“Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.”
~ Fred Hoyle.
I live, at least according to the Rolling Stones, in the arsehole of the Universe. Technically, they were speaking of Invercargill (New Zealand’s southernmost city).
Therefore I guess I live in the Sacral Cleft of the Universe.
New Zealand/Aotearoa is about as beautiful as you would expect a dark, moist, and hidden from polite society, place to be (now I’m wondering about plumbers…).
We have a lot going for us. We have a “clean” and “green” image that is important and tourism is a big draw-card. The “clean” depends on where you look and the “green” is increasingly being used to describe the algal blooms that are choking our once beautiful waterways due to dairy farming run-off of nitrogen heavy fertilisers and cow-shit.
Our nearest neighbours are Australia. We tend to look at Australia as a country of opportunity (particularly if you like money and working in the mining industry). Given Australia’s grim track record of hospitality towards immigrants (non-white, non-Christian immigrants), New Zealand/Aotearoa is often used as a stepping stone to get into the country where there are real opportunities to be harassed because of your race and paid a lot of money for anything connected with the mining industry.
New Zealand/Aotearoa has lots of raw material waiting to be mined – unfortunately we are lacking in the kind of easily dismissible desert that covers Australia’s mineral wealth. Ours are covered in a thick layer of primordial forest, rare invertebrates and birds.
This makes it challenging to do anything with our coal, gold, and oil – at least on a scale similar to that which Australia does.
New Zealand/Aoteroa stands proudly with other great nations of the Western world. We have our share of arseholes, racists, conservatives, whack-jobs, psychopaths, natural wonders, legends, and similar inequality between the poor and the rich as other industrialised nations.
What we don’t have is people.
New Zealand has a longer coastline than the continental USA.
New Zealand has only 4.45 million people and we have 17 people per square kilometer
The USA – with its vastly greater magnitude of population and land area – has 34.06 people per square KM (as of 2012).
We do have 40 million sheep.
The problem with that is that sheep don’t read books. At least, they don’t read the kind of books that I write.
Which means I have to look at my market. By far the biggest market for any kind of entertainment is the USA.
China loves Transformers movies – but zombie and sci-fi novels are something they are still getting to (as far as I know – please correct me if I’m just not using the right channels to crack the Asian super-market).
This leaves me with Australia (which has a fantastic pool of talent for writing speculative fiction) and the USA.
Something I have noticed in my ten years of seriously writing for professional markets. The USA audience loves to read about itself.
They like familiar places, familiar ideas and stories that affirm that the USA is #1.
Even if the story is set in a fictional world (fantasy or sci-fi) they like the USA feel to everything.
That’s fine – except when my first novel, Tankbread, was set in a post-apocalyptic Australia.
The American’s who have read it – loved it. The American publisher who picked it up, loved it.
The German and French publishers who have signed up to produce their language versions of the book, loved it too.
I would like to say, I’m Big In Japan, but I don’t think it is true. Maybe I need more Sumo to crack that market?
What if…. Sumo vs Zombies?
World War Z was one of the few books (I have read) that made the zombie apocalypse experience global. The film of course hamstrung the story back to a US-centric focus so it would get made.
It’s not the fault of the US audience – they are cocooned in a very US-centric world. I was last there 20 years ago and for six months I never heard anything about anywhere in teh world that didn’t involve the US or Americans (usually a place they were invading).
No, the real hassle of living in the arse-end of the globe, is that I am really, really remote from my audience. Across the vast expanse of the US there are cons and gatherings every week. These are opportunities for writers and creators to get in the face of their audience and deliver the goods – right to them.
In NZ/Aot – we have Armageddon Expo. It’s our equivalent of Comic Con and it is held in the various big cities (big means >50,000 people) every year.
Armageddon is a big deal and a highly commercialised commercial enterprise. They get actual movie and TV stars from the US (and UK) to come over as guests. Sure they get the people who were last big-stars back in the 80’s and 90’s – but the nostalgia is awesome. This year they are doing backflips because Richard Dean Anderson is a guest. Forget Stargate – MacGyver man!
I’m going to Auckland this year to be part of a line up of authors working a stall and selling our books. Should be a blast (MacGyver man!).
Of course I have mixed feelings about MacGyver. As a kid – I loved the show. But my dad (the chemist, scientist and all round smartest man alive) would snort and say, “That’s not how that works” at every OTT chemical reaction Mac would cause to make good his escape.
Kinda ruined the show for me. Yeah.
While it isn’t possible for me to appear at cons across the US – and it’s not easy for people living in the US to do it either (seriously that country is HUGE!) we do what we can.
Tangent – when I was in the US back in the early 90’s – I got terrible vertigo when I realised (in the mid-west) that for the first time in my life – the ocean wasn’t just over there. I had never been more than a few hours drive from the sea ever. It was a very strange sensation.
What I can do – is work on writing to suit the audience.
This means that Tankbread 3: Deadland, has a major US component in the storyline. Dead! Dead! Dead! is ENTIRELY set in the US.
Other books I’m working on are set in various places – some of them the US, some of them New Zealand and some of them in places that are familiar, yet un-named.
Things to take away from this blog entry:
- New Zealand is a nice country – but it’s a long way from anything
- Cons are an important part of popular culture – go to one if you can
- Writers can be successful by writing to fit the culture of their audience – not jsut writing for themselves.
- You probably need to go pee now.