Without getting into questions about the different forms and functions of writing (expository, narrative, social, creative) I would ask whether writing itself as an aesthetic form is dying.
In terms of business, we see it happening right before our eyes. The biggest publishers are merging, trying to keep their stables working, the only chain bookstore with shelf texts that is still standing is Barnes and Noble, and attendance in creative writing classes has dramatically dropped since, say, the early 90’s.
There used to be a hierarchy, not as organized as baseball, with single, double, and triple-A, yet a clearer ladder nonetheless. It sort of went small market, mid-range, and big-boy. I don’t say anything particularly new in mentioning that self-publishing has decimated the small market and mid-range markets, making it so you can’t really tell the author mills from the legitimate traditional guys trying to make a statement and a living. Still, I am more talking about the writing itself, and not so much the mechanisms used to move it (though let’s be clear, many of those “mechanisms” front as traditional publishers yet they are actually self-pubbers in disguise, offering absolutely no outreach…hoping you get together all your girlfriends, go to the Starbucks, open up your laptops, and get everyone in your extended circle to buy. What’s the novel about? Who gives a flying fuck. If we sign thousands of “writers” knowing each will alert her sewing circle in order to get 300 quick sales, we make as much in the end as a small traditional press. Our outreach? Here. I will send you a weekly newsletter talking about the best ways to open up more social media accounts).
Blogging has become so powerful, that it is more popular and accessible to mid range publicists than traditional and / or legitimate journals. Pay 2,000 for a publicist and he gets you blog posts, not interviews, (nor sales). He asks you to join the white noise, as the white noise has become the new literature, not your old fashioned dusty book.
The first thing agents and editors look into with new writers concerns their Facebook and Twitter accounts. How many followers? How many likes when you post about your product versus pictures of your cat, or your opinions about pipelines or foreign policy? Posting is more alluring than story writing. News and fake news and all the interpretations thereof have all become the new art.
Plainly, learning and communication has changed. In school, it is becoming more important to access information quickly and through more channels than synthesizing the information itself and inventing ideas. In terms of writing and selling, it is more important that the given author has developed personal outreach that evolves in tandem with people clicking in as opposed to offering an artistic product. Good novels are subtle, difficult pleasures one has to dig into. It seems the fluff on the outside however, has become the new statement.
I am lucky that I chose the horror genre. Or more accurately, I am fortunate that it chose me. I am ultimately blessed that I got to know S.T. Joshi a decade ago (has it been that long?) and thankful that Hippocampus, Centipede, and Night Shade took a chance on me. While all the noise is going on…all this fluff…the horror guys have stayed right where they were, standing their ground. The small market has become THE market for many horror writers, especially those like me who are staying away from the cliches and creating novels with a literary focus. You could say that we are like cockroaches. With everything going on and the landscape going through this strange reconstruction, we never die. We’re very much like heavy metal. You can’t kill it, even if you blog about it!