Tuesday, January 28, 2014


I had a discussion with my daughter about TV shows and might have discovered something. She likes The Housewives' series and Teen Wolf and Game of Thrones, also The Witches of East End. She says her husband kids her about Teen Wolf. She was watching it here with me tonight and began telling me why she liked it. Because, she said, it was light. It was a little serious, but it didn't worry her. She knew the kids would survive. It reminded me when my mother aged, a woman who read detective and mystery fiction all her life and then suddenly began reading romances. I asked why. She said it was because she was stressed and romances were light and didn't bother her, they didn't make her worry. I thought of the overall psychological ramifications of people right now being so stressed. The country's in some bad shape, the economy is in the tank, jobs are not plentiful, and our congress--well, you know. So maybe people are so stressed they just can't take heavy, violent entertainment right now. Nothing even near horror was considered for the Academy Award, and it really never is. People are watching less news shows and might be moving away from violent depictions because real life is just awfully difficult for so many right now. Anyway, this may be a trend. I read elsewhere on Facebook (where this discussion originated) about the big trend in publishing is YA, also we know how well the Twilight vampire fiction and the Hunger Games did, and the DIVERGENT trilogy--all of that indicating a trend toward lighter entertainment with younger characters. I think I may be onto something! It's a generality, I know, but many things are pointing to it. My daughter said in her wise way, "We want it serious, but not bloody. We want it to be interesting and entertaining, but not something that will really scare us." I know a lot of us who write horror like fiction and film that might scare us or even worry us, but the rest of the reading/viewing world...maybe not so much. I would also mention Stephen King's last two books have been much lighter, it seems to me, than work he's done before. I think he has his hand on the pulse of the public. He always has, which is one of his talents.

King's DR SLEEP is much softer than THE SHINING. And today THE SHINING can't scare anyone. People are scared out. JOYLAND features the character when he was a young man, so there you have younger characters. Even I wrote of younger characters, teens on the cusp of being adults, in THE GREY MATTER. This was without having any insight at all; I just wanted to write of those characters to see how they might handle desperate situations. I've long ago had a change in taste in film from horror to sf or heavy crime drama. Few horror films today are worth watching, in my opinion. Most are so over the top people laugh or they get so disgusted they give up on that particular film. Or book...

Maybe a "tired" public is part of the movement toward lighter, less disturbing entertainment. It might not just be a stressed out nation, but one that is feeling a little helpless and in need of respite. A tired nation, with no means to right wrongs, to correct wars popping up, countries everywhere struggling to remain not just solvent, but whole and safe. It's not that the "dark" fiction factor is missing. I mean in DIVERGENT, you have a dytopian society with young characters having to live in certain types of their own societies and when of age, choosing what kind of person they want to be. It has an incredibly dark underpinning, but not graphic and not so violent that the YA group is attracted to it. It's not that people can't take serious fiction or film, they do and can, but their spirits and minds are a little overwhelmed maybe and they don't want it too REAL.

We seem to handle fantastic elements much easier than realism. I'm not a sociologist, so I'm flying by the seat of my pants, but my daughter's insights provoked these thoughts. I consulted my own tastes and how they've changed. I was watching many of those shows on the ID channel about stalkers, killers next door, women with knives, that sort of thing about real situations and slowly many of them became so disturbing for me I would turn away from them. So many victims, so much senseless violence and people going crazy who you wouldn't expect to lose their minds. And this is from a woman who has made a lifelong study of abnormal psychological states of being and the effects of it on others around a demented or damaged person. I just thought it was interesting, a trend that is trying to say something if only we can understand it.

Also, there's a clue in how we have so many superhero and comic book based films and animated films that break all box office records. People are going to movies that I'd consider cartoons, really, and they're going in droves, perhaps wishing for a happier time, more innocent, with less of an impact on both their intelligence and their nerves.

For the people producing entertainment (and writers and filmmakers aren't supposed to be preachers or teachers, but entertainers) if there truly is a trend and it's affecting society and that society's choice of entertainment, it's a serious reflection that's needed. Most of us can't write other than we write because storytelling is a thing ruled by personal passion. I'm not saying the passionate artist can explore other than what inspires, but we do need to know the audience and what they can or cannot take, what they prefer or will turn aside from, what our world needs most from us. It presents a conundrum, too, for dark fiction artists, if only in the realization we have more need to explore ways to not put our audiences in dire states of mind, or disturb them to the extent we lose them altogether. Perhaps we all need softening, even the world of artists, who often feel deeply and sometimes in terms of tragedy.

One of the author blurbs for my new novel talks about how the book is really about love--family love that doesn't depend on DNA--and of courage. What came from me with the book was more an exploration of love than one of evil--though evil does indeed factor into the overall story. It has nothing at all to do with romantic love, despite three young teens love the female in their midst, they love her beyond the physical, beyond even romance; they love her in a way they would sacrifice themselves for her. It is suspenseful, but the underlying theme is the strength of loyalty, of overcoming the greatest obstacles, of surviving and keeping people they love safe. As I say, it was probably a book that reflects my own change of heart at the time I wrote it, a change leading me toward interest more in the human heart and strength in life over the taking of it. I've learned something about myself!

Sometimes, and this is true, artists tell themselves stories they need to hear.

We simply can't discount the public, for whom we hope to reach and entertain. If they are telling us they are tired, they are overwhelmed, they cannot be asked to be more stressed or expected to read or watch our works then we can't really bury our heads and ignore them. The artist ignores the world and sometimes revolutionizes it. More often the artist ignores the world and becomes not just a footnote, but a cypher.


  1. Well said! I think you put your finger on something very important. Real life is hard enough, people need something a little more hopeful, or at least something that doesn't make them feel completely helpless. And it's helplessness that stresses us out more than anything.

  2. That's it, Dani. I think I read something a long time ago about "Never make your reader want to commit suicide." That would be drastic, but it's sort of what I'm saying, too. Words are power. Fiction in any form can be super powerful and have effects we might not expect.

  3. We thrive on hope. We wither on despair.

  4. explains why YA is so popular, not with just the YA... had been wondering why - thx for pointing out the not-so-obvious, though under my nose, to me

    ~tony hunt