On Self-Publishing, Distribution, Content Creators, Circles and Critical Mass

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in publishing, nor have I ever published anything apart from a few thoughts on this little blog. I am simply someone who happens to enjoy things related to anime fandom, and read a few articles here and there about the tech industry’s disruption of old media. I also grew up in Thailand as a cheap bastard and took note of my spending habits. Some of my specific ideas will probably apply more to writers that primarily target the anime fandom rather than “mainstream” audiences, but the basic underlying principles might still apply to you. You probably won’t be able to make a living entirely off your content (very few do), but this might be able to let you make at least some money on the side.
These thoughts are not limited to only writing, though it initially focuses on writing. If you are a content creator, be it art, music, plastic models, clothing, or anything else, please read on as you are also a crucial part of what I envision.

I guess the obvious should be stated first. Publishing actual physical copies of books takes up a lot of capital, something that most of us will not have access to unless you sign up with a traditional publishing house. Counting on signing up is not recommended, as they take high royalty fees, you get drawn in to contracts, and who knows when they will even publish anything you make? Since physical print is out of the question, at least initially, the answer is to publish online.

But in what form? Continue reading

Future In My Hands

“Going on and on I have the future in my hands.  Getting loose from days I never could get over. Going on and on until I’m finally myself.  Getting out of this dishonest world I never wanted.”

Future In My Hands – Aimee B

This is an essay that I wrote for my First Year Seminar, Co-Authoring Your Life.  It cost me a lot of tears to dig up some of my memories.

[UPDATE]: I GOT AN A/A- FOR THIS PAPER! WHEEEEEEEE! Crying really does pay off XD

“I don’t believe you.”  My mother’s words were resolute.  My confession to being transgendered had just ended in the worst possible way, a way that even I didn’t imagine despite my tendency to go over a scenario several times with several different possibilities in my head.  I began to feel numb, a deep, sinking feeling inside of me.  It was like those scenes in anime where the screen zooms out from a character surrounded by darkness, those scenes that seem overly dramatic and ridiculous until you experience it yourself. It was over.  The societal expectations of this country would never gain me any respect.  Without even the support of my mother, how can I live a life I want?  The life I need?  There’s no way to escape this false life, this illusionary image of myself I held up to avoid ridicule.  Or is there?  If I abandon different aspects of my life, I would be free.  The question is, can I make the decision?

For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a girl.  However, I was afraid of it – afraid of being different, afraid of being a freak.  I was afraid of being ridiculed like the transgendered or gay people in the media, and of the gossip that would pop up between the maids working around the apartment complex.   A sense of repulsion began to build up inside of me.  I would avoid things that are feminine, and try to act in a more masculine manner.  I would also try to avoid associating myself with other girls.  This state of denial lasted until middle school, where it became unavoidable and rose up.  I started to accept myself, but still believed that it was impossible for anything to change.  I hated myself for wanting to be something I never could.  I held it as my deepest and darkest secret, still afraid of letting anyone else find out about it.

My insecurity, some of which still lasts to this day, stemmed partially from my self-oppression.  I didn’t dare to interact with people, and am afraid of all kinds of ridicule and embarrassment.  I wasn’t very close with my parents because I couldn’t let them find out about it.  I became insignificant, an unimportant person with nothing interesting to talk about.

It wasn’t until high school came that I started to open up to others.  I never really had a group of friends before then, just a few people here and there that I sometimes hang out with.  It started out as a confession to a friend, a small little step, the first time a baby walks.  However, which each step I was able to walk further; the length of the steps I took grew exponentially.  I told one person, then a few, and then the amount grew to most of the friends I trust.  I allowed myself to use cute things and customize my personal belongings, and stopped trying to assert masculinity into my personality.  I had an obsession with the color pink for a while; it still remains my signature color.  I would’ve never allowed myself to own anything pink if I hadn’t started to accept myself.  Perhaps my boldest statement was when I wore a bra to school, though it only lasted for a semester.  Towards the end of high school I started appearing in public with female clothes when I’m out with friends – which involved hiding them in my bag and keeping them before going home to my parents.

My mother, who should’ve supported me, instead rejected the whole notion of me being transgendered.  When I finally had the courage to confess to her, expecting her to support me, she rejected me.  She thought it was only a phase.  Only something trivial that would come to pass.  She was hostile towards it, too.  Whenever I do, buy, or be drawn to something feminine or pink, she would snort and give me a disapproving look.  One day, while in the car together, the topic came up and she would sarcastically say “Why don’t you just go put on makeup and wear a miniskirt and go trotting around somewhere now!?”  She would also make comments about if I want to be like the disgusting butch transsexuals – more on them later.  Her constant disapproval really took a toll on me, and was a source of oppression that I had to literally live with.  She was also ashamed of me, and was terrified of her friends and coworkers finding out that she had a freak child.  She bashed me for using a pink bag when I went out to eat dinner with her, yelling at me about the possibility that a coworker would pass by and see.  In some arguments she would yell that I am being selfish for making her and the rest of the family embarrassed; embarrassed of her coworkers, and embarrassed of the workers in the apartment gossiping.  Selfish for making her and my grandmother stressed.  Selfish for bringing shame to the family.  She held her reputation above my sense of identity, above how I feel I should be. She even created a new Facebook account to communicate with me while I’m in college so none of the people she added would see my account.

It’s better to be normal.

