I think it’s true there won’t be any more great novelists. We tend to think that there’s a definite pantheon of great novelists, and that they all have a specific part to play in the history of writing, but that’s not the way things work any more. If there were a writer today who did something as groundbreaking as any of the “great” eighteenth or nineteenth century writers, then he - I’m saying “he” for quickness here, please don’t pick me up on that - then he wouldn’t be remembered for more than a decade or so. Not unless someone made a big-budget feature-film version, anyway. His books would get good reviews, they’d find a small, dedicated audience, but in the modern world there are thousands of books published every year that get good reviews and find small, dedicated audiences. There’s no “central authority” that labels them as classics. That’s what I was trying to get at in the Brookhaven sections of The Book of the War, from the 1990s onwards we’re living in a world without any consensus- no, that’s not true. There never was really any consensus, but now we’re living in a world that doesn’t even have the illusion of consensus. Partly because there’s so much information and potential information, partly because we’re trained to analyse things on so many levels that we can make a near-infinite number of arguments and counter-arguments about anything produced in any medium. Which isn’t a bad thing, in itself, but literature suffers more than anything else just because of the nature of the market. There aren’t any legends any more, and there won’t be ever again. There probably will be writers as good as the greats, they just won’t be remembered that way, which is why there’ll always be the sense that the ancients were better and wiser than us. They weren’t, but they all agreed with each other and that makes the past seem a lot more self-assured than the present. From this point on the only books which are going to be widely-remembered are the ones that sell well, and that’s bound to be a problem. — Lawrence Miles
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