On Fantasy, Shakespeare, and the Decline of the Attention Span | Entry 1
This Series Will Be Worth Our Time, I Promise
Why Follow This Series?
Entries will be short. As noted in the title, attention spans are getting shorter all the time. ADHD diagnoses are on the rise and so is the use of prescription stimulants. People are struggling to pay attention more than ever post-pandemic, and nobody wants to sit down and read a forty-page article about anything. I have neither the time nor the will to write one of those anyway—so let’s keep it brief!
You are scrolling through your phone looking for entertainment anyway. Did you know the average American checks their phone 96 times per day? Conversation lags. You are bored or in line or on the bus or waiting for food and you don’t have long, but you have a few minutes. The news is depressing, you’ve seen enough adorable cat/dog/child videos for today, and it just so happens that nobody has called, texted, emailed, or posted or replied on your social media accounts in the last few seconds. How about an article by yours truly?
You paid for access to exclusive content from this website. Not everyone gets access to these articles, but you do, and you paid for it, so why not linger a few moments and see what they’re about—after you read or listen to whatever other content inspired you to buy a subscription in the first place, of course.
What Will This Series Be About?
Fantasy. I’m a big fan of fantasy fiction, and I’ve written two complete fantasy novels (currently unavailable for purchase, but maybe one day). It’s a popular genre (think: Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones), so I’m hoping there are some other fantasy fans out there interested enough in some rando’s thoughts about recently released/currently streaming titles and/or genre mainstays to choose us over TikTok once or twice out of those 96 phone checks a day once a month and see what I have to say.
Shakespeare. Optiv founder Andy Schmitt has got this wild idea that there are young people out there ready for an opportunity to rediscover what made classic literature so… classic? …for so many years of human history. You know, back before the Smartphone, the cinematic spectacle of The Avengers, and the academic backlash against the idea that any particular author or work of art might be more deserving of attention or admiration than any other—especially if the artist in question was a white man. Well, white men do have their flaws, but it turns out I’m still a Shakespeare fan, and Andy thought I should write about him, so… we’ll give it a shot.
The Decline of the Attention Span. As more and more people write books, and more and more readers have their attention spans shot to hell by social media, getting books published and read by consumers gets more and more difficult. So, the books that wind up making it through to your bedside table get… better and better? Nope! To win your attention, authors have to cut, cut, cut on old hat notions like ‘character development’ and ‘figurative language’ in order to give more plot, plot, plot, with visceral emotion that will draw you in faster and hold you still longer, propelling you straight through to the end before you can pause long enough to realize, huh, this book is as shallow as my social media account.
Now if any of you actually read the books in The Lord of the Rings or the Game of Thrones series (or The Wheel of Time, anyone?), you’ll know fantasy authors had a lot of room to cut back on scene descriptions without losing… anything. But more of a good thing (or in this case, even less of an excessive thing) is not always better, and in this article series we’ll look at some of today’s fantasy, its strengths and weaknesses, and how it stacks up against older genre classics and yes, even Shakespeare. Watch out: if you stick around too long, you just might learn something. Like why my own fantasy novels are still unpublished.