This prosaic method

While in Boston this month, Peter Jurmu took the time to compose another guest post for Treated & Released, perhaps anticipating my response as a counterpoint.

—Robin

Peter Jurmu

Guest blogger:
Peter Jurmu, Creative Byline

Most writers I know are young, or at least around my age, and from the Midwest. We spoke as adolescents to each other on AOL Instant Messenger, comprise the demographic (18-34) most enamored with digital media players, propelled Facebook to ubiquity, and still queue for each new video game console from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. We’ve benefited from the rapid escalation of technological potential while remaining somewhat oblivious to the proportionate escalation of expectations. We still buy or participate in what amuses us, and until now that’s all anyone has asked of us.

Only one writer I know in better than passing acquaintance owns a Kindle, but she received it as a gift. The price of a Kindle—$359—pays a little more than one-quarter of my rent in Boston. It also will buy about one hundred used paperbacks from Brattle Books on West Street, within sight of Tremont and Boston Common. Amazon wants us to know that $359 (or $489 for the one they want to sell to students) will buy “20% faster page turns” and a “paper-like display” so we can skim Baudrillard and Signs on a simulacrum. I understand the appeal: 1,500 books in a duffel tend to raise TSA eyebrows.

Amazon’s Kindle has become—or, Amazon has made it—one of the poster children for booksellers’ attempts to suggest digital publishing to readers. Google Book Search is another, and various other e-readers and ebook apps on smartphones broaden the ranks. While writers are readers, too, and the Kindle has won that side of a million readers over, Amazon sells the book, not the writing of it. The writing process remains unchanged, with a few exceptions (such as Peter V. Brett and his HP iPAQ 6515 smartphone). Creative Byline doesn’t help you much until you’ve already completed your manuscript, and only the very famous strike book deals without having written the book in question. Even self-publishing won’t write your book for you.

So it seems writers’ responses to e-readers and digital publishing are those of consumers, businesspeople, or lawyers, and not those of artists. Artists have little of note to say on these matters, since no one has begun writing yet with anything other than the structures established during the era of print-only publishing in mind. Digital publishing only augments what already exists. (Serialized novels with special illustrations, for example, are nothing new.) Whether a publisher sells print and Kindle editions of a book, an agent or author submits query packages digitally, a writer decides to self-publish, or an online bookseller provides another way to read books, the manuscripts were typed or handwritten. This prosaic method of composition has proved resistant to evolution.

The autumn after I completed undergrad, I visited Dr. David Klooster, the English chair at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. I asked Dr. Klooster if he intends to require that English/Creative Writing majors take a course in editing and publishing to better prepare them to find jobs and publication. While he sees no value in total ignorance of the industry, he said, greater value lies in learning the craft and not the technology or mechanics. Writers will master the latter, if they haven’t already, and can do with it what they like.

People apply technological mastery to what they already know how to do; the technology itself ought never become the focus. When I mention Mr. Brett, I don’t say he’s revolutionized anything. The keyboard on his smartphone is smaller than a laptop’s, but it’s still a keyboard. A stylus and touchscreen still produce handwriting. A manuscript still causes birth-like pain when you tease it out of the ether. Once you hold (or have saved and backed up) a copy in your hands (or on internal and external hard drives and a flash drive), you can worry about text-to-speech features. Until then, you’d better write.

Peter Jurmu will begin work on his MFA at Emerson College in the fall, and has interned at Creative Byline since August 2008.

