Literary fiction writers are often a staid, boring lot. (I should know, I’ve written in this ‘genre’ for about 5 years now, and have been reading it for decades.) But as I read in the Guardian yesterday, top novelists are now looking to ebooks to challenge the rules of fiction!
“Online fiction is a remote world, peopled by elves, dragons and whey-faced vampires. At least that is the view shared by millions of devoted readers of the printed novel. But now serious British literary talent is aiming to colonise territory occupied until now by fantasy authors and amateur fan-fiction writers.
In the vanguard is Iain Pears, the best-selling historical novelist and author of An Instance of the Fingerpost and Stone’s Fall. Pears will offer readers the chance to go back to check detailed elements of his narrative and will even flag up sections they do not have to read. “I am trying to find a new way of telling stories, and once you start thinking about it, there are almost too many possibilities,” said the Oxford-based writer, who is completing an interactive ebook for Faber that will stretch the form to its current limits. “There is no reason to think the printed book will be the defining literary format. I don’t want to be cautious any more. This is about changing the fundamentals. The worst that can happen is that it won’t work.”
It is a challenge that also intrigues acclaimed authors Blake Morrison and Will Self, although they detect some obstacles. As professor of creative writing at Goldsmiths College, at the University of London, Morrison has just launched a £10,000 prize for innovative new writing and argues that the success of experimental ebooks will depend on making interactivity more than just a feature. “Reading by its very nature is interactive – whether you do it on an iPad or with a printed book, you participate,” he said. “The novelist creates a world and the reader brings something to it. Reading is not a passive process. Literary interactivity means more than computer games. Or should do.”
I don’t like the prevalent dismissive attitude towards genre fiction, and I’m happy the ‘serious’ writers are waking up to the possibility of ebooks, and interactivity. I wouldn’t mind the ability to choose a different ending, or any other stunt the stalwarts of literary writing think up. If it is gimmicky, so what? It can be fun!
What do you think of Interactive Literary Fiction? Would you read it? Are you an ebook fan or a paper-book fan, or like, me, a bit of both?