The Times Are A'Changin' by Debbie Bennett

2016. A year of change. I wonder when they look back on 2016 in the years and decades to come, whether they will say that 2016 was the turning point, the pivotal moment when the world reached some kind of critical mass? I say they because I’ll be 53 in January and while I’m not planning on leaving anytime soon, this isn’t my world anymore – this world belongs to my daughter and her generation, to make the best of as they see fit with whatever legacy we’ve left them.

Brexit and the US elections. Neither gave the result that was expected and both, I think, made people sit up and realise the complacency with which we live our lives. Whichever way you voted in either election or referendum, we are on the cusp of something new – and we won’t know what it is, or what it may become, for a good many years yet.

On a smaller scale, the indie revolution is turning and changing. Music, arts, ebooks – whatever your flavour – I believe it’s becoming harder now to make your mark. Those who built their platforms in the heady days of the noughties are reaping the benefits; firmly embedded in Google, they pop up at the top of searches and they seem to know effortlessly how it all just works. I wish I knew the magical formula. Those of us who followed after have found it harder, and those who are only now beginning their self-publishing journey will be scrabbling for a slice of the Amazon pie as the crumbs get even smaller.

And online isn’t forever – no matter what I've said in other posts about protecting your privacy. The digital footprints in the sands of the internet are washed constantly by the waves of technology and what was once permanent is now obsolete. How many of us have photos on CDs? I have footage from my wedding from 1990 – back then not many people had video cameras and I was lucky in that my boss was a bit of a geek and had all the latest technology. His camera was a huge thing you had to balance on a shoulder, and my video is on VHS tape. I no longer have a VHS player and my new pc doesn’t even have a DVD or CD drive. These days we store everything on USB sticks and SD cards. Easily lost and easily forgotten.

What of our ebooks? How long before mobi and epub formats are unreadable and we are simply a mass of digital code somewhere. Our own kindle ‘libraries’ aren’t even our own – they are simply licenses to read certain books – so when our kindle is obsolete, what of the thousands of books stored on it? Paperbacks at least have a permanence about them. I have some treasured paperbacks from my childhood and despite my book-cull earlier this year, I still have several hundred physical books I couldn’t bear to lose. As well as my own paperbacks, of course!

Various prophets and predictions have always imbued times of great change with tales of second comings, of apocalypses and revelations and the end of the world as we know it. Society has never been more secular and yet fiction loves to deal with pre- and post-apocalyptic worlds. An omen, maybe? Can we all be Katniss or Triss? Horror is fashionable once again – exploring our fears within the ‘safe’ world of fiction?

What will the world look like in 2026?


Jan Edwards said…
This is very true. One good reason to give copies of new titles to the British Libraries?
Dennis Hamley said…
Biography, that's a very good point. I have really begrudged sending precious copies of my Createspace paperbacks to the BL and that place in Edinburgh, but you've made me realise I can now look at the Bodleian every time I pass it and see it as a true friend after all.
Lee said…
At the risk of repeating myself far too often, I ask: why even concern yourself with making your mark? Unless you're absoltutely determined to make a living from fiction (in which case, I would most cordially suggest antipsychotics and a hospital stay), what is the point? Do the best work you can--it's enough.
Dennis Hamley said…
Lee, all I want to do is satisfy myself by writing as well as I can and for a few people to read my books and, with luck, get pleasure from them. That's why I give half of them away. Including, I fear, the legal deposit libraries, at my own expense as well!
Debbie Bennett said…
The point for me is that I'd like to leave something behind after my death - and not just my genes! Photographs taken 10 years ago (and printed on ordinary paper) are fading now. Digital photos will be on obsolete media. Yet we still have pictures from when photography was invented. It seems to me that while the 20th century will have tangible items, in 100 years time they may well not be much left to show for the start of the 21st century.
Umberto Tosi said…
Succinctly said: Best keep to our creative tasks. It feels like the surfing I used to do at Santa Monica beach when I was a kid long ago. You can know what you're doing, but the ride is always unpredictable.
Lee said…
I can understand your wish, Debbie, though I don't share it: in fact, I almost always tear up letters and delete files as soon as they've passed their use-by date. And I almost never take personal photos.

There may not be much left to show of the 21st century in 100 years, but for different reasons than you suggest--catastrophic reasons. And who is to say there'll be much of anybody left to go looking?
Lee said…
My point? Predictions are best left to fiction.

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