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No, and I think your comparison to film, while interesting, isn't merited. Also, I adored The Last Jedi.

Now: here's where a comparison makes some sense. Major film studios aren't trying to make movies; they're trying to make money. Movies just happen to be what they sell. The problem becomes much like what you're describing, where the goal is to make a movie that a lot of people will go see, regardless of the quality of that movie.

I think it would be fair to compare that business plan to that of a publisher looking for the book everyone will want to buy regardless of the quality of that book. But I don't think that says anything about the literary merits of the books being published as a whole. Likewise, just because Hollywood studios are turning out crap doesn't mean good movies aren't being made anywhere.

It's also fair to say that chasing the guaranteed dollar has harmed both industries.
 

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I suppose it depends on how you define art and what meets your standards. Most people like to relax in their time off, because life can really suck at times. Genre fiction has always sold best from everything I know, and so have entertaining movies. Art houses have never brought in the big bucks. Most people do not want to go see The Sorrow and the Pity for relaxation. Popular music has always drawn more adherents than classical music. Add to that that lots of modern “artistic” music (classical and jazz) is barely listenable to many of us, as if being comprehensible melodically is equivalent to so-called decorative art, and you can see why so many people are not interested.

I also like representational art much better, myself. And attractive art. I have been to modern art museums all over the US and in many other countries. I am lucky to find one piece that does not leave me cold. At SFMOMA, hubby and I took a picture of the two urinals fastened to a wall. Not in the men’s room. In an exhibit space. I wonder if anybody has peed in them. On the other hand, in Sydney, AU, I found one absolutely gorgeous painting in the museum by Margaret Olley and was blown away. I used her work as a basis for my latest book. Yes, her paintings are representational, much like Van Gogh paintings are. And they are beautiful. A small flower painting is going for 70k or so these days, so other people besides me loved something actually beautiful.

You can write fun, funny, sweet, suspenseful, entertaining stuff and not be Thomas Kincaide, painter of light.
 

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I love modern art. It's playing with the idea of what we hold up to be art. It makes me think whereas a classic painting or sculpture is just pretty.

But I don't necessarily want to think at ten on a Tuesday night. I want to binge watch a procedural. Ideally, I'd like it to be a great show, but if it's good enough that's okay. Now that there are tons of Internet TV options (Hulu, Netflix, a bunch of time channels), there are so many more TV shows. Some are good, some are bad, most are okay. But more shows means more good shows. They're just harder to find.

A lot of this is because network TV doesn't pull the numbers it used to. There isn't as much profit in appealing to the mainstream so more creators are able to build solid shows with small audiences.

I think that's the way of indie authoring. It's pretty cheap to make a book compared to a movie and we don't need a huge audience to make a profit since we get a bigger cut of royalties.

There will always be people in it for the money who churn out crap or just mediocre entertainment, but that's true in every medium.
 

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I agree about contemporary art (I work in an art gallery).Some of it is really ugly and seems pointless, and then sometimes you get a really lovely painting by a contemporary artist that makes up for the other stuff. My favourite painting in our own gallery at the moment depicts a massive moon hovering above one of the hills in Edinburgh, with the buildings at the top of the hill looking very tiny. I feel it manages to say something interesting as well as being visually very appealing.
Similarly, I would say genre works of fiction that are easy to read can be works of literature too if they are well crafted and say something important as well as entertaining the reader.
 

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It sounds to me like you are tilting at windmills of your own creation. You posit a decline, but when was the ascendant? Back in the era of the dime novel? The yellow press? How about the novelty songs of the 1920s?  Sword and sandal movies?

Maybe Sturgeon's Law will help:  seventy percent of everything is crap.

This has always been true and likely will ever be true. There are tons of really great books that get published (and now self-published) every year. Certainly more than I can read in a year. Any number of people have argued that this is a true golden age for television and I would have to agree with that. Some of the movies that come from Sundance and even from Hollywood amaze and delight millions. We could pretend their taste is not as elevated as ours, but hey, I think Galaxy Quest is brilliant, so you know where I fall.

And that doesn't even address that innumerable shorter works that are appearing on various streaming platforms, including excellent podcasting--a new art form that betters the best days of radio.

Given Sturgeon's Law (I recommend adopting it in every aspect of life; you'll breathe easier), it's not surprising people can make lists of what is crappy. Just look for the other thirty percent. and know you'll be disappointed often. It's ok. It's just us being us.
 

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Usedtoposthere said:
At SFMOMA, hubby and I took a picture of the two urinals fastened to a wall. Not in the men's room. In an exhibit space. I wonder if anybody has peed in them.
Duchamp did that in 1917...fully one-hundred years ago. He actually called it "anti-art". At the time, it was quite provocative.
 