15 Replies to “This prosaic method”

  1. Although your points are well taken, Peter, I disagree with your assertion that “no one has begun writing yet with anything other than the structures established during the era of print-only publishing in mind.” With the advent of hypertext in the last quarter of the twentieth century, quite a few artists, educators, and designers began experimenting with e-text, paying particular attention to its capabilities for presenting an entirely new, or at least enhanced, experience for the reader as well as the writer. A few examples of those innovators and the organizations they established include:

    Irene Chan, whose now defunct personal website Eneri Woman Interface is featured in the book Personal Web Sites: Top Designers Push the Boundaries with Experimental Design and Graphics (described as “the first serious study of the role that personal sites are playing in the growth of the Web”)

    Sergio Cicconi

    Columbia University’s Institute for Learning Technologies

    Eastgate Systems

    Electronic Literature Organization

    Nick Finck

    George P. Landow, professor of English and art history at Brown University (where Ted Nelson coined the word hypertext), which offers a course called “Hypertext and Literary Theory
    (more information)

    Remix My Lit

    Stephanie Strickland

    It’s also too easy to overlook the artistic contributions of the scenarists who help create video games and the web developers who construct elaborate online versions of wildlife, travel, and children’s books and magazines, with text written specifically for the medium. Take a look at the history of the Armenian genocide depicted at theforgotten.org. Isn’t it a notable early attempt to exploit the capabilities of both hypertext and the Web to convey a narrative?

    Creating a site with content written for the primary purpose of being displayed electronically certainly qualifies as digital publishing, though for some reason, traditional publishers don’t seem to see it. Blogs came to their attention because bloggers began to comment on and review printed books, but the realization that blogging is a form of digital publishing hasn’t yet dawned.

    You’re correct in saying that serialized novels are nothing new just because they’re presented in a digital format, but apparently you’ve been examining and finding deficiencies in written works that originated on paper and were subsequently converted to e-texts. Are you intentionally discounting works that were born digital because you don’t perceive them as having literary merit? The problem is that specialization, while extremely efficient for certain kinds of production, tends to isolate the specialists. Of all the circumstances that can benefit a creative writer, isolation is one of the least valuable.

    Fortunately for you, the insight into traditional publishing comes with your job. Not all creative writers gain such an advantage. It can be disheartening for some when they discover the amount of previously unimagined work involved in getting published and selling books. Dispensing information about publishing may not be part of Dr. Klooster’s job description, but when it isn’t, the shortfall perpetuates a system of obstacles that discourages all but the most entrepreneurial and well-connected writers. Perhaps that’s intentional.

  2. I am humbled by the consequences of my narrow focus, Robin. Many of the links you provide I hadn’t seen before, but after spending some time with them, I’m confident I can respond to a couple, and your rebuttal. I will pull copiously from Sergio Cicconi, and a bit from two of the other sources on your list, but with, I hope, good reason.

    “…clusters of pages or of nodes connected with each other by means of different links…also characterize[s] printed or chirographic texts. This allows us to maintain a connection between hypertexts and the more traditional texts…[and] conceive hypertexts as developed extensions of printed texts” (Cicconi, 3, 1).

    A “traditional idea of narrative,” however, “[is] now challenged by the very existence of hypertexts” (3.1, 1). Conversely, organizers of narratives must recognize “the very practical need of comprising hypertextual narrative in the much more restricted spaces of the almost exclusively verbal realm” (3.2, 1). This is no less true when it “adulterates” the multimediality of hypernarratives.

    You mention video games, and I’m glad you do. I’ve revered storytelling in video games since I received my first Nintendo Entertainment System at Christmas in 1989. The rigidly linear quest-structures of the original Super Mario Bros. or Contra have, in such action RPGs as Fallout 3 and Fable 2, and MMORPGs as World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2 (free!), evolved into what Cicconi calls “tree-hypernarratives with false/true forkings” (3.2.2/3.2.3). He argues that even THTF are not true hypernarratives, since whatever scenario places a reader/participant on a linear path to the conclusion of that scenario and the beginning of another. Writers compose these scenarios beginning to end, or at least compose them as traditionally as any other story or scenario.

