy’s existence remains that people start to ask, “So, what’s the big deal?” where the American Civil War is concerned?

What happens when there’s nothing apart from a handful of museums dedicated to the history of slavery in America, and those museums are dismissed as propaganda because there’s no outside validation of the reality of that experience? What happens when the people who try to maintain the integrity of the narrative are marginalized and ignored because they’re perceived as over-stating their case — because there is no evidence for it apart from their own institutions and archives? “Because I said so!” isn’t “proof” of anything, whether the venue is a court of law or the chronicles of history. So then “It was beyond terrible — because I said so!” isn’t “proof” of the nature of slavery. It’s the outside evidence, evidence which can’t be controlled or manipulated by someone who is trying to shape a narrative, that provides that proof. Remove — don’t just discard, but destroy — that evidence, and the proof vanishes. Fact and opinion become interchangeable, and in the process both become equally meaningless.

There is already a legion of people who deny that the Holocaust ever happened, despite the avalanche of evidence that it did. So tell me, then, what happens when the time comes that someone says, “Dude, you’re just making this up — it couldn’t have been all that bad!” because every trace of the Confederacy’s existence has been wiped away?

Those who know me know that I subscribe to the “states’ rights” interpretation of the origin of the American Civil War, or, as I prefer to call it, The War of Northern Aggression. In my not-at-all-humble opinion, slavery was only one of a list of grievances that existed between the North and South in the mid-19th Century that both sides felt could only be resolved by violence, and not the most important one at that. But the North, in its victory, wrote the narrative of the war and made the (self-) righteous cause of abolishing slavery the shining beacon of the Union’s moral rectitude. But what happens to that narrative, that self-righteous self-congratulation when no one takes it seriously anymore because all evidence that the enemy ever existed has been eradicated?

Am I overstating the issue? Hardly. I’m not inventing this concept or this phenomenon. In 2015 and 2016, there were Second World War historical re-enactments in Great Britain that were cancelled because people were upset by the fact that some of the re-enactors dressed as German soldiers. The “German” re-enactors were actually banned from coming onto the venue if they were in uniform. These people actually thought they could have a re-enactment with only one side being allowed to show up. No, I’m not making this up. If you’re willing to take the time and make the effort, you’ll find the news stories that covered these incidents.

You know, it’s kind of hard to have the Second World War without the Germans in it — without the Germans keeping the French and British occupied in Europe, the Japanse would have been forced to limit their own war to the one they already had with China. No Pearl Harbor, no American involvment, no “bright flashie-big boomie” things over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And yet that’s what some people tried to pretend they could do — they could have World War Two without any Germans in it. Now THAT is an absurd idea, isn’t it? Without the Germans, aggressive little devils that they are, running around trying to seize everyone else’s lebensraum and sending people with the wrong genetics up the chimney, there’s no cause for a war, is there? But there WAS a war, because the Germans WERE there….

And that is exactly my point. When one side eliminates — obliterates — the institutions and agencies that empowered and enabled the cause it opposed, its own cause suddenly loses validity. When you pretend the other side never existed and then try to erase any evidence that it did, you’re calling into question the legitimacy of your own beliefs and values. It’s an admission that your own motivations are so weak that they can’t even sustain themselves in a confrontation with the past.

Trying to pretend that an ugly chapter of our past never happened by trying to wipe out any evidence that it did is a fool’s errand. Ultimately that’s what these people want to do, however, whether they consciously realize it or not. Because they can’t make the distinction between slavery and the Confederacy, in their attempt to efface anything that proves the existence of the latter, they trivialize the former. You see, it goes like this: Slavery was a big enough deal that nations went to war over it. But wait, to have a war, you have to have an enemy. And if you can’t prove that there WAS an enemy, because you can’t prove that enemy ever existed, well, then, without an enemy, it couldn’t have been much of a war, could it? And if the war wasn’t all that big a deal, well, then, slavery really wasn’t that big a deal after all, was it?

And that is exactly where we’re headed….

And that’s the way it is…because I’m Daniel Allen Butler…and you’re not….

It’s MY Fault!

OK, let me make something perfectly clear, and at the same time take responsibility for something that has made a lot of people unhappy.

I’m the one who elected Donald Trump President of the United States.

I wouldn’t vote for Gary Johnson because the last thing the US and the world needs right now is an isolationist president.

I refused to vote for Comrade Clinton because…well, because she’s Hillary Clinton and that’s pretty much self-explanatory.

