“There is a Singularity, and it is Google, and it is also very stupid.” This is perhaps my favorite bit of wisdom shared with me by a coworker (Sir Alex Badley, in particular) during one of our short windows of illumination between work.
His point is that while the internet opens up huge, casement windows of opportunity and knowledge (all at the tip of our fingers), the processi and algorithmi of ye oft-exalted search engine are narrowing our field of vision to the point of singularity, which defeats the purpose of all that knowledge at all those fingertips. The fact is this: We are led to search what everyone else is searching (in the same suggested words), we are led to read what everyone else is reading, and we are led to consume whatever is the most popular, since everything else is reduced to white noise on page 50 of search-engine-nonoptimization-ville. This content still exists, if people wish to find it, but it has essentially lost all value.
This is affecting authors and publishing, too. Publishing companies had been paying larger advances to pick up really promising bestsellers, because when a book gets big, it gets RAIL BHIG thanks to the singularity. You’ll notice this: you might have a few books on hold at the library or even on your personal bookshelf that you bought because everyone else was reading it, not because it’s particularly interesting to you. The side effect is that our attention is short lived, and every book–no matter how good–is essentially a fad, waiting to be replaced by the next bigger-est thing that the singularity opts to promote.
The result for authors can be really nice…
…if your book essentially goes viral. Once your writing becomes popular, the Singularity (All Hail the Mighty Search Engine) will inevitably focus the wider attention on you. And keep in mind that The Singularity only magnifies peoples’ tastes. In High Fantasy terms: You cannot seek to wield its power for your own. So, trying to will your book into viral popularity is like the guy I saw driving down the freeway with a mattress strapped to the top of his car and one hand out the window, as if he could stop a freakin’ mattress (read: fluffy, spring-loaded SAIL) from flying off his car.
The good and the bad takeaway from this is that there’s nothing you, as one person, can do about The Singularity. Let it free you or damn you: either way, remember that in order to “go viral” you’ve got to have content out there in the first place.
Here’s a mountain to brighten your week.
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Don’t steal my words. They’re mine. Zachary Barnes 2016©