The Literary Novel is Still Dead

The Literary Novel. Is it “still dead” like General Francissimo Franco? Or “dead again” like a perennial zombie favorite? Or simply “dead”, as in God re Nietzsche? Or perhaps merely as dead as the proverbial door nail. Of course there are still plenty of people writing so-called “literary” novels, but it does seem to be on a fast track towards poetry status, i.e. something that doesn’t sell hardly at all. This is because the literary novel has become a sort of genre in itself, the genre of “undefined” genres, superseeded by a raft of categories such as the “new adult” novel and the “chick lit” novel as well as the far more popular old-fashioned genres such as romance, erotica, paranormal, fantasy, young adult, formula detective and bullshit cowboy science fiction. Anything else pretty much falls into the unsellable bin called “literary”. This seems to be especially true of ebooks and online fiction in general. The market just isn’t there and no one can make it happen. It’s sad but true. Most of what I personally enjoy and appreciate in fiction falls into that pit, and it’s hard to see interesting writers striving to achieve what may not be at all possible. But at least they are striving, and I get lucky enough sometimes to find them, and it’s a whole world out there and it seems that every day there’s a new venue. This week’s discovery was EtherBooks.com, which I found courtesy of the fine author Rowena Wiseman, where she has a couple of stories including Love Potion. EtherBooks approach is slightly different than others, focusing on mobile and very short pieces (6000 words max, which makes me want to trim 1000 words from Abnormality #1). Also, they’re very picky about author photos, rejecting writers whose head shots aren’t up to snuff. I haven’t come across this particular angle before. Maybe it’s a sign that sooner than we think all authors, like pop singers, will have to look like Beyonce in order to get read. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. They even have a category called Feel Good Fiction! So many venues, so little time, and most of them proposing that their stable of writers will get some serious cash from selling their stories one dollar at a time. You know it’s not going to happen, except perhaps for the one in fourteen million, which will be enough to fill the other 99.99% with hopes and dreams of future writer celebrity status.  In the meantime (or as a child I know recently wrote on a school essay, “in the mean time”), magazines will continue to run articles about the death of the novel, the death of literature, the death of literacy, the death of intelligence, the death of attention spans, the death of meaning, the death of everything deep and serious forever.

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