We’ve been talking a lot about short fiction on DSD lately.
There’s also been a lot of talk online about e-books and e-readers – and I think there’s a connection here.
With music changes in technology moved us from singles to albums and that changed content. Longer songs, concept albums (oh the pretentious horror of Journey to the Center of the Earth but I liked In the Court of the Crimson King and even Frank Sinatra put out a concept album, In the Wee Small Hours), rock operas and entire live concerts in boxed sets (I had the four-record Chicago Live at Carnegie Hall and I inherited the three-record Concert for Bangladesh when my sister moved out).
(and probably a bunch of changes in classical and jazz, and who knows, maybe even country music, too, I have no idea)
Then music went digital and everything changed again. Now we’re back to buying singles on iTunes and everything is playlists now. An old fogie like me struggles to get my iPod to “shuffle” albums. What I really want is an app that will divide the albums on my iPod into the original two sides they were on the LP and play them one side at a time – so I can recreate stacking four albums on the old turntable and listening to all side ones and then flipping them all over and listening to all side twos. The way rock music was meant to be listened to. But I digress.
So, now we’re seeing changes in reading technology that I think may change the content.
Sure, there have always been novels written in many, many short chapters. And there have always been very, very short stories even before the term ‘flash fiction’ was coined.
But the addition of the internet is a big change. Look at flash fiction challenges. Dozens of writers from all over the world post short stories on the same day and hundreds of people from all over the world can read them instantly. And this is really only the beginning. (someday I want to try a flash fiction challenge that’s also a kind of scavenger hunt around the internet – I haven’t worked out the details yet)
There are services now that will email a new short story to your cell phone every day. Will this mean a return to the serialized novel? Or maybe more people than just Alice Munro will be able to make a living writing only short stories (but don't stop working on that novel just yet, Patti).
Sometimes I joke that my novels now are really just 70 flash fiction pieces strung together, but it isn’t that far off. Short sections, each one with its own beginning, middle and end (I hope. Or at least I try for, some have sections have that).
I know a lot of people don’t like this style and complain about it being the dumbing-down of literature or pandering to short attention spans or... something, where was I? I also get the complaint that there are too many characters to keep track of and now I'm thinking with e-books there could be links to quick character-refresher notes. I'm sure there will be new complaints about that, too, but some people will like the feature.
And now there is the Vook, that weird combination of book and video which we’ll probably see a lot more of when the iPad really gets going - nice big screen, great graphics, it could be really good.
What else do you think we’re going to see? What other changes besides short chapters?