24 August 2010

Trends and Clichés

Willy Wonka Meme
For Seton Hill's Writing Popular Fiction program, I'm concentrating on fantasy and horror, my two favorite fiction genres. The tricky thing with popular fiction is that all too often, an author can get stuck in the land of cliché.  

Here's a good example of a trend in horror writing that is set to overkill: the reinvented literary classic. At my June residency at Seton Hill, renowned action and thriller author David Morrell appeared as our guest lecturer. He commented on the current trend of taking literary classics and historical figures and tossing vampires, monsters, and zombies into the mix, describing this trend of writing as "Lowest Common Denominator Fiction." I agree with him. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies started the trend, but then so many copycats have come out (Jane Slayre, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, to name a few). The initial fun and novelty of the idea has worn off...it does seem like cashing in at this point.

5 comments:

  1. I don't read too much of the "Lowest Common Denominator" type fiction, preferring my reading materials to have a bit of the surreal (a la Murakami H.). I am a big fan of Apocryphal-type fiction (is that even a genre?), and wish more writers explored it. I think that's why I like Zombie movies/books so much; true human nature is able to come through, if it is written well (Max Brooks WWZ).

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  2. Oh my gosh! This is fancy! :)

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  3. I hate when sci-fi stories try to examine modern day issues, like the way Star Trek did. That totally stinks.

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  4. Too many vampire stories!

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  5. We've got some good comments on here. Tell me more, tell me more!

    1) Monika--Apocolyptic fiction/dystopian fiction is the genre you are referring to, I believe. It seems the popularity of zombie apocolypses come in waves, and right now it's in resurgence again. The world is pretty crazy now, but it can't be as bad as the legions of undead ready to feast on you!!

    2) Anita--Thanks for stopping by! Anita is also a Writing Popular Fiction student at Seton Hill. She has a blog, you should check it out:http://anitalaydonmiller.blogspot.com/

    3) Anonymous #1--Care to comment more? Are you referring to the J.J. Abrams Star Trek film or everything else before that? I do agree that genre fiction must be careful with how it approaches current events. Almost all fiction can serve as a social commentary in one way or the other, but if it whacks you over the head with it (excuse me, Avatar, I'm talking to you)you can alienate the reader. Your audience may take personal offense to the stance that you, the author, has chosen; you can also destroy that suspension of disbelief that is crucial to horror, sci fi, and fantasy fiction. In speculative fiction, where entire worlds are created, the author has the difficult task of making this artificial landscape as real as possible. A world can be completely unrealistic and off the wall, as long as it follows its own set of rules and logic. If the setting in the novel does not allow for lines ripped from today's headlines, then you cannot add it to your story. If you do, you've violated the very terms you've created for this imaginary realm.

    4) Anonymous #2: I can't agree with you more. The only good thing that I can think to come from this vampire craze would be HBO's True Blood, but I follow that show less for the vampires and more for the secondary characters and their plots. (I love Tara and Lafayette!!)
    But there can be too much of a good thing, and we hit that point as soon as the first Twilight movie made a ridiculous amount of money. BAD PUN ALERT: Someone put a stake through this genre, quick!

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