And The Next Creative Trend Is…
If you try to jump on a bandwagon, lead times usually mean that you’ve already missed it – the carnival has passed. But certain trends do emerge that can catch your creative project and lift it up, if you happen to hit at the right time.
We’re none of us clairvoyant, but there are cyclical trends from which you can benefit; one is to do with the economy – in tough times people seek escapist entertainment (the MGM musicals cycle was born of the Great Depression). It’s not surprising that the first Harry Potter book appeared at a time when divorces in the UK hit their peak. Now ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ catches the mood once more by ignoring the fact that though it is set in depression-era America it’s about cryptozoological Pokeman-catching, with not a glimpse of darkness anywhere. It’s largely inventive and fun, and in terms of character development it’s a huge improvement on anything JK Rowling has tackled before, but it still doesn’t quite have a story.
It also explains the upcoming guaranteed success of ‘La La Land’, which gloriously restores old-fashioned escapism, although it’s smart enough to do something new by ditching post-modern irony for heartfelt realism that just happens to be interspersed with fantastical sequences.
This cyclical retreat into safe zones might also explain why most new fiction seems to be set in the past. Whatever happened to state-of-the-nation novels and short stories? (Whatever happened to short stories, for that matter?) Past fiction should almost have its own category now.
As we enter a new era it seems as if the UK and the US are going to diverge, with Britain not-exactly-separated from the EU (which would be to no-one’s benefit) and the US facing a return to Bush-era politics. So where will all of that leave fiction? I think we’ll see many more dystopias, but fewer self-reflexive novels and more outlooking ones, especially those in which world events intrude into our lives, more fantasies, even the return of the horror novel, more blurred lines between genres.
Me, I’d love to see a return to the kind of brave experimental fiction that abounded in the 1960s, when the most extraordinary books sold big numbers. Tell me about what you’d like to read right now.