I’ve had a theory for several years that readers are becoming less capable of internalizing deep thought and extracting the meaning of words. That immersion into electronic culture has somehow radically changed the human mind, the mechanics of how we think, and the very essence of who we are.
This was personally noticeable to me during the 1990s when, by reason of my job as a computer software developer, I was forced to change my thinking from linear coding to object-oriented development. Essentially, when we (used to) think, we thought in a linear pattern. This was reflected in the chronology of our stories, the way we spoke, the way we internalized information. We never would say “I bought a gadget at the store, I went to the store, I got in the car, I ate dinner, then I had breakfast” in telling about our day. There was a linear progression that nailed our actions to the great stream of time, to provide context to our activities and without it, sentences, stories, life did not make much sense. Not so after learning how to “quantum leap.” We all learned to do it. We no longer needed the preliminaries and prerequisites of learning. Just “cut to the chase.” We could say “I bought a gadget at the store” and fill in all the rest. We learned to make assumptions about what people did not say. Story-telling became less of an art, and more of an expedience. Our acceptance of material became fragmented. We watched movies, jumping from scene to scene and demanding that our subconscious fill in the blanks. Our lives became that way. Our imaginations. How is it that so many people who failed ninth grade algebra tout “quantum physics” as a metaphysical base for this dimensional reality? Have any of them have even studied quantum physics? Mostly not. They just took a quantum leap to get the concept.
And that’s what our books became like. Start in the middle of the action. Forget the setup and character development. The reader wants a fix, right now. Tickle those synapses immediately, or the book dies. Push those reader buttons. No more luring into another world by sleight of pen in hand. Bang. Give it to them in simple words. Right now. Emulate movies, texting, other electronic stimuli. The written word became no more than a drug, with authors the supplier, and readers needing a thirty-second fix. Hook them in thirty-seconds or they move onto the next supplier. And with all the free books, they have a ready supply. No more cherishing a book of old. They’re inundated. And authors feel forced to crank out books like machines, forever pushing reader buttons to supply the next fix, forgetting the deeper reasons for their callings to write.
This became even more evident to me after a recent attack by the Goodreads bullies. These people don’t purchase books to read, they just attack authors by giving one-star reviews and saying nasty things. A couple of them go so far as to download free books to have material to attack, while the rest applaud them for their alleged ability and facility with the language. Some of them might even download a free book to have something to attack, but they do not approach the material as true readers–they approach it as an enemy seeking something to obliterate. To do this, they attempt to use intellectual prowess to destroy the spirit of authors and the thing they hate: books. How can these people claim to be readers when they clearly hate authors and books? After reading some of their statements the reason became evident: these attackers are not only not readers, they cannot read. They have lost the ability to internalize the written word, to extract meaning from symbols on paper. They do not understand metaphor, subtext, theme. They do not allow for character development, allusion, scene setup. They cannot understand the finer points and deeper meanings of word choices. They are incapable of reading, so they attack that which they do not understand—like any bad guy in any book. For whatever personal reasons—abusive childhoods, internal scarring, lack of connection with nature or humanity—they have lost the ability to look inward, to feel their hearts, to join with authors in an adventure.
This may not change until the power goes out and we’re forced to recover the humanness of our existence. Or until texting goes out of style.
I was heartened to read that I’m not the only one who has noticed this trend. A recent article published in the Washington Post backs me up.
To loyal fans, my apologies for unpublishing my books (and for skewing the text on those published). I’m attempting to reclaim my rights which were violated by the bullies of Goodreads and Amazon.