So I voted for Donald Trump. I saw him as having the potential to be this Republic’s Lucius Cornelius Sulla or Gaius Julius Caesar. I was hoping for a Caesar, because right now this country needs a Julius Caesar. He hasn’t proven to be Julian material yet, but so far he’s been no Lucius Cornelius. As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out, so don’t look to find any cheerleading for the Donald coming from my corner. I will say that he’s showing signs of growing into the office, and that is encouraging. Time will tell….

But, you see, that’s the thing — it was me who elected Donald Trump, me and almost 63,000,000 Americans like me.

It wasn’t the Russians.

It was me.

And that’s the way it is — because I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and you’re not….

I’m Running out of Popcorn….

There just isn’t enough popcorn for all of this….

You know how difficult it is to look away from a train wreck as it’s happening? Well, the Democratic Party has been a continuously ongoing train wreck for the past eight months, and now it looks as though the locomotive just exploded.

The wreck began, of course, in July of last year when Debbie Wasserperson Schultz (she prefers “Wasserperson” to her actual name of “Wasserman”, lest she be accused of gender bias) resigned as Chairman (“Chairperson”) of the Democratic National Committee after she was perceived by the rank-and-file of the Party to have cooked the campaign rules in favor of Hillary “You’re a Dead Man” Clinton and against Bernie “Come on Over for the Weekend” Sanders. (Whether she actually did or not is still being debated — it’s a matter of interpretation and personal bias.) Then there was the little incident of Donna “I Love Sergio Mendes” Brazile passing along questions that would be asked in the candidates’ debates to Hillary BEFORE the debate — that this was a clear-cut violation of ethics nobody debated.

Then there was November 8, 2016. No need to say more about that….

Now, here’s where the locomotive goes “ka-BLOOIE!”

Last night, here in Atlanta, the Democratic National Committee elected a new chairman, Tom “Things Ain’t Exactly Rosey” Perez. He defeated the presumed front-runner, Keith “Mohammed is My Main Man!” Ellison by a wide margin. (This sort of result seems to be a trend now in elections involving Democrats.) So what do Ellison’s supporters do when the results are announced? They get up and stalk out of the convention all but chanting “Not OUR Chairman!”

Can it get any better than this?

Watching these bottom-feeders now feeding on themselves is political farce at its best. That river in Egypt has developed a massive tributary in the United States: when the “Progressives” don’t get their way, they pretend that they can ignore the outcome they didn’t want. Don’t like the outcome of the Presidential election? “Not MY President!” Don’t like the outcome of the chairmanship election? “Not OUR Chairman!” The only “progress” I see “Progressives” making is that they are becoming progressively more stupid every day.

Otto von Bismarck, probably the most accomplished practical politician who ever lived, once remarked to Friedrich von Waldau that “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.” The “Progressives,” a collection of imbeciles within a larger collection of imbeciles, seem to have forgotten that sage observation. Then again, these are the imbeciles who, in their rush to dismiss all of history as irrelevant — the only thing that matters to them is “the future,” as if “the future” is somehow not a product of the past via the present — have abandoned the collected and collective wisdom that could actually make them relevant and possibly even effective. Instead, they pout, whine, scream, and cry like spoilt children as they throw tantrum after tantrum, never seeing the expressions of disbelief, disgust, and dismissal on the faces of the adults who won’t be coerced or intimidated into giving in to the infants’ infantile behavior. In the process, those infants are destroying the only instrument to which they have access that could effect the changes they claim to so desperately desire.

I couldn’t make this stuff up, people — it’s like the Titanic: if I presented it as fiction, no one would buy it, because it would seem utterly implausible.

I just wish I could figure out a way to charge admission to watch this train wreck happen. I’d retire a very wealthy man.

Meanwhile, I gotta go make some more popcorn.

And that’s the way it is…because I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and you’re not….

Everything I NEED to Know about Islam I Learned on 11 September 2001…. Everything.

Everything I NEED to know about Islam I learned on 11 September 2001. Everything. I have friends who believe that there is such a thing a “moderate Islam.” I won’t go so far as to say that they are stupid — after all, stupid people are not allowed the privilege of being my friends — but they are naive for believing in a fairly tale like “moderate Islam.” Claiming that there is such a thing is like claiming that there was once such a thing as “moderate National Socialism” — and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the Nazis and the Moslems were best of friends back in the day….

