Recently, I have noticed something rather
worrisome about what is on the bookshelves of modern bookshops. It is not what
you might think. I am not concerned about violence, or explicitness...for they
are in no more generous supply than they ever used to be – no, what concerns me is
just what kind of books are available. If you look at the teen section of a
bookshop, or, indeed, the science fiction/fantasy section of many bookshops,
you might be as disturbed as I was to note that almost every book seems to be
about vampires or werewolves, or other supernatural phenomenon.
It is really
In fact, that is just what Ainan said
recently, looking at the selection of books available, in the bookshop we were
in: “How boring.” Now, this is from a young boy, who has read much less than me
– yet even he is tired of the repetitiousness of the offerings available.
This is a very real problem – one of a lack
of imagination, and creativity in publishing. It seems that just because Harry
Potter and The Twilight Series have done so well, that publishers want to copy
these two series, hoping for similar success – so they “greenlight” anything
about the supernatural, particularly vampires and werewolves – and refuse to
publish anything about anything new, for that might be seen as “untried” and “risky”.
The result is bookshelves heaving with vampires and werewolves – and nothing
else. It is unutterably dull. I, for one, couldn’t find a single book on those
shelves that I would want to buy and read. So, I didn’t. Neither did my son. We left empty handed – because there
really was no choice, every book was basically telling the same story – a love
story around vampires and werewolves – in different words. How crass.
Modern publishing is at risk of killing
itself off, ironically, through the avoidance of risk. By not trying to bring
new works to the market, with novel ideas, styles or perspectives, but
repeatedly pushing the same limited kinds of works, they are creating a market
without any real choice. If there is no choice, eventually there will be no
Now, I can’t be sure that this is just a publisher's
problem. Perhaps the bookshops are being selective in what they order and are
targeting werewolves and vampires and the like...yet somehow I doubt it. You
see, when I was a teenager there were no stories about werewolves and vampires –
apart from Bram Stoker and the shelves seemed to have much greater variety.
Modern publishing has become a business in which everyone is trying to do and
sell the same product. They are “playing safe” to the point of
I don’t really buy books anymore, from my
local bookshops. Well, I do...but only very rarely. Certainly, the fiction
shelves are not as interesting as they were when I was a child. Looking at
them, you would swear there was only one story and one writer in the whole
world – because every book is much the same. There is no longer any reason to
read anymore, because there is no longer anything new to read, being presented to
us. I do hope this is just a publishing problem and not because every writer on
Earth thinks it clever to write about vampires and werewolves. In fact, the
problem has become so obvious that it really is dishonest to call the sections
in the bookshops “Teen” or “Science Fiction and Fantasy”...they should just be
called “Vampires and Werewolves” – because that is basically all that is on
It is no surprise to me that bookshops are
closing down. Readers no longer have interesting books to buy. They just have
the same old same old. So why should they buy anything in these moribund
bookshops? As long as publishers compete to be the same as each other,
producing the same products, by different authors (who might as well have the
same name), then readers will no longer have anything worthwhile to read, or
any reason to frequent a bookshop.
Publishing will only thrive if there is
true diversity. Once publishers start behaving in a herd like manner, that is
the end of the road for them. Unfortunately, they became a herd long ago...so I
don’t see much future for them, unless they change soon.
Let us have bookshelves teeming with
variety. Let vampires and werewolves become a rarity again – because, frankly,
I am beyond bored with them. If you are writing a vampire and werewolf book,
please stop writing now. The world has more than enough of them. In fact, why
don’t the world’s publishers start UNpublishing vampire and werewolf books?
That would be progress, because then they would have to publish something else.
Future eras will laugh at the “culture” we
produced over the last decade or so. They will laugh at the advent of idiocy so
revealed. In fact, we might one day be known as the time of vampires and
werewolves. It might be one of the most obvious facts about our culture in this
time. How stupid is that?
Everyone reading this can do something to
encourage more variety in the books stocked on bookstore shelves – simply stop
buying vampire and werewolf stories. Eventually publishers will get the message
and start publishing something else....hopefully lots of different things. As
for me, I have only bought myself two fiction books in the last year. The first
turned out to be rather unreadable, and ineptly written. The second I have yet
to try. I will comment more later.
Posted by Valentine Cawley
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Labels: books, modern publishing, quality of writing, the decline in modern culture, the decline of modern civilization