Failure to meteor watch, a quick musing about the book industry

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Thursday, 13 August 2009

(02:42:02 CDT)

Failure to meteor watch, a quick musing about the book industry

I was outside a few minutes ago, looking for some tell-tale meteoric splendor, and failed to find any. Ended up being me, barefoot and glass of water in hand, staring up at the two-A.M. sky for a bit, and coming back with not much in the way of meteor stories, but some musings.

We've all thought about it. By we, I mean "gamers of the old RPG bent" and by it, I mean "What would happen if Square took the disk space and man hours that went into Final Fantasy XII, and made a game that was in the graphical mode and story mode of Final Fantasy IV, only, you know, a hundred times larger?" What would happen? Would the game become unplayable, the sheer amount of maps available requiring Proustian like leaps of interweaving, or maybe it would degrade into pointless and unconnected plateaus? Here a map and there a map? Nothing meaning much of anything?

I play interactive fiction some, from time to time, and one question that is popular is "What if Infocom..." and it finishes up with various things like "...was still a company?" or "...had kept IF from dying?" and the real answer, the real world answer, is that we are seeing what happens when you keep making IF. You add sound because you can. You add graphics because you can. You make puzzles a little more intuitive. Ico is what happens when Zork moves forward in time, if you will.

And what does this have to do with the book industry (as the title suggests)? Nothing. Not really. Except one important thing. Dragon Quest VIII (as well as a slew of reprints) have shown that older school RPG-ing is still profitable. Interactive Fiction has a more fanatical community than ever before. And the rest of the world barely cares. That's the way it should be, honestly. Hobbies for the hobbyists. Do you really want fifteen year old girls being the target market for your toy trains? Do you want middle aged housewives dictating what is up with current table top gaming? Do you want some small town mechanic who hates "know it alls" deciding what book you read, because some market test showed that making a play for non-readers (as, say, the pop-gaming industry has been doing as of late, with their "get the non-gamers gaming" approach) is the future of the industry?

We hear, and have heard for at least a century, that books are in a decline. No one reads anymore, right? Videogames and movies and television shows. That's where it is at. Why read if you have a life? Which is all poppycock. I hang out with too many dedicated, hardcore, book-luvin' readers to think that reading is really going away, truly going away, in the way that the pundits pretend it is going away. It is not going away. It is merely stepping back from that Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter inspired ledge where it looked like it was going to jump into the midst of acceptance (unfortunately, there are still moments like Twilight where it thinks it can crawl back up on the ledge and risking another leap). Look, books and the written word have been the defacto character of the entirety of Western Civilization. They are not going to go away in a decade, in a century even. A dozen centuries like the one we are in and books will still be there, though possibly a minor thing. Books are not dying, they are merely returning to a tighter circle (a circle with more money and more populous than it has ever been in history, mind you, just a smaller overall ratio to society). And this is a good thing.

Next time someone gets in your face about how books are stupid and how stupid you look for trying to be a know it all, just be glad they are not in your book pool, so to speak. Be glad that many excellent and dedicated writers that put out dozens of top notch books every year, still, ignore them. It could be worse, the industry could still be trying to sell to them.

Before I close, let us return to the night sky. As I said, to start, I did not have luck with tonights "shower". However, the other night, I was out walking with an audiobook version of Jekyll and Hyde and I looked up at the right time to see a deep green, very bright, streak plummet from the sky and crash somewhere into the heart of Perseus. One single birght illumination. That's my Perseids. What more do I need?

Si Vales, Valeo


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