Islam is NOT a religion, folks, regardless of what its adherents and sympathizers will tell you. It is a totalitarian social and political ideology wrapped in religious trappings.

A religion, by definition, must allow for freedom of conscience: to truly follow a religion a person must arrive at the decision to do so through internal conviction, not external coercion. Inherent in any genuine religious system is the right to refuse to believe it in — or any other religion for that matter.

An ideology, on the other hand, does not tolerate dissent or non-conformity: everyone within its reach must adhere to its doctrines and dogmas, regardless of whether or not they personally accept the validity of those doctrines and dogmas. Everyone outside of the ideology’s reach must be brought into it, as their existence outside of the ideology’s control represents a threat to not only the ideology’s control over those it dominates, but also to the very existence of the ideology itself. Those of you who have studied Islam will immediately recognize that this is identical to the “Realm of Peace (the Moslem world)/Realm of War (the rest of the world)” dichotomy in Islamic doctrine.  Going hand-in-hand with this a fundamental doctrines in Islam that the existence of anyone outside of the “Realm of Peace” will not be tolerated — either they must be brought into the “Realm of Peace” i.e. convert to Islam, or they must be eliminated. No alternatives are allowed in either the Koran or the hadiths.

Which leads to the next point in understanding why Islam is NOT a religion: no genuine religion will espouse the idea of conversion by force. The existence of a God or gods is not something that can be “proven,” in the scientific use of the word, so belief in a God or gods is, again by definition, a matter of faith. The exercise of such faith is a conscious, deliberate, voluntary act, one that in essence states, however openly or privately one might do so, that “I have come to this point, no one has brought me here or made me come here: I now believe what I believe because it is what I have chosen — it the conclusion of my spiritual seach, and that of no one else.” Islam, however, has at its heart the doctrine of “conversion through coercion” — the use of force, including physical violence and threats of execution, to compel non-Moslems to renounce their own beliefs and embrace Islam. This is not some modern aberration or perversion of Islam, the doctrine began with Mohammed himself in 622 AD. Again, this is the methodology of totalitarianism: conform or die. History has provided us with more than sufficient examples of this, whether they be the Third Reich, the Soviet Union, Maoist China, or any one of a dozen tinpot dictatorships that sprang up around the world in the 20th Century.

In a nutshell, then, the difference is this:  a genuine religion will always allow the individual the right to free will, to follow his or her conscience, to believe or not believe as they feel is right.  An ideology, even one masquerading as a religion, will never allow the individual right to conscience or to not believe, but demands adherence, without exception.  That is the litmus test, it’s a simple pass/fail that takes only a few seconds to determine, but tells you everything you need to know when some ideologue is playing the religion card.

In the end, it comes down to this: the violence that we are seeing today — and was done on 11 September 2001 — is not simply a part of the fabric of Islam, it IS the fabric of Islam. Burying our heads in the sand, hoping it will go away, will not solve the problem. The world was shown the solution by men like Martel, Graf Salm, von Roggendorf, and Sobieski. The choice we have now is whether or not we will choose to profit from their example. The solution does not lie in continuing to pretend that Islam is something far different than what it actually is.

And that’s the way it is…

…because I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and you’re not.

“Put the Kitten Down or We’ll Shoot!”

Look, people, it’s not just the police as tools of oppression vs. young black men, it’s the police as tools of oppression vs. everybody. At issue is not the color of your skin but the how quickly and thoroughly you comply — comply with trivial and insignificant regulation, ordinances, and instructions, all of which are created not to expedite any particular process or achieve a specific end but rather to reinforce your sense of complete subordination to local, state, and federal authority. Their purpose is to further drive home the message that has been presented to the American people by their government since October 2001: you, collectively and as individuals, are expected and required to OBEY. No matter how absurd or illogical or openly counter-productive the commands and instructions given to you, OBEY THEM, because “we, The Government” (and this attitude is becoming more and more openly and completely embraced by state and local governments, not just the Feds) “have decreed that you must do so.” Common sense has gone out the window, as empty compliance, coupled with a fanatical devotion on the part of civil servants to “go by the book,” dot every “i” and cross every “t” ad infinitum ad nauseum, coupled with dire threats of punishment and retribution should anyone not do so, has become the norm.

