Sunday, June 7, 2015

Picking a Winner

Everyone loves a winner. Fresh on the heels of American Pharoah's win at the Belmont Stakes and capture of the Triple Crown--an honor which has eluded horses for over three decades--that love is stronger than ever.  American Pharoah's name will be captured in the record books, his story will live on, and his image will be instantly recognizable. But amidst the hoopla over what is undoubtedly a great sports history story, I still wonder about the horses whose stories will fade into the mists of history. I wonder about horses like Frosted or Sham, who might have been the winning favorites if they had just not been born in the same year as a super horse. I also wonder about the ones which almost made it--Big Brown, Funny Cide, and Silver Charm-- the ones which carried the hopes and dreams of a fickle public, only to lose in the last leg, their names generally forgotten,  and have faded into the hazy public memory by all except true racing fans. But they all had their stories to tell, winners, near winners, and ones who trailed the pack. Stories about the horses, the trainers, the owners, the grooms and everyone who helped give them a shot at the Triple Crown all have their tale to tell. But these are not the stories the public wants to hear--or what the media thinks the public wants to hear--if they are not the winners.

I can't help but equate this same message to the stories told in books. According to a recent post by fantasy author Ursula K LeGuin in The Guardian,
she accuses Amazon's marketing approach of sell it fast, cheap, and move on of having changed the landscape of both readers and publishers. Books are offered and promoted only if they are a safe bet commercially, then those books are heavily marketed until their sales wane, and it's on to the next one. Readers are left with fewer choices. This also leaves little hope for the books with slow but steady appeal (and sales) or for ones that don't conform to the model of commercial success.  I'm not sure how the Indy author can or will affect this trend, but I would hate to think that good stories don't ever get a spot in the starting gate just because they don't have the look and feel of a commercial break out novel. Like the horses which aren't the fastest, they all still have a story to tell.

Photo credit: "The horse, the legend" at; Creative commons licenses.

photo credit: <a href="">The horse, The legend</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

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