Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Future of story

I'm reading a sort of "futurology" book called Flash Foresight, which suggests that we can have foresight of future events and trends if we (among other mental actions) distinguish between "hard trends" and "soft trends."

A hard trend is one that is going to happen, while a soft trend might seem to be inevitable but isn't.

For example, the baby boom generation is going to age. Hard trend.

There will be greater employment soon as baby boomers start to retire. Soft trend. (Boomers could work till they're 80, and might have to.)

So I'm thinking of what the trends are for story. I'm not going to say "novels" or "books" or "publishing," because I don't know that those are really eternal. But I think "story" is eternal-- we've probably always had it, and always will.

What's a hard trend that might affect the future of story? The Flash Foresight author identifies "globalization of literacy," that more and more people will become literate across the globe.

What's a soft trend, something that has been true in the past but might not continue to be? Maybe that NYC will be the center of publishing, or that "books" will continue to be the way story is transmitted. I wouldn't bet a lot on either of those at this point.

So put on your pointy cap and let's speculate about the future. What are other "hard trends" that will affect story? And what can we learn from this that might influence us as writers?

One question I have is whether English will continue to be the dominant language for global communication. Of course, other languages are spoken as first languages in greater quantity (Mandarin), but when it comes to second language, will English continue to dominate? If so, does that give English-writers an advantage?

Does the global communication of the Internet mean greater literacy in English?

Will people from other cultures still want to experience the myths and stories of their culture even as the Internet leads them out of the culture? I ask because I wonder if we writers would benefit from studying the stories of non-Western cultures, expanding our cultural stew.

Should writers go beyond their own borders for publication? With the Internet, of course, there really are no borders. But what if you want a book-book, in print? Should you consider publishers that are in other countries? Is that worth trying?

Have we finally (finally... boy, am I impatient... it hasn't actually been more than a decade!) gotten the "e-reader" app that will open up the new world to us as writers? The instant transmission of books, the lack of shipping requirements, the un-cabling of written story from paper.... Does this open up the market beyond where the post office can cheaply reach?

What about other forms of entertainment? After all, video can be transmitted almost as quickly as prose these days. Should we writers think of ourselves as competing with film and TV, or are those just providing another type of story?

Okay, how about "reality?" You know, that thing that happens outside of story. :) Facebook, Twitter, reality TV, news, those are all in contrast to fiction/story. Can we co-opt that, I mean, can we learn from that? Should we, or is fiction a necessary and eternal alternative to reality?

Just some thoughts as I watch the Big Thaw outside-- the first time I've seen the driveway in 9 weeks! And that reminds me that everything changes. Even the snow and ice, which seemed so permanent, will eventually change. I hope. Tired of winter here!



green_knight said...

Global readers (and, y'know, many local readers too) tend to be not so fond of WASP stories and -concerns, so I think publishing will need to shape up ('readers will not buy a book with a black protag on the cover'? Blech.) If they don't, there'll still be an English-language publishing industry... but not with America as the major player. And I'm ok with that.

Edittorrent said...

English language will dominate for as long as the money is primarily with the English speakers. If we lose control of copyright as a means to pay writers, then that will change.


Whirlochre said...

Mysteries born of ignorance will be superseded by mysteries born of certainty until the whole thing falls apart, over and over and over, is all I know.

But books — congloms of disparates — whether e or p or telepathically-twixt-me-and-thee — ought to persist.