Well, it turns out my mother may have been right after all* – listening to music with positive messages in the lyrics encourages consideration and empathetic behaviour in teenagers, according to research at the University of Sussex here in the UK. Apparently, people who listen Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” are more likely to help pick up some knocked-over pencils than those who’ve listened to a neutral or negative tune. [image by Vagamundos]
(I’ve obviously been emotionally mutilated by a lifetime of listening to hirsute and/or black-clad people torturing guitars… if presented with a bunch of pencils in the presence of Michael Jackson songs, my first instinct would be to jam one up each nostril and headbutt the nearest desk until I achieved release.)
But this throws an interesting light on Jetse de Vries’ call for optimistic science fiction – if the same psychology pertains to the written word as it does to music, perhaps science fiction readers (and writers) really would be more positive in their outlook if there were more stories written in such a mode.
[ * – This sentence is purely included for stylistic effect; as should be completely obvious, my mother was always right about everything. ]
Things don’t look great for the publishing industry right now, with retailers folding en masse and publishers consolidating. It’s convinced some folk to read publishing its eulogy, but Douglas Rushkoff has a more positive long-term outlook for the world of books in a short article for Publisher’s Weekly:
Along with the publishing houses, the megaretailers designed to profit off now-failing centralization are also beginning to feel the pain. Book depots just can’t sprout at the rate of Wal-Marts—besides, Amazon already does the centralization thing better than any brick-and-mortar business. Thus, the talented staffs of the superstores (meaning the talented former staffs of the independents) are also being cut loose, region by region.
The good news is that much of this talent—book editors, publicists and sellers—is ready to rebuild what Wall Street has seen fit to destroy. Book enthusiasts are not giving up. I get e-mails constantly from editors asking if I’m interested in writing books for their new, independent publishing houses. Many offer smaller advances but higher royalties and more attention to details—like the quality of my writing. I also get correspondence from people opening independent bookstores in the shadows of vacant outlets, stores that would be happy with a hundredth of the sales volume that made their larger counterparts unsustainable.
Behind the bad news, there is much to look forward to. Our industry has for too long favored those skilled at negotiating the corporate ladder and punished those who simply publish great books. Now that publishing has revealed itself to be a bad growth industry, it is free to rebuild itself as the vibrant, scaled and sustainable business the reading public can support.
I’m not sure whether Rushkoff is being a little too Panglossian here, but I certainly hope he’s right. [image by simiant]