There is a silent revolution taking shape right now, and it doesn’t involve guns and swords but something considered mightier: the pen (or its modern equivalent, the keyboard).
As novelist Henry Giles once said:
Silent, passive, and noiseless though they may be, books set in action countless multitudes, and change the order of nations.
In this case, it’s the literary world itself that is changing rapidly with new-fangled versions of fiction writing. Cli-fi, mythopoeia and fanfic, for instance. The enormously popular 50 Shades of Grey trilogy actually started out as vampire franchise Twilight-inspired fanfic. When its author EL James was signed on to publish it commercially, she altered character names and changed a few details.
New writing styles give a much-needed adrenaline dose to the world of fiction that wasn’t evolving as quickly until recently.
Minimalism advocator and Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk said on his own website:
“A big reason why I started writing is I felt that fiction had stopped evolving. All other entertainments were getting better, constantly, as technology allowed. Movies. Video games. Music. And as their audiences became more sophisticated, these other media could experiment and risk trying new storytelling methods. The bright future is that readers are accepting more varied forms of stories. And books have the freedom to portray topics movies and music never could – because their success relies on attracting a huge broadcast audience. This combination of ‘sophisticated reader’ and ‘freedom’ will give future writers their advantage.”
Whenever a new literary term is coined, it’s a chance to observe not only the innovative authors but the readers as well who buy and discuss it. And as these exciting fiction styles gain traction, that discussion will only get louder.
“Mythopoeia has taken off in the Indian diaspora because there has been a change in readership from a mature audience to a younger one. This lot has a desperate yearning to reconnect. They want to consume mythology but in a well packaged and easily digestible way.”
— Ashwin Sanghi,
author of The Rozabal Line,
Chanakya’s Chant and The Krishna Key
“The English language publishing industry in our country wasn’t market driven. The success of these new genres is a result of our increasing self-confidence as a nation. Now, publishers are more open to new fiction genres,” says Amish Tripathi, banker-turned-author of the popular Shiva Trilogy. His latest mythopoeia release is Sita – Warrior of Mithila, book II in the five-book Ram Chandra series.
This genre is the stuff of legend, literally. Mythopoeia is Greek for mythos-making. As the name suggests, it’s a narrative genre where a fictional mythology is created by the author. Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien first used the term as the title of one of his poems in order to explain and defend creative myth-making.
Mythopoeia is getting a fresh lease of life with popular book series like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan, and A Song of Fire and Ice series by George RR Martin (turned into TV drama Game of Thrones).
Indian authors aren’t far behind. Amish Tripathi, Ashwin Sanghi are mining our nation’s ancient epics to write thrillers and fantasy series.
What to read
The Shiva Trilogy books by Amish Tripathi; The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi, The Guardians of Karma by Mohan Vizhakat; Thundergod: The Ascendance of Indra by Rajiv G Menon; Once Upon an Elephant by Ashok Mathur
Hand it to the growing concern over global warming; cli-fi is a hot trend in books. Short for climate fiction, cli-fi describes stories about the hazards of climate change. It’s a world where eco terrorists are the villains and impending environmental disasters are the order of the day.
The term cli-fi was coined by Taiwan-based blogger Danny Bloom in 2007 in a bid to market his e-book Polar City Red, about Alaskan climate refugees. The book bombed but cli-fi caught on.
In the recent past, renowned writers like Michael Crichton and Atonement author Ian McEwan have tackled the genre. McEwan wrote after the release of his cli-fi novel Solar, “I’m surprised there aren’t more such books. Climate change has clearly begun to have an impact on our lives already, on a small scale, on a private level and on a geopolitical level.”
Says Nathaniel Rich, author of new cli-fi novel Odds Against Tomorrow, “We will increasingly see more novels that incorporate ecological themes as more people begin, or are forced, to contemplate the catastrophic ways in which we have transformed the planet.”
What to read:
This genre was created by a group of small American press publishers in response to the increasing demand for good weird fiction and the growing number of authors who specialise in it. Simply put, bizarro is the genre of the weird. It is literature’s equivalent to the cult section at the DVD store.
Like those cult movies, bizarro strives not only to be strange and fascinating, but thought-provoking and fun to read. Imagine Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups, or Japanese animation directed by Hollywood filmmaker David Lynch.
There is a certain cartoon logic that, when applied to the real world, creates an unstable universe where the bizarre becomes the norm and absurdities are made flesh. Take for instance Jeff Burk’s Shatnerquake. The novel is about every character that Star Trek’s lead actor William Shatner has ever played entering our reality with one mission: to hunt down and destroy the real William Shatner!
What to read:
4. INTERACTIVE FICTION
Ever wished you could change the ending of a novel after you finished reading it? In the world of interactive fiction, you can. And not just the climax, you can change the way the story unfolds at every major turn.
Interactive fiction tells you the beginning of a story, and then puts you in command of how the story moves forward. The genre has been around since the mid-70s. Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure and Give Yourself Goosebumps series of children’s books? The medium is taking off again with the rise of e-books and gaming.
Current interactive fiction blurs the lines between the virtual and real worlds. Through embedded links, you can unlock ‘what if ‘ storylines, change the world by interacting with the author through a voting platform, or re-read key scenes from the perspective of different characters.
The best part is, there is no wrong way to read an interactive novel. With major publishers like Random House and DC launching interactive fiction platforms, this genre could be the next dimension of the reading experience.
