Is the novel dead? According to the American critic Lee Siegel the answer is a clear yes. People are just not interested in fiction anymore.
According to Siegel, the novel does not fit into the fabric of todays world – it is “culturally irrelevant”.
However, non-fiction is booming! It is the new top source for creative, perceptive and provocative reading.
Apparently the novel has fallen victim to the commercial world – it is a commodity that must be created only to serve the publishing industry. Consumers have tired of the elite position literary fiction once held and refuse to hold it with such high regard.
This is not the first time the novel has recieved a death sentence. It seems to be a bit of a recurring theme.
In the later part of the 20th century the British novel was diagnosed as dying for several reasons.
All the novelty of the novel had been explored by the great modernist masters, the scale and inhumanity of the second world war had rendered the world unrepresentable and more people were turning to the entertainment of radio and television.
But the novel responded – British novelists found a new post-modern way of representing reality. Fiction began to interrogate old ideas of history, toying with values which had long carried strong authority.
Voices began shouting from the old British colonies, and the idea of Britishness and identity were looked at through new lenses.
The result has been an abundance of great contemporary British novels.
So the question now is – how will the novel escape the hangman’s noose this time around?
One particular response of the British novel during the end of last century was to investigate the previously neglected genres of fiction. Detective stories and action adventure tales were reassessed and valued as new tools to explore the world.
Today, one genre of fiction that deserves particular attention is science-fiction. There is no form of fiction better suited to help us make sense of this world of accelerating change.
We live in a world of genetic experimentation, artificial reality and instant communication. What was previously in the imagination of science fiction is now all around us.
We are also surrounded by new forms of power. Covert cameras register our every move; privacy is intruded upon by internet corporations; vast databases categorise every aspect of our life.
The science fiction novel is the perfect cauldron to experiment with new forms of expression in our internet age. It can help us to look at the advances of our civilisation through a literary lens.
Only then can we truly make sense of our environment and ask the question – is the internet a revolutionary new freedom – or is it a new mind forged manacle.