There’s a pervasive pattern here, one where confrontation is the default behavior, offering scenarios where displays of petty authority almost inevitably escalate into situations where the application of force, up to and including deadly force, is deemed necessary, all the better to make the point to those not involved but witnessing the situation that it is in their best interest in the future to simply OBEY. Whether it’s the TSA pointlessly harassing travelers with vague and ridiculous travel restrictions which arbitrarily change from airport to airport (and sometimes from minute to minute), a clerk at Animal Control who simply can’t say “Whatever…” to someone dropping off a stray at a shelter, or some “well-intentioned” private citizen whose hysterical phone calls to police results in an unarmed man being shot and killed by a police officer without so much as a warning, the standard of conduct by and the default attitude of government employees has become one which seeks to escalate, rather than de-escalate, any potential confrontation. Why? To reinforce the the lesson: you must OBEY.

The proof of this can be found in this news story out of Dothan, Alabama, as reported by the local paper, the Dothan Eagle, on 31 December 2014: “Police say [Robert] Lawrence had gone to the animal shelter to turn over a stray animal, but became disorderly when told he could not leave an animal without showing identification. Police say Lawrence was a sovereign citizen, which is a group of people whose political ideology often leaves them at odds with the government. Lawrence was told repeatedly to calm down, according to police, then was advised he was being placed under arrest. An altercation then occurred and Lawrence was shot in the abdomen…. Houston County Coroner Robert Byrd said the 30-year-old Lawrence…died at 9:50 p.m. Tuesday.”

Apologists for the police will emphasize that Lawrence was “confrontational” and that the personnel at Animal Control may have felt threatened as a result — that is not an unreasonable position. The perceived threat, real or not, provoked a physical response from the police, who at some point came to the conclusion that it was necessary to resort to lethal force. That is where the situation becomes surreal, and demonstrates that the sense of confrontation between police, as the representatives of authority — and hence, the tools of repression — and civilians is rapidly expanding across the country. It is no longer simply an inner-city, or major city, or police vs, blacks problem any longer. The surreality stems from the fact that the individual at Animal Control in Dothan, when Lawrence refused to show identification, in turn to refused to simply say “Whatever…” and take in the stray animal Lawrence brought to the shelter. Instead, that person felt it necessary to initiate a confrontation over compliance with a meaningless regulation: it’s not as if Lawrence was trying to pawn stolen jewelry or a handgun with its serial numbers filed off. Let’s apply a modicum of common sense here, people: what difference does it make — really — whether or not someone dropping off a stray animal produces identification? That requirement was probably introduced into Animal Control’s SOP without anyone bothering to think much about it — and probably rightfully so, it’s a trivial thing. But what would happen if that self-same employee at Animal Control had been confronted with a 12-year old child who brought in a stray dog he’d found on the side of the road? I know of very few 12-year olds who have identification. So what does the clerk at Animal Control do in that case? Detain the child until he or she somehow produces the ID they don’t have? Lock them up in an empty office until their parents arrive? (There’s a legal term for that — it’s called “kidnapping.”) Do you see the point that I’m driving at here? A departmental regulation so insignificant that it doesn’t even aspire to the level of “minor” was invoked by an equally insignificant departmental employee enamored of their own imagined “authority,” which needlessly escalated into a confrontation, and then an altercation, which cost a man his life. What could have been — should have been — a situation where the clerk said “Yeah, don’t worry about it, it’s not that important” and taken the animal, which is Animal Control’s primary responsibility, instead became a fatal situation when the police, already mentally and emotionally “geared-up” for a confrontation, arrived on the scene. Take a few minutes to contemplate not just how this happened, but why.

Then think about this: you see fewer and fewer police cruisers displaying the motto “To protect and serve.” This decline is nothing more than an acknowledgement of the truth (in theory and in fact). And let’s face it, replacing “To protect and serve” with “Professional Law Enforcement” or “Proud to Serve!” is far less provocative than what would be an embarrassingly honest motto: “To shoot to kill — anyone.”

To read the full Dothan Eagle article, go here:

And that’s the way it is…

…because I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and you’re not.

