It looks like we’re in a relatively quiet moment in the writing world. I say “relatively” because the publishing industry is still changing dramatically and everyone knows it. Still, there hasn’t been a Twilight lately. The Hunger Games is already becoming old news. Depressing to think about it, sure, since everyone was talking about it only months ago. The 50 Shades of Grey thing seems to be dying down as well, which means that we’re in between fads.
I’m not saying the books behind these fads have stopped being relevant, by the way. Twilight will remain a profitable franchise, as will The Hunger Games, as will 50 Shades of Grey. What I’m saying is that it seems everyone’s had enough of buying them in a rush, then moaning about them, or just moaning about them without having bought them.
It’s as a writer that I’m talking right now: a writer who, like most writers, has been mesmerized by the success of this or that fiction franchise, and shared opinions, and noticed a discouraging difference between the size of my bank account and that of, say, JK Rowling’s.
We’re in between fads, and there will be new fads coming along soon enough. But before that happens, before I can be accused of just trying to go against the grain in the heat of the moment, I’d like to say this:
Stop whining about fads in the publishing world.
I’ve said this before, both to weirdly incredulous people sitting right in front of me and to angry people online (who are brilliant and omniscient because they are on the internet), and I’d like to say more eloquently now. Stop whining.
If you “bought a copy of Twilight and gave it a go, but had to put it down because it was so bad” — the only thing you accomplished was adding a few dollars to Twilight’s sales.
If you “can’t believe so many people are reading junk like 50 Shades of Grey” and you’ve “lost all faith in humanity” — take a breath and ask yourself what you actually sound like when you say this stuff.
The point is, if you lament the decline of literary standards, or you wish new, interesting authors were given more of a chance, you are not alone. But you’re not helping by pitting yourself against the masses of idiots who bought 50 Shades of Grey instead of your favorite indie author’s book.
Book fads are the likeliest to involve a reading public you’d never ordinarily call a reading public. If you know people who have only read 10 books and 7 of those books feature Harry Potter, it’s worth wondering what kind of public you’re really missing out on. These are not necessarily voracious readers. From a glass-is-half-full perspective, they collectively injected a lot of money into the book world, at the cost of encouraging publishers to focus even more on trends.
And if you want to be a pessimist, if you want to insist that not only is the glass half empty, it’s almost totally empty, then allow me to take this to an even more extreme height: For every minute you spend worrying about the 50 Shades herd you despise, the hive mentality that magically turns your fight for good literature into something godly and historically necessary, you are wasting a chance to change things for the better.
Perhaps it seems like a lot of work, but let me suggest it anyway: Google something inanely phrased that expresses your feelings about a franchise you hate. I just tried it with “twilight sucks” and got predictable results:
There’s a whole bunch of Yahoo! Answers posts about this, as well, which feature opening words of the most humbling and depressing variety:
Hello i am composing a list of reasons why twilight sucks. i have already thought of several reasons of my own just wondering other peoples thoughts
You can mock Twilight all you want. I’d rather mock the Pokemon mentality that goes into this kind of debate: Gotta catch all the bad metaphors in Twilight! Gotta list all the reasons my refined reader tastes are offended! Gotta list all the basic rules of good writing I have internalized over my years of publicly talking about my own writing! Gotta mark my territory!
Because that element seems to me worth emphasizing. My scientific research is conclusive: 87.5% of the internet hates every franchise you hate. You are not alone. Everyone agrees with you. Everyone who has ever learned about effective metaphors, either in a high school English class or a college lit class or Wikipedia, agrees with you. That battle has already been won. There is nobody in the world, except maybe people who actually like Twilight, who considers those books well-written.
If you want to wage a war, how about creating a website about an author you consider neglected? No, I mean it. Your favorite indie author has not received the recognition you think she deserves, so why not play a part that doesn’t turn you into another insect voice in the chorus of franchise bashing? You could create a Facebook page called “(Author’s name) deserves more readers” instead of “The Twilight Series Sucks & Stephanie Meyer is a Terrible Writer” — the latter, by the way, beautifully exemplifies the impotent snobbishness of those who gather online to spend some time not actually getting any writing done. Let me quote from their introduction:
These are the types of people this group caters to:
1) People who, upon reading Twilight, immediately vomited and burned their copy of the book as is appropriate for bad literature.
2) People who liked Twilight initially but as the story dragged on recognized Stephenie Meyer’s mindless drivel for what it really is.
3) People who wanted Bella dead from two paragraphs into the first chapter.
4) People who realize that the style in which Twilight is written is, in fact, just properly punctuated fanfiction.
Those are the first 4 of 70 so far, most of which are “suggested by group members.” The hater’s tendency to self-flattery is the marketer’s secret tool. Twilight bashing and Twilight loving are both responsible for Twilight having been a success. Financially helpful hype is generated by hatred, not just fandom. This is not complicated, it’s not a divine revelation, and saying it won’t change the human desire for bonding through mutual interests. But it’s still, as far as I can see, true.
Go write something.