I've been thinking a lot about different mediums of narrative storytelling, and after seeing this video and thinking about the future of virtual reality, I've got to admit it's making me a bit anxious:
Staring at text and reading a novel is basically like staring at a sequence of symbols and vividly hallucinating. One one level it's miraculous, but on another level, how could it possibly compete with the form of multisensory perception that the future of Virtual Reality holds? Particularly interactive virtual reality? Attention is the scarce commodity in the era of the smartphone and other rapidly advancing technology.
Perhaps, then, the surprising fact isn't that novels will die out in the future, it's the fact that they haven't died out yet. And as a person deeply committed to the novel as a specific form of storytelling, its possible future irrelevance concerns me. Should I spend decades mastering a craft that will eventually go the way of the blacksmiths? Surely there will still be niches that find it appealing but the power of a novel to shake the zeitgeist's core will be gone entirely.
For many years, plays were the medium through which the masses experienced narrative, and now they've been usurped by film. Narrative, and by extension, writing, will always be with us. Maybe the future of narrative storytelling will be through the medium of virtual reality games - as opposed to virtual reality films which are, by design, not interactive. I don't know. What I do know is that I don't want to spend time learning a craft that's going the way of the dinosaurs. I've been deeply moved by novels, films, and even some video games, so on one level, as an artist, I have to be agnostic about mediums and let go of whatever literary elitism exists inside of me (to wit, I haven't even earned it!).
Art is art, I suppose, and in life, nothing is certain. Making a bet on the future is unavoidable.
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis