As The Fiction Trends

January 5th, 2006 · No Comments
by Booksquare

We read Nick Chiles’s opinion piece on the changing face of black fiction with mixed feelings. First, we wanted to take him aside and promise that everything would be all right. Then we realized that popular fiction will never meet his standards; everything would not be all right.

For those of you who don’t explore beyond your favorite section of the bookstore, you should know that many major chains now have a section called (give or take) “African American Literature”. The reason you should know this is that these misguided bookstores are thinking that the target audiences are better served with their fiction in a special section. You encounter this with religious-oriented fiction as well. Makes things very confusing for the uninitiated and certainly reduces overall exposure of these groups of fiction to readers.

Though Chiles mixes erotica and romance with street lit, he notes that the covers generally appeal to the prurient nature of humanity. Yeah, well, he should try a few other sections of the bookstore. Romance authors have been complaining about half-naked women on their books for years (rightly so: one cannot presume that the publishing industry is doing this attract lesbian romance readers; it’s non-sensical.). Cover art changes over time as does the nature of trendy fiction.

Our main beef with Chiles is this:

I realize that publishing is a business, but publishers also have a responsibility to balance street lit with more quality writing. After all, how are we going to explain ourselves to the next generation of writers and readers who will wonder why they have so little to read of import and value produced in the early 21st century, why their founts of inspiration are so parched?

We cannot agree that the publishing industry has a responsibility to balance their lists. Publishers provide the product; family and schools teach children (or adults) to read and love literature. While Chiles doesn’t like it, the average reader prefers popular fiction with loyal audience of serious fiction readers (and, no, we are so not going to try to define terms) carrying the torch for “quality writing”. Chiles would be fine with the lurid popular fiction if it lead to more serious reading, but doesn’t see that happening.

This is how the fiction business works. All that stuff he thinks is bad is financing the titles he thinks are good. There will be readers who expand their reading tastes. There will be readers who won’t. And just like all trends in fiction, either street lit will become a mature genre or will fade away due to reader burn-out.

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