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Clusters and Waves

September 2, 2015

I’m thinking a little about narrative clusters today—the way certain tropes seem to crop up in media at the same time and then fade into the zeitgeist as quickly as they come. Last year’s fall TV season seemed to involve a whole lot of mind control, and the year before that a friend calls “The Year of the Sad Old Guy”. A few years ago, when urban fantasy really seemed to have its heyday, it seemed like everyone was writing demons at the same time, or ghosts, or fairies.* Tonight I watched one of the many spy movies that have come out in the past year. You get the idea.

I don’t have any concrete ideas about this, not really. I simply find it interesting that editors or readers or screenwriters suddenly find themselves thinking en masse that what the world needs right now is pregnant ex-wives or self-aware princesses or superhero novels. It’s got to be something that prompts this, but I’m not a sociologist so I have no idea what. I suspect there’s a doctoral thesis or two tied up in it.

Back in the ’90s, when I was wee, there was this whole trend of young adult time travel lesson fiction.** I don’t know why that was a thing. I kind of wish it were a thing again. Is it too message-y for today’s teenagers?

And I’m wondering a bit as well whether there are dozens or hundreds of other writers working on similar stories to me and there’ll be a huge glut of novels in 2020 or whenever I’ll get this thing published. How original are my ideas, really? Do I write them well enough that I’ll make the cut over most the others? Am I writing too slowly and I’ll be passé before I’m done?

I’m actually trying not to think about that. That way lies not finishing the thing in the first place. I just have to keep my confidence up.

But really, why do trends like these crop up? What are going to be the next big ones? And what’s going to be a theme in my fall TV schedule this time round?

* I know that’s more to do with publishing schedules and acquisition editors than anything else, but I still find it interesting.

** Kid at the cusp of puberty is angry at life, finds an old object in an attic, and is transported back to when their least favourite parent was their age, in order to befriend said parent and become less angry in the process. There was a variant with romance instead of parental friendship, and another where the kid becomes in touch with their heritage by visiting an important historical period, like colonial Australia, the Chinese railway camps, or the Underground Railroad.***

*** I really liked this genre, okay?

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