    Cicconi also points out the “quantity of work a[n individual] writer has to face when writing a [pseudo-]hypernarrative” with a story tree of (2^N-1) segments (3.2.3, 5). The most feasible means of writing such a story tree require “a number of web-users willing to write, one after another, the multiple segments constituting a common story” (3.2.3, 6). These narratives are already available on the Web, but the demands of this structure prohibit stories of any considerable length (3.2.3.7). His example–30 distinct episodes, each entry half a page, and each story about 15 pages long–would require over a billion authors and “a significant percentage of [total] Web space.”

    Once the Author disappears, multiplied in thousands [of] voices and thousands [of] minds around a generative knot, what ensues from the development of that knot is a Great Story, or, in other words, the synthesis and the intermixture of genres and styles, a rather unstable blend of events, ideas, and characters that will hardly cause in the reader anything more than a detached interest (3.2.3, 11).

    If, Cicconi says, “we are dealing with tree-like narratives, either with false or true forkings, we cannot really assert to be confronted with something radically new” (4, 1). “True” hypernarratives, called “web-like hypernarratives” (3.2.5), require a rethinking of linear logic, and demand we “remodel our cognitive processes” (4, 12).

    Writers ought to recognize the existence of these true, or web-like, hypernarratives, even if their composition or pleasurable/edifying consumption tend to remain beyond Westerners. We also ought to remember that our dissatisfaction with or aversion toward such narratives may well be a symptom of adjustment, as the tedium of learning a complicated language has no bearing over the usefulness or importance of that language.

    Even Cicconi, however, doesn’t think web-like hypernarratives will take over soon: “While we are already in the process of re-writing the rules for writing fiction, it seems to me that we are not close to the accomplishment of the…task [of comprehending multi-lineal logic]” (4, 13). His essay is nearly a decade old, but I haven’t seen much to suggest that we’re any closer now than we were then. In addition to the sources to which you pointed me, Creative Commons has erected a solid frame in which all sorts of creatives and appreciators can share and tune an original work, but that still requires a work to have been at least partially completed by one or several first. (The Cyberspace and Critical Theory Overview, by the way, is a droll throwback to the pages I built in my eleventh-grade computer info systems course. The CCTO has the next available slot on my free-reading docket.)

    Eastgate promotes the idea of the solitary author. Their Storyspace software enables a writer to easily write and organize a hypertextual narrative, but it’s built upon the traditional mode of composition: one writer’s writing and perhaps several writers’ organizing a work. (Eastgate’s selling line on their home page even evokes the two stereotypes of loner writers: wilderness seclusion or messiness.) None of these prevents several writers from co-authoring a narrative or non-narrative digital text, even a “pseudo-hypertext,” but they are all built around the integration of textual elements with fixed beginnings and ends writers compose in solitude.

    In her second rule of e-lit, Stephanie Strickland describes the release of “a piece of code, like the genetic code…on a lot of variables. No one knows what the specific output will be–they can only know the rules that constrain it” (Strickland, 2, 1). Cicconi, however, says such compositions are “still…linear stories, stories that, very likely, would bring nothing new to the evolution of the literary forms, except the fact of having been written by machines pushed to imitate human beings writing traditional stories” (Cicconi, 3.2, 2). Strickland’s tenth rule, which identifies e-lit with non-medium-focused oral recitations, also smacks of Cicconi and his observation that, for practical purposes, “the verbal realm” is the proper place in which to comprise hypertextual narrative (Cicconi, 3.2, 1).

    I see that by now I’ve turned Cicconi into the prism through which I’ve refracted all the other links you provided, but I don’t think I’ve tripped in doing so. One should, by all means available, pay attention to the ways in which the outside world and the industry built around writers affect this vocation. Haughty isolation, or the derision of new forms of literature, accomplishes little to nothing of value. But the act of writing remains the writer’s, even if a group of writers will help revise or add to it, and that activity will not change substantially for some time. This is an encouraging thought, especially for writers who feel overwhelmed by all the fuss.

