It’s come to my attention that there were some mistakes in the previous story post, based off an earlier version of the text. Readers are assured that if there are any more mistakes, they are completely intentional. I held off posting for a little while, as I am obviously burned out, but here is a piece of non fiction I wrote for you. THE BRIGHTON MYSTERIES will continue in the new year.
YOU’LL FLOAT TOO:
What does the demise of physical media and the age of access mean for fiction?
By Francis Fenn
1.KILL YOUR DARLINGS
We used to go to the cinema and swim in the solemn light of the shared hallucination there. Then the era of home entertainment on cassette and disc came and we stopped going out, the legendary mutiplexes of the past becoming a folk tale as the last of them was closed down and replaced with a Costa Coffee.
Then the Internet came and we were all connected, and the third phase began.
The term “swim” in the context of light on a screen may seem like a strange idiom, but it seems appropriate to me as one can, of course, “bask in the glow” of a warm light and this is a common expression, and films when projected (ie “proper cinema”) often leave me with the sensation of floating like having an out of body experience must feel, particularly if the action takes place under water.
They say that a library is worth its weight in gold, but I can’t say that a library of films is the exactly the same story. In fact it’s worth about £4.71 at CEX, give-or-take a few ££ if you have any rare discs in your collection. Only recently in the news,HMV is going into administration again, and so we could conclude that the age of physical media is over, or at least that most of what is still sold is done through Amazon or other online sources. Despite the fact that I can’t ever seem to find the thing I want to watch on Netflicks, or even Amazon Prime, I’m coming around to this idea. I haven’t had a TV licence for years, the BBC has nothing unless you enjoy panel shows and extreme political correctness. But the idea of spending money on housing a collection of shows on physical media seems really weird. TV is supposed to be throwaway. Films are a little more worthy of being considered as art maybe, but I’m not gonna watch most of them more than one or two times.
And so I sold my DVD collection. Or most of what I could get more than 1p for, anyway. Those that were not worth anything, like foreign region discs (region locking is another one of the great betrayals of DVD by the way) – they went to the charity shop. And as much as I hate giving money to a company like Amazon (and you should too, if you care), I think streaming may be the future. Along with the occasional trip to whatever cinema for the “going out” experience. I want to rediscover that feeling of switching on when I need to chill out and just discovering something. What’s on? I don’t really care, as long as I don’t have to curate it and it doesn’t exist in an echo chamber like my recommendations from Youtube or Amazon, where algorithms just give me the same shit.
Because I want content chosen by another human being. Ideally because they thought it was worth seeing…
2.MEMOIRS OF A DISILLUSIONED SOCIALIST
And I don’t want to give any of my money to the BBC. My reasons for that are pragmatic and ideological. I’d say TV is virtually a human right at this point in time. Making people pay some kind of communist charge for it, so that you can go and spend 86 million on a new set for Eastenders, when so many people are homeless, is Total Fucking Bullshit.
People will pay the TV licence because, like anything, they feel it gives good value. And people value escapism. If we just wated to know what’s going on we’d watch Youtube. Or god forbid, talk to someone. Look at the amount of escapism on television. Look at how much is fiction, or reality tv that’s basically a fiction, that teaches us nothing. For the government this is GREAT, because it keeps you distracted, and servile – and they fucking charge us for it! That’s not even to mention the value of television as propaganda.
Fiction does serve a useful function in that it teaches us to have empathy with other people (usually). And any good story can do that, book or film. If it’s not doing that, I usually feel like that’s a pretty basic failure. I mean, we have to care about the characters. I think that’s why Marvel, or Nu-Star Wars for that matter, will never work for me.
Television has traditionally been seen as less of an “art” than film because it relies heavily on”what happens next” value. But serialised fiction has always done this too, and no one says that Charles Dickens was the worse for it, to give one example. I think that it’s good that television is being made now that is well shot, well written, that you can watch over again. But I’m not convinced that I need to own it in my home.
I imagine Charley Brooker, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, holed up in his home trying to defend his valuable box sets of The Wire.
3.RIAN JOHNSON IS… THE MODERN ALAN SMITHEE
And so now, with Black Mirror, we have interactive television. This has been coming for a while. I suppose fanservice always existed, but the internet has given us the ability to give feedback in real time, like we’re there in the theatre throwing shit.
People on Youtube were able, for a while now, to assemble their own cuts of divisive films like The Last Jedi, trying to edit out all the parts that made fans want to puke.
And the big media dinosaurs are beginning to take notice. Maybe letting people choose their own adventures isn’t just another gimmick like 3D? Maybe being able to edit and direct the story is what people actually want, and this is here to stay?
Or maybe not.
As to what this all means for art and artistry, that’s something I want to talk about next time. I’ll also talk about what the “age of access” means for books and the printed word – seeing as that’s what I do here.