At the end of the 20th century, critics were complaining that no one was reading anymore and that the novel was dead. JK Rowling had a lot to do with proving those critics wrong, almost single handidly resurrecting genre fiction, as every kid on the globe waited anxiously for the release of the next Harry Potter. But it was really blogging and the social networking sites of this decade that have resurrected writing, or at least proved that we are still interested in reading. But how we read is changing, there is no doubt about that.Stephen King’s introduction to the 2007 edition of Best American Short Stories, caused a chill in the online community, with 72 blogs debating his pronouncement that short stories were dead.
Among many possible causes of death (the corpse being too mangled to say for sure what killed it) King identifies: “Writers write for whatever audience is left. In too many cases, that audience happens to consist of other writers and would-be writers who are reading the various literary magazines . . . not to be entertained but to get an idea of what sells there. And this kind of reading isn’t real reading. . . . It’s more like copping-a-feel reading. There’s something yucky about it.”
Sean Meriweather, editor of Velvet Mafia said something else that struck a chord.
“While print media may be struggling to stay alive, and small and mid-list publishers are disappearing as costs become unmanageable, many writers have found an alternative… Fiction isn’t dying—print is.”
Can the Internet really save the short story? Sure it’s a lot cheaper and more immediate, but what does it mean for the quality of stories and writing in general? There are already tons of publications online, ranging from the truly amateur to ones with stricter quality control featuring more established writers.On one hand I am happy that more and more people are reading and writing stories online. If you doubt me just look at the number of social media sites like Myspace, Facebook and Twitter that feature budding writers. On the other, I am critical and hard to please when it comes to my literary tastes. I am not going to apologize for that. I am eager to see how contemporary fiction will be sold, promoted and distributed when there is such an inconsistent measure in the quality of online books. How will I be able to find what I like when stories, novels, writing critiques, blogs on writing, blogs on blogging, blogs on nothing, are all sitting together on the same platform? Too many choices, as we’ve seen in the information age, isn’t always such a good thing.Still, I am interested to see what happens with online publishing and whether it will evolve into something useful. I also wonder what my place will be in the scheme of things. What are your thoughts?