  3. It’s a shame that I forgot to include in my list of examples the recent phenomenon of cell phone novels written collaboratively. Other larger-scale online efforts at collaborative fiction have been received with much less enthusiasm. The process was far more interesting than the product.

    Innovation is messy. I’ve noted the increasing popularity of the saying “Failure is a feature, not a bug” (an expression that might have originated here). It’s difficult for me to accept that attitude as the new corporate culture, but it’s too widespread to ignore. However, I sincerely admire the optimism of the theorists and the risk-takers, even when they don’t succeed.

    Hypertexts or e-texts haven’t yet evolved into something I find entertaining—interesting, yes, but not satisfying in the way a good book can be. What might prove to be commercially viable is some new form of creative writing that involves the reader, essentially as a character in the narrative, without requiring of the reader much in the way of writing or technical skills. Simply being offered the option to choose a fork in a hypertext scenario didn’t prove sufficiently intriguing, but gamers continue to enjoy the roles they adopt for MMORPGs. Facebook users seem to have gotten past the thrill of giving each other gift icons, now that they can post potentially humorous or revealing results of quick online quizzes. Plenty of people still ask for the “personalized” stories of fortune-tellers and astrologists, regardless of the medium. Should I conclude that readers have an insatiable desire, not just to read about characters with whom they can empathize, but to have their own fantasies/stories written/foretold? Technology companies that provide users with the means to create (self-published POD books, blogs, online photo albums and videos, etc.) seem to have a competitive edge at the moment. Of course, their advantage could be illusory, because not all of them are profitable.

    I didn’t respond to your original conclusion, Peter. Does predicting what the dominant medium or form for storytelling will be in five or ten years matter to someone now embarking on a career as a writer? I’d say it’s far more important for a writer to identify his or her strengths and most compelling interests while being perpetually ready to adapt to new technology and economic realities. Perfect the writing, and the right medium for it will exist. On that, we agree.

    Iteration helps writers immensely. So, even though I don’t like it, failure is a feature.

  4. Just in time for this discussion, via GalleyCat and Fourth Story Media:

    Conceived as an advertising strategy for Editoras Online, this evolving compilation used an experimental printed book of symbols, which were also posted in various spots around Sao Paulo, Brazil. When photographed with a cell phone, the symbols unlocked a mobile app apparently linked to Twitter, where the user/reader/writer could add a reply to a themed message. The book, in effect, was the key required for access to the crowdsourced Twitter content.

    Did I get that right?

  5. Proof that David was lurking around this discussion arrived this morning in the form of an armload of books from today’s Friends of the Library fundraiser book sale:

    Thomas Foster’s The Souls of Cyberfolk: Posthumanism as Vernacular Theory (University of Minnesota Press 2005)

    Explorations in Media Ecology, Vol. 1, No. 1 (2002) Journal of the Media Ecology Association

    Richard Coyne‘s Technoromanticism: Digital Narrative, Holism, and the Romance of the Real (MIT Press 1999)

    Richard Coyne’s Designing Information Technology in the Postmodern Age: From Method to Metaphor (MIT Press 1995)

    Neil Postman’s Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (Vintage Books 1993)

    Elizabeth Bishop: The Complete Poems, 1927-1979 (Noonday Press 1983)

    I’m on the last one!

  6. I don’t pretend to be an expert in the publishing realm and so I’ll just pick at the very edges of the fascinating discussion going on between Robin and Peter. I will only take the opportunity to vent a handful of thoughts I’ve had about the subject of e-readers and digital publishing.

    Peter, you mention the price point of a Kindle as a massive barrier to entry. That it may be (even with Amazon having dropped the price to $299). But as part of the generation that queues for gaming consoles and digital media players, I would suggest that the right device sells itself at nearly any price. iPods will run you $200, gaming consoles $250-300 — all in the same basic neighborhood as the Kindle.

    Kindle’s problem is that it doesn’t offer enough that’s truly new.

