FORM COLLAPSE: SO WE’VE TALKED NARRATIVE MUTATIONS IN FILM AND TV…LET’S LOOK AT BOOKS (AND “THE PAUSE”)…

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:

The PAUSE.

For example, here’s an excerpt from Tim Parks in the New York Review of Books:

“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…

6 thoughts on “FORM COLLAPSE: SO WE’VE TALKED NARRATIVE MUTATIONS IN FILM AND TV…LET’S LOOK AT BOOKS (AND “THE PAUSE”)…

  1. Except . . . except . . . I’m not buying this happy-clappy notion of what “people want” and “we decide” and “the intaker is in charge” and “we control the platform”. This is an illusion of control. As always, it’s the fucking technology that presents us with what seem like new menus of possibilities but are really behavioural faits accompli. We don’t ASK for these things. I never asked for CDs to disappear (or for there to be no more gatefold album covers). I never asked to be able to watch a movie on my fucking PHONE. I like binge watching, but it just showed up one day and I found myself doing it. Oh, and we’re all doing THIS now, wearing shit on our wrists again? Okay. Equally, the big five publishers never asked for the paradigm to shift, but they still have to deal with it somehow. The driver of our behaviour is the technology, which is beyond our control, and it’s the accelerated, exponential rate of technological development that is creating this permanent sense of psychological crisis. I can’t see it “ending” well . . .

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    • But I’m not being happy-clappy about it. I’m presenting a possibility that could be real, not endorsing it.

      I don’t disagree at all with your take that we SHAPED by TECHNOLOGY we never even asked for (I’m a McLuhan-ite and a Baudrillard follower), it would be foolish to think these changes in the way we INTAKE material are somehow ORGANIC and not mutations. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t exist, and that all delivery systems will eventually have to be modulated to accompany the mutations that the platform has instilled in us.

      I’m not judging it good or bad. Whether it’s an illusion or not, the INTAKER does believe they have a right to control the speed of INTAKE.

      However, I do think that the BIG-FIVE PUBLISHERS do everything in their power (remember the Apple Anti-Trust case to dilute Amazon’s power that netted the Big-Five) to resist the changes that technology unleashed. They’re not denying the new paradigm exists; they’re trying to resist the acceleration, which I believe, will hit a point where no matter what they throw at it (whatever techno-mafia possibilities they have in their arsenal) — it’ll move past them. I used the example of EPSN suing VERIZON, because I do think eventually most MEDIA will be A LA CARTE with a potential home platform. Believe me, I don’t want the publishing industry to dissolve — I just think it’s the LEAST EVOLVED at this point…

      What I was trying to say is ILLUSION OR NOT, the INTAKER now very much wants to control the DRIP (because someone sold them the works), and regardless of where this mutation came from — that further consolidated experiments in distribution and duration are going to become the NORM…

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      • Okay, yes, you’re right, I agree, we are (as it were) where we are – and looking at it from a different perspective, all of these experiments in distribution and duration are actually amazing, it’s an embarrassment of riches, a sci-fi vision of choice, instant access and intellectual freedom (qualified or not) that was undreamt of when I was a kid. And yet . . . my experience of it is maddeningly unsatisfying, it’s Nicholas Carr’s Glass Cage, where automation smoothes the edges off whatever it is that makes human experience peculiarly “alive” to us. I know that the concept of entropy in physics is very complicated and that its use as a metaphor is probably galling to scientists, but fuck ‘em, that’s what this is, entropy, the point at which all data reaches thermodynamic equilibrium, the heat death of what we know and understand . . .

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  2. Except . . . except . . . I’m not buying this happy-clappy notion of what “people want” and “we decide” and “the intaker is in charge” and “we control the platform”. This is an illusion of control. As always, it’s the fucking technology that presents us with what seem like new menus of possibilities but are really behavioural faits accompli. We don’t ASK for these things. I never asked for CDs to disappear (or for there to be no more gatefold album covers). I never asked to be able to watch a movie on my fucking PHONE. I like binge watching, but it just showed up one day and I found myself doing it. Oh, and we’re all doing THIS now, wearing shit on our wrists again? Okay. Equally, the big five publishers never asked for the paradigm to shift, but they still have to deal with it somehow. The driver of our behaviour is the technology, which is beyond our control, and it’s the accelerated, exponential rate of technological development that is creating this permanent sense of psychological crisis. I can’t see it “ending” well . . .

    Like

    • Absolutely. I meant (and this wasn’t clear) that I don’t think there’s been a writer post- Raymond who has been able to take noir to the next phase, after Raymond sent it into the terminal spiral. Although I like Bruen, to me, he isn’t the next step after Raymond, he’s still in his sandbox. What are your thoughts on True Detective? Do you think that moved the noir bar at all?

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