Since the turn of this century, we've faced a significant number of apocalypses. From the grid-destroying horrors of Y2K, to the total annihilation that was to come at the end of the Mayan calendar, we (well, most of us) acknowledged our imminent destruction with little more than an ironic Facebook post before we went off to enjoy the End of the World-inspired drink specials down at the local bar. Our 21st Century apocalypses have all proven false, every one of them the product of charlatans, believed and awaited by sad people with a relish they never brought to living. So it is with our perpetually impending End of the Literary World.
One of the more annoying aspects of the writing community is the ever-present group of writers who seem to do nothing but write articles prophesying the demise of the written word. They have forsaken fiction to put all their effort into article after article hyperbolically entitled "Literature's Death Throes" or "Will Twitter Murder Jane Austen?," all of which invariably detail how Americans don't read anymore, how new media are making the book obsolete, and of course, how the epic fall of Borders has signaled the imminent closing of every single bookstore in America. Soon the only reading material available will be the Kindle version of a ghostwritten autobiography of a Kardashian. This is our future, they say. The only advice they give to new writers is to get out while you still can. It's over, kids, the world of letters is through. Switch your major to Business while you still can.
Thankfully, these defeatist dirges are balanced out by articles by actual writers, men and women who don't consider themselves misunderstood martyrs, who write more than oddly gleeful jeremiads on the downfall of print. Yes, they say, many publishing houses have fallen. Yes, reading in America is down. But if you look at history, the same was true in the 1930s. Steinbeck's publishing house folded on him just before they were to publish The Grapes of Wrath. Readership was down, because it was the Depression and you couldn't eat a book. Yet literature survived. And yes, new media are changing the way we read, but are they changing how much, and what, we read?
Perhaps, but possibly for the better. All the lamentation that the internet, et al, is destroying readership is ridiculous. A quick search of Duotrope shows hundreds of on-line literary magazines, with new on-line magazines popping up every day. If there were no readers for these magazines, these sites wouldn't exist. Even in print form—the dying media, as the prophets of doom say—literary journals are not only continuing to be, new ones are starting up as well. Far from an impending extinction, literature appears to be having a renaissance.
One of the more inspiring aspects of the writing community is the mutual support that we show each other, in spite of what some would say is our delusional Trojan-like ignorance of our looming irrelevance. We read, and buy, each other's work. We are a self-sustaining community. And we are plentiful. As long as there is a community, our future, and the future of literature, is secure.