Author and Technologist Robin Sloan on the Novel’s Place in a Hyper-Modern Society

Much of the writing being produced right now on the Internet is excellent but ephemeral; there’s no assurance it will be available to anyone in 100 years, or even 10. Novels, on the other hand, are just about the most durable home for words we’ve yet discovered.

If you pack a novel full of politics and culture, it might not make a dent in 2012 … but by 2022, or 2112, the rest of the words written this year will have disappeared, scoured away by time and technology upgrades, and that novel will get another swing.

We use novels, not old newspapers, to get a sense of what life was like 100 years ago. I believe 100 years from now, future generations will still use novels the same way. They’ll use novels, not tweets or posts like this.

— Robin Sloan, the author and self-proclaimed “Media Inventor,” (I wish he would stop using that term to describe himself, makes him seem like the douchebag he probably isn’t) writes for the NY Times on why new media is actually reinforcing the ever-enduring power of the novel.

I’ve enjoyed designing web pages and building iPhone apps, but I’m not convinced that any of it will be accessible for very long. That’s just the nature of the internet right now — we’re still in shakedown mode, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Plain text, though, already made it through the shakedown. Invest in text — learn to design sentences and build stories — and it’s a sure bet, no matter what the future holds.

— A few months later Sloan was interviewed by The Millions and makes his case again, this time focusing more on the power of storytelling.

Oscar Raymundo
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