All the Dollars, Genre Edition

Capitalism is about every business needing to maximize profits at all times, at the expense of quality, of careers, of productive businesses themselves, of individual lives, of communities, of art and intellect, of the continued existence of the human species, etc.  I don’t much cotton to it.

Something wiser people than I have remarked on, or expounded at length, is that this has the effect of reducing consumer choice.  That might be small potatoes compared to it reducing the life expectancy of the human race, but it’s not nothing, and it’s what I’m talking about at the moment.  Briefly.  This will be a total driveby.

I’ve been reading Paperbacks From Hell by Grady Hendrix, mostly for the pictures.  It’s an art book of schlocky horror book covers, but also a history of the industry, artists, and writers.  Some combination of tax law and corporate greed led to the destruction of the mid-tier book market in the ’90s, and more relevant to my point here, led to trend-chasing and the death of entire genres.

It was never about public desire to actually read this or that.  It was about the money men’s perceived need to put all your money on the winning horse, to hedge no bets.  When Silence of the Lambs blew up, supernatural or scifi horror was chucked in the dustbin of history.  It couldn’t get published without a select few author’s names on it.  It was serial killers or thrillers, for the spooky end of the book rack, or nothing.

I haven’t finished the book yet so I don’t know if it mentions the way book stores don’t even have a horror section now, but they do have a supernatural romance section, boy howdy.  Anyway, all these genres are ridden into the dirt like so many Dr. Strangelove bombs, leaving the public tired and wired.  We still have needs for artistic and intellectual stimulation that are not being met, interests The Man has deemed unprofitable.

And thanks to cultural balkanization driven by social media, it’ll be pretty hard for The Man to keep these gravy trains on track.  Disney’s historically recent media monopolies seemed like they could rule forever, but those profits are sure to get limp over time.  What then?  For us, the consumers of media, we have our rabbit holes, our communities, our own trends that flicker this way and that like cat’s tails.

I don’t know if I have anything to say with all this.  It’s just what was on my mind.  I’m going to self-publish a supernatural horror action-adventure sometime soon-esque, and that would’ve been among the casualties of this mess, once upon a time.  Who’s to say what will happen with it now?


  1. lanir says

    I kind of noticed this happening. There were always bad sequels but at some point it became commonplace to straight up copy what other people were doing. Like having two summer disaster movies about world-ending asteroids headed towards Earth come out from different studios about a month apart.

    It was still just copying one-offs at that point. A bit obvious but still just one thing. Next we’d get decades worth of repetitious superhero stories in tv and film. Ooh, look, let’s go see Batman’s parents or Spiderman’s uncle get murdered again. Just like the very worst part of the comics industry, focused on retelling the same story over and over again until it’s meaningless except for the spectacle. They’re zombie stories but without the zombies. The tales themselves are the shuffling, mindless corpses hungering for new brains just like they have been since the first reboot (I could find) in the 50’s.

    Some of this is probably due to the ever increasing duration of copyright. The mention of Disney is right on track for that, they funded a great deal of lobbying to extend copyright. It’s no coincidence that the way Disney started, freely and legally using stories others had written without paying royalties or licensing fees, would not have worked today. It’s why Steamboat Willie is still not in the public domain almost 100 years after it was released. Although in one repect you could do exactly what they did – go back to stories printed in the 1800’s. In fact, you’d probably better do that or you’ll probably get sued.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    GAS, have you read Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo? Lots of ghosts, demons and witchcraft. I really liked it. The protagonist is a young woman with lots of issues, mostly stemming from the fact that she is apparently the only person who can see ghosts.
    The sequel is coming out next month, and I can’t wait!

  3. lochaber says

    Most of the horror stuff I’ve read recently has been pretty sci-fi/fantasy adjacent stuff (and, I think I’ve seen a lot of people lump horror under the big tent of sci-fi/speculative fiction)

    Some stuff I really liked that might fall under horro: The Family Plot by Cherie Priest, the Miriam Black series by Chuck Wendig (first book is Blackbirds), The Shining Girls (I think this is now a TV show?) and Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes, Charles Stross’s Laundry Files series (I think the first is Atrocity Archives), Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, and I really liked the book version (English translation) of Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Not sure how much horror it is, but lots of supernatural weirdness in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy (books the Annihilation movie was based on).

  4. says

    moar – I am massively unread. I might even contribute to something in the ballpark of that genre someday, while having barely read any of it. That might be a bad sign.

    loch – i have read one thing in that list, Let The Right One In. that writer is a real character.

    thanks for the comments, folks.

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