FADE IN – EXTERIOR, DAY.
Helicopter shot of New York, at some indeterminate point in the next four or five decades. The sky is grey; the season, winter. The city is much the same, but also significantly different. For one, it’s a total dystopia now in, like, a bunch of different ways that’ll be made really clear. Trust me.
YOU begin to narrate in V.O., over an elegantly lit slow-motion montage; really arty shit.
When I was young, I didn’t wonder where the cameras came from.
CREEPY SHOTS OF CREEPY CAMERAS MOUNTED ON EVERY TELEPHONE POLE, TRAFFIC LIGHT, AND BUILDING FAÇADE. HEY. SHOTS OF CAMERAS. DEF META SOMETHING. FILE AWAY.
I didn’t wonder who controlled the world. We just called them The Big 5.
COLD IMPOSING SHOTS OF FIVE MASSIVE SKYSCRAPERS THAT TOWER OVER MANHATTAN. ALL SMOKED GLASS AND CURVILINEAR ANGLES. LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF A BATMAN MOVIE. HEY THEY COULD TOTALLY GO H.A.M. ON THESE IN THE BATMAN VS SUPERMAN MOVIE. LIKE A BATPLANE SUPERMAN DOGFIGHT OR SOMETHING. AW MAN.
But I always wondered where my books came from.
SEQUENCE OF YOU FLIPPING THROUGH YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS. YOU’VE GOT BOXES OF THOSE FUCKERS. NOVELS YOU’RE EMBARASSED TO ADMIT YOU LOVED. ONES YOU STOLE FROM YOUR EXES. SOME MALCOLM GLADWELL YOUR MOM GOT YOUR FOR CHRISTMAS. AT LEAST ONE THING BY TONI MORRISON. SOME LEFTOVER LITERARY ANTHOLOGIES BECAUSE YOU CAN’T BEAR TO THROW OUT SOMETHING ON WHICH YOU SPENT SO MUCH MONEY.
And one day, I decided I was going to find out. Because I was going to make books.
INT: DAY, at YOU’s apartment. It has a big stack of unopened mail addressed to the person who lived in the apartment before YOU, which looks like it might have important stuff in it like bank statements and so on, so YOU don’t throw it away, but YOU don’t have the previous tenant’s contact info, so it piles up, and YOU hate her a little more every day. YOU’RE weird like that.
In the apartment stands YOU and LOVE INTEREST. You and Love Interest are fighting because of the love You and LOVE INTEREST share, a love that just shatters nuance and is remarkably chaste. LOVE INTEREST is giving YOU a hard time about leaving on an adventure into the surrounding dystopia.
Just let me go, Love Interest!
I mean it! This is wrong, this idea. You’re putting yourself in danger! You know what the Big 5 will do if they catch you?!
I don’t know, but it’s my vaguely sworn duty to find out.
I don’t even know anymore.
EXT, DAY: The streets of New York. YOU meet up with several other cool characters in the trip across the dystopia and toward the Big 5 to determine where books come from and how to create them. There’s an English major who feels corseted into a particular skill set. There’s someone from another industry who wants a break from certain layers of the real world. There’s a lot of women. There’s a lot of insufferably awkward guys who don’t know how to change a tire.
SHOTS OF ADVENTURES; A GUN BATTLE WITH AGENTS OF THE BIG 5, WHICH ARE CALLED “INTERNSHIP HIRING MANAGERS”. ULTIMATELY YOU AND YOUR TRAVEL COMPANIONS LOSE THE GUNFIGHT AND THEY SEIZE AND MAKE AWAY WITH YOUR TIME, ENERGY, MONEY, AND CERTAINTY. THOUGH SOME OF YOU MAKE IT OUT OF THIS FIGHT OKAY.
SHOTS OF YOU AND YOUR COMPANIONS ATTEMPTING TO INFILTRATE THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY BY FILLING MORTAR SHELLS WITH YOUR RESUME AND SHOOTING IT AT EVERY VULNERABLE TARGET. RATHER THAN HEAR EXPLOSIONS, YOU HEAR FORM REJECTIONS.
SHOTS OF YOU TRYING TO NETWORK YOUR WAY IN BY BEFRIENDING AGENTS OF THE BIG 5, TAKING THEM TO COFFEE AND LUNCH. ULTIMATELY, ALL OF THEM SHRUG AND SAY “HEY, SORRY, I DON’T REALLY KNOW ANYONE IN THAT DEPARTMENT.”
SHOTS OF YOU AND YOUR COMPANIONS FINALLY JUST HOOTING YOUR WAY UP THE CORRIDORS OF THE MAIN SKYSCRAPER, WHERE YOU REACH A MASSIVE DOUBLE DOOR. IT REQUIRES A BADGE TO GET IN SO YOU GUYS WAIT UNTIL SOMEONE COMES OUT, AND THEN YOU ALL BURST IN.
A BROAD WAR ROOM-STYLE CIRCULAR TABLE LIKE THE ONE IN THAT MUSE VIDEO. ONE OF THE BIG 5 STANDS, IN SHADOW, AND A SKELETAL HAND CROOKS FORTH.
JOYCE CAROL OATES:
Joyce Carol Oates! You’re one of the Big 5?
JOYCE CAROL OATES:
You know it, you sorry bastards.
YOU (turning and pointing to the person next to her):
And you! I know you…
JEFF BEZOS IN A ROBOTIC EXOSKELETON:
Yes, that’s right. Boosh. (SPEAKING INTO A CHEEK-MOUNTED SATELLITE PHONE) No, I said send the delivery drones to Paramus, not Pakistan! Goddammit Barack, what the hell do I pay you for?!
