Deader Than Disco: Literature

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  • Space Opera, once the dominant sub-genre of Science Fiction, has declined considerably since The Eighties. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, the end of the Cold War also ended the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States, leading to a period of stagnation. Secondly, around the same time an unexpected explosion in computers and bio-technology occurred. These two factors caused futurists and Sci-Fi writters to stop looking at Space for inspiration, and look instead to genetic engineering, cloning, cybernetics, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence, hence the dominance of Cyber Punk and its derivatives. It's only in recent years, with the over exposure of cyberpunk, nostalgic reconstructionist works of Space Opera (like for example, Mass Effect), and renewed interest in space coming from the discovery of Extra-solar planets that the Genre has begun to recover. Cyberpunk and its derivatives remain on top however.
    • For much of The Eighties, the cyberpunk literary genre and movement was the new wave in both Science Fiction and science fact, acting as a fertile seed on a ground tormented by efforts to adapt to a changing world where the computer was king and Japan was the new force on the block. However, books like Neuromancer failed to anticipate how a) the internet, cell phones, personal computers and handheld IT devices would become a mundane reality in the life of the average white-collar Joe Sixpack, and b) that the Japanese economic powerhouse would trip over itself in the early '90s. Once "the future" became the present, cyberpunk went from being high-tech to being filled with zeerust, painting a portrait of the future that had stopped being relevant after about 1993 — the main reason why Post-Cyberpunk came to replace it. Not to mention that the virtual reality craze of the late '80s and early '90s simply shelved itself (for now) after failing to provide a holodeck-like experience.
  • Modernist literature such as that by James Joyce and Virginia Woolf has been replaced by the postmodernist genre.
  • During the 1850s, there existed an entire genre of "anti-Tom" literature (or plantation literature), written mainly by authors from the Southern US in reaction to the anti-slavery work Uncle Tom's Cabin. Such books were Author Tracts that portrayed slavery as beneficial to Africans, and abolitionists as either misguided idealists who didn't know what they were talking about, or as villains who were lying about the conditions "enjoyed" by slaves and trying to destroy the Southern way of life. For obvious reasons, this genre died out very quickly after the Civil War, while Uncle Tom's Cabin has gone on to be regarded as one of the great American novels.
  • The industrial novel was a mid-19th century genre of English fiction that's been almost forgotten today. Often set Oop North, the industrial novel concerned itself with the lives of the new urban industrial working class. The best-known industrial novel today is probably Charles Dickens's Hard Times, but Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South was much more popular at the time.
  • Many trends in Young Adult Literature, as a result of Fleeting Demographics.
    • Pulpy Long-Running Book Series aimed at kids, pre-teens, and teens that were published on a steady clip (sometimes monthly) were incredibly popular during the '80s and '90s, both with story arcs and as standalone anthologies, such as The Baby-Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High, Goosebumps, Fear Street, Animorphs, and even the Spin-Off series The Nancy Drew Files and The Hardy Boys Casefiles. Nowadays, books aimed at children are longer, more complex, and are pre-determined in terms of arcs and book number (Harry Potter had 7, Twilight had 4, etc., compared to the previous series which seemed to go on forever.)

