The pioneer spirit survives at the University of Oklahoma Press.
It is carving out an existence in a dry and barren land. Diluted subsidy funding forced the OU Press to look elsewhere for subsistence. It has found a watering hole, if not a geyser, in fiction.
The OU Press is the publishing division of the university. Funding for university presses, which traditionally publish nonfiction manuscripts, has declined markedly the past few decades. At OU, the funding drain began in the 1980s.
At the same time its cash flow became a dribble, relatively unknown Native American authors like Lewis Owens were finding major publishing markets unreceptive. The OU Press joined with the unknown authors to survive jointly.
A Native American fiction series resulted.
The OU Press, founded in 1928, has always specialized in Native American civilization publications.
Glenda Madden, head of sales and marketing, said series editor Gerald Bizenor came up with the idea for a Native American fiction series.
"The seed for it was somewhere in the back of his mind," Madden said. "We were already a wonderful repository for Native American studies. He presented it in a meeting, and we ran with it."
Madden and Lain Adkins, OU Press assistant director of finance and operations, agreed that supplementing their budget with fiction sales would not detract from the main function of the press, scholarly publications.
"Our fiction series is Native American. It's part of what we do best," Adkins said. "It's not your regular trash fiction."
Madden said books do not have to be nonfiction to educate.
"I have a problem with the way the word `scholarly' is used," she said. "Public Broadcasting Service, for example, uses various programming to educate. We publish informative fiction that educates people on different levels. That's still scholarly."
Fiction now comprises one-tenth of the press's total publication output. Adkins said he considers the genre the lifeblood of the OU Press.
"The percent of our budget the university supplies has been drastically reduced," Adkins said. OU Press lost 14.4 percent from 1990 to 1991, 16.7 percent from 1991 to 1992, …