By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief
In today’s feature story Chris Rechtsteiner asserts that the future of fiction is “far more apt to look like an annotated chat conversation than anything else. Why? Because the conversation can be played out by the authors at their convenience and then be made available for feedback, comments, insight, etc. in near real time by their (again global) audience.”
His belief is that social reading and writing, as influenced by our near instantaneous stream of social media messaging and data, is likely to have a direct impact on the production of fiction writers who previously worked in solitary circumstances on their own, and with little or no input from outside influences.
This vision is jarring. Fiction writers – self-imposed hermits – had previously needed quiet head space in which to construct their thoughts. This resulted in large uninterrupted tracks of prose that took the form of novels and short stories.
The same can be said for the output of fiction influence by social media. And for all we know, much of this is already taking place. The process of fiction writing is not often laid bare to the public. But should it be? And what impact will this have on the quality and character of the resulting prose?
Some would argue that you can already see this in the multifarious, prolific output of independent/self-published writers. They’ve been able to garner vast swathes of online readers, not only through low pricing, but by being able to interact directly with their audience, learning their wants and desires and reacting quickly to them–even if the resulting product won’t necessarily stand the test of time or a close reading.
We have the digital age to thank for enabling a much broader swath of writers to reach the market. The impact of these changes will be felt for a long time to come. But the traditional means of production of fiction — i.e. alone and disconnected — will continue to produce books as well. It’s a proven methodology that some will continue to adhere to and may, in fact, find heretofore unacknowledged benefits from working in isolation without the outside influence and distraction of catering to immediate needs of readers. Finding in oneself the ability to “meditate” undisturbed and find an unwavering anchor for one’s prose–think of Walter Pater’s “hard gemlike flame” — may even produce work of more lasting value.
Or is that too romantic and outdated a notion?
Let us know what you think in the comments.