I’m into my fourth year of putting out stories and in the wider literary world nothing much has changed in all this time. In fact things are getting worse. The bestseller lists continue to be dominated by artless horseshit which any of us could churn out in a week.
As I write this the current bestsellers list on Amazon is almost exclusively comprised of awful thrillers and predictable romances. The opening line of the number 1 bestseller blurb (I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll) sums this up perfectly:
When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it…
Teenage girls on a train.
Girls on a train.
Girl on a train.
Girl on the train.
The Girl on the Train.
Fuck me furiously.
If that isn’t blatant product placement then I don’t know what is. They might as well have said ‘sponsored by Trump Towers’ and be done with it. Hopefully you weren’t one of the hundreds of thousands of people who fell for it…
But how did we arrive at this? Ten years ago I would’ve predicted that things would’ve taken a different direction to what they have; that there’d be queues of authors and artists taking full advantage of the unprecedented free creative expression afforded to us by the internet. Instead we’ve got authors falling over themselves to make as much money as they possibly can by mustering up the most inoffensive drivel they are capable of. Even the Guardian supports it with open arms which you can see both here and here.
It’s all about the money. Give me your fucking money.
But how did we arrive at this? The traditional publishing world is responsible for some great literature over the years. However, it’s also responsible for training many readers to see books as nothing more than a Big Mac and large fries. Consequently free expression in the creative arts continues to be shackled by the pursuit of profit which squeezes out all traces of originality. Once a story goes viral in the Digital Age, we all have to endure countless imitations for many years to come.
What’s the response? If you’re writing stories then don’t imitate the same old unless you want mouthy upstarts like me to call you out. Continue to fly the flag of dissent; even if nobody gives much of a shit right now. Writing belongs to us; not the Amazon algorithms which are encouraging authors to unashamedly write stories for profit.
If you’re a reader then occasionally support the alternative that broadly represents your values. Among the piles of wanky books about girls on public transport, there are books which are speaking out against abuses of power, corporate greed and a stagnant cultural scene. Give it a crack of the whip.
We all need to keep angry—for art’s sake. Otherwise all we have to look forward to is more of the same shit. Ad infinitum. Our culture dies a slow painful death and Amazon lives on for all eternity.
Orwell would turn in his grave.