The mastery, or third-eye, in this business of fiction writing evades me, both as a science and an art, and literally as one never published. I am in the factory line, distinguishing that there are a million writers now emerging from the woodwork and wallpapers. Some as mold, many as wallflowers. Perhaps, make that a billion writers. Imagine. All those young-adult novels. This may be for many fine motives a good thing, as well as the nightmare of literary fiction purists, the guardians of the antediluvian. A young generation defying all odds, changing genre systems, upsetting cultures of writing in postmodernist, post-structural ways? This — proliferation in the age of Kindle, Tumbler and Medium, may have come with some expedient side effects: The mainstreaming, and genre-bending commercialization of literature as a magic-bullet to foster innovation. A rivalry between the romanctical poetics of older works and the social pragmatism of today’s pop-cultured, mass media campers. Where the older writers upheld an introspective criticism of the individual and her escorting woes in long-form fiction. The new school turned a searchlight on the big question mark in the room in short-form snippety styles, on blogs, Tumbler panels.
With a new generation of writers asking: How do we burn it all down? With whom do we identify in a flatter, globalized fishbowl of civilization, now so loud our voices are not our fully ours? The what if’ generation, the proponents of hypotheticals are taking over. We are no seeing tshe rise of the young-adult genre good enough for print and for the silver-screen. A call to arms and answer. To societal ailing, all the while doing so with a nicely polished middle finger in insubordination. Literary dissent has become sexy. All the Hemingway-esque rules of “writing at its best”, or Vonnegut’s rejected thesis on the ‘Shape of a Story’ as traced on graph paper, “his prettiest contribution to the culture” now flung out the window. A literary counterculture that responds to the once touted demise of writing culture as prophesied by pundits, now brimming on the horizon. But write we must. Maybe because we can now radiate some historical amendments by it, win little awards and movie deals, gain tenure, topple hegemonic high-rises, rub some elbows, sit on thrones, and fulfill dreams – ours and theirs. What better outlet for the loud of mind? Who else would tell our stories correctly?
However, demand trails supply. Since readers have refused to read, so writers must now take the proverbial mountain to Mohammed – as we quickly run out of useful alternatives. The dwindling demand for readership is met with the wanton supply of new age writers, mostly as partial authors who have adapted technology-leveraging marketing tactics to capture the attention and essence of an intellectually simpler, highly temperamental audience – by whatever means necessary. Without being blasphemous to purists of writing forms and formats, this is a good problem to have.
The proactive mainstreaming of literature can be construed as a remarkably blessed venture: take Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie’s essentially mainstreamed Africanist texts. Her work has essentially fueled what has become a new wave of younger, audacious African writers – myself, included. A new problem then emerges: we can cite a laundry list of so-called new age writers and books that are rightly cringe-worthy, such malevolent works of brazen malfiction gain their own share of the mainstream, as there will always be a loyal reader for every manner of writing. And somewhere in there, short-form writing has become the go-to tonic for shorter attention spans.
Arguably, it can be argued that the propagation of celebrity writery has added to today’s watered-down, click-baiting style of writing, genre bending, and the crops of writers with them, so that the need to – by fractional writing alone – attain silver-screen status can be faulted well. There is of course, nothing terribly transgressive with celebrated writers. As some rightfully should be. Being gods or dogs of literature in their own right. Yet one worries about the legacy we leave behind for the next wave of writers bursting through the cracks. What would fiction writery be like ten years from now? Contemporary writers have skillfully amended ‘old ways’ of writing, a la short form writing and remedied that with fast-writing and fast-reading on social media to fashion great incidents of art. These ingenious ones will dismantle the writing styles of great artistes and narrative theories and develop styles of their own that often begin as an acquired taste, and in other precious cases, work their way up to innovation status.
Because of said trends in writing, the practice of what used to be Gold era or Beat generation writing becomes gravely adulterated by the tremors of a less engaged, more enraged, civilization – and this has become an entirely marvelous state of affairs for new and old writers.
However, some have argued that this mutation of/in literature is welcome, we must adapt to the times. Evolve, they say. It should be cheered on if it must. It may perhaps breed revolutions in writing such as we have come to find in peculiar places like with some sinful blogs on being a ‘great writer’, Twitter flash fictions in 140 characters, or Instagram off-cut posts drafted as typewriter summaries (with actual typos for genuineness), and other such commodified mechanisms of writing-for-display that I have surely donated to myself at some point in time. This state of affairs, according to one Peter Lunenfield “creates an environment of continuous partial production”. But it is not an entirely rotten way to be, perhaps better this style of short-form writing than the painful breeding of non-readers, a readerless society.
It can be argued by purists that a fearsome majority of these audacious and ravenous writers, while following the light in the corridor of this proclaimed literary revolution, are for all intents inclined to be self-regarding by default. They are occupied with personal identity as a matter of private compulsion as a way to tell us of who they really are, show us their true colors, what makes them pulsate, what marvelous horrors of life that have texturized them so far in quiet, unique ways, so much so that the contaminate the writing with personal matters. You read the fullness of their exertions in typewriter snippets, a glance through the carefully penned summation of what they are about, and it becomes self-evident: they somehow manage to become the total subjects of their own work, the central agency, the delicate problem, and then the powerful solution unto themselves. And you worry about this one-sided talent – and it is a talent – the ability to insert yourself in your own way even in partial productions.
This and many other such nuances would compose the very nature of literature as we know it in years to come. And while some other literary formalists hold down the vitriolic offense at the back of their gullets at this so-called progression in the age of short-form, social media writery, a few others will break set literary circumferences and hazard into already experimented monarchies of writing, but armed with powerful questions of their own, so that at the culmination of this performance, they would, no less, write newer wonders but with a devilish ability to do this entirely as literary pariahs. And there would be many undevised consequences for this, some of them admissible as works of genius art and many more that would incite exceptional repugnancy.