Saturday, January 17, 2009

How we get our entertainment

I've mentioned before on this little blog about how I wonder what my grandparents would have felt about the way folks get their news, entertainment, and companionship today. They were simple folks, dirt farmers in rural Alabama. Companionship consisted of family and friends coming to visit on Sundays and going to church. That was about it.
Entertainment was the radio. None of them read much so there was no daily paper or regular magazine subscritions. They had Bibles and that was the library. No TV. No cable. No Internet. They did not even have a telephone until the mid-60s.

Two things got me to thinking about how far we have come since they were passing what little free time they had by sitting on the front porch on lazy Sunday afternoons, talking, telling stories, visiting. First my nine-year-old grandaughter, Alexa, was showing me all her favorite videos on YouTube. She's past TV. "Boring," she says of most of the shows. And it bothers her that she has to go to all the trouble to set the DVR for a show she wants to see later. YouTube lets her watch "Charlie the Unicorn" anytime she wants and as many times as she wants. Makes me think of how my own kids--including Alexa's dad--griped and complained when we lost the remote control once and they actually had to get up and walk to the TV to change the channel!
Good or bad trends for our kids and grandkids? Like most innovation, some of both. They are exposed to so much more than my generation was. The opportunity for learning and broadening perspective is a wonderful thing. The opportunity for their being exposed to wrong-headedness, prejudice, and perversion is something that keeps me awake at night.
Here's the second thing. Most of us take for granted the vast offerings available to us just beyond the modem. Today I got a note from my friend Wayne Long (amateur radio call sign K9YNF). Wayne runs an interesting website called Wayne is a prolific (and very, very good) storyteller and offers his works on a subscription basis. Like most who want to write to be read (as opposed to those who want to write to get rich and are, thus, almost all doomed to failure), Wayne has found a way to reach an audience while giving value to what he is creating. I highly recommend the site.
He is also running a short story contest that might be of interest to others who are driven to tell stories via a medium where they just might get read.
This fits this particular post topic because it got me to thinking about where writers of fifty years ago were able to reach their audience. Yes, there were books. But there were also a number of widely-circulated magazines that published fiction--Playboy, Esquire, and a ton more, including many in genre such as detective, romance, science fiction--and they all gave a means for writers to hone their craft and reach readers. A place to work on their craft, so to speak, and get paid for doing it. A place to build a following, too, that would eventually help them sell enough books to write for a living.
Those magazines are long gone. Sites such as Wayne's will, I hope, give writers a way to tell their stories so they can be accessed by readers.
Otherwise, where are the Dashiel Hammets, Truman Capotes, and other great writers going to flex their muscles? Where can we have that "farm team" that good writers can access while they get ready for the "majors?"

Don Keith N4KC

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