    A gaming console sells itself by offering the unique trait of the gaming experience, the often non-linear narrative that wraps itself around the user’s actions (echoing Robin’s comment on Facebook quizzes and — my paraphrase — users wanting to hold mirrors up to themselves).

    An iPod sells itself by offering to lap up your entire music collection and make it available on a portable device. Pop your CDs into your computer, wait a little, and boom — like magic, piles of CDs vanish into a tiny, portable device.

    A Kindle, on the other hand, offers to closely replicate the experience of book-reading (albeit with an alleged 20% faster page-turn); it offers little novel of its own. A Kindle can’t scan the library that’s covering entire walls of your apartment — mobility is offered only for those books you buy anew from Amazon. That’s the challenge that Kindle faces, and one possible reason why take-up has been very slow with your acquaintances. One also dares not take Kindle into some environments that are fine for paper books, such as the bathtub. You’re also stuck browsing for books on Amazon, a very different experience from browsing in a bookstore. In some ways Kindle is an improvement on books, and in some others it’s a step backwards.

    But what could Kindle offer with its always-on network connectivity? A whole new world of books that are extensively hyperlinked, like the conversation you and Robin have been having. Books in which footnotes are live references, not just static notes to search later. Both of you are anticipating where publishing could go, both explicitly and implicitly in your heavily hyperlinked style of writing. What we don’t have right now are (a) any platform for reading such hyperbooks and (b) any convenient way of authoring them. Both of you know very well the tediousness of inserting hyperlinks into your text.

    A better way for creating the hyperbook has to be invented — one that breaks out of the need to code HTML into one’s manuscript. And a next-generation e-reader has to be invented, one that will make reading hyperbooks as simple as reading a blog today. Publishers have noticed blogs, and some blog authors are now writing paper books or having their blog histories packaged up in book form. I would argue that this kind of endeavor would be the logical baby-step that a theoretical hyperbook market would need.

    Of course there’s the chicken-and-egg problem, and really, I think the starting point here is for Amazon to expand their Kindle into an e-reader-cum-NetBook. Find a way to build a web browser into the Kindle and let people get used to using it in that way. The web-enabled Kindle would be the Trojan horse that allows the hyperbook crowd to really get cranking.

    So many paper books on the future of the Web, and its influences on society, are being written by net luminaries such as Nick Carr, Jeff Howe and Clay Shirky. I would expect that any of these authors would welcome some way to create a hyperbook — in fact I have to imagine that they feel confined by the single-threaded paper book model.

    So yes, Peter, today we type or write manuscripts just as we always have, because there simply isn’t a better way to create the kinds of books we have now. But if there were a different kind of book, I think new tools would be necessary to create them. I can’t envision what those tools would look like, but I’m sure someone out there does and is working on it even as we speak. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed — I don’t pretend for a moment that someone hasn’t already beaten me to this punch, which is why I am writing it as a comment and not as a patent application. ;-)

  7. Mike, I’d expect Google to be the first company to bring together the features you want in an ebook reader. It has the Chrome browser. It’s preparing to launch a service that will permit readers to purchase and download ebooks that can be cached in a browser and stored in the cloud. And it’s working on a free open-source operating system for netbooks that is expected to be available by the end of 2010. Just what you need, right? More choices.

    Yesterday’s post on the The Kindle Review – Kindle 2 Review, Books blog provides a succinct overview of the variety of display technologies used in ebook readers, including those not yet released. I was alerted to the post by TeleRead.

    For the past two months, I’ve been using a Sony Reader, and it’s a great convenience. I never minded reading ebooks on computer. The Reader’s advantage is its portability.

    Regarding book deals for bloggers, it’s true that publishers have looked upon blogs as platforms that will help their authors sell more printed books or content that can be repackaged as printed books. What I wanted to stress in my earlier comment was that publishers especially and people in general don’t think of blogs as publications. I consider blogs a form of self-publishing. A day will come when most books originate in digital formats, and only collectors’ editions are printed. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see a resurgence of letterpress printing for those special paper editions. The distinction between a blog and a book will blur.

