That’s not all that had changed. The information age had also exploded onto the scene. Now turning out a technically perfect manuscript could be managed by anyone who had the funds to purchase a computer. Suddenly the publishing industry was swamped with so many submissions that slush piles turned into a veritable sludge. That’s because ninety percent of it sank immediately to the bottom and solidified as such. The trouble was, the sheer manpower needed to wade through the muck in search of the remaining ten percent, was financially unfeasible. Something had to be done in the wake of such a flood… and it was.
In the relatively short time we had been gone, an entire new "middle industry" had sprung up in the literary world. Where once one could number good agents in the business at less than a hundred, there were now thousands… and not all of them good. As yet, there were no standards for the new operations. Anyone and everyone could hang out a shingle and declare themselves an agent. Mostly because publishers were more than happy to relegate their slush piles to companies that would wade through all that dirt on mere speculation, with no money up front to do so. Under the circumstances, it worked out for everybody. But an alarming number of the new guys were sharks, and had no scruples about what to do with the dirt.
They were no better than the carnival types who preyed on certain quirks of human nature (the kind Pinocchio became famous for). It was now possible – and even legal – to make something of a living off suckers. Several new publishing companies even sprang up around the fringes of the legitimate ones who did the same thing, because there was a lot of money to be made that way, too. It was rather like the Golden Era in Hollywood, when anyone who was half-beautiful or thought they could carry a tune was willing to pay to wait in long lines and crowded hallways in the hope of being discovered. Anyway, the results were the same. The only way out of the dilemma was to know somebody who knew somebody.
Which, thankfully, I did.
Only come to find out, she had died while I was gone, and I found myself relegated to standing in the same lines as everyone else. There might have been some benefit in that if the old adage, "if it’s good, you’ll eventually be recognized" was true… only it wasn’t anymore. That’s because something else ungodly had also taken place that changed things. The former literary standards had toppled. Come to find out most of the people who ran those middle industries were as unskilled in literature as their clients. They were getting by mostly on salesmanship, trends, and shock value. By the time we got back into society, it was a completely different world for everybody.
So, here we are.
Not that I feel things are hopeless, because I don’t. Even though the publishing industry is about as slow as the medical one when it comes to making changes, history tells us that the general public (who is generally good) still holds the greatest clout. Because they are the ones who spend the most money. And people in the business world always follow after the money – it is their first priority – taking precedence over even their personal preferences and values. So, I can only believe that things will eventually swing back into some sort of good and reasonable balance, again.
Which leaves us with nothing to do until then but learn new strategies and continue to perfect our craft. There, now, that’s done. Are you all still with me? Or are you contemplating desertion now that I have finally revealed the true coordinates of – not only where we’ve been – but where we’re headed.
"Well, it certainly took long enough."
Thank you, Ann, I can always count on you to be perfectly frank. What about you, Professor?
"It seems to me, you have come full circle, my dear, only to end up setting your final course on the same one you started out with. A shame to have wasted all that time, but – like most necessary experimentation – one needs the lessons learned in failures almost as much as what might be learned from success. Sometimes even more. Often the most powerful substances are found in the minutest of quantities. Look at Madam Curie, for instance, and what her agonizing search for radium ended up doing for the world."
"Madam Curie – really Professor – our D. Ann Graham is more comparable to Pinocchio, if you ask me! But who are we to criticize? There’s certainly no place else for us to go. I vote we pick up where we left off before all this self-analysis started. Don’t you think so, Ann?"
"I do. Because while the three of us have endless time at our disposal, it’s become quite clear after hearing the whole story, that D. Ann Graham has the same limitations as any other mortal. So we’ll have to work especially hard to help her fulfill her destiny before her time runs out. Which we can only do if we agree to stop distracting her so much and start inspiring her, instead. Especially you, Professor."
"I couldn’t agree more. How long have I been telling you we’ve got to get even more serious before someone finally delivers the bomb. Which is a much bigger threat to the existence of the planet than running out of all the basic elements we’ve wasted so much time talking about."
"The bomb – oh, good lord, Professor! Are you trying to scare us with that nuclear threat thing, again? What on earth can we do about that, other than be so scared stiff we won’t be able to accomplish anything of merit at all?"
"Not a threat, Lilly, it’s inevitable. Which renders everything we’ve been groveling with, here, utterly useless in the true perspective of things. I suggest we get our priorities in order. Stop looking at the whys when we should be contemplating the hows."
"But how on earth can you expect us to do anything to save the world when we can barely manage to take care of ourselves?"
"A legitimate question, Ann. The answer to which is that only by taking care of others, can you possibly save yourselves. And that, ladies, is the proper perspective on everything."
What’s happening on the farm today: Rain, floods, and tornadoes. Oklahoma’s violent spring multiplied by the global warming that is still under controversy as to whether or not it actually exists. Which makes about as much difference in what we should do about it, as the natural cycle of things had on the dinosaurs.
Value status: Day 3 (our days, that is), and today everything is debatable.