There are two trends in fiction right now, running almost concurrently, and both of them have me wanting to flay my own feet. Since I’m perceived by others as curmudgeonly I suppose this here post can just be written off as a curmudgeon’s reactionary outburst against a trend that just makes other people happy. Why do I want to spoil people’s fun? Why?
There isn’t much I ask of fiction, really. I’ll read pretty much anything. I still scratch my head when I come across the occasional reader who says “I only read mysteries” or “I only read Tom Clancy novels.” I find myself wondering if they only eat pie and only drink apple juice. The world is full of experiences, and there is no greater treasure than the world of books. A book lover can live a thousand lives in this short span on earth. So I love the varied reading experience that comes from being a multi-genre explorer.
What I don’t love is when any genre becomes popular. In my years as a reader I’ve lived through the first go-round of bonkbusters, Aga Sagas, series mystery, serial killers, vampires, magical orphans, vampires round 2, and now we’re in Erotica and Young Adult. There’s a lot of speculation one can make as to why the two most popular trends for adult readers are reading about teenagers and reading about lots and lots of graphic sex. Clearly the new normal of most people’s lives lacks the frisson of hope found in youth and the spark of lust found in a life less busy and worried about money.
The problem is that since both of these genres are newly popular, a lot of writers are shoehorning themselves into the trend. It’s particularly annoying in Young Adult. (For another perspective on the YA genre from a reader who reads less of it, check out Mike Duran’s post.) A really good YA title captures the mindset and experiences of a person in that phase of life where childhood is just about over and adulthood hasn’t hit yet. Writers like Judy Blume and Sarah Dessen have a true gift for taking their readers back to that point, and touring the world through the eyes of teens. Writers like, well, I won’t name names here–but there are a lot of them–who decided to write YA because “it sells well” and “it’s easy” are cranking out garbage.
I have less of a vested interest in erotica because it’s not a genre I read a lot. I’ve read some erotic titles in years past, but I realised early on that if there’s sex in a novel I usually prefer it between characters I know really well, as opposed to characters who are Sex Delivery Devices–as in so much of erotica. (A good example of my preference would be The Thorn Birds. That’s a book where the sex, when you finally get there, is really compelling just because of how well you’ve come to know the lovers and how important their consummation is to all three of you.) Now that we aren’t as tethered to bookstores, shelf space isn’t as much an issue as it used to be, so I don’t know why this trend bothers me. Well, other than the fact that people are buying and reading really poorly-written books and enjoying them not because they are books but because they are “naughty”. I guess other than being crankily tired of hearing everyone constantly talking about Fifty Shades Of Gray, I’m not AS bothered by erotica as I am by the corruption of Young Adult fiction.
Still and all, I wouldn’t mind if a new trend came along that didn’t so badly step on my favourite toes.