Saturday, February 18, 2012

Response to "The Death of Fiction?"

Well, this was a pretty discouraging read, wasn't it?
But I did take comfort in the fact that this article was dated 2 years ago, when pretty much every industry, including printed media, was treading through some serious pessimism.
And yeah, printed media is kind of screwed and will soon be pushed into niche markets. But fiction, particularly short fiction, falling out of vogue? Maybe then it seemed like it would, but with the exploding success of e-readers and emergence of people like Amanda Hocking (who I haven't read and can't judge the quality of, but whose success provides a model despite whatever the integrity of her work may be), it seems to me like it's easier than ever for fiction writers to make money by self-publishing (a term that will soon lose its negative stigma-indeed, with the help of the Internet, maybe someday all publishing will be self-publishing).

Although I am one of those silly luddite purists who likes the heft, texture, and even smell of an actual book (not to mention it never runs out of batteries), the removal of paper from literature does little to change the soul of the thing; it's still about words, words are the key. Change the type of paper, the font, the binding, and it will be the same book, the same story, the same spirit. This principle applies further to the e-book. The only real difference is convenience.

And I'd like to object to the disdainful tone with which Genoways referred to the blogosphere. I realize that the emergence of blogs poses a very legitimate problem to journalistic integrity and whatnot, but there are examples of blogs that do what newspapers and magazines have done but do it streamlined, more efficiently, and more regularly. These blogs tend to be highly specialized, with a very narrow focus, so for every niche interest there is probably a blog that keeps up to date on the worldwide news regarding that interest. For example, compare the hip-hop magazine XXL to the hip-hop blog 2dopeboyz. XXL is sleeker and has clearly spent more money on web design, which makes sense because they were making money first and for longer than 2dopeboyz. But the 2dopeboyz model is simple, it loads on your computer fast, and its up-to the minute blurbs and updates, not to mention providence of downloads for singles before they even become available on iTunes, allows then to be a lot more efficient. Take any one story from XXL's main page and search for it on 2dopeboyz, and you'll find they covered it a long time ago and have had a hundred new things to tell their readers about since. And the blogosphere has been better for new and emerging artists in hip-hop as well, its free and informationally democratic hype-machine rapidly replacing the record company-to-radio model.

Sorry for that semi-off-topic rant, but this is an exciting time in history and these new models of distribution that are developing may come to shape how business is done in the coming Information Age. Yeah, it's a bummer that all these wonderful old publications that have been so good to so many people for so long are now going under, but some new model is going come up to replace them, something similar to the online magazine we are creating, perhaps. It's just exciting to think about, is all.

I'm optimistic.

1 comment:

  1. I'm optimistic, too. I'm glad that self-publishing is losing its stigma; I've read too much poorly-written literature published by reputable houses to believe that self-publishing alone is responsible for sending mediocre fiction into the world. What will be do if we don't have highly selective literary magazines to showcase the best writing? Maybe selective readers will start review blogs and curate the best of the self-published and blog fiction.