And the rest…
A FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER COMPOSED OF SEWN-TOGETHER PARTS OF E.L. JAMES, JAMES PATTERSON, NORA ROBERTS, AND THE CREATOR OF BOOKSCAN WHOEVER THAT IS, STEPS FORWARD. IT IS NOT PRETTY LET’S JUST SAY THAT.
FOLLOWING THIS HIDEOUS MONSTER IS ALICE MUNRO, WHO AS WE ALL KNOW IS AN ASS-KICKING NIKITA-STYLE UNRELENTING SEXUAL AND MILITARY FORCE WITH WHICH TO BE DEEPLY RECKONED. SHE CAN SPEAK A DOZEN LANGUAGES AND BREAK DOWN A .50 CAL RIFLE IN SOUTH OF 45 SECONDS. I’M GONNA SAY SHE’S PLAYED BY HELEN MIRREN OR SOMEONE ELSE THAT PARTICULAR LEVEL OF OLD-HOT.
ALICE MUNRO: Ugh. I came back early from Electric Zoo for this shit?
THE LAST OF THE BIG 5 STANDS FORWARD. HE’S A NONDESCRIPT LOOKING DUDE WEARING A BEIGE SPORT COAT.
Who are you?
I’m Bob Singh. I’m the head of the committee that decides which crime and romance thrillers get advertised inside subway trains.
Shit, we are dealing with the most powerful people in publishing.
JOYCE CAROL OATES (Cackling as only she can):
And before we kill you and all the people you love, especially your LOVE INTEREST? Will you fear us then?
I know you’re more powerful than me! And that if you were a realistically depicted dystopic government, things would be a lot more boring and bureaucratic, but I just want to know one thing! Where do books come from?
THE E.L.J.J.P.N.R.T.C.O.B. MONSTER SHUFFLES FORWARD.
GLARGH. In the before time, people read book. They read book and then go do stuff. But we die if they no read! SO WE MAKE THEM READ.
YOU: What do you mean?!
Don’t you get it, kid? We couldn’t figure out a way to make people keep reading the books we were publishing, so we forced them. This dystopia you fought your way through? It was created by a massive collaborative social engineering push by publishers! We bought the federal government. We bought all the retailers. We bought everything. Think of all the dystopia books we publish. And how many you buy!
True, I do have like a shelf’s worth, total.
And that’s because you live in a dystopia! Nobody remembers, but people got over dystopian fiction like five years ago when they all decided to be a little less escapist and more optimistic and stuff. But you can’t make Hunger Games money with cozy mysteries and such, so we shut that down. And we created a dystopia so you’d know who was truly in control. And keep buying the books we churn out. In a few years, we’re gonna do mermaids. It’s gonna be all mermaids, trust me. Mermaids all up in your lives. We’ve got our best genetic engineers and our most mediocre authors working on it.
So to get a job in publishing you have to…create a world in which people want to buy books? That seems perverse.
Kid, there’s not enough wiggle room in any of our budgets to allow for relaxation and stagnation anymore. This isn’t some 1980’s-style five-martini-lunch make-a-comfortable-living Last Days of Disco publishing world. If we’re going to end up in the black, we’re going to have to literally move heaven and earth to do it. Every time. Even the runaway successes and instant classics become what they become due to all the work of the people who made sure tha finished manuscript prototype to China and said “make me a certain number of thousands of these!” And then shoved it down every retailer and press agent’s throat.
Well, can I get a job then?
ALICE MUNRO (gesturing to someone offscreen):
Can I get a double Laphroaig and some fucking smokes here, please?
Well, you’ll have to make a lot of friends in the business. Get your ear to the ground about open jobs and the types of jobs you want. Get a lot of your illusions destroyed about the accessibility of and satisfaction gained from working here. And most importantly, you’re gonna have to commit to a whole bunch of uncertainty as a way of life. But most importantly, you’re just going to have to commit, period.
I guess I can do that. It beats retail and service, though probably not something technical, lucrative, but also environmentally and ethically advantageous. Like writing an app that help you sort your recyclables. Or helps you beat parking tickets in court. Wait, is that ticket one a thing already?
JOYCE CAROL OATES (THUNDEROUSLY):
Then it is decided! Welcome to publishing!
ENTIRE CAST BEGINS DANCING TO ICONA POP’S “I DON’T CARE” WHILE DRINKING MID-PRICED RED WINE AND WATCHING PARKS AND REC.
FADE TO BLACK
I mean, that’s not not how it works.
"Baby you make me as hard as a first edition."
"Call me Junot Diaz because white girls love me. Also everyone else loves me."
"I’m like Donna Tartt in that it takes me a really long time to come but each time the general consensus is that it was worth the wait."
"Are you a container ship en route from China and am I the entire inventory department? Because I’ve been waiting for you for what feels like forever."
"My favorite sex position is called "BEA" - at first it’s thrilling, and when it’s over your feet hurt and you don’t want to do it again for a year."
"Is your bed an embargo and are we the New York Times? Because…well, you get it."
Followers, take to Twitter (@dudenpublishing) and Tumblr! What’re your best/worst #publishingpickuplines?
"How about you and I get together and make our own Night Film?"
"Goddamn, baby, you gotta hell of a backlist."
"Are you House of Leaves? Because you’re complicated, hard to read, and sometimes I have to flip you over to get the best angle."
By “the guys” I mean both “the internet” and “the guys.”
Especially relevant now that I’m living with two ladies who work at another Big
Six Five house.