November 10, 2010

Save the Contemporary, Part II

If Contemporary YA quietly disappeared tomorrow would teens even notice?

That, friends, is the question at fomagrams.

Sometimes as a writer, I'm a little scared that the books I think of have no point, as in, "There's no point in writing this because there's no werewolf in this."

Worse, sometimes I'm scared that the fantasy and science fiction books that I want to write are buying into a hype that's already existing. No, I'm not going to write steampunk. Or werewolves. Or Animorphs, although that was a really fun series. I really want to write original content, but there's none of that left, really.

All writing is rewriting another story - and these days, it's another story with vampires.

Is there a point to continuing to try?

P'raps Mr. E. will provoke some thought.


C. K. Kelly Martin said...

This is a question I find myself asking almost nonstop...and I don't have an answer but I think the fall off in popularity of YA contemporary books is just a symptom of larger problems within our ADD culture. Every time I go to the movies lately there's some idiot that can't be in the moment and has to text rabidly on their phone. Crappy reality shows are the big winners in TV ratings.

Sometimes I wonder if art in general means things to most people anymore or whether such a large segment of the population just want a glittering, bloody distraction - explosions, vampire love affairs, battles to the death. If so, I am woefully incompatible with them, and the stories I want to tell are not ones they want to hear. I still want to tell those realistic teenage stories but I just don't know where that leaves me. Mostly tired and worried so far...

Sarah Stevenson said...

C.K.: Yep. It's something that has always had me sighing, especially since my other vocation is visual art--another part of our culture rapidly falling victim to the ADD trend of looking for the next shiny thing that everyone else also likes.

Extras by Scott Westerfeld was scarily prophetic.

I just finished reading a book called The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains that really depressed me--the internet encourages multimedia sound-bite-style consumption rather than deeper contemplation.

Much as I hate to admit it, society's probably not going to fall apart if nobody can concentrate long enough to read an entire book or understand a painting...but I shudder to think what that attention span will do if it affects, say, airline pilots or teachers or scientists...

Yat-Yee said...

I love contemporary fiction. If YA goes completely paranormal / SFF, I would be very sad. I don't think it will though, and i think (hope?) that the pendulum will right itself.

C. K. Kelly Martin said...

It sounds like you and I are on the exact same wavelength with this issue, aquafortis! As a fan of deeper contemplation, society's preference for wading in the shallow end is really disturbing.

I guess the robots will be doing all the piloting and other concentration heavy work soon enough. Maybe our best hope is that the robots are like Data - obsessed with the finer points of being human and therefore ardent fans of contemporary YA!

Alex said...

I hope contemporary fiction isn't a slowly fading thing. I love a good Science Fiction/Fantasy book, but not all the time and I am by now really fanged out.
I think aquafortis is right when she says that our culture is falling victim to ADD, which completely meets the need for instant gratification, and the idea of getting instant fame and money now so much a part of reality TV doesn't help.
And I always wonder if in the near future YA novels will have to be written in text styly - ihn (I hope not)

tanita✿davis said...

Every time I worry to myself about this, I realize one important thing: we are sharing this concern, which means it's not only me and not only you.

Which means the readers are out there, too.

I take comfort in that small reality.

Anonymous said...

Is there really a fall-off in the reading of contemporary realism, or is it just that an explosion in fantasy and paranormal has overshadowed realism? Did readers abandon realism for fantasy, or did Harry Potter and Twilight just bring a lot of new readers to YA, those who happen to like fantasy and paranormal?

When you look at the sales figures for Sarah Dessen and Ellen Hopkins, I find it hard to believe that the realistic subgenre is dying. Right now, realistic stories are racking up sales more quietly, but they are selling.

And FWIW, as a reader, I prefer realism--did when I was a teenager, too.

Doret said...

Yes, please continue to write. Contemporary YA. I love realistic fiction. There are teens who don't like fantasy.

Also, I have my fingers crossed that YA readers will soon say enough with the YA fantasy quantity we want quality -be it fantasy or realistic fiction.

Sarah Stevenson said...

I agree, Doret--I'll take quality over quantity any day, especially when we're being bombarded with the same stuff over and over again.

Jenn, I think you're right--the great contemporary fiction's out there (I LOVE Sarah Dessen!) but I don't think it's being marketed nearly as heavily.