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Wired Magazine and the Challenges of Contemporary Literature

Thanks to Literary License for drawing our attention to this piece by Bruce Sterling in Wired detailing eighteen challenges for contemporary literature.

This is a pretty broad set of challenges, ranging from some more content based questions (“Literature is language-based and national; contemporary society is globalizing and polyglot,” or “Contemporary literature not confronting issues of general urgency; dominant best-sellers are in former niche genres such as fantasies, romances and teen books”), to challenges of audience development (“Means of book promotion, distribution and retail destabilized,” or “Ink-on-paper manufacturing is an outmoded, toxic industry with steeply rising costs”).

Regardless, it’s a really interesting list that does point to many of the concerns and issues underlying our industry. Here are some of the others I think are most interesting:

Media conglomerates have poor business model; economically rationalized “culture industry” is actively hostile to vital aspects of humane culture.

Long tail balkanizes audiences, disrupts means of canon-building and fragments literary reputation.

Barriers to publication entry have crashed, enabling huge torrent of subliterary and/or nonliterary textual expression.

“Convergence culture” obliterating former distinctions between media; books becoming one minor aspect of huge tweet/ blog/ comics/ games / soundtrack/ television / cinema / ancillary-merchandise pro-fan franchises.



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