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Skip Knox said:
Maybe Sturgeon's Law will help: seventy percent of everything is crap.
NINETY percent. :)

There are plenty of good movies and good books getting made, despite the usual dreck. A whole lot of them in both industries are by indies. Same as it ever was.
 

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P.J. Post said:
...If creatives continue to be judged by their revenue streams, and if there's no financial stature associated with Art, where is the rationale to pursue the work?
I'm not sure that there's ever been a lot of financial stature associated with Art of any kind- it's just that making money didn't used to be the sole criteria by which people judged whether something was worth pursuing or not. In the 18th and 19th centuries- and at at least for the first third or so of the 20th- being able to play an instrument was a standard expectation of middle class people. Both my parents learned to read music in public school (one in Montana and one in California), my mother at one time hoped to be a concert pianist and two of my grandparents (both raised on farms in Kansas) played piano very well. Playing piano was required in most places in order to get a certificate to teach school. Likewise, a knowledge of perspective and the ability to draw at least competently was an expected 'accomplishment' of educated people that all children learned in school. There was a fair amount of public support for the arts also, and lots of college scholarships were awarded on the basis of written essays or short stories. Amateur theater was common in many places, too.

In many countries all this is still true- as well as the kind of public support for children, schools, housing and health care that allows people to work fewer hours and pursue the arts on the side. And when you have a basic competence in producing music, art and literature you are more likely to appreciate it and pay good money to hear and see superb examples of it. Here in the Czech Republic, famous for its classical music, film and theater, people still flock to the movies, theaters and concert halls- and tourists come from all over the world to hear the music, so there is plenty of work available. I have friends who are actors in small theaters and members of my husband's family are musicians- trained at public conservatories and making a reasonable living as classical and jazz musicians. People still read a great deal, too, though there are no longer lines around the block for book signings the way I used to see in the early years after the Revolution.

P.J. Post said:
I'd argue that the majority of the mainstream music industry has already fallen off this cliff. And, for the most part, everyone seems to be pretty much fine with it. It's like listening to music as mp3s through ear buds. Have you ever heard a cello live? I'd ask if that experience matters anymore, but the answer is clearly no, at least to most consumers. Reproducing music, like any natural sound reproduction, requires large-ish speakers moving lots of air. Hi-fidelity is yet another casualty from the onslaught of convenient tech. Younger generations (and increasingly, the older ones, too), seem to be completely content with the utter lack of depth and nuance inherent in plasticized reproductions.
Well, as I say, in this country there's certainly no lack of live music- classical, rock, or jazz. I don't think it's dying by any means. And I haven't noticed any lack of young people wanting to become musicians. I do think the US and Britain have let everything become too commoditized. Life is so uncertain and stressful for a lot of people that they just want to collapse at the end of the day and take their minds off everything. I'm hopeful about the up and coming generation, though. They seem to me to want something more from life- and to be quite intelligent and resourceful about getting it.

P.J. Post said:
So the question is: do you think novels are likely to follow these trends, or have they already? If so, is it because readers don't have the time to invest? Or is it because the authors don't have the time to invest?

Or am I tilting at windmills? ::)
I don't know. There have been times in my life when things were rough and all I wanted to do was sit and stare at the TV soaps or read a formulaic piece of fiction. Then, when things were better and I had time and emotional energy for thinking more deeply about things I read literature and poetry, watched classic and 'art' films and went to more concerts. I'm not sure it's any different for most people today. As for writing, I was raised to believe you couldn't make a living writing fiction and the examples I saw pretty much confirmed that. So the question of whether I could make money as a writer never bothered me a lot. I've always wanted to write what I want to write and I'm supremely grateful that the technology has come around to letting me do that without going broke. So on the whole I'd say- some things are worse than they were. Some things are better. As always.
 

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P.J. Post said:
As a lover of all things story, I'm curious what you think about the creative direction of publishing - from a writer's perspective.

....

Or am I tilting at windmills? ::)
While I sympathize with your judgement on Hollywood, I think its decline is tied to the possibilities opened up by technology and new media. Hollywood films are more expensive to make, but, paradoxically, high-quality independent movies have never been cheaper to make or easier to fund. The same goes for self-publishing: Reducing the costs of publishing has removed the barriers to the new and innovative. Moreover, the increased take-home allows writers to make money from stories that have small audiences. All this makes me largely indifferent to the fate of Hollywood and more optimistic than pessimistic about the future.

By the way, Ex Machina was one of the few films I've enjoyed in recent years. Of course, it's also one of the few I've bothered to watch.

Skip Knox said:
Maybe Sturgeon's Law will help: seventy percent of everything is crap.
He said 90% of everything is [crap]. Looks like you need to trash another 20% of your collection. ;D

Amanda M. Lee said:
I think someone is bored and looking to stir up a fight.
Well, attributing bad motives to a poster stirs up crap 90% of the time. That's Dean's law.
 