Winding Down and Winding Up…

Well, I guess this is where and when everyone is supposed to get sentimental and maudlin, lachrymose and melancholy as they prepare to wave goodbye to 2014 in a bit less than twenty-five hours. Everyone but me, I guess. You were expecting that, though, weren’t you? You’ve come to expect me to be, by turns or in combination, cantankerous, cranky, obnoxious, cynical, irreverent, intolerant, condescending, skeptical, and sometimes downright rude. And after a while you probably just write it off as “Dan just being Dan,” with an occasional sprinkle of “How on earth does he live with himself?” thrown in for good measure. And frankly, that’s who I am – or at least, the Daniel Allen Butler persona you see here online is all of that, and it IS part of who the whole person is, but not all of him, not by a long chalk. But it’s also Dan’s way of keeping most of the world at arm’s length, because in 57 (soon to be 58) years, I’ve learned that I’m more comfortable with it that way. You see, like just about every year before it, 2014 was pretty much a mixed bag. I’ve had successes and failures (I actually had a book proposal rejected this year, the first time I wrote one that wasn’t specifically MEANT to be rejected (for contractual reasons) that was turned down); I’ve had big surprises, good and bad; I’ve experienced tremendous validation and excitement, along with painful disappointment. Taken all in all, pretty typical of “a year in the life of….” wouldn’t you say? I’m still on the green side of the sod, which means that the ledger is still in my favor; a good thing, considering the alternative, but let’s not get carried away with the thing. After all, in the words of Leonard McCoy, “What’s so damned troublesome about not havin’ died?”

Those of you who are still with me are here because one or the other (or both) of us made a decision to keep you here – which means you’ve gotten further inside arm’s length than the rest of the entire world has managed to do. (Some got even closer – the results were not what anyone expected.) Congratulate yourselves for that, because it means that collectively and as individuals you have substance – not because I said that you are such, but because your thoughts and actions have proven you to be so. None of you saw everything that happened here in this curious dramedy called “The Life and Times of Dan Butler,” though every one of you saw something no one else did, and some saw more than others. Not everyone who was here on this page a year ago is here now. Some were jettisoned. For some, we played “The Flowers o’ the Forest.” Some walked away, not just here but in real life as well. One of those who did broke my heart – and laughed while they did it. Again, it was all a part of that strange experience of total community and absolute loneliness we call “life.” It’s not fair, it just is. The great dichotomy of being a human being is the experience of knowing that you are simultaneously component with the whole of humanity and utterly alone. For some – for many – that thought is cause for dismay. Personally, I find it fascinating.

But I will tell you this. For myself, at least, I’m looking forward to 2015 much the same as I have looked at the 56 previous New Years I have known: yet one more arbitrary division in the whole experience of my life. I will make of it whatever I can, and try to bend as much of it as I may to my will — whatever I cannot I will take for what it is, good or bad, and try to profit, intellectually, spiritually, or materially, from it. For those of you want to continue to tag along, by all means do so. Not all of you will see the same things, nor will anyone – but me – see everything that happens here. Still, I can assure all of you of one thing: it won’t be boring!

Happy Hogmanay and Happy New Year to all.

And that’s the way it is…

…because I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and you’re not.

Fair is Fair….

Two New York Times reporters have recklessly endangered the lives of Officer Darren Wilson, his family, and his neighbors by irresponsibly publishing his home address.  I’m firmly of the belief that in the interest of journalistic balance and fairness, the favor should be returned, should any responsible member of the American public wish to engage them in a dialogue about professionalism, journalistic ethics, and personal responsibility, or remonstrate with them over their lack of the foresaid.  So….

CHICAGO, IL 60660-4204

Work Phone: 312-552-7204

Mobile: 646-753-2052

NEW ORLEANS, LA 70119-3203



And that’s the way it is…

because I’m Daniel Allen Butler and you’re not….


Thirteen Years On….

OK, let me get this out there and get it over with. A few months ago I was taken to task by someone who was a lifelong friend because on my Facebook page I posted a meme that showed the second airliner crashing into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, and which bore the caption “Everything I needed to know about Islam I learned on 9-11!” I was castigated for not showing a sufficient degree of tolerance and respect for the allegedly peaceful Mohammedans living in places like Dearbornistan, who, it was implied, bore little or no resemblance or relationship to their fanatical “co-religionists” in the Middle East. I put “co-religionists” in quotation marks because I came to understand many years ago, while researching my book The First Jihad, that Mohammedanism (that is, “Islam” — I prefer “Mohammedanism” because they find that insulting; obviously, I’m deliberately not sensitive to their feelings) is not a religion at all: it is a political ideology cloaked in religious trappings. As for “Mohammedanism,” well, let’s just say that the veneration demanded of “The Prophet” is little more than an egregious exercise in hypocrisy, in that it approaches the sort of idolatry that is condemned in the Koran and leave it at that….

