I’ve spoken previously about the curious crisis between FORM and CONTENT that filmic and television NARRATIVE is experiencing. For those who don’t want to click on the link, I’ll recap quickly: Due to INTAKE MUTATIONS (binge-watching, streaming, YouTube, the narrative FLOW of the material at the viewer’s fingertips, the removal of ADS as a sequencing device), we are losing both our TOLERANCE and ABILITY to process the ARTIFICIALITY of traditional three-act narrative (film), and traditional FIVE-ACT narrative (TV).
I haven’t spoken about it in literature yet, but we’re going to today (in a minute)…
Now even though they may be a little slow on the draw sometimes, the FRANKEN-EXECUTIVES have figured out this much: FORM is up for grabs. That they have no choice but to push CONTENT of all DURATIONS at us (from two-minute skits to 8-episode anthologies), but they’re still stymied on the CONTENT portion of the EQUATION. It’s like this: You guys like SERIALIZED STORIES now. Great! Here’s “Daredevil”. The CONTENT is so old-school, because the sped-up mutations to the FORM are baffling.
Let me be more specific. If FORM can take on so many different MUTATIONS, is the answer really just to try and CRAM the old INFORMATION and STORIES into different DURATIONAL paradigms? Do the OLD STORIES still work in the new FORMS? I’m not so sure…
So what is the newest TREND being pushed forward in the DURATIONAL crisis, but this time in the LITERARY WORLD:
“I will go out on a limb with a prediction: the novel of elegant, highly distinct prose, of conceptual delicacy and syntactical complexity, will tend to divide itself up into shorter and shorter sections, offering more frequent pauses where we can take time out. The larger popular novel, or the novel of extensive narrative architecture, will be ever more laden with repetitive formulas, and coercive, declamatory rhetoric to make it easier and easier, after breaks, to pick up, not a thread, but a sturdy cable.”
Now I’m not SURE such a RIGID DIVIDE EXISTS between “elegant” novels and “larger popular novels” at this point, with so many acclaimed “literary” authors like Colson Whitehead, Emily St. John Mandel, and Benjamin Percy writing Zombie, Post-Apocalypse, and werewolf novels…but, I do think there’s one fascinating overall NOTE:
“…tend to divide itself into SHOTER and SHORTER sections, offering more FREQUENT PAUSES where we can can take a time out.”
What Mr. Parks hasn’t quite realized (but he’s getting there, and I don’t think he likes it) is that THE INTAKER (reader) is now in charge. Nothing in media is PASSIVE ANYMORE. The AUTHOR/BOOK isn’t in control. Just like in FILM and TV. You’re not going to tell READERS and VIEWERS where to arbitrarily PAUSE (chapters, act-breaks, etc)…They’re going to TELL US. And we need to stop programming thinking we can CONTROL THE PAUSE. We can’t get ahead of it. PAUSING has hit MOORE’S LAW.
Does LITERATURE need a pause button? Very likely, but not how you think.
It doesn’t need a pause because the INTAKER is unable to HANDLE THE SERIOUS CONTENT (really is anyone even trying to push Ulysses or Gravity’s Rainbow at you anymore, and even if they did, CONTENT isn’t the issue here). Literature needs a pause because the Intaker wants to control the speed of the medicinal literary DRIP. They want DURATIONAL OPTIONS.
Granted, this is much harder to do in NOVELS than in FILM AND TV, which are literally constructed out of CUTS. But people are telling you — we want to be in charge of LITERARY STORIES TOO…We’re not feeling this arbitrary linearity (chapters, arcs, narrative), because all LINEARITY feels arbitrary now…
KINDLE solved the DELIVERY OPTION, but they haven’t solved the INTAKE ISSUE (that fault lies with PUBLISHERS). And I think that’s partly why people still haven’t abandoned the PRINTED TEXT. You can have the same thing either electronically or in PAPER. That’s not an INTAKE ISSUE, that’s a TOOL (not to sound like Heidegger) ISSUE.
So where do we go? Nowhere right now. Because any FORMAL BREAKTHROUGHS won’t come from the PUBLISHER. They’re are a litigious BUNCH, married to an outmoded DELIVERY SYSTEM, and bent on MONOPOLY, because…well their SURVIVAL depends on it. But if we could go somewhere, where would we…
First, any innovations will start with ELECTRONIC DISTRIBUTORS (like the KINDLE SINGLE for AMAZON, the only breakthrough in e-literature, and only because PUBLISHERS have figured out how to tie it into marketing and MONETIZATION). Or scarier — BRAND-NAME AUTHORS will team up EXCLUSIVELY with ELECTRONIC DISTRIBUTORS. Or the scariest scenario — AUTHORS start their own PLATFORMS for distribution. Imagine if (and they never would) JAMES PATTERSON or STEPHEN KING, quit the big-five publishers, and set up their own sites where you could download a book in CHAPTER-FORM, or SEQUENCE FORM, or in any WAY YOU LIKE. Here’s the content. Do with it what you will. That’s what people want.
The future is BITS, BYTES, and CUTS.
Any FUTURE of LITERARY NARRATIVE DISTRIBUTION is going to involve STREAMING (where once again the READER is in control. You don’t get ONE BOOK you get a whole LIBRARY for a MONTHLY FEE) or the DISTRIBUTOR offering A LA CARTE OPTIONS as to how much of the NOVEL you’d like to DOWNLOAD AT ONCE (the option to SERIALIZE IT YOURSELF).
But it all boils down to one thing: The DISTRIBUTOR offers VARIED INTAKE OPTIONS (a STREAMING FORMAT where you don’t have to pay FOR EACH BOOK), and when you do pick a BOOK (you can dice it how you like). That’s the FUTURE OF ALL MEDIA. Give the reader an ELECTRONIC PLATFORM where they CONTROL the INTAKE diced into PIECES.
And once the UBER of PUBLISHING comes around, the PUBLISHERS are going to SUE LIKE MAD: Just like how ESPN is suing VERIZON for chopping and screwing big cable packages into A LA CARTE OPTIONS.
A LA CARTE is DEATH to all CORPORATIONS that are carrying tons of expensive DEAD WEIGHT. And that’s your average BIG-FIVE PUBLISHER…
They can sue all they want, but it’s COMING. The MUTATION always comes…