It seems that the world as we know it is about to end, but most of us haven't noticed. I guess it's not the kind of thing you usually want to go noticing.
The "world" I'm talking about isn't the actual world (I'm pretty sure Earth will be around for a while yet, and I'm quite confident people will be scumming up the surface while simultaneously inhabiting the little worlds inside their heads for at least a bit longer too); I'm not prophesying some pseudo-Mayan-apocalypse scenario, or fireballs, or gods and angels stepping down from on high to mess with us. But a lot of the little details of our daily lives seem to be teetering on some sort of edge, and they're being inexorably pushed over.
And the internet has done it.
Scott Kurtz, who does PVPonline, has a lot to say about what it means to be a webcomic guy, and how the "old boys" of traditional print comics and syndication view him and his peers, and how they just Don't Get It™. The internet is a thing that they refuse to acknowledge, and therefore they have no idea that they should be dealing with it, let alone how. For quite a while I wondered at his passion (and, dare I say it, vitriol) on the topic – I understand it's his medium and his livelihood, but it did seem like he was taking things overly seriously. Now I feel myself definitely coming on board.
According to a TechDirt editorial, MPAA's number two admits that that industry is "not comfortable" with the Internet. We all remember the SOPA/PIPA thing right? After all, it only happened a week ago. Independent online filmmakers – let me point at, say, Felicia Day as an arbitrary example – are finding out that there are ways to build success on the internet, but Hollywood just Doesn't Get It™.
By the way, you should read that linked article. It's not very long, and it sums up quite nicely some of what I'm trying to evoke here. It's all right, this page will be here when you get back.
And now I'm hearing where my friend Katharine Kerr the author is gloomy because it's hard to sell books in today's socio-economo-whatevery climate. It would appear that the traditional publishing monolith isn't quite cutting it; and yet I know, or know of, a good many folks who are quite successful at independently publishing materials and distributing them using the magical powers of the internet. These vary from hobbyists to RPG creators to professional novel-writing authors; using tools like kickstarter to raise capital, distributing their materials through amazon and the iBooks store and whatever other channels they can find, garnering community support, crowd-funding and crowd-sourcing their success.
Kit's cool, she gets it; but there's not a great deal she can do about it. The whole concept of breaking away would be a huge gamble for her, since her books are her entire livelihood, and if it all were to go pear shaped the consequences for her could be quite devastating.
And she can't change the system; she is just an author. The edifice that is Publishing doesn't care for or about authors, the same way the music industry doesn't care for or about its artists. Sure, there are cool "gets it" people like Trent Reznor who make music but aren't a part of The Music Industry; but to be frank Trent's a crazy artist who would make his music even if he couldn't afford to eat. That kind of person will never be brought down by the Machine.
What I was trying to say, before I got all rambly, was that the internet seems to be providing a reach and a voice for people as individuals that hasn't been possible before. And as a result it's breaking down all the great conglomerates, which are quite big and far-reaching at the moment, and allowing people to work by and for themselves and to succeed at it.
I know it will have an effect on our day-to-day lives, I can only wonder what that effect will be.
And I hope Kit gets a chance to publish a book by herself, and that it's a huge success.