Now, thirteen years after the tragedy of 11 September 2001, the world is being unambiguously presented with the real face of Mohammedanism by the words and deeds of ISIS (I refuse to refer to them as ISIL — I will not break faith with Israel by doing so), and yet where is the outrage, the condemnation, the cries of betrayal of their “faith” by the Mohammedans in Dearbornistan? Or in any other “moderate” Mohammedan community in the United States? Or in Great Britain? Or France? Or Germany? WHERE IS IT?

I see no need to explain the perfectly obvious. Everyone of you reading this knows exactly why the cries of outrage, condemnation, and betrayal are so deafening by dint of their silence.

I would advert your attention, all of you, to the observations and comments of THE towering political figure of the Twentieth Century, Sir Winston Churchill, when he chose to address the nature of Mohammedanism. The words are over a century old, and yet their validity and relevance to 2014 are disturbingly profound:

“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die: but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.”

Just remember that in dealing with violent fanatics, “compromise” is just another word for “appeasement.”

That’s the way it is…

because I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and you’re not.

The Publishing Industry has Become the Refuge of Cowards

I’m finding myself looking very closely at undertaking a radical shift in how I will be doing business post-2016. The business paradigms of my profession are undergoing an evolution so rapid that it is not entirely inaccurate to call it a “revolution,” and despite the hopefulness of some people participating in it, like all revolutions, it’s going to be messy and there will be a lot of collateral damage, namely, a lot of really bad work that should never be allowed to see the light of day is going to find its way into print, whether dead-tree or live electron, at the same time that a lot of genuinely good work will be irretrievably lost in the sheer mass of noise.

The sad truth of the great problem plaguing the publishing industry is NOT that six Big Companies control 85% of what gets into print. The problem is that those six companies have been taken over, lock, stock, and thesaurus, by bean-counters who are incapable of recognizing good writing and allowing it to be properly processed into good reading. Because bean-counters, by definition, deal in concrete concepts and are incapable of grasping anything as abstract as the creative process (numbers are numbers, period; there is no such thing as “creative bookkeeping,” that is merely a euphemism for bald-faced lying combined with outright theft), they rely on numbers, projections, trends, and formulae, rather than talent to make publication and marketing decisions. The Big Six have, in short, become the slaves of conventional wisdom.

It’s all too readily apparent what are the dominant thinking modes. One is “This sort of thing has sold in the past, so it will sell now.” This results in travesties such as Hillary Clinton’s latest door-stop. Her first book, It Takes a Village (the publisher accidentally left the word Idiot off the end of the title), for which she was paid a massive seven-figure advance, couldn’t be given away two weeks after its release back in 1996, but because she is a “name” it is automatically assumed (because this model has frequently worked in the past) that she will inevitably bring an audience with her whenever a new book under her name is published. The model actually failed the first time around, and yet because the conventional wisdom holds that “a name” equals “an audience,” the model was again followed, and the result was an embarrassment for the entire industry. (Whether Clinton was embarrassed or not – or is even capable of feeling embarrassment – is fodder for another discussion.) Unfortunately for authors, readers, and the industry itself, the massive corporate inertia (read “cowardice”) works against a wide recognition that the “name=an audience” model is irretrievably broken.

The other prevalent model is the constant repetition of formula. Clive Cussler, who happens to be a personal friend, has not written an original story since 1981, when Night Probe! was published. His Dirk Pitt novels have become the literary equivalent of the James Bond series of movies, at least through Die Another Day: he hit on a formula with Deep Six and Cyclops that worked, that is, it was commercially successful, and has continually rehashed it through another fifteen sequels. Don’t mistake me here, I’m not taking a cheap shot at Clive – he’s good at what he does, and he keeps his readers satisfied with what he produces. The upshot, though, has been a spate of Dirk Pitt-knock offs, clones, and wannabes created by other, less talented writers, most of which should have been strangled at virtual birth. The flood of vampire novels that washed over the fiction market and nearly ruined the urban fantasy genre in the wake of 2005’s publication of Twilight are a corollary to the formula premise, in this case a more-or-less stock character type and more-or-less stock plot situations for said character type are substituted for the specific lead character of a specific series. Twilight, indeed, should have been strangled while still in the conceptual cradle, even before it reached the status of a published novel. The downshot has been that far more people have experienced in one form or another the Twilight series and its consequences and aftereffects than have even heard of Jim Butcher, even though Butcher was first published five years before Stephanie Meyer, and his Harry Dresden series has done more for the urban fantasy genre than anything Meyer could ever have hoped to accomplish. In some ways, it could be argued that, despite the elements of formula in some of the Dresden novels, Butcher almost single-handedly saved urban fantasy from self-destruction at the hands of the horde of glittery, gloomy adolescent blood-suckers unleashed post-Meyer within it.

