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Carl: “Your books are safe. While you’re reading them, you get to become Tarzan, or Robinson Crusoe.”
Bastian: “But that’s what I like about them.”
Carl: “Mm hmm. But afterwards, you get to be a little boy again.”
—The Neverending Story (1984)
It’s 2016 and the attention economy has officially collapsed.
My sense is that most of you are professional attention-grabbers, aspiring pros, or in the attention-grabber “helping professions”—editor, agent, barista—so I figured I’d let you know: It’s Over.
We had a good run, you know, writing stuff down, getting other people to read it, let alone movies, music, video games, etc. but now that we’ve reached Peak Content, well, your best friend in the world couldn’t give two shits about your latest HuffPo thought piece, let alone the AAA sports franchise video game your company spent millions of dollars developing over the last three years.
All of it, everything anyone would ever have paid to read or watch or suffered through an ad to enjoy, has gone into the dustbin of history along with stone tablet chiselers, snuff box enamelers, and the company that specialized in making the big front wheel on old-timey bicycles.
Not long ago, an art critic could expense a lavish four-star meal to his magazine to impress an exotic beauty, but today pretty much the only word of that sentence that’s still in the OED is “expense,” which is what retired parents of middle-aged writers now secretly nickname their children.