I figure the Updike is due, in part, to a lot of people not gelling with his work. Personally, it left me cold--I tried reading his Rabbit series a while back, but just couldn't get into it. I briefly considered reading his book from the point of view of an Islamic terrorist, but just couldn't find the energy for more post 9-11 American literature.
The news of Realms of Fantasy, however, is of slightly more interest not because I read it--I didn't, and in fact, you couldn't easily find it here--but because it can be taken as a sign of the economic situation currently going through the West. Last week I caught up with Cat Sparks (catsparx) and we talked a bit about how the next couple of years were going to be slow. Less cash, less opportunities, things like that. Things like the Realms of Fantasy closure, no matter if it is connected to it or not, feed into that feeling you have, just as the lay offs of editors and the such in big publishing houses do too. Local wise, there's not much in the way of anthologies and presses, and you hear stories of the dealers room being empty of people wanting to buy stuff. Part of that, I think, is the nature of the small press scene here. It has, near as I can tell, a ten year cycle, and we're at the end of that cycle now, where the presses and authors shuffle into a quiet year or two before there's a resurgence. In that time, new folk will emerge, old folk will disappear, and the same arguments about awards and inbred reading circles will come back and result in no change whatsoever. I don't quite remember if the phase at the end of the nineties fed into an economic downturn, but if it didn't, it's of no real concern: what is happening now is a turn down, and it's impacting the literature scene, and it'll make things harder for everyone.
I like to think I've got a fairly even handed opinion of what to do for myself during this time, opinions contained within the local scene in WA being ignored. A lot of the economics of being a writer is similar to running your own small business and, when you're starting out (no matter how long that period takes), you just have to be willing to live through the lean times. Things pick up, things move, you just keep going, find ways to do different things, find ways to get by. If you get a bit of cash you set it aside so you'll be covered for when it dries up. You try not to blow everything the moment it arises and you have to be prepared to be skint in patches when its bad. So long, really, as you keep the belief that it'll pick up and you'll be bringing cash in, I reckon you'll do fine.
Of course, you might want to take a look at my current situation in life before you go building me a statue and claiming that I'm your messiah after reading this.