Today, I briefly emerged from my little academic cocoon and stepped outside. I was shocked to discover that the snow had all melted, the lakes were all thawed out, there were birds in the air, and the sun was shining — I think I somehow missed the appearance of spring. Don’t worry, I’m buckling back to work in my oubliette now, but it was a bit of a surprise.
But that’s not what I wanted to mention. It was another surprising bit of weirdness. The reason I was dragged out of the dungeon of academe was to run an errand, and I was at Wal-Mart (don’t ask)…and while I was there, bored and awaiting the mistress’s orders, I was browsing their book section. It’s also been a long, long time since I plumbed that paragon of mass-market genrefication, the warehouse shopping version of a bookstore, and I discovered a new (to me) development.
First, there was something entirely expected: wall-to-wall romance novels, with their pink covers and naked-chested manly men flexing their pectorals. That’s a regular fixture in these places. I even read some, several years ago, and as formula fiction goes, they weren’t my cup of tea, but they weren’t that bad. There are well-honed conventions there, but some of the better authors do manage to sneak a little imagination into the filigree.
No, the real surprise was the second most popular genre that was everywhere on those book shelves: vampire novels. It’s as if Laurell Hamilton and Anne Rice have recently had an unholy tryst and have spawned a scampering horde of little horror-romance novelists who have all skittered off and scrawled out series after series of stories about vampiresses, vampire huntresses, vampire princesses, vampire trailer park queens, and vampire lovers. They all seemed to be by female authors and feature female protagonists, too; some of the covers also blurred into similarity with the romance novels, except that the muscular-breasted Fabio on the cover was also sporting fangs.
I can’t judge the contents, and maybe they’re all wonderfully creative and entertaining, although I suspect Sturgeon’s Law will still apply. I’m just a little baffled about where this sudden surge in one narrow genre has come from.