    A little ironically, in light of this discussion, Tor recently announced it will publish a novel based on EVE Online, which it calls today’s “largest and most successful science fiction MMOG.” In a sense, the novel will be a souvenir or collectors’ edition.

    We’ll appreciate ebooks more when we start noticing that the public libraries are closing.

  8. “Failure is a feature,” etc., is an attempt to turn the expression of a reasonable expectation–that new companies and ventures will fail, but the persistent among us, wiser after failure, will try again–into the closest thing to a status quo one can manage during a paradigm shift. The more you say, “Failure is a feature!” about something, the less that thing appears a ‘success in development.’ To say such things is tedious, anyway. Innovators don’t feel obligated to justify their work’s imperfections if they mean to fix them, except to say, “Well, yeah. It isn’t finished.” That’s the realest optimism I know.

    In a response to a February post on Pan-Macmillan’s The Digitalist about how digital narrative experiences predate the present dialogue by many years, I wrote: ‘The brain automatically registers the self as an active participant [in a video game’s world],’ whereas during reading, the brain not only has to create the spaces in which the plot unfolds (usually without visual cues), but move the characters through it while identifying with their various sensory experiences. This doesn’t mean that video games necessarily make the brain lazy, but I would read with great interest any followup study that incorporates brain scans on gamers during the same sort of sensory events described in this article at PhysOrg.com. (This sort of study may not be far off, since groups of fMRIs seem to be running parallel to each other on this one.)

    Mike, I agree with you that the price of the Kindle isn’t so much a barrier as the awareness of what one obtains for the money. I’ll soon hand over a few hundred dollars for an iPhone and its requisite parts, but the value of that multi-purpose piece of machinery is obvious. The Kindle–which is one of the more visible ereaders at present and makes an easier target–is not entirely without value. I’d buy one for $150 and use it to download lexicons of languages I want to learn, or something. (Anyway, I’m beginning to feel kind of silly not owning one, or at least a dedicated ereader.) But I’m more interested in the CrunchPad, or something like Plastic Logic’s eReader: what they offer transcends “store a whole lot of ‘hypertextualized’ books on me, and marvel at the ease with which you can purchase more from my manufacturer.”

    The grayscale, 1st-gen iPod blah of the Kindle display manifests Amazon’s reluctance to embrace true in-house innovation in anything but a Bezos keynote. Someone else will innovate, and Amazon will buy that company. (That’s how it operates.) I travel enough that convenience ranks permanently on my list of priorities, but I want a new experience from an ereader. I’d let a new piece of tech inconvenience me if it changes how I perceive and consume information and narratives, and how writers fashion them. Ereaders haven’t done that yet. (I should note that I do have ebooks on my laptop, and since I take this thing everywhere I go, my MacBook might as well be an ereader on which I occasionally do other things.)

    Google may supply the OS to a reader, as it’s done with Android and smartphones, and its Book Search will be without parallel, but they’ll ruin their long-term influence if they choose to manufacture a device anytime soon. Amazon must continue to maintain its online retail operations while manufacturing new generations of Kindles, and this play is much more difficult in the shadow of Apple’s success.

    Novels based on the Halo universe sell very well (which I’m sure had nothing to do with Tor’s acquiring EVE’s license), and even influence the development of new games in the series. But media tie-in novels are nothing new, either: I read Star Wars novels as a child, and met, in a writing class ten years later, a woman who writes them. According to this article at Intergalactic Medicine Show, “‘This stuff is driving out real science fiction. If you walk into a book store, what do you see? The majority of the books are tie-ins. And because tie-ins are multimillion-dollar commercials, they’re going to sell better than free-standing novels.'” How can original stories compete with a multimedia marketing machine?

