What’s controversial about being someone else’s dandelion fluff?


Apparently there’s been a bit of controversy surrounding Neil Gaiman’s speech at the Digital Minds Conference at the 2013 London Book Fair. Instead of hearing about it second-hand, you can watch it here:

Actually, you can probably just listen while you do other things, since it’s Gaiman talking at a podium. There’s no RSAnimate stuff going on, and no flow charts.

There are a lot of interesting ideas in there but nothing revolutionary: Try new things, be generous, accept that sharing without payment is how people find new things they love, books are great, books might not last, maybe people won’t be able to make a living as a “novelist” in the near future.

However, the big thing I take away from it is his talk about about “dandelion seeds.” The idea is that you release your work into the world and some of it goes nowhere and some lands in a fertile place and leads to something great: Fans, more work, new opportunities to connect with people, and so on.

That’s all fine, but I should say that it works best once you already have the sort of much-deserved fame that Gaiman has. He can stick a drawing under a rock and fans will run for blocks to fetch it. I can publish a book in every store online and off and few people would ever know. So, his perspective is his, and it works for him, but I’m not sure if he understands how different things are for low-level mooks like me.

Why does it matter? Because it’s not just creators who are blowing dandelion fluff into a strong wind. It’s also publishing companies who do this. Some of those little seeds represents a year’s worth of work for authors trying to make a career for themselves, and damn, if it doesn’t give me a chill to know that my toil and hope is someone’s offhand experiment.