I spent yesterday afternoon with students studying Creative Writing and New Media at de Monfort University. I was there to talk about a secret project we're planning for next year (!) and we spent quite a bit of time talking about the role of fiction in the modern hyperlinked digital world. Penguin editor Jon and I were roundly accused of taking a far too 'linear' approach to fiction, meaning that we should be thinking about how we use the technology available to create new forms of literature. Lines of text printed in ink on paper (or even downloaded as an ebook) miss the opportunity to create new and immersive forms of narrative which might stimulate readers trained in the non-linear world of myspace, youtube and del.ico.us.
We explained that our role as publishers was to serve our authors and package, promote and distribute their work as well as we possibly can and that to date very few of our authors (meaning zero) have approached us with a desire to publish anything other than a pretty conventional linear work with a beginning, a middle and sometimes even an ending.
But on the train back Jon and I were wondering whether our approach is hopelessly, well, square. Is non-linear the way forward? Is the world ready for interactive, multi-dimensional fiction? Are 21st century readers crying out for 'notbooks' that dispense with traditional narrative form and structure? Should we give up publishing books and start publishing and distributing computer games instead? Is this the future of creative writing?
So, readers of this blog, what do you think? Your thoughts and comments greatly appreciated.
Jeremy Ettinghausen, Digital Publisher