Well, maybe not dead. But according to Buce, picking up from Tyler at Marginal Revolution, it’s on the skids. That is, they both seem to feel that the quality of fiction is declining while the quality of non-fiction is ascending. I’m not sure I agree with that. Part of me thinks it’s like saying rock used to be better than it is now. It may be, in an absolute sense. But I suspect that the real reason why I think 1972 was a banner year for albums (Barnstorm, Eat a Peach, Harvest, to name a few) has a lot more to do with where I was at that time than where music was.
At the the same time, there’s this incredible story I read yesterday about how Amanda Hawking, a 26-year old writer from Minnesota with nine self-published books (8 novels and 1 novella), has sold over 900,000 e-books in less than a year. Apparently, the subjects are Teen-oriented Twilight vampire romance variety. And to read some of the negative reviews, her writings do seem to lack things like originality, plot, character development, and grammar. Those seem like pretty basic elements of good fiction, and I’d like to think that’s something most people could generally agree on. But maybe that’s not true anymore. After all, how much music released now has pedal steel guitar?
Still, I’m wondering: The quality of fiction may be on the skids, but thanks to new media distribution, more of that crappy fiction can get out more cheaply and easily to more people, making it cheaper to buy and earning some writers more money than any publishing house could offer them. Is that good or bad news? I’d like to think that new media has given Ms. Hawking a chance she wouldn’t have had otherwise, that she sold what she could to whom she could, and that both parties, or all 900,000 anyway, are happy. I don’t see anything bad about that, so long as I don’t have to read her books.