My first real group of friends, from here on referred to as F.F., were also unsupportive.  Actually it was more of a mixed bag, like the M&Ms jumbled in with the raisins in a bag of trail mix.  Sometimes they would do feminine things with me, sometimes they would insist that I am a guy.  When hanging out they would play around with how I’m transgendered, but in serious discussions they would try to persuade me to stop and revert to being a boy.  They would say that it is much harder to live as a transgendered person.

It’s better to be normal.

One of my friends who wasn’t a part of any of the groups I was in, EAB (ex-almost-boyfriend), also didn’t support me.  He also argued that it would be a lot harder to live as a transgendered person.  Although we briefly dated, he would never acknowledge me as his girlfriend and the relationship was kept a secret.  Again, he thought it was just a phase.  And again, he was ashamed of dating me.

It’s better to be normal.

A little past halfway through my high school career, the F.F. group began to break.  One of us, who was sort of a leader and the glue holding the group together, had left to go study in New Zealand.  The remainders joined with a larger group of people that I didn’t like.  I endured the pain of once again being insignificant, as they talked about ridiculous things and screamed whenever someone got what they considered a “high” score on a test.  Although it was hard to leave the friends that I was close with, I decided to leave the group. Through a combination of random factors, I ended up in a newly formed group, from here on referred to as K.O.R.  It is amazing how random events brought us together, and formed such a significant part of our lives.  It is highly improbable that we would be together if some of those random events didn’t happen – but that’s another story.  This group accepted me for who I am, and helped to support me when I needed it.  It was with them that I really felt secure; they allowed me to really explore who I am, as I could do anything I want and they would stay by me without ridiculing my actions.   I finally found my place, an island in a sea of oppression.

Thailand has the highest percentage of transgendered/transsexual people in the world (or so I heard; I don’t know if there are actual statistics for that).  You can easily spot them on the streets, or behind counters in shopping malls and supermarkets.  People like to claim that the high percentage is a sign of acceptance.  However, it seems to be the general “it’s-ok” and “stay-out-of-other-people’s-business” attitudes of the Thai people that allowed them to come out, rather than being accepted by society.  Transsexuals are often ridiculed in the media, and people talk behind their backs (in extreme cases they are beaten up and possibly killed).  Transsexuals are only accepted for low-end jobs like salespeople, and never have high-level jobs that require intelligence.  There is also a subset of transsexuals that act over-the-top and are loud and obnoxious, which takes over the image that Thais have of transgendered and transsexual people in general.  Although they are a small subset, they are extremely annoying and noticeable that they screw up the reputation of all other transgendered people.  My mother thought all transgendered people will end up like them and kept asking me with disdain if I wanted to act like that.

It wasn’t just society that oppressed me either; the laws and regulations of the country seem to exist only when they work to your disadvantage.  You can’t change your gender on legal documents (this law may have been overturned, but last time I checked it was still there), and there is no protection against discrimination.  As previously mentioned, it is impossible for transgendered people to get high-level jobs (unless they hide it), and I have heard several stories of people being rejected from engineering and medical majors for being gay or transgendered.  There is also a regulation for males to pick a card from a box when they reach a certain age, and be drafted into the army if it is a red card.  The only way to avoid it (besides paying a corrupt official or moving your legal address to an area with high recruitment levels) is to join ROTC for 3 years.  In ROTC I had to keep a buzz-cut, and was teased and abused by the other students.  I quit after one year.

Throughout my life, I had several choices.  Remain in ROTC.  Quit it.  Live as a guy.  Express myself as a girl.  Run away from my family and society, or stay in Thailand.  Maybe I could attend a college in a different country, though my lack of funds would severely limit my options.  There was also choice to search for a new group of friends, which led me to the K.O.R group (we don’t like to include a period behind the “R”).

Although there are many forces out of my control such as my mother’s wishes and the expectations of society, there is almost always a way to counter or evade those forces.  It is up to each individual to make those choices.  I hated my country, and would have no regrets leaving it.  I didn’t want to stay with my family either; in its oppressive state, I would rather live alone than be forced into a life I don’t want.  I would miss my friends, but the ones who supported me mostly planned to study in a college in the U.S. too – I would actually be closer to them if I attend a college there.  Of course, there are other benefits to attending a college in the U.S. apart from living a new life: the education is a lot better, it is encouraged to broaden your areas of study, and you are taught to actually think instead of mindlessly performing repetitive work like a zombie.  I chose to abandon my family and country.  I chose to discard my past.  I chose to restart my life.

The Day of Revolution had arrived.  I lived in the same apartment complex for the entire 18 years of my life.  I attended the same school for 13 years.  Within 23 hours of travel and butt-ache, my entire life was flipped upside down.  I arrived in Kalamazoo, and after a night in a hotel I eagerly rode a taxi to the college.  Everything was green, a stark contrast to the towering gray buildings of Bangkok.  I would be sad when I looked back – so I didn’t.  I looked forward with optimism, towards the friends that would accept me as a girl, towards a college environment that would give me the freedom I needed.

I always wondered how different my life would be under different conditions.  What if I wasn’t transgendered, and instead was content with being a boy? What if I was born as a girl?  What if my mother accepted me?  What if I was allowed to be transgendered without oppression from society? These questions have always puzzled me, but in the end, it didn’t matter.

By making the choice to move away from my former life and into college in a different country, I was able to live a new life without oppression.  Although new obstacles will always approach me, it is up to me to make the choices to deal with them.

I have the future in my hands.