In a Guardian article a couple of weeks ago, British novelist A.L. Kennedy not only had nice things to say about the deep meaning of Doctor Who for children and adults alike, she also made some fairly damning pronouncements on the state of traditional publishing:
In a literary landscape of nervous agents and terrified publishers, where no risk can be taken and the next novel should be like the last novel that did well, or a mash-up of two that did quite well, or a version of a version of something that had solid sales in 2010 … literate sci-fi may be the only arena where the wild, surprising and wonderful can hide.
To her criticism of the industry she also added this barb about the other end of the gatekeeping spectrum – literature in academia:
It’s sad that so much of the air has gone from literary endeavour, that academic theorising and categorising have come to decide which novels are acceptable and reviewed, that literary publishing has squashed itself into more and more predictable boxes more and more often. Storytelling, company, human solidarity – they never go away, but they do seem to be moving away from the mainstream. It will be the mainstream’s loss.
I’m personally going through a lot of soul-searching fuelled by some hard research on what my next publishing steps should be with regard to the final book in the Embodied trilogy, and which of several embryonic projects to embark on after that (or even before it’s published).
The sands under our feet as authors are shifting. Does that mean we’re paddling at the edge of an amazingly powerful and beautiful ocean that’s safe and fun to swim in or will we be sucked down by hidden currents into a jungle quicksand? Either way, the days of writing our names in the hardening concrete of traditional publishing seem to be over. (End of concrete-mixing metaphors…)