In this post (and, following some suspicious yoghurt, this one) I pretended to have a look at what was going to happen in 2014, but now I’d like to do it for real. What fads and fashions will we see in genre fiction in 2014? Will fantasy lose its dystopian and grimy-fingered grip on the bestseller market? And that age-old question – what about love?
Readers, movie-goers and TV box-set-bingers must be getting sick of fantasy and misery. Superheroes, vampires, witches, werewolves and reworkings of fairytales; trolls, zombies and children battling to the death – they’re all, like, so over. Similarly, hellish childhoods, misery memoirs, poverty porn and true stories in general have been spewed out for so long now, people seem to forget how atrociously written they are. Please stop. Write better fiction instead.
Some genres never go out of fashion, like crime and romance. But we’re years into our recessional dystopia; tired of alternative and impossible universes. It’s time to start making fiction about real life again, and make it contemporary. It’s time to tackle our economic woes with the money-driven tales of human frailty which did for Dickens right through to Dostoyevsky.
This has nothing to do with economic change. It has to do with the enduring need for escapism, but more to the point, where we want to escape to. So with that in mind, I hereby predict a return to the top of the bestseller lists for the following:
Huge in the 1970s and 1980s: led by Judith Krantz, Danielle Steele and Rosamunde Pilcher.
So what’s it all about? Well, lifelong narratives; generations of one family; making money and losing it; falling in love, dabbling in hate; having ill-advised sexual relations in inappropriate places… this is realistic fantasy. Stories of big houses and poor relatives; bad choices and lingering sins. What’s not to like? It’s time to dump the goblins, and deal with personal demons again. And there’s nothing like a saga to take you away from your bank statement. It’s high time these came back to entertain us.
2. The Sensational Blockbuster
Anyone remember Sidney Sheldon? Harold Robbins? Lace? No? Shame on you! These paperbacks were gold back in the ’80s. Most people’s parents had at least a few, and most of them found their way into our schoolbags. Full of sex and backstabbing, business deals and empire building, grudges and revenge, they managed to throw a very decent story in amongst the kinky bits which enthralled teenagers. Imagine the potential for covert e-books!
Where has the decent political thriller or espionage novel been since the 1980s? Poor Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth and John le Carré have been holding the fort here for decades. Hollywood still reverts to this era’s writers to make their spy movies, despite the fact that we’re now seeing the greatest spy scandals since the 1960s in our daily news.
It’s not that these books aren’t being written, and indeed published, because of course they are. They’re just not hitting the bestest bestseller lists these days, because their time has not yet come around again. Soon, my cunning friends. Sooooon.
Stephen King is obviously the true monarch here, but aside from him, who else is making the bestseller lists with good old scary stuff? The strange thing is that in the movies, even a mediocre low-budget horror film will generally turn some sort of profit, thus proving that there is a constant and unrelenting appetite for horror. It’s not reflected at the top of the tree in book sales, but it will again. Oh yes. It will. Mwah ha ha ha. Etc.
5. The Space Opera
With the prospect of life on Mars now becoming more reality than fantasy, and because we’ve been softened now by fantasy crossing over into the mainstream, I reckon there’s room for a proper space opera. A softer science fiction than the ubiquitous Star Trek of the ’90s. A sort of modern-day Jetsons without the slapstick, a Firefly without the bloodshed. There is ample room for both literary and commercial fiction within the scope of extra-terrestrial frontier exploration. Where better to explore humanity than in the microcosm of a settlement on a barren planet, for instance? Or on the more popular side of the coin, how does a woman on the wrong side of 30 find love in Mars’ newest colony, with no dating agency for light years, and only scientists, miners and one dashing Sheriff to choose from?
5 Old Bookselling Rules Which No Longer Apply explored the notion that readers, rather than publishers, are calling the shots nowadays, deciding what is popular and when. But readers can also change their minds with frightening speed, moving on to the Next Big Thing without warning: reading and the writing worlds alike have to be ready for them.
Over to you! Predictions please, ladies and gentle sirs of the reading community… What do you think is going to be hot next year? Or more to the point, what would you like to see?