Do you ever play that game, what will the world look like fifty years from now? one hundred years from now? Will we still read books on paper? Will we listen to the Beatles? Will anyone remember me?
In the world of literature there are some authors whose work is so significant, it forms the basis of our culture. The surviving Greek classics are over 2500 years old. The King James Version of the Bible was completed, in the age of Shakespeare. The works of Jane Austin depict life in England two hundred years later, while Wordsworth, Keats, Dickens and a host of other authors shared a golden age of letters at the end of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth. These works will be read and studied so long as our civilization remains.
For writers of popular fiction today, the situation is quite different. For most of us, six weeks in a publisher’s rack, maybe a reissue a few years later, and a digital copy buried somewhere in cyberspace is the norm. There are exceptions. The works of Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer, have become classics of their type and remain in print for another generation to enjoy. Every writer dreams of that kind of success, but few realize it.
There’s also the question of the medium. Electronic files are at particular risk as technology changes. Floppy discs anyone? How many of you have lost files when you upgraded your software or operating system? I threw out a box full of those 3½ inch squares when my new computer didn’t have a slot for them. At my alma mater, there is a whole department devoted to maintaining old records and new donations. The head of that department, Jeremy Heil, has had to become a tech wizard in order to do his job.
He is faced with a wide variety of file formats, operating systems and hardware, including floppy disks, 8-tracks, vinyls and any number of computer file types, many of which are now obsolete. “Every day,” he says, “I have to evaluate old formats that can no longer be read.”
Predicting the future is risky business, but I can now state with confidence that at least three of my books will be around fifty years from now. My municipality has created a time capsule and books from local authors, including me, are in it . Turns out there are a lot of authors in my region, including M. Wylie Blanchet, author of The Curve of Time. Mrs. Blanchet died in 1961 but her book about exploring the waters around Vancouver Island with her five young children is considered a Canadian classic. I’m honoured that my books share a time capsule with hers.
Town hall has created a wall of author pics and bios to publicize the event — it’s part of the fiftieth anniversary for the municipality. As you can see from the picture at the top, I got a wall all to myself while others had to share window space. What you can’t see is that my page is behind a card rack! I realized I’m in good company when I discovered Myfanwy Pavelic’s page behind a potted plant.
Ah well, it’s all publicity and it’s exciting to think my books will be around fifty years from now.