    (Trivia: Media tie-in books based on video games usually sell well enough for writers to continue writing them, but movies based on video games almost universally tank. The Halo movie had Peter Jackson and Microsoft behind it, and was riding high on Halo 3‘s (Xbox 360) first-day take of $170 million and consistently strong sales, but still couldn’t convince nervous investors.)

    I don’t doubt, Mike, that someday paper and pen may become obsolete for those who want to write whatever forms narratives take. Maybe I hope, whatever happens, that they don’t. If I know how to write, however, and tell a story in a coherent and compelling fashion, only my nostalgia will send me back to them.

  9. I’m glad to have your perspective, Mike, and I’ll pull back the anime shower curtain just enough to reveal that your current point of view is that of an IT manager whose writing projects are considered, in your words, “side gigs.” Lest readers seeking career advice skim past that explanation, I’ll emphasize that it’s worth noting.

    Thank you, Peter, for the brilliant analysis of my discomfort with boasts of failure. I can see beyond most affectations, but that one had me blinkered.

    Re: Walt Shiel’s comment on the Digitalist, I’ve encountered one fairly persuasive argument that video games can imprint players in unanticipated ways. I wish I could recall where I read that, over time, young gamers develop a fondness for love objects that are rather comically well-endowed and, I might add, sport anime haircuts. I can’t say if such a conclusion is the result of fundamental attribution error in the research, but, you know, certain phrases get stuck on replay. (laughing)

    Peter, part of your response to Shiel reminds me of the claim that comic books can convert the category of young students termed “reluctant readers” precisely because comics present overt visual cues that help the reluctant reader who finds it difficult to visualize action and comprehend emotions expressed in the script (text). A couple of years ago, Allyson Lyga summarized the theory in ForeWord. The implicit hope is that interest in graphic novels will encourage reluctant readers to go on to explore other forms of written narrative.

    Michael Bhaskar, in the discussion he initiated on the Digitalist, points out, “When people are tired they turn to the TV or the computer before they do a book.” Well, that’s true for me and for Bhaskar, because we spend a lot of time reading text, but it could be true regardless of what people spend the bulk of their time doing. The forms of entertainment and enlightenment we select reflect not only our tastes, the capacity of our imaginations, and the sophistication of our analytical skills, but also our states of mind at particular moments.

    I find it difficult to specialize, because learning a little about the storytelling requirements (or should I say traditions) of different media and a wide variety of genres keeps me from becoming bored (i.e., reluctant) and helps me identify best practices across the board. As I indicated, I also appreciate the work of artists who mess with the formulas.

    Now comes the pragmatic question. How do I respond to a query from a prospective client who writes specifically for an experimental medium or a hybrid of the traditional and experimental? (I’m talking about media, now, not about an experimental writing style in a well-established medium.) At the moment, I’m telling prospective clients that no matter how good the narrative, the experimental forms currently are so expensive to produce that only the proven winners, the celebrity authors, those with enormous cults of followers will be given the opportunity to make such innovative endeavors profitable for major trade publishers. The less famous who wish to experiment with new media will, in most cases, need to remain independent or find a nonprofit publisher whose stated mission is to innovate. It’s evasive of me, but it’s my business reality.

    The perpetually unanswered question creates tension. How can writers who consider themselves artists make a living, and how can authors who make a good living at their craft manage to remain artists?

    PS – Amazon was founded on innovation, which is why it’s capable of recognizing successful innovation. I think, without having done the required research, that Google and Amazon are the leaders in moving users to adopt cloud computing.

  10. People won’t abandon the tradition of storytelling. They’ll just trick it out.

    Peter, you’ve inspired my next blogpost. I’ll ask readers to send JPG or GIF images of the most awesome old books in their possession, and I’ll post the images. If I link to the publishers, I can probably claim it’s fair use.

    David picked up the cloud computing thread in my comment above and pointed me to Paul Kozlowski’s “Abstract thought, liquid sky.”

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