Jewish World Review April 30, 2004 / 9 Iyar, 5764
Steering fiction right
For me, reading contemporary fiction ended with college freshman year's required reading list. Given the gaps in my Gen-Xer's knowledge of non-fiction (i.e. history and current events), delving into what amounted to long-form entertainment seemed like a colossal waste of time.
It's also never been lost on me that the literati tend to be Democrats in their voting behavior, and that the authors and books they favor lean left on social and political themes as well. However, the emergence of a new publishing house on the literary scene may mean that the world of politically incorrect/conservative-friendly literary fiction will soon extend beyond the names Ayn Rand and Tom Wolfe.
Emperor's New Clothes Press (www.encpress.com/catalogue.html), an Internet-based publishing company founded last year by publishing veteran Olga Gardner Galvin, plans to do for book publishing what conservative talk shows did for radio, what the Washington Times did for newspapers and what Regnery did for non-fiction publishing.
"Fiction publishing and bookselling is completely overrun by Barbara Kingsolver fans," says Galvin, a former freelance editor with some of New York's biggest publishing houses and literary agencies. After deciding that too much material she wanted to read wasn't making it onto big publishing's rosters, and annoyed with the PC moralizing by the Kingsolvers of the industry, Galvin last year took matters into her own hands and launched ENC Press, stamping it with the credo "Tipping Sacred Cows Since 2003." She bills her trade paperback originals as "fiction whose time has come" and is resurrecting the genre of "original, non-PC literature" in a do-it-herself format.
Galvin looks for fictional treatment of socio-politically relevant issues, which heretofore has been the domain of nonfiction and, of course, of leftist novelists.
"It's guilt-free entertainment for thinking people, who don't have to feel like they're wasting their time and being self-indulgent by reading fiction," Galvin says. "This fiction offers food for thought."
Galvin has worked on fiction by Michael Crichton, A.M. Homes, Ursula Le Guin and others, including Newt Gingrich, whose second Civil War novel is presently in Galvin's hands. But her career as a ravenous reader traces back to Soviet Moscow, where she grew up in the '60s and '70s reading banned books. Her reluctance to put down the books even on the metro, where anyone from KGB informants to KGB could have taken notice, expedited her parents' decision to emigrate to the United States in 1980, when Galvin was a teenager.
Having learned book creation from beginning to end, acquisition to production, Galvin in a way is very much a product of her book-editor mother and graphic-designer father.
To this day, Galvin refuses to let someone else decide for her what she can or can't read, whether it's government or big publishing which, she chides, "doesn't take chances on works that can't easily be described as 'Tom Clancy meets Harry Potter.'" To that end, she denotes ENC as "not for the broadest possible audience."
Galvin describes her independent boutique press as targeting "the emerging independent-thinker counterculture," and looking for "unusual novels too quirky and irreverent for mass-market publishing behemoths because they do not fit any formula. We promote genre-busting, off-the-wall fiction and welcome authors whose race, class or gender may be as untrendy in literary circles as their views are unpopular with the mainstream."
ENC Press is also especially willing to work with unknown authors, who often don't get attention from what Galvin describes as bottom-line-oriented publishing houses, which are interested only in blockbusters. Nor will an ENC book go out of print in two to four weeks when it doesn't fly off the shelf, as can happen even when a first-time writer wins the publishing lottery that's always looking for the next Charles Frazier ("Cold Mountain").
"I'll publish any book I consider brilliant, and worry about making money on it later," Galvin says defiantly. "It's not altruism or idealism, just enlightened self-interest for me as a voracious fiction reader for over 35 years. I simply want more good fiction out there, so I make it happen rather than whine that there's nothing to read."
Galvin makes no promises of getting books placed prominently in the fronts of brick-and-mortar stores, but instead markets and distributes through the press's Web site since, she explains, "the traditional, wasteful route of wholesale print runs, distribution, and remaindering hampers the ability to take risks." She points to the stunning development in January of Penguin Books experimenting with selling books directly from its Web site.
Besides, as Galvin knows from her years in the business, once someone has taken all the risks, "it's not uncommon for big publishers to buy reprint rights to a book that is generating buzz."
With titles like "Terror From Beyond Middle England," "Vodka for Breakfast" and "Devil Jazz," buzz may be on the horizon. Especially since there is one thing that ENCbeing on the libertarian side of the righthas in common with establishment press: It doesn't shy away from gay themes, like that addressed in ENC's "Don't Call It Virtual" about a "coven of time-traveling lesbian activists." The point of departure for ENC, though, is that "Virtual" satirizes the backwardness of lesbian activist politics.
Galvin's own book is "The Alphabet Challenge," a satire set in 2061, when Internet use is allowed only with a permission slip from the psychiatrist, when new laws can be passed by Congress only unanimously and when individuals are either "androcentric" or "gynocentric." It's a place where sugar, salt and caffeine are available only on the black market, and where credit cards don't existlong sued out of business for "preying on the weak, the irresponsible and the easily tempted."
There are no criminals, only "people with different moral and ethical values," the elderly are "chronologically gifted" and the handicapped are "handicapable." People Against Vertigo, the Temporally Inconvenienced People, the Motivationally Underprivileged, the Charm-Impaired Persons, and People of Unique Coordinational Abilities all have a place there too. It's an adventure through the logical conclusion of current trends in political correctnessthe same scourge that Emperor's New Clothes Press has emerged to challenge.
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JWR contributor Julia Gorin tours with Right Stuff Comedy and performs in the monthly New York-based show Republican Riot. Send your comments by clicking here.
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