For the better part of the last two decades, it has been my considered opinion that the decline of fantasy and science fiction literature can be expressed by its increasing similarity to that universally-acknowledged fount of conformity: television. Go to the SF section of your favorite retail bookstore (or should I just give in and say “Barnes & Noble”?), and you will see without much effort that 90% of the selections can be broken down into a very few classes: military, Buffy-esque, steampunk, supernatural mystery. It’s like cable TV with four channels that anyone watches and a bunch of golf channels that only get a dribble of viewers. Or so it seems.
But until today, that was as far as my simile extended. No more is that the case! Not content with the idea that our literature was becoming more like TV, our friends at Microsoft have come up with a way to make the books themselves more like TV. I think this was what ruined the Romans.
In my day (he said his cranky pre-Millennial voice), the pictures you made from books were the pictures you made from the books. Part of the charm was that no two people saw the same character the same way. Your book was your own private world, and if you wanted to imagine that the hero/ine looked just like you, you could. If you wanted the villain to look like your boss, that was okay, too. A book was a collaboration between you and the author, and that lead to all kinds of differing interpretations that in turn lead to book groups, and convention panels, and English lit majors who can’t get jobs.
Now they not only want to make your favorite story into a TV series, they want to make your book into one. I’ll be the first to admit that TV is fun, addictive, and occasionally even original. But it requires no imagination. Even radio required you to make the pictures up in your head. Everybody knows that the scariest scenes are those you imagine yourself, and the sexiest fantasies are those you construct in your own mind. You’re not going to convince me that the best stories are not those you play out in your own head–and where do you think the training to do that comes from? Novelists don’t get their ideas from television. They learn narrative arcs and characterization and foreshadowing and world-building from other writers’ written words.
So if you want a generation of television writers, turn their books into television. If you want novelists and short story writers, turn the TV, and the HoloLens, off.
Note: I first learned about the HoloLens here. You could check it out.