Sunday, June 03, 2007

Our Literature: What's the Future of Our Past and Present?

One of Helen Boyd's recent posts and conversations with Supervillainz author Alicia Goranson have started making me think about the future of transgender publishing. While there are a lot more books out there now, and certainly more planned for the future, the total number of books out there doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the creativity and thought by our community out there. In fact, most of our work shows up online... blogs, livejournal and websites.

And here's the tricky thing; although we like to think that these things are durable, in fact, online publishing and writing is very ephemeral. If Livejournal ever goes out of business, for example, a vast historical archive of trans peoples' lives and thoughts will disappear. And when individual trans people pass on... who will have the password for their journals? Will LJ just delete their posts? That would be tragic.

Books are durable because the medium is durable... and because the institutional structures for long-term archiving and long-term access are well-established.

But the number of publishers gets smaller... and the marketplace for books seems to get smaller (in what way is not always clear... the NEA's Reading at Risk report, while dismal, indicates that reading literature is on the rise for women and ethnic minorities). And funding for libraries is chronically poor.

I'd like to see a greater push in our community to get more books out there. Little books, big books, fiction, poetry, drama, non-fiction, good books, even badly written books. And if this means finding ways of subsidizing transgender publishing... maybe that's what should be done.

So the question becomes... how?


... this set of thoughts come on top of wondering if our community needs a transgender version of the Lambda awards. Lambda currently lumps all trans books (and all bisexuality books) into a single category. I find this lumping to be... not useful. It would be good if Lambda promoted a range of trans books, in the same they they promote a range of gay and lesbian genres. While an award doesn't do anything directly to help publishing, maybe there's something valuable in creating the kind of infrastructure for transgender publishing that has emerged for LGB and (non-trans) women's literature publishing. the interests of disclosure... Transgender Rights didn't win a Lambda this past week. Sigh.


helen_boyd said...

sorry about not winning the Lammy, richard. i know the feeling, & even if it goes to a deserving book, there's still that, "but i wanted it to go MY deserving book" feeling.

helen_boyd said...

there is a CLAGS award for trans books, too:

but there's also this: there are endless book lists on trans sites, but very little in terms of fleshed out reviews. that was one of the reasons i started the "recommended reading" section of my blog. because often, as a partner, i would find lists with things as varied as books by richard docter to ones by peggy rudd, & had very little sense of what i was going to get when they showed up in the mail....

Richard M. Juang said...

Thanks Helen!

Really, I'm less concerned about awards than about the long-term consequences of having much of our community's writings on electronic blogs, livejournals and other types of online sites. When people kept paper diaries, those diaries stayed around and were accessible after their deaths. This was tremendously important to the emergence of lgbt historiography. And to sustaining and recovering queer and trans histories.

I worry about the loss of the rich archives that we are producing now, when people pass on and haven't saved their online journals... or their passwords aren't passed on... or the emergence of new mediums render old ones no longer supported by new software.

I want everyone producing more on (acid-free) (recycled) paper! That's how we'll manage to retain a record of these pivotal decades in the lives of transgender people and communities.

-julia said...

Hi Richard, I wanted to extend what you said about books to other print outlets, such as magazines, newspapers and the like. When I first started trying to get my writings into those venues, I found it very difficult. If it's more of a mainstream outlet, then they are usually not interested in anything other than sensationalistic or trans 101 pieces. And while there are some feminist & queer minded zines out there, their readerships are normally comprised of non-trans folks. So I feel that a lot of the more nuanced converstations and insights into trans politics never get out there beyond small circles of folks (for example, those of us in this blog).

I think the time is right for more varied types of trans-specific outlets for people folks to air their views. Right now, there is (to my knowledge) only one trans-focused magazine out there that tackles serious issues (i.e., Tapestry), and it's only quarterly. Developing new outlets is crucial for new writers to develop their ideas and craft, as it is infinitely easier to get an article published in a zine or paper than it is to get an entire book published...


helen_boyd said...

funny, but i was told once i had a book published it'd be easier getting articles published, & i find that's not the case at all. the hip publications see me as speaking "for" betty (which i don't do, but people don't always bother to read your book) & they want a trans person instead, & the mainstream publications see our story as way to weird, queer, & out there. unless i was a long suffering wife, you know.

which is i think more of the issue you've outlined, julia. it's either trans 101 or nothing.