Let’s NOT Call It Up-Lit: Your Fiction Prescription in a World Gone Bonkers

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.)

Let's NOT Call It Up-Lit: Your Fiction Prescription For A World Gone Bonkers

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.

Let's NOT Call It Up-Lit: Your Fiction Prescription For A World Gone Bonkers

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.

Let’s NOT Call It Up-Lit: Your Fiction Prescription in a World Gone Bonkers

Chapter 1: “The world exploded. The End.”

  35 comments for “Let’s NOT Call It Up-Lit: Your Fiction Prescription in a World Gone Bonkers

  1. April 1, 2018 at 11:10 am

    Madam, you have outdone even yourself.

    The only note I can give, based on acquaintance with the illnesses of my lovely wife and miracle daughter, is a prescription for the nausea itself, should it have the poor manners to trouble your throat and stomach again. Zofran, cute name for ondansetron, is effective, non-addictive, side-effect-less and I presume readily available (since we can get it here in the colonies, it must be OK in Europe). So if you find yourself with more burnt than hankie, have the manly spouse trot down to the chemist and it could tide you over until one of these really bad things happens. At which point, if I understand you correctly, you’ll cheer up straight away…

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 1, 2018 at 11:16 am

      Thanks, Will. I’ll have a think about whether reducing the bile in my life would affect my sense of humour. Then I might have a drink.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. April 1, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    To help alleviate the stresses and strains of a bleak future in which there are water shortages due to the banning of plastic bottles (because we’re obviously not going to drink tap water like some kind of savage) there could be a genre called Flood-Lit. Less about excessive amounts of H20 and more about the plucky endeavours of un-fancied sporting teams who overcome the odds, despite having to play all their fixtures at night. Because what better way to combat the stress of extreme dehydration than a good underdog story?

    Liked by 3 people

    • April 1, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      A nice mashup of motive and trend there, James. You’d better be careful about making it too relevant, though, because that’ll never catch on…

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 1, 2018 at 3:20 pm

        Ok, I think I understand. How about Spot-Lit, for the bleak future in which everyone exclusively wears stripes? Or is that too much of a clash?

        Liked by 3 people

  3. April 1, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    Reblogged this on Jan Hawke INKorporated and commented:
    Yes, it’s true! Tara Sparling should have been called Sibyl… 😛 Here’s her prediction for a literary-genre response to any Sociopathic event horizon you can throw a bunch of rocks at – such fun things to look forward to? Enjoy, if you dare… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. April 1, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    How about, for books detailing the grim reality of actually raising children… Nit-Lit?

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 1, 2018 at 6:14 pm

      It’s good, Al, but that’s not so much a pending disaster as an accepted norm. If the nits get organised, now, and try to take over the world, you’ve got yourself a blockbuster.

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 1, 2018 at 6:32 pm

        Got it…

        So, a lonely spinster telling stories on her death bed, to herself , about how her cat is her best friend and has been a constant companion during her protracted but unspecified illness = kit-lit = BAD.

        But, a cat scientist develops a formula to simultaneously wipe out dogs AND fatten the laps of all humans = kit-lit = GOOD

        Liked by 1 person

        • April 1, 2018 at 7:19 pm

          You can still have the first one, I think, as long as the cat has something to say about it…

          Liked by 1 person

          • April 1, 2018 at 7:34 pm

            Complaining about being held in slavery, forced to be awake for as much as 90 minutes every day, prevented from widdling where it chooses, and bemoaning the scarcity of tuna on the menu…can see it now!

            Liked by 1 person

  5. April 1, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    Brilliant! I’d suggest some Non-Lit books (I’m thinking of tales in the mood of an Ödön von Horvath or poesy a HC Artmann produced in “with black ink”), to put some shade on the neon light, all those bio-facist, vegane yogi-folks shine while trying to force everyone into worshipping their ephemeral esotericism?