Which brings all of this the salient question: how do these two models, “This sold in the past, it will sell now” and “If it’s formula, it will work and it will sell,” become the standards of the publishing industry? The answer is cowardice. Cowardice on the part of the bean-counters who have taken over the majority of the industry, itself an act of cowardice, and a manifestation of insecurity. But then, what should be expected of accountants, who are cowardly and insecure by nature (think about it, think about the nature of cowardice and insecurity)? Creativity, and its handmaiden, an individual allowing himself or herself the liberty to recognize creativity, requires courage. Not the clichéd “think outside the box” courage, which, frankly, is so much bovine excrement, but rather the willingness to simply dispense with the concept of a box and recognize ability and talent when it is encountered – and have the courage to sometimes be wrong. Bean counters are raised from the cradle to believe that the worst thing that can happen to them is to ever make a mistake, to err in a sum, to miss a decimal point, as if such mistakes are irrevocable and bear the burden of eternal damnation. The unintended consequence of this is that the bean counters’ fear of their own mistakes metastasizes into a pathological fear of any mistakes made by anyone, and so they methodically set about to eradicate anyone in the companies and businesses which employ them who might also make a mistake, and in so committing an error could perhaps create a situation which would reflect badly on said bean counters. As long as the quarterly reports show a profit on the bottom line, all is well in the bean counters’ world, and so they will go to any length to ensure that result.

How this has undermined the publishing industry is simple: the bean-counter culture of near-paranoia leads them to first influence, then take over, hiring decisions – in order to be protected from errors, they must ensure that they are surrounded by co-workers who will not make mistakes of their own. In doing so, they allow intelligent, visionary, and creative acquisition and managing editors to fall by the wayside, and instead stock the editorial departments and boards of the companies they dominate with “editors” who have not the slightest practical knowledge of or experience at actual editing, but who will blindly and blandly obey the rules of formula and what sold in the past. They create nice, safe, error-proof editorial environments where new talent is not recognized and rewarded, because doing so would entail a risk and risks are something NEVER to be taken. They employ “editors” who are the masters and mistresses of MSWord, but who have no sense of style or the meaning of the concept economy of words. The good editors, those who will tell an author “You’re too verbose,” or “You’re too vague,” or “Your logic in this argument is flawed,” or “Your characters are stereotypes” or “You simply aren’t making sense here,” have been driven out of the major publishing houses, for the simple reason that their willingness to engage an author in a way that raises his or her writing out of the bland and predictable up to the level of polished, accomplished, and *gasp* innovative and thought-provoking might cause them to decide to publish and promote a book which may not be as immediately profitable as those nice, safe, vanilla books of formula and predictability. (The folly of this safe, secure, “predictable” business model is more than abundantly demonstrated by the long-term success of two highly dissimilar works – J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings and Ken LaFollett’s The Pillars of the Earth.) Good authorship produces good manuscripts, but good editorship produces good books. (I say this with absolute assurance that it is a fundamental truth, given that I have nine books published through conventional, “mainstream” publishers, and have experienced good editors and bad, and can flatly assert that the books of which I am most proud are those which received the best editorial work.) The great flaw in the “conventional, mainstream” publishing industry today, and in particular within those six Big Companies, is not their determination to tell us as readers what to read and as authors what to write, but in their cowardice, in their craven refusal to risk making mistakes, and in doing so admitting that they have sold the birthright of their industry for a quarterly mess of pottage.

Where will it end? When the large publishing conglomerates sufficiently marginalize themselves, as they are already doing, by abandoning the very people on which not merely their success, but their existence depends: the readers. Revolutions are not usually regarded as “democratic” processes, and yet, a good historian recognizes that all revolutions are truly democratic in nature, as people vote, not with their ballots, or even their bullets, but with their feet. The publishing revolution will be decided by readers voting figuratively with their feet by leaving behind the drivel, the pap, and the vanilla fluff offered by the mainstream industry. Whether or not the industry will recognize the exodus for what it is before it reaches the tipping point where the industry cannot draw back those departing readers remains to be seen. If it doesn’t happen, I’ve already got my trainers on….

That’s the way it is…

because I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and you’re not….