In the future, writers will be able to choose their own readers, and it will be an informed choice. Maureen Freely and John O’Brien have announced that publishers have declared that readers are only willing to spend money on commercial fiction and that’s that. So, if you are content to write for money, then write commercial fiction and if you wish to write for love, then write literary fiction (or whatever you fancy).
But is that all there is? Do we have to choose penury or profit, or is there a third gate; a middle way?
Call me an optimist, but I believe that there is. I’m one of those guys that believe that if we carry on the way we are, this one-and-only jewel of a planet will die, that social systems will collapse, that economies will slump and that aliens will eat us for breakfast. Unless … and this is what I really, really believe in … tech saves us.
I think that as well as saving Earth, society, economies and mankind from alien depredations, future technology will save the publishing industry.
Imagine the best features of a novel combined with the benefits of movies. Imagine intelligent, no, wait … imagine conscient software that will run, not just on hardware platforms such as computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, watches and other wearable computers, but on wetware. And by that, I mean we will be able to install it on our brain using self-organising nano-based chipsets that are capable of migrating to your neural pathways via either the optic nerve or the auditory pathway – your choice.
And here’s what this software will do. It’ll convert the book you’re reading into a movie. In short, you will be able to see the words transform themselves into pictures before your very eyes. At a stroke, the film industry will be dead; television will be the domain of Luddites and as for radio … well, as any fule kno: video killed it long, long ago.
Of course, in the initial stages, writers may have to adapt their prose to the new medium. Whilst software is still in the mere intelligent phase, it will be able to do little with tosh such as this:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
(Jane Austen, 1813)
I mean, what kind of imagery can any intelligence derive from such limp and lethargic language? On the other hand, the following (first paragraph of the) masterpiece that is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will have intelligent and conscient beings (software based and otherwise) rubbing their little hand/tentacles together with glee and painting such pictures as would make Da Vinci blush for shame:
Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
(Douglas Adams, 1978)
And, best of all, the brain-chip version of the software, due to its ability to access the 90% of the brain that’s currently unused and alter your consciousness and perception of time in the process, will be able to render to you an entire novel within your tea break. In fact (and don’t tell your boss this) you’ll be able to read novels while you’re working. I mean, who’s going to be able to tell!
So, there you have it, the future of the publishing industry: everyone writes like Douglas Adams for an audience of nano-chipped readers who will be able to ‘read’ whilst sitting, slack-jawed in their own living room. I, for one, can’t wait. How about you?