Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Short Story In Crisis?

Where is the short story heading? London publishers' agents are reluctant to touch them; the novel remaining their pre-eminent weapon of choice. First timer collections of yore no longer hold their niche in today's market. Here, film rights hold sway over what now, in effect, is a literary first draft script; one in waiting for an audience already exposed.
  Meanwhile, the Net exploding has triggered a universe of uncertainty. The old categories appear increasingly parochial, muddied and out of touch. This allows for experimentation, yes, a window of opportunity for new sub-genres, perhaps. It might also mean no individual writer, whomever he/she is, will any longer be able to follow and maintain a deserved career where their voice and standing now lasts only as long as current sales.
  New voices thus become fickle, ten-a-penny, interchangeable and easily lost in a 'market' that no longer exists as a separate entity, but transient and indistinguishable from the world it is in. Yet, writers new and old stubbornly continue to write them. Why? They are not in a vaccuum, of course - they must. How else can they exercise their talent and guage reader interest in their name? How else can they publicise their ability - if they have one - and swiftly define - through creative repitition - a public face? How, without recourse to a sole, perhaps overlong, tale that may be flawed in technique but brilliant in plot?  
  What should they do then? Simply write another? Don't be fooled by the high profiles of London's and New York's well-heeled literati. Most new writers barely scrape a living and certainly can't afford the luxury of sacrifice entailed by the time, financial loss and mental commitment incurred by the expenditure of this one hit.
  There are parallels to the rock music industry in the mid-Seventies. The large record labels, stuffed and complacent from years of sell-out gigs, overlong tracks too easily filling disc space and overpaid bands trading on past glories, lost touch with their market; the younger generation of music lovers following in their wake. This new generation rebelled, producing short DIY sounds and personal images that tapped into their audiences discontent.
  One difference to today is crucial. The competition then was bound by the media's relatively modest size. You pretty much knew what it was and could build your public image accordingly. The 'them' and 'us' scenario. This appears no longer possible. Now, as an artist, you encounter something knew and unforeseen at every click, defying such demarcation. The competition is vast, instantly international, and bound only by those as yet without the Net. In this situation, the writer must continue to network, yes, to occasionally write for free, perhaps. But he / she must also hold determinedly onto what is theirs by right; their own literary identity.

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