Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Feature! - September 23, 2011

Trendy and Mystifying: 
The Wider Lit World

As planned, there will be three types of featured articles, running on Fridays and rotating every Friday (with the fourth Friday dedicated to various challenges) that will appear on this blog!
This feature is called “Trendy and Mystifying: The Winder Lit World” – and it will cover the trends and weird quirks of the publishing world that have caught my attention – any issues and/or articles are greatly welcome! So if some trend is mystifying you – just send it to me! 

Now onto Trendy and Mystifying!

“Trendy and Mystifying” will be a Friday Feature where I discuss and bring to light a strange trend or mystifying article of the publishing world. I invite my Dear Readers to voice their own comments and get out their own frustrations with what they’re seeing and reading, and vent them out in the comments !


Today’s Topic: Whatever happened to the Standalone?
You remember it, right? The now elusive creature  bordering on mythical? That page turner that is both so awesome and so self-contained that there need be nothing else made to justify its existence? That canny piece of work that structures a world around itself, shrouds itself in words and captures our imaginations?

So where have they all gone?

I have read a lot of articles on the subject recently, and they seem to converge on the same theory: In our age of rampant capitalism, you will do a thing ‘till its dead.

Like, maybe a 100th season of CSI? (They’re on 99 now right?)

Yes, it is true that our culture makes very snappy judgments on what it will or will not value. After two seasons of highly quality episodes, Pushing Daisies bit the dust, in comparison to the now fourth season of Jersey Shore – people watch the latter more (I have no idea why, I think that is for another kind of post altogether) and so more ad space is viewed and so that gets renewed. The better quality one is ditched – less add views means less revenue, after all. This is part of the reason I hate the average consumer: reality television, more Transformer movies than we ever needed, and no more Vanilla coke.

Similarly, book publishers want to sell books. Preferably, so many books that their offices can be made in marble.

So books that sell – get more contracts to make more books, based on the same series, to sell more.  And those who don’t … well, if those see the light of day, they only see it once – regardless of how awesome the world contained therein may seem to some.

Off the top of my head, I could name untold amounts of series – Harry Potter, the Vampire Academy and its spin-off, The Fallen Trilogy (now 4-ology or whatever), the Caster Chronicles, the Sookie Stackhouse series, etc. etc. etc.

But how many single titles can I name? In the YA category? Not many …

Uh … I am sure there were a few … Um …


Anyways I do wonder if it is all commercial interest. I mean … that is a very persuasive argument … but maybe, the optimist inside of me asks ever so tentatively, maybe it’s because those stories aren’t done and publishers want the story to finish?

I wish.

The truth of the matter is that the second the series starts dwindling in numbers, the series will get cooked. It’s happened so many times, and so – for authors, the thing to think about, is When to pull out?

Charlaine Harris recently announced there would be only two more Southern Vampire Mystery books. So far, she’s had a good track record (according to me, anyway) of knowing when to pull out: my favourite series of hers, The Harper Connelly Mysteries, are four amazing books long – and they end perfectly.

Now, I do love series for a couple of reasons: at the end of a good book – I want to know more about what happened after the last page – did all the dragons really get slayed? Is she going to settle for the mismatched hero? Will she learn something else and go on another crazy adventure?
I love series, in short, because I love the world.

But I also think that stand alones have their place – A Complicated Kindness is probably my favourite example. It’s a book by Miriam Toews. In it, is a complete story – and at the end we are left with an ending that stratches open, wide with the possibilities as the main character opts to have a go at life. Some cynic would think this ending was supposed to open up to a sequel – but the beauty of a good stand alone is that you don’t need a sequel – it’s perfect the way it is because it makes you think of it, makes you ponder what happened after the book closed, makes you reflect over the book as a complete story.

And I think, that’s what’s missing in a lot of literature these days.

Whether or not you like them in series or standing lonesome, stories are meant to make you think – and I fear that the commercialization of stories (in books, movies, television) will eventually begin to erode away at that.

What do you guys think?