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Sarah Shaw said:
I'm not sure that there's ever been a lot of financial stature associated with Art of any kind- it's just that making money didn't used to be the sole criteria by which people judged whether something was worth pursuing or not. In the 18th and 19th centuries....
It's not that disagree with much of what you said (and it was interesting too), but I disagree with the reason you provided for it. Commodification is a minor effect that has been turned into the all-encompassing cause. Take music. The technology that allowed us to record and distribute music cheaply caused an enormous change in how we listen and what we listen to. This is when musicians went from living in a bell-curve world to living in the world of winner-take-all power curves. DJs replaced bands, especially local ones; radios replaced music halls. Patrons no longer picked up the slack outside classical music circles.

But I think we're coming full circle with the internet. Indie acts can pick up a following and make a living again. So we're returning to something like the nineteenth century.
 

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Literature, like all mass media, has had its rise and fall. The novel was a pretty costly item before the mass printing of the 19th century and the accompanying newspaper boom. Serialists, such as Dickens, collected up their serials and sold them in book form, creating the mass market book, just perfect for the exploding middle class, forever ruining quality literature. Over the years, challenges to books included vaudeville shows, recordings, moving pictures, radio, television, and computer games.

For being a dead art form, books sure do keep kicking hard.
 

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1. No.

2. Most people who say "literature is dying" tend to confuddle taste (their own) with literary quality

3. I have definitely seen movies (even some Hollywood ones) whose underlying quality was literary and read books that would not have looked out of place in literary fiction, but they happened to be genre first

4. The existing dichotomy that if it earns well it much be pap and if it's literary (defined by arbitrary standards i.e. it does/doesn't conform to someone's taste) it can't earn well is a big fat load of BS
 

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Lorri Moulton said:
My grandmother was a singer and musician for years (mainly classical music) and she loved this scene. Everyone is a critic! 8)

My son is a professional classical musician. This *still* gets quoted a lot. Usually followed by laughter.
 

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There's a long list of famous authors (and probably painters, composers, etc.) who have warned about the commercialization of art. But honestly, it's not something I'd be too worried about.

"We need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and production of art - Ursula K. Le Guin"

"if you are writing without zest, without gusto,without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself-Ray Bradbury"

Different types of people like different types of stories, but the one thing is universal is, 'people like stories.' - so they will continue to be produced and consumed.
 

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KelliWolfe said:
NINETY percent. :)

There are plenty of good movies and good books getting made, despite the usual dreck. A whole lot of them in both industries are by indies. Same as it ever was.
If you hadn't mentioned the 'NINETY' percent, I would have.

I propose a graduated scale, with maybe twenty percent approaching the non-crap top ten percent, to be called the Near-Good Twenty, and of course, everyone's scale will be a bit different, with one person's 10% good stuff smack at the other end of someone else's scale. :)
 

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I write unashamed pulp adventures because that's what I like reading. I work hard on my craft, but I'm also looking to produce something my readers will enjoy rather than aiming for abstract literary merit. I've read and enjoyed both literary and genre works, but my creative heart belongs to genre.

What I want from any piece is honesty. I dislike it when a piece is presented as something it's not.
 

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Eyeroll.

Double eyeroll.

Shakespeare was, in his time, regarded as popular drivel only fit for the masses, while many other works of supposed "literature" faded into deserving obscurity.

Bob Dylan was just "pop" or "folk", worthless modern garbage to the critics of his day. He has a Nobel Prize.

Mickey Spillane's stock is rising as "literature" 20 years after his death. Just popular garbage back then.

Only time and consensus, not current critics or the hoity-toity literati, can judge whether something is literature.

And why in the hell does anyone, anywhere, equate art with somehow deserving money? There is no intrinsic connection. For anything to make money, it must have mass appeal. Art that lacks mass appeal must be evaluated for its own sake.

In other words, it's the false connection between literary value and monetary success that's the culprit here. Just like the false connection between how moral a person is and how life treats them. Just like the false connection between external beauty and personal worth.

All of these various false connections, when people believe them, create skewed outcomes. Feel free to rail about them all you want, but they won't change in the long run. Hamburgers will always outsell 5-course foodie meals. Can you make foodie burgers? Sure, and that may create huge commercial success, but that requires mastering more than just the art of making a burger--that requires mass production skills, marketing skills and so on. And there's no guarantee that your definition of "foodie" matches the public's.

So, this tired old topic is something to discuss among ourselves, but don't bother thinking anything will ever actually change. The common person's tastes will fall firmly within the bell curve. Only things that also fall within that bell curve will sell.
 
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