Commonality of reading experience

Any old topic will do, I suppose.

Commonality of reading experience

Postby Liege-Killer » Fri Sep 05, 2008 9:03 pm

Here's a thought I've been meaning to put out here for discussion for some time now.

As time goes on and more and more and more books come into existence, how will people be able to have any reading experiences in common?

In past centuries, when the total amount of literature in the world was still rather small, any two educated and well-read people (from the same part of the world, say Europe for example) who met would naturally have a lot in common in terms of what they had read.

Today, with millions of books in existence, it has become much harder, hasn't it? There are still some standards that most educated people will be familiar with: the Iliad, Hamlet, Huck Finn, and the like. But even so, if you look at any list of 100 greatest works of literature, how many people these days will have read all or even most of them? The same is true even within specific genres, including science fiction. We've probably all read some Heinlein, Asimov, etc. But beyond that, our experiences are likely to diverge quite a lot. There are just SO many books in the world.

So, project this forward hundreds of years, or a thousand years, when the number of literary works has multiplied, perhaps into uncounted billions. And even if only a small percentage of those are considered "great" works, there will still be far too many for any one person to read in a lifetime. In such a future, how will people have a shared "canon" of literature to share and discuss? Will people even care? Will people even still read at all?

Just something I've been thinking about lately. Opinions?
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Postby Omphalos » Fri Sep 05, 2008 9:24 pm

I'd bet you will get a different answer here then you will at a Michael Chriton site, or a John Grisham fansite. :lol:

Seriously, I know what you mean. Ive read all of the 100 most important books (several different list of them, actually) and Ive read almost all the important SF books, and I can't find much common ground with other readers. That is one of the reasons I drone on and on about themes. Its the one thing that I think can be used to reduce all good books to a common pile; the only thing that will get people talking about he same things, even if they arise in different works.
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Postby Liege-Killer » Sat Sep 06, 2008 5:51 pm

Omphalos wrote:That is one of the reasons I drone on and on about themes. Its the one thing that I think can be used to reduce all good books to a common pile; the only thing that will get people talking about he same things, even if they arise in different works.


Good point. You know what we need? A special sub-forum for themes... and motifs.... and tropes.... and stuff..... oh wait..... yeah, nevermind. :lol:
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Postby Omphalos » Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:01 pm

Ill work on that. :D
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Postby GamePlayer » Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:58 pm

People gravitate toward their favorites and will always find those with the same common "tastes", even in a land-o-plenty. Humans naturally filter information; certain reading habits and interests will inevitably lead people to discover common literature.

However, the big difference with books is they are much more personal and less a shared experience than films or music. Books require individual imagination and because books are so much more numerous they can be more finely tailored to suit an individual reader. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say the reader has a much greater selection of authors from which to choose, thus allowing them to find a better, more suitable "fit" to their own tastes. You experience a book by yourself without any social interaction, because no one else can read it with you (unless they have a second copy, but who reads like that anyway?). It's also an unfortunate reality that fewer people read actual books, so right there your potential shared experiences with other readers will be less frequent than shared experiences between those who enjoy movies or music (who are far more common).
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Postby Trang » Sun Sep 07, 2008 11:37 pm

I believe you have to take into account, for the future, the abilities of people to read(or take in information I guess by then)is going to be greater. Im not sure if it will grow as fast as the volume, but I think they will stay in ratio.

The format will change obviously to access the information. Hopefully they will still have straight text and not some crazy holographic imaged hybrid between books/music/video.

I believe there will be great stories, and I think people will still be able to connect, despite a larger pool of information.

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Postby Freakzilla » Mon Sep 08, 2008 8:06 am

I may not know art, but I know what I like! :P
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Postby Liege-Killer » Thu Mar 26, 2009 4:52 pm

I just read something that Arthur C. Clarke said years ago, that gets at the heart of what I was trying to say with this topic. He said that "mine will be the last generation that was able to read all the noteworthy works of science fiction."
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Postby Omphalos » Thu Mar 26, 2009 5:28 pm

Liege-Killer wrote:I just read something that Arthur C. Clarke said years ago, that gets at the heart of what I was trying to say with this topic. He said that "mine will be the last generation that was able to read all the noteworthy works of science fiction."


Sorry to make ACC wrong, but his will NOT be. :wink:
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Postby Liege-Killer » Thu Mar 26, 2009 6:08 pm

:lol:

Go Omph go, you reading machine!
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Postby GamePlayer » Fri Mar 27, 2009 8:39 am

Not really. All the noteworthy authors are still published and only a select amount of noteworthy authors have been published since :)

Then again, I suppose this all depends upon your definition of "noteworthy" :)
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Postby A Thing of Eternity » Fri Mar 27, 2009 10:30 am

I think Clarke had a point though, whenever I think about putting together a list of great SF to read in my lifetime I get a little (lot) intimidated. And as far as them all still being published, that's debatable, many great authors (and bands and artists) are simply over the heads of the general public and don't sell well. Look at FH, most of his books are out of print, and many of them are at least as good as Dune on certain levels. Pretty easy for great authors to just dissapear.
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Postby Omphalos » Fri Mar 27, 2009 11:55 am

A Thing of Eternity wrote:I think Clarke had a point though, whenever I think about putting together a list of great SF to read in my lifetime I get a little (lot) intimidated. And as far as them all still being published, that's debatable, many great authors (and bands and artists) are simply over the heads of the general public and don't sell well. Look at FH, most of his books are out of print, and many of them are at least as good as Dune on certain levels. Pretty easy for great authors to just dissapear.


