Thursday, 4 March 2010

A world without fiction

"Stories are an essential part of everyone's being," as one character said in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

Made in 1995, this story from the show's first season describes an alien world where there is a shortage of fiction and literature, and yet some of the planet's inhabitants – a race that is obsessed with the pursuit of pleasure (– not necessarily that kind!) – are willing to risk the wrath of the elders by breaking a prime canon to satisfy their insatiable lust for stories. They will allow our heroes the technology they need to return home in exchange for... Voyager's immense catalogue of literature. And that will include Shakespeare, Dickens, Hemingway, Blyton and even Rowling.

Of course it sounds a bit on the extreme side – or at least it sounds about as far-fetched an idea as Borg drones assimilating humankind. But now that the supermarkets have been allowed to heavily discount books (which is good if you're a buyer; not so cracky if you're an author or an independent bookseller), publishers have been forced to consolidate their finances and repel as many brilliant debut authors as possible, and both BBC and ITV have decided to drastically (make that critically) reduce drama output... well, the days when the fiction-demanding public are literally crying out for further infusions of new stories may not be so far in the future.

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