It’s the time of the year where we look back on my predictions for 2016, which I cunningly disguised back in January as a futuristic review of what had already happened.
Because, you see, this was supposed to be funny. For the past few years each January, in a shameless gimmick, I have been doing my review of the year past before it’s happened. And in general, it was a right old wheeze. Haha, said the lovely blog readers, at what amounted to a satirical news story. It’s funny because it is quite possible that all these things might happen, they said, such as publishers creating a new craze for cookery books made out of macramé, or the book world consumed with the story of the $3 million publishing deal for Johnny Depp’s dogs.
But then the rest of 2016 happened.
I don’t wish to get maudlin on this blog, or take up with subjects which polarise fundamentally decent people. But this year’s combination of the loss of icons past, together with the now uncertain future for people with an actual sense of humour – particularly women – makes funny more challenging.
Satire must find a new place in the era of fake news. After all, satire only works, if cynical people such as myself find something positive in what they lampoon. You’ve got to love it to laugh at it. And I did not love 2016. I’m going to give it a bash, though.
So, on with the show. First off. What did I predict for January?
The Fourth Estate … decided to abandon the big blockbusters altogether and focus upon the most obscure titles they could find.
I got this 100% right, only not entirely in the way I meant… so does that mean it’s 82.7%? Oh, who cares. Anyhoo, while many big publishers still went for churning out the same old tat as everyone else between the covers, they at least tried to make some other book titles obscure. This is presumably how we ended up with The Portable Veblen, The Met Office Advises Caution, and The Book Title Without A Girl In It.
Readers shunned fiction in February, turning their attentions instead to ‘shelf-help’ books, also known as ‘holistic space therapy’… Clean Your Goddamn House, You Slattern! was a surprise smash hit, followed shortly by It’s Not You, It’s The Farrow & Ball Elephant’s Breath In Your Living Room; along with the award-winning tear-jerker subsequently made into a major film, The Girl With The Wrong Duvet Cover.
Again, I got this right, only with the teeny tiny exception of the time of year. It wasn’t February: it was October when the vast majority of those 34,597 bloody Danish hygge books hit the shelves, blissfully unaware that underneath those cosy sock-strewn covers, they were cannibalising each other in a frenzy of vegetarian bloodshed. Ah, the warm Danish fun we had. Can’t wait to see the sales figures!
After a lacklustre first quarter, publishers breathed a sigh of relief when the next big literary craze – called Science Fiction 2.0 – became apparent, following the stampede for the tills with the smash hit Neil deGrasse Tyson Licked My Aardvark.
I don’t think I can spin this in any way which would make me win. I lost, with this prediction. Neil deGrasse Tyson did not lick my aardvark, and I think we can all agree that science was the big loser in 2016.
The search for the next Gone Girl/Girl On A Train was deemed to be over with the release of This Book Has A Girl In It, a thriller about an author being stalked by six unreliable narrators. She’s then forced at gunpoint to identify which one of them is telling the truth before she can bank £950,000.
Hmm. Unreliable narrators are popular… then we get all that fake news… Ha, ha! See, I can laugh at my own jokes. And I also had a hell of a lot of fun with unreliable narrators myself this year. You see? Every girl has a silver lining.
Earning The End was the major talking point of May 2016. John E. Smith’s book, available in digital format only, caused a scandal when it became apparent that its final chapters could only be downloaded once the reader had left 5-star reviews on Amazon and GoodReads.
I was on to something here, but only until about April. 2016 was another year of consternation over fake reviews online, until everyone stopped worrying about fake reviews, in order to worry about fake news instead. My dearest wish for 2017 is that we will find ourselves once again in a position to worry about fake reviews. And I can get back to poking fun at erotica. Ooh, Matron!
In another example of uncannily choreographed coincidence… self-publishing service providers owned by the major publishing houses all suffered technical difficulties in the second quarter, meaning that some of the year’s most high-profile indie books had to delay publication and thereby completely missed the all-important summer holiday market.
I said last year I was going to stop preaching, or making ham-handed points about nefarious practices in the book industry, or the world. It would appear I lied. But because this is 2016, I did not in fact lie, and Twitter proves it. So there, and nuts to you.
July and August
Tables were turned on the press when the silly season produced the biggest book story of the year: the revelation that Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin had … transitioned to writing YA Romance, which he described as “literally an aching, painful process of getting to know the real me”.
I’m not sure whether this is false. 2016 was the first time when the TV series of Game of Thrones surged ahead of the books, and didn’t seem to suffer in the slightest for it. And his next book is still not out. How do you know he hasn’t been holed up making Jefferson and Shaya pasodoble their way into love? How do you know??
Following the hugely successful re-release of Hitler’s Mein Kampf in early 2016…… a slate of new re-releases were announced in September for, amongst others, Zabiba And The King by Saddam Hussein; The Green Book by Colonel Gaddafi, and and See Spot, Run, the much-loved children’s book long unmasked as an explosive manifesto for Kim Jong-il, the dictator most famous for his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Hmmm. I have no idea whether or not this is true. Okay, so we may not have seen the hardback edition of See Spot, Run. But did the general gist of this prediction not blockbust its way through 2016 otherwise? I think the point of this is that you all need to pay me to not make these sort of dangerously foreboding predictions for the years to come.
I accept all major currencies and will release any small children I kidnap for jelly beans.
The popularity of so-called ‘real’ women – irreverent comediennes and actresses who purportedly don’t care what you think of them – reached its peak… Unfortunately, this deluge resulted in a backlash against the ‘real woman’ trope, and spawned an additional five Kardashians nobody had ever heard of before.
Here is a case of an event I kind of wished we had but we didn’t, followed by a result I never wanted but which we largely got (through Instagram, mainly). And of course there was the whole female Ghostbusters revival thing with that nasty social media backlash, too.
I dunno, folks. It appears I am all-powerful. Do I need to exercise more care? Answers on a postcard please. You know the address. Yeah. That one.
Wednesday November 2nd became known as “Launch Of The Walking Dead” after no fewer than fifteen posthumous titles were published on this day alone.
I’m sorry. It’s like, OMG. HOW MUCH DID I REALLY KNOW? We may never know. Or I may never tell you. But in a year when it feels like we lost more good people than ever before, my prescience of posthumous titles for Christmas is just SPOOKY. And that’s enough capitals.
Nobody was surprised when This Isn’t was declared the must-have gimmicky book for the Christmas 2016 market. Described as “refreshing” by the Guardian; “a truly original idea” by the Telegraph, and “grand” by the Irish Times, this blank, unlined book, with its plain brown cover, invited readers to enter their own thoughts, in order to form their own relevant narrative of what it means to be a human being alive today.
I’m big enough to take the hit on this one. It didn’t happen. I wasn’t to know that after a year of abject insanity, book buyers would flock to the shops looking for comfort, not empty space. Millions of people are now on the hunt for a book which will make everything good, just like the way it used to be, when E.L. James was the world’s top selling author and we had a tent to bake in. Just wait for me, folks. I’ll have it for you soon. I swear.
And that’s that for another year. I can safely say I have never been so clairvoyant as I was this year. Neither I have never been so depressed, to be so clairvoyant. Just you wait. If I can muster the fun in January to have another bash at this for 2017, it will be sunshine and (dangerous) bunnies for everyone in the audience.
(Again, just to remind you, I take all major currencies. Please do not send cheques, or small children. Thank you.)
And now, over to you. Can anyone even remember a favourite book-related happening of 2016? And if so, what was it?