I come from the north, on a latitude similar to Moscow or the Hudson Bay, and that has good and bad things associated with it, but if you want to know where the north begins, I guess it starts at a line somewhere close to where, 10,000 years ago, the ground was covered by a mile of ice.
If the ground your home is built on used to be below an ice sheet, then you’re from the north.
As a person, that’s important to me, but as a writer, not so much.
Today is the eight hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede. This document, wrung out of King John by his rebellious Barons, enshrined the principle of equality before the law, and formed the basis for law in this country, in the commonwealth countries, and in the USA.
King John was, by all accounts, a nasty piece of work; the worst of kings. Cruel and weak, he was run to ground by the nobles of England and forced to submit before the law. Everyone was made equal in the eyes of the law by that document; it’s probably the greatest piece of law-making ever created.
Of course, that don’t make the world fair, and things are not always equal, but thanks to the Magna Carta we’ve got a fair crack.
When I wrote The Heaven Field there’s a scene in which St. Claire, the main character, visits a market and buys some second-hand books, one of which is called The Fabulous Mr. Bigsby, and it’s about a staight-as-a-die 1960s city gent, a stockbroker by trade, who somehow gets ensnared by the whole hippy scene and becomes, well, fabulous.
The book doesn’t exist, I just made it up for that scene, but if it did this would be the sort of cover I’d want. The proportions are wrong for a book cover, but you get the idea:
On the topic of pulling the plug, a friend of mine was sharing a car with a friend of his who happens to be someone high up in the local police force, and they were driving through the midlands, heading south.
At one point they passed some fenced off piece of land and the cop pointed it out. ‘That’s one of the major junctions on the national grid,’ he said. ‘And if the shit ever hits the fan for real, if we ever have some major political or social problem and power becomes an issue, let’s say that IS nukes a power station or two, that’s the point at which we cut off power to the north. The south will stay on the grid but the north gets left in darkness.’
The great thing about the internet is the absence of gatekeepers.
Writing becomes a wide open marketplace within which people buy and sell according to what they like, dislike or are just willing to try. Of course, the flip side is that the market pays so little, but I’m not sure that most writers ever made more than a modest living from their work.
They do say that people are going back to actual books after a spike in online publishing from the likes of kindle over the last few years, but I reckon that’s like saying people are going back to vinyl after years of owning iPods. Maybe. Perhaps.
I remember my gran had a thing called a radiogram, which was a big hardwood box with a radio and record player inside. It was powered by valves, which give a lovely warm sound, and the parts that weren’t made of wood seemed to be made of bakelite, and it had a 12″ speaker. Gorgeous. But I don’t see anyone reproducing that sort of thing any time soon. Likewise, I visited an Edwardian school/museum a few weeks ago and there were dusty racks of books on topics as diverse as running paper-chases and stalking animals in the countryside, and interpretations of passages and texts from the bible. None of that means anything to anyone now.
So I don’t think books are going to make a ‘comeback’ any more than radiograms or bible-study texts written by ernest clerics, they haven’t yet gone away. They’ll be around for a long time too, because one thing that gatekeepers are good at is producing easy-to-consume genre fiction, which is fine by me.
But unless someone pulls the plug, online fiction is here to stay.
Metaphorically speaking I’m beached: I need a new rudder, new masts, my keel is twisted and I’ve sprung four dozen leaks. On top of that, the goods I’m carrying are damaged, lost or worthless, my line of credit is gone, my crew are desperate and vaguely mutinous…
It’s not plain sailing right now.
Will have to wait for the tide, see if I can refloat. In the meantime, repairs…