When I was speak with these old veterans of the prose world they would tell me of how they could make a good living simply sitting at home with their typewriters churning out one story after another, or one novel after another, and selling them to the pulp magazines of the day. Most of these guys would tell me how they'd sold the first story they ever sent out! It wasn't that they had started out with such great skill, it was just that there were so very many fiction markets that they had a treasure-trove of editors from which to choose.
A lot of the guys I had met and spoken with had written for western pulps and science fiction pulps. And each of them would tell me how they could pay the bills just writing short stories. Screw the novels--they didn't need to do that. All they had to do was sit down and write a respectable, competent, fun short story and it was money for groceries and housing and clothes and maybe a trip to the beach with the family.
When I would ask them why--what was it that had killed off the goose that laid those wonderful eggs, they would each and every one of them respond with the same answer:
Like some extinction events in the world of biology, it was this one huge thing that slammed into the landscape and changed everything forever. The television was the giant asteroid for the pulp magazines. It created the enormous, dead boundary that killed off an entire way of life. Before the popular availability of television one can examine a rich and varied fossil record of amazing pulp fiction. After...almost nothing remained.
I began to think of these old guys and the world in which they worked because of something that happened to me this year. For Christmas I got one of those USB devices that allows you access to a limitless number of movies and episodic video. I can watch pretty much any damned thing I feel like watching.
Normally I read about two or three books a week. Since I got that damned little TV device on December 25, 2015 I have read...zero books. That's right. Not one freaking book. I haven't read any books and I haven't purchased any books.
Shit. And I know better.
The old dudes were spot on the money.