12 June 09 | Chad W. Post

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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