Ideas · Thoughts on...

What Does It Take For An Author To Become Out Of Touch With Their Own Genre?

Melvin Burgess is considered one of the fore-bearers of the young adult genre. His 1996 handling of social issues in Junk, involving drugs and substance abuse, was groundbreaking for its time. In particular, the characters were written with sympathy. Burgess had written something truly special.

Skip forwards about two decades to 2019, and his newest authorial endeavour, The Lost Witch, has only recently hit the shelves. If you have read my take on it (or anyone else’s take on it, for that matter) you’ll know that he didn’t quite hit the target. In fact, I’d say that it went sailing rather a way past it.

So what happened? How does an author go from “father of the genre” to being so out of touch from it that he can’t even see the ground? And how easily might the same thing happen to any one of us?

The young adult book industry grows and evolves at an inexorable rate – possibly unlike anything seen before – and so people who once pioneered the genre see themselves being left behind by it. JK Rowling actually works as another example of this. One of the first “serious” big writers for young adults, she’s now considered by many to be a hack or a joke, a has-been who’s desperately trying to stay relevant by retroactively revamping aspect after aspect of her original books. (Which isn’t to say that I don’t like the memes; I love them.)

But it’s easy to forget, in such a blooming, flourishing industry, that she and Melvin Burgess both used to be right at the head of it.

To me, they represent people left behind by an industry; in an increasingly diverse genre the Harry Potter books came under increasing critique for their lack thereof and Rowling over-compensated for this by turning herself into a meme (the thing all young people really care about). They were the biggest books in the game and as such were open to the most criticism. Rowling tried to evolve, but she did so artificially and was roundly criticised for it.

With Burgess the story is slightly different. Whereas Rowling, it could be argued, made a genuine attempt to evolve, Burgess remained static, writing the same YA books he was writing back in the days when YA as a genre didn’t even have a name. In a way it’s admirable; to stick to your guns and not force yourself to change for the sake of keeping up with an ever-changing entity isn’t something everyone could do, but as a result of this his most recent effort, The Lost Witch, has been rightly panned as a childishly narrated (despite not being for younger readers), abuse-filled, out-of-touch waste of paper.

So maybe we can’t avoid the same thing happening to us as we get older; one day we will naturally fall behind, even if we try to keep up, and an industry that once belonged to us will become completely foreign, because what it takes for an author to fall out of touch is remarkably simple.

It’s time.

You can’t stay on top of the tide forever; ride it for months, years, but eventually it’ll take you under. How you handle going under, however, is totally up to you. Will you let time’s tide drown you, or will you hold your breath, kick your arms and legs, and make sure you wash up on the sandy shore, safe and sound?

That much is your decision.

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Review

Review: The Plantagenets. Dan Jones.

Originally written: 24/05/19. Contains spoilers… for… history?

I bloody love history, but I rarely if ever find books about the eras and people that interest me. The Plantagenet Empire in particular always interested me, since my earliest comprehension of history at primary school when I just thought the name Plantagenet was really cool. I’ve watched documentaries, but a lot turned out to be packed with misinformation, and until now I had never found a piece of media that portrayed the “bloodiest family in English history” in a way that was itself very interesting.

(All the talk of France and the French in this book also encouraged me to start re-learning the language in Duolingo. (July update: I fell out of this habit again within the same month.) (October update: Since the start of the month I’ve been at it again and I’m on a nineteen day streak right now. Pray for me.))

Continue reading “Review: The Plantagenets. Dan Jones.”

Review

Abuse In Fiction: “The Lost Witch”.

This blog contains strong language and discussion of serious topics, including mental abuse, rape, and victim blaming. Please proceed with care. Here is the number for Living Without Abuse, an outreach service, if you feel you need it: 0808 80 200 28.

Today I am ranting. I’m so angry I got out of bed at three o’clock in the morning to write this, so yes. I am ranting, pure and simple.

This book was almost a DNF more than once. I kept going for two reasons; one, my copy had been signed for me by the author and I didn’t want to be disrespectful by failing to finish it, and two, I have to admit, I wanted to know how it ended.

While the beginning was promising enough and I liked some of the English countryside imagery, the narrative quickly took a nose-dive into “weird in a bad way” territory and only got worse from there, reaching the point by the end when I realised that this entire book had been one long practice in misery.

Continue reading “Abuse In Fiction: “The Lost Witch”.”

Review

Review: Wayward Son. Rainbow Rowell.

Originally written: 05/10/19. Contains spoilers!

I’ve been waiting for this book for a year, so when it finally came out you know I was right down to Waterstones, first thing in the morning, to get my copy.

Well, I got it and now I’ve finished it, and it’s probably going to be another year before we get the sequel (thank god, confirmed). It definitely needs a sequel; the ending was rather inconclusive and too open ended, even without Penny’s ending wham line. That isn’t to say that the book wasn’t good. On the contrary, I had a great time with it. More than once I had to put it down for a minute, until I’d stopped smiling so wide and I could concentrate again.

Continue reading “Review: Wayward Son. Rainbow Rowell.”

ramble · Thoughts on...

Sex and the City: The Friendship Lie.

In Sex and the City, the girls meet for lunch once an episode. They meet each others boyfriends, protect each other from the bad ones (or at least they try to, CARRIE). They go to clubs and parties and book launches (if only). They go on holiday together. Arguments last for an episode and by the next one, all is not just forgiven, but forgotten. Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that last one; this was an episodic show, after all, but it got me wondering…

Is television’s portrayal of friendship just as damaging as its portrayal of romance?

Continue reading “Sex and the City: The Friendship Lie.”

Review

Review: Dead Mountain. Donnie Eichar.

Originally written: 16/04/19. Contains spoilers (not of a real life event, which I don’t count, but of the author’s final conclusion to the mystery).

I first learned of the Dyatlov Pass tragedy years ago and sunk hours of my time into watching videos and YouTube documentaries on the subject, but never felt as if I had learned the answer to what really happened.

I can now say differently.

Continue reading “Review: Dead Mountain. Donnie Eichar.”

Thoughts on...

The Ronaissance. (Or, what the hell happened to Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films?)

A common complaint I see about the Harry Potter films, seven years after the final film was released, is that Lavender Brown’s actress was replaced once she became a plot-relevant character. It’s a valid criticism, and one that I’ve myself asked more than once. Here’s the thing though; you think Hollywood cares that they changed Lavender Brown’s actress from a black girl to a white one?

Because the Ron in the films was replaced with a different person entirely, and nobody cared. We’d may as well not even call him Ron. Lets call him instead…

G- Glom. Glom Weaseler.

Continue reading “The Ronaissance. (Or, what the hell happened to Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films?)”