Elizabeth Baxter has a post up over at the Indy Book Blog about the Rise and Fall of Genre Fiction. I think she offers a good glimpse at it but really there is so much left unsaid.
I shall take this opportunity, dear readers, to say it.
The question of the day: "What the heck is it with everyone being into Genre Fiction? How did True Blood become mainstream? Why do we have everyone and their cousin watching Game of Thrones? And how can you crack a joke about BDSM at a craft show and everyone laugh it off?"
The answer put forth by Baxter is that it has to do with the global depression. So summarize- nah that'll take to long, let me sum up: the world sucks, people know the world suck, so they want to get as far away from the world as they can. Nothing like escaping to Westeros, or to the towers of Grey Enterprises to forget about how far behind on your car payments you've slipped. Why read about courtroom dramas and political in fighting when you can turn on CNN, MSNBC or FoxNews and get the exact same story, played out as though a cheap hack of a writer were coming up with the predicable and convoluted plots?
Speaking of which, seriously? If I wrote a political drama I would not have named the guy Wiener. Just, ya know, sayin'. A dude needs some cred, amirite?
But I think Baxter only skirts the start of the deeper roots.
First let me say that I think she's right to look at the current economic trends as a good model to build from as a reason for the rise of non-realistic genres. Look at the most recent Batman offering, for example. There were some pointedly uncomfortable moments as the "villain" of the story plays to modern "We are the 99%" sentiments and then evokes imagery of the French Revolution as a means to drive that point home. Add a little healthy fear of freezing to death and you've got some scenes more horrific then anything you'll find in a Saw movie.
Which makes a trip from Wall Street to Bagend make sense. Let's get away from corporate greed and get into some good old fashioned Dragon Hoards. Why not, right?
What's missed, I think, is more technological. Before we go further let me put out this thought: Most people don't read. There's a joke I've heard bantered about:
Guy 1: So whatcha going to do with your retirement?
Guy 2: I dunno, a little golf, maybe finish my book finally.
Guy 1: You're writing a book?
Guy 2: Nope. Reading.
So yeah, the humor is partly in the truth of it. There just isn't as much reading going on as there was pre TV. Most people, myself included, consume their literature through movies, through television and in smaller numbers, through interactive storytelling such as video games. Me? I'm a huge fan of video games as my literature. I've talked about that before so I shan't digress.
So what's that got to do with the rise of genre fiction? Everything.
When I was a kid we went to see a HORRIBLE (and yes all caps is justified in this case) movie called Robot Jocks. It featured a future where the cold war was now fought in the arena between two giant robots in a To The Death combat. Gladiators who survived five fights were forced to retire. It was horrible. But wow, the effects were amazing.
For the time.
I watch movies now like Transformers and think about that early stop action movie with robots duking it out and my head hurts.
Or let's take a look at the Lord of the Rings epics. Imagine the challenge of creating the charge of the Rohirrim without computer graphics. How would you ever get a few thousand horsemen in a single camera shot? Simple answer: You Don't.
But with the rise of the technology to create those visuals the way the authors intended, we can finally start to see these movies put on the screen (big and small) so that more people become exposed. Exposure leads to interest. Interest leads to book sales. And book sales lead to "if you liked this book you might also like..." referrals.
Especially when you need spend another $5 to get free shipping.
I really think that the rise of Genre fiction owes it's rebirth to the whiz kids who run the special effects studios as much if not more than it owes it to anything else. Those houses make things like The Avengers possible popcorn classics, and let child actors stand next to Aslan so they can prepare to lead a charge. That makes more people interested in the genre, and that leads to more fans.
Author's note: Eowyn was a princess who picked up a sword to defend her friends, family and loved ones. What, exactly, did Bella and Ana Steel do again? Oh yeah... they sat back and whined.