What to read:
Blood of the Zombies by Ian Livingstone; Beer, Women and Bad Decisions by Shawn Harris; Photopia by Adam Cadre; Whom The Telling Changed by Aaron A Reed
A lesser-known genre in revival is minimalism thanks to its new guiding light, Chuck Palahniuk. Says the novelist:
“Minimalism seems closest to the sophisticated storytelling of movies. Movies have really educated contemporary audiences to be the most intelligent, sophisticated audiences in history. They no longer need to have the relationship between one scene and the next explained.”
Post-modern minimalism is all about short sentences and a stripped-down, terse writing style. It mimics the way an average person would talk when relaying a story to someone else. Authors keep adjectives, adverbs and meaningless details to a minimum.
Instead of providing every minute detail, the author gives a general context and allows the reader’s imagination to shape the story. One book in this genre is Burnt Tongues featuring minimalist short stories from 20 of Palahniuk’s online writing workshop students.
An exciting offshoot of modern minimalism is flash fiction, which is even shorter and so plot-driven that every word has the ‘plot’ as its only objective.
What to read:
Short for fanfiction, fanfic is prose or poetry written by fans of a film or book, featuring the person’s favourite characters. The stories are posted online or published in a ‘fanzine’ (fan magazine). While fanfic did exist among science fiction junkies in the pre-internet days, the ability to share and discuss stories on the web has led to its explosion. You can find fanfic in any fandom, from popular franchises like epic fantasy Lord of the Rings to the obscure.
Most writers pick up the story from where the original left off or change things to their liking (for instance, some fans have kept Sirius Black alive in their versions of Harry Potter). The legitimacy of fanfic as a literary genre has been under debate. A slew of fanfic stories seeing the light of publishing day (chiefly 50 Shades of Grey that EL James began as vampire franchise Twilight-inspired fanfic) laid this doubt to rest.
You’ve heard of chick-lit for women in their twenties. Gran-lit is a new genre that is out to prove that romance and passion aren’t the forte of just the young. In books with catchy titles such as The Hot Flash Club, Julie and Romeo, and The Red Hat Club, authors give reassurance that the middle-age and later years, while not without challenges and sorrows, can include zest, sunny adventure, and romance.
Gran-lit was coined after 2011 book Thursdays in the Park, a romance between two 60-somethings, became an e-book sensation and a bestselling novel. The author Hilary Boyd is a spunky 62-year-old herself. The tagline sums up Gran-lit. It goes: Does love always come with a sell-by date?
“I wanted to write about what it was like to be a young-at-heart pensioner and a grandmother in the 21st century. Not a specs-toting granny, but a modern one, someone who still works, goes to the gym and dyes her eyebrows.”
– Hilary Boyd
What to read:
(A version of this post was first published in Times Life by the Times of India Group)
To read some beautiful pieces on the “sunny” theme, check out these links:
- Slogging through the smog in Beijing – Science traveler
- Visiting Westworld – Bend branches
- A joy forever #scentsofsummerGiveaway – You are entering my mind
- Sunny – Dirty little daydreams
- 6 travel adventures to do in the Caribbean
- 7 reasons to grab the novel ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ – Perceptions unplugged
- 5 essential oils that bring in the sunshine – Bold aromatherapy
- Sunny days – Making the days count
- Hey sunshine – Brave Smart Bold
- The sunny side of life – Success inspirers’ world
- Sunny feline – The cat chronicles
- Teach saileach – Willow Room – Murtagh’s Meadow
- The wonder of birds – The Chicken Grandma
- Morning glory – Living in Crimson
- Predictable weather – Bad dad cartoons
- If you’re not chasing your goals, they aren’t important enough – Just in Kace
- Dark to sunny – Chronicles of an orange-haired woman
- Around the lake – Shower of blessings
- June’s Tune – Watch, wait and witness
- Wheels up – The Hockey Mom
- #32 When it rains… (waking up Jayla) – Cimmerian sentiment
- One day in the park – Notes to women
- Sunny disposition – One more lap
- Sunny – Healed of Cancer Angela McCauley
- These days actually exist – Live a thousand lifestyles
- Those phrases – Reactionary tales
- Sensory overload – Bird flight
- Story Part 2 – Sight11
- Wild and woolly Wednesdays – Dog tales
- My life before and after the dawn – Positive guider
- How Sunny’s momma became a calendar girl – The jittery goat
- What colour is your mood today? – Life as it happens to be
- The gift – My world within words
- The label – Autism in our nest
- Ed tech – Developing explorers
- Grizz – Jane’s journals
- Two miles high – A rocky mountain tail – Two travelin’ chicas
- Rainy day blues – Sarah Ackerman
- A new slider – Hot dogs and marmalade
- Sunny days up ahead – Flip flops every day
- That golden time – Random storyteller
- Sunny days – Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
- 300 year drought – Jim Adams
- Random ramblings or is it? – Train of thoughts
- Overrated – Stumble upon serendipity
- Sunny side down – Kuma house
- Temperaments and their implications – Life blog
- My Fitbit died – Crossing Colorado
- Am I a Google addict? – Dramatisch Gemini
- A selfless life – Helzee
- Weather madness – Army of the fallen bikers
- Dealing with being laid off from work – Lady Lebz
- Sunny day photos at Longwood – Telling the truth
- Sunny – My word soup
- Afraid of differences – Carolyn Dennis Willingham
- I love a rainy day – My loud bipolar whispers
- Sunny ways of living – Revolving around life
- Indian summers – The musing monkey
- I just runaway – Sascha Darlington
- Sunny? – all life is yoga
- Roma Termini – Another global eater
- In the spotlight – Do what you wish
- It’s sunny inside too – Little light one
- Fallen – Azalea Frost
- Modern day wonderland
- A sunny day forecast – Kindergarten Knowledge
- Sunny defined in three words – Ryan Erickson