This editorial first appeared in issue #1 of ANVIL
Since launching IronAge.Media, I’ve often been asked what the ‘Iron Age’ is and why I think it’s important. While I have never claimed to be an arbiter or gatekeeper of the Iron Age, I do feel that I’ve influenced the perception of it. My definition has evolved over time and the following is the most concise I can manage.
“The Iron Age is a decentralized movement of independent creators, across genres and mediums, circumventing traditional producers to create the kinds of entertainment that they want to see.”
While some of these concepts were quashed due to political or cultural reasons, other times they were simply believed to be too niche to find financial success or too far ahead of traditional organizations to even be understood. As media producers congealed into larger corporations, their interest in taking risks decreased. Dissatisfied fans and aspiring creators correctly sensed that there was no more creativity in the mainstream. Long gone are artists or authors producing a grand vision, but the result of focus groups and board rooms. In place of inspired art, we have lawyers negotiating the rights to IPs long detached from their creators while accountants and marketers gauge profit margins based on a web of demographics and sales data. As people have woken up to this ugly reality, cultural sub-movements have sprung up and begun supporting their own alternatives. The Iron Age is simply a recognition of these various movements and the growing consumer base spanning across them. At the heart of the Iron Age are a wide variety of artists taking risks to bring their dreams into reality.
But, why the Iron Age? Why not just turn back the clock and go straight for another Golden Age? To that I say, we can’t. Often times it is forgotten that the celebrated trends and franchises in the past were driven by consumer demand. In other words, before swelling into the soulless leviathans they are today, the board rooms and suits had a point; the culture that gets funded is the culture that gets created. We cannot expect masterpieces to be created without laying the foundations of economy and culture. The appeal to creatives must extend beyond scraping out a living or as an ideological refuge. Talent should be drawn into the space by the potential for learning, collaboration, and even financial successes otherwise unavailable to them. Until this exists, the trends we’ve seen will continue.
So we must steady ourselves for the long journey. I have eyes on the future and keep it in my mind as a creator or consumer. The drive of continuous mastery and exploration, paired with a growing economy to support these endeavors, is what will ultimately lead us into a finer, polished age. In the meantime, if you’re tired of corporate dreck, you’ll find plenty of rough-hewn gems under the banner of the Iron Age.