I nearly didn’t write this post. This is because there’s a new catchy genre category in town, and any catchy title which involves clumsy generalisations for a whole bank of literature is guaranteed to make me either angry, or nauseous. Not being a fan of either of those states, I’d rather not, thanks.
But try as I might, I can’t get away from a good book discussion topic, so just allow me to stash this slightly soiled, burnt handkerchief, and get on with it.
(By the way, this post is Easter pun-free. Have a happy one anyway.)
Anyhoo, I’ve been ferreting around in the Guardian again. This new genre category is called “up-lit”, and it’s referring to the current trend in popularity for books which focus on the brighter side of the human condition.
We’re talking about books with characters who are kind, generous, community-minded, fond of old people or young animals, and who generally fill the reader with a sense that the entire human race is not going to hell in a handbasket, despite all non-fictional evidence to the contrary.
The only offensive thing about this new genre is the title (I mean, ‘Up-lit’? Please!), and the fact that it’s now being shoehorned into a whole new genre by itself.
As we can’t necessarily blame the books or even their authors for that, let’s just blame the bloody marketing department, as usual, and move on.
How to be Human: Just Want What You Don’t Have
In the early days of this blog – when it was a mere squalling infant, bleating vague bookish banter into the void in a vain attempt to get anyone to listen to it – I wrote about how economic cycles affect the popularity of fiction genres, managing to squeeze in a well-uncanny prescience for pet-lit while I was at it.
In times of plenty, I said, so-called misery lit soars up the charts; come the next depression, it’s all celebrity glitz and glamour, magical realism, wealthy family sagas, and bonkbusters.
When politics goes awry, epic fantasy, historical fiction and general nostalgia come to the fore. In the rare times of bonhomie, when the Nobel Committee is casting around blindly for someone to whom they might award a Peace Prize, we’re clamouring for apocalyptic tales of zombies and scorched earth.
So the question must be asked now: what is the current state of the human condition, that we find ourselves so much in need of tales of kindness, gentleness, neighbourliness, and fraternal love?
Ha, ha! Just kidding! I’m not asking that question at all. That’s one for another blogger, who has oodles of humanity and psychological depth, whereas I’m empathetically and sympathetically bankrupt, and only in this for the LOLZ, you know that.
What I really want to ask is: where does fiction go from here?
All the Best Things Come in Lists
Because I’m more helpful than I look, and because it’s more fun than you think to imagine the end of the world, here is a list of potential near-term future disasters, and the fiction which will save us from having to face any kind of realism at all, even while our houses are burning down around our ears.
Publishers, please take note (and remember to give me a cut when the time comes). If you’re wise, you’ll queue up a few of these in your stable, ready to push the button once someone somewhere else – with all the self-awareness of a teaspoon – pushes theirs.
Bleak Future 1: USA Engages in Nuclear War with North Korea
Fiction Prescription: Front-Lit: Nostalgic tales of sickeningly wholesome extended families, grafting and loving, along the North American frontier. Clean mountain air essential.
Bleak Future 2: National Security is Handed Over to Facebook; People without Social Media Accounts Are Corralled Into Zoos
Fiction Prescription: Candle-Lit: Stories of worlds devoid of technology, where everything is made with wooden cogs and wheels, by people who learn to get along with the folks working beside them, whatever idiotic things they might say. (Yes, I know that’s basically Terry Pratchett. Shuddup.)
Bleak Future 3: The Last Fact-Checking Journalist on Earth Gets Mysteriously Poisoned by a Toxic Mouse Which Definitely Does Not Speak Russian
Fiction Prescription: Under-Lit: Back-to-the-beginning mysteries featuring dogged old gumshoes, portly PIs, and terminally curious law students / political interns, who will not let go of the case until it’s solved, they’re dead, or someone finally agrees to go out with them.
Bleak Future 4: Every Country in the World Closes Its Borders to Immigrants
Fiction Prescription: Over-Lit: Glamorous, sparkly tales of exotic champagne lifestyles – breakfast with royals in London, lunch with fashionable philosophers in Paris, dinner with fiercely possessive billionaires in Dubai. The luggage alone will make readers salivate, nostalgic for the days when airport travel didn’t involve 7 campaign contributions and a letter of recommendation from a reality TV star.
Bleak Future 5: All Non-Pigeonholable Genre Fiction is Banned
Fiction Prescription: Back-Lit: Any and all books published before 2010. It is recommended that this part of the prescription be filled now, before the stampede begins in approximately 5 minutes.
That’s it. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to spend the royalties from my genius literary strategy in a fictional world where I get royalties for a genius literary strategy. Please feel free, in the comments, to add either further prescriptions, or perpetual praise for said genius.