I have a list. It can be done. Its about 3K stories (books, novellas, novelettes, short stories, and micro-shorts), and Im know that there is a lot of repetition on it because I put it together from a bunch of other's lists, but it can be done, and is it ever long. I was telling someone once that when I put it together I considered my own mortality: I could not go to 4K books because I would not live long enough to read that many. :D
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Postby GamePlayer » Fri Mar 27, 2009 12:26 pm

I'm almost as bad with films as you are with books. I've probably only read a few hundred books at best. But film, my current record is 170 films watched in one year :)
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Postby A Thing of Eternity » Fri Mar 27, 2009 1:37 pm

Omphalos wrote:
A Thing of Eternity wrote:I think Clarke had a point though, whenever I think about putting together a list of great SF to read in my lifetime I get a little (lot) intimidated. And as far as them all still being published, that's debatable, many great authors (and bands and artists) are simply over the heads of the general public and don't sell well. Look at FH, most of his books are out of print, and many of them are at least as good as Dune on certain levels. Pretty easy for great authors to just dissapear.


I have a list. It can be done. Its about 3K stories (books, novellas, novelettes, short stories, and micro-shorts), and Im know that there is a lot of repetition on it because I put it together from a bunch of other's lists, but it can be done, and is it ever long. I was telling someone once that when I put it together I considered my own mortality: I could not go to 4K books because I would not live long enough to read that many. :D


Any kind of priority order in the list, or is it just a jumble?
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Postby Freakzilla » Fri Mar 27, 2009 1:56 pm

I see a different side of this issue.

In the future the question will not be the readers asking, "How will I read all these books?"

It will be the authors asking, "How do I get on that list?"

At least I hope so.

The real difference between the present and the past in this respect is that in the past, it only got written down and stayed in print if it was good. Now, it seems any moron can write a best seller.

The real question is who decides what is academic literature.
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Postby Omphalos » Fri Mar 27, 2009 2:52 pm

A Thing of Eternity wrote:
Omphalos wrote:
A Thing of Eternity wrote:I think Clarke had a point though, whenever I think about putting together a list of great SF to read in my lifetime I get a little (lot) intimidated. And as far as them all still being published, that's debatable, many great authors (and bands and artists) are simply over the heads of the general public and don't sell well. Look at FH, most of his books are out of print, and many of them are at least as good as Dune on certain levels. Pretty easy for great authors to just dissapear.


I have a list. It can be done. Its about 3K stories (books, novellas, novelettes, short stories, and micro-shorts), and Im know that there is a lot of repetition on it because I put it together from a bunch of other's lists, but it can be done, and is it ever long. I was telling someone once that when I put it together I considered my own mortality: I could not go to 4K books because I would not live long enough to read that many. :D


Any kind of priority order in the list, or is it just a jumble?


Its a mess
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Postby Hunchback Jack » Fri Mar 27, 2009 3:11 pm

In the future, there will be more books available to people, but perhaps only just as many books "in circulation" as there are now. That is, books and authors of today will be forgotten tomorrow, and be replaced in people's minds with other books and authors.

For example, I'd be interested to know whether my grandchildren's generation will read much Asimov. Or Heinlein. Or Clarke. Those names may be known to them (if they read SF), but will they bother to go back to read them? I wonder. So the accumulation of books over time may not have such an effect.

Also, I think the publishing industry is becoming more homogeneous, trying to cater to more readers. When the Da Vinci code came out, there was a slew of religious thriller novels that became widely read. Twilight is generating a whole slew of vampire-based teen fiction. There seems to be a trend in supernatural bounty-hunter women's fiction, too.

What people read will be influenced more by what authors and genres are promoted. Oprah's book club (and the like) will become more influential.

Both these forces - old authors being forgotten, and the quest for wide appeal - act against the complete fragmentation of readership that would occur if every book ever made stayed in print. So things may not change too much from how they are now.

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Postby Liege-Killer » Fri Mar 27, 2009 3:52 pm

Omphalos wrote:I have a list. It can be done. Its about 3K stories [...]


(cue BSG theme music)

He was born to ordinary parents.

He was taught to read at an early age.

He was headed for great things, perhaps a career as a lawyer.

Then he rebelled and became a science fiction geek.

And he has a plan!


:lol:
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Postby Omphalos » Fri Mar 27, 2009 5:54 pm

Liege-Killer wrote:
Omphalos wrote:I have a list. It can be done. Its about 3K stories [...]


(cue BSG theme music)

He was born to ordinary parents.

He was taught to read at an early age.

He was headed for great things, perhaps a career as a lawyer.

Then he rebelled and became a science fiction geek.

And he has a plan!


:lol:


Oh! Oh! Does it involve nukes? I love nukes!
Something is about to happen, Hal. Something wonderful!

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