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 1, 2018 at 6:25 pm

      Hmmm. It’s good, lyart, but perhaps a trifle TOO catchy? I can see it on a movie poster, but I’m not sure about the thumbnail image for the e-book…


  6. April 1, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    I am already into escapist literature — historical romance. So I am part of the market for this future genres. God forbid they are ever needed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 1, 2018 at 7:20 pm

      That’s what I’m there for, though, Julia. To bring up the worst of everything, so that almost anything else can be seen as an improvement 😉


  7. April 1, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    My bigger problem is when the new terms come in and everyone’s all over it, like they knew what it was already. as an aside I saw a tweet from Cecilia Ahern some years ago, saying that she had been told one of her books was ‘domestic noir’ and she had never heard of it. It was retweeted, facebooked, the works, with everybody saying 1. How had she not heard of it? 2. Saying their own book had traces of it/ was categorized as it and 3. ha ha ha isn’t it so funny she doesn’t know the categories and they were all sneery and snide about it, but actually I read then that the term had only been coined about that time, so they had no need to be upety about it at all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 2, 2018 at 2:15 am

      Smacks of desperation, a bit, does it not? Extremely popular author is accused of not being tuned into the market… by people who don’t write, or sell as well. Part of the reason why the catchy-catch-all categorisations drive me nuts. I’m with you.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. April 2, 2018 at 12:00 am

    I never considered these new genres in relation to world conditions. It totally makes sense, Tara. I’m going to have to revise my battle-weary themes for a more upbeat perspective – something post-apocalyptic, I think, since that’s the only way things are going to get any better. 😀 (I’m really not that gloomy – Have a marvelously “up” week.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • April 2, 2018 at 2:17 am

      I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, Diana, but post-apocalyptic is a welcome refuge for me, too. I’d like to say it’s not gloomy, but hey, it’s me, so, you know, hey. 😳

      Liked by 1 person

  9. April 2, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Judging by the popularity of Casualty, Holby City and dozens of other day-time & prime-time soaps from the past 50+ years of TV, AND the fascination with plague found in films such as Outbreak and any zombie-fest, then may I suggest we’re missing a trick if we don’t also go for “Poorly-Lit”? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • April 2, 2018 at 10:22 pm

      It might need subtitles outside the UK, Nick, but I think it’s a golden idea. So many diseases to explore… this could be the next big 7- or 8-book series. How many words can you do by Thursday? I’ll get the marketing ball rolling regardless.

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 2, 2018 at 10:39 pm

        Maybe we could just try jamming them together and running with it – an unconventional US scientist discovers a new plague that turns people into zombies and he has to race against time before the NHS is brought to its knees. Or even more to its knees than it already is due to government under-funding. And there’ll be various chapters where we see someone do something stupid and end up as a zombie but there family comes together and they all learn something. This shit writes itself. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • April 2, 2018 at 10:42 pm

          It does, but 90,000 words often doesn’t. Glad to know you’ll have it all done by the end of the week!

          Liked by 1 person

          • April 2, 2018 at 10:50 pm

            Hmm. Basic plot outline done. There must be a way of getting AI to fill in the details. I’m sure I’ve read some books that can’t possibly have been written by a real human being…

            Liked by 1 person

  10. April 2, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    I LOLed on the candle lit Terry Pratchett point, so clever. I’d like to highlight a retrospective genre, about 6000 years old, written in a time when paganism and atheism was more fashionable than today, I call it ‘tal-lit’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 2, 2018 at 10:27 pm

      Well, Liberty, if it’s 6,000 years old, I think we can call that one carved in stone. I’ll notify the Guardian…

      Liked by 1 person

  11. April 3, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    What about non fit lit, for dieters who cant stop eating chocolate…or maybe that should be choc-lit…sorry I’m obsessed at the moment…my AtZ Challenge has me trying to diet unsuccessfully through Easter ( so many eggs, such a big arse)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. April 10, 2018 at 9:57 am

    I had something really witty to say on this, but then I read the comment about choc-lit and forgot all about it. It’s one of those “shut up and just take my money” situations. Where do I get said literature, I wonder?

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 11, 2018 at 11:18 pm

      I think you might start online with choc-lite, Nick, moving on to the darker stuff as you get accustomed. But don’t let it bar you from anything. We can’t cocoan ourselves from the hot stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

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