      This shift in kid-lit came about in an oddly positive way; namely, publishers stopped believing that Readers are Morons. It seemed to be believed that a generation of children raised on episodic television and music videos would only want bite-sized "episodes" of stories instead of longer and more elaborate books. In fact, one of the reasons that Harry Potter was rejected repeatedly was publishers believing that kids won't read long books. However, after one publisher gave the manuscript for Philosopher's Stone to his young daughter, who devoured it in short order and asked for more, they finally realized that kids could appreciate the depth and texture of longer books, and have been focusing their efforts on finding the next Harry Potter.
    • Books about non-fantastical, Slice of Life topics largely died out in the Turn of the Millennium and The New Tens due to the success of Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games, with Diary of a Wimpy Kid being one of the only exceptions. This is akin to the way the Kid Com has became dominated by similar subject matter, along with shows set in the world of show business. (It may be undergoing a renaissance thanks to the works of John Green, et al., but it's too soon to tell if it will be the next big trend.) There was one type of story that largely avoided this, though...
    • ...and that was books about "elite" high school girls. Following the success of the film Mean Girlsnote , books about the lives of incredibly rich, spoiled teenagers became a big market, with one of the more successful examples, Gossip Girl, even being turned into an even more successful TV series. However, it is very difficult to make these kind of protagonists likable or sympathetic, and the books quickly became Snark Bait among actual high-schoolers.
      • Another reason was most likely the 2008 recession, which made large displays of wealth seem tacky.
    • Teen Paranormal Romance as a genre largely rose and fell with the success of (and backlash against) Twilight. See that book's entry under "Specific" for more details, many of which applied to the genre as a whole.
  • Fairy tales aren't dead, but nobody ever publishes new fairy tale collections anymore. When people buy fairy tale books nowadays, it's either classics like those by Hans Christian Andersen or The Brothers Grimm, or retellings of them. Longer fantasy works (high, low, urban, comic, etc.) that feature World Building, Character Development, and far more Emotional Torque have become the standard for readers.
    • This might change in The New Tens, with not one, but two new fairy tale collections being put out within months of each other: an original edition of The Brothers Grimm as the tales were written in 1812-1815 and having never been watered-down or Bowdlerized that came in October 2014, and a book called The Turnip Princess and Other Lost Fairy Tales, of tales from the Grimm era collected by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth, released February 2015. Time will tell if they kick-start the genre or not.
  • Gamebooks, which started with the Choose Your Own Adventure and Find Your Fate series eventually evolved into books that actually included combat with Dice. Some books were even published by TSR games (of Dungeons & Dragons fame). Video games can't really have been said to be directly responsible for killing gamebooks but they do provide a non-linear nature that gamebooks can't provide. Also videogames make it harder to cheat, always a spoiler in gamebooks if you turn to the wrong page or intentionally peek at pages that you aren't sent to. And the videogame experience usually promises many hours (even days) of gameplay. Gamebook experiences were notoriously short (as in minutes). The Choose Your Own Adventure books had multiple endings, sometimes as many as 25 in one book. This means that each adventure was rather short. Replay value was somewhat limited to rereading a lot of the same pages, making different choices, and finding different endings, many of which were bad or dull endings. Today, print gamebooks have been replaced by computer based interactive fiction (which could be said to be the Spiritual Successor), and visual novels, although these are more popular in Japan than they are in the rest of the world.
  • Books of fiction for adult audiences fewer than 300 pages long were quite the industry in the 1970s. Now, books that short simply don't get new publication, and even reprints of giants like Louis L'Amour are thin on the ground.

  • The Clique by Lisi Harrison is the exemplar of the aforementioned "elite high school girl" series and how that genre declined. During the series' first publication run from 2004 to 2011, it was one of the hottest young adult series around, with many comparing it to Mean Girls in literary form (the series started around the same time the movie came out). Several of the books in the series made the New York Times Bestseller List (though frequently for only a week or so), and it received a film adaptation in 2008 starring a then-unknown Bridgit Mendler. Then, almost as soon as the series reached its conclusion, it just about dropped off the YA radar completely, with Harrison quickly moving on to write other series like Monster High and the spinoff Alphas, both of which faded into near-obscurity as well.

    Several factors conspired against the series. Its protagonists were an Alpha Bitch and her Girl Posse at an all-girls school, and with youth bullying becoming a hot topic in The New Tens, Values Dissonance turns them into Villain Protagonists. The writing style of the series hasn't helped either — the whole series is almost written entirely to hip pop-culture references and other things that were in style around each book's publication date, the characters (who are supposed to be in middle school) frequently act like high school upperclassmen or even older (and are almost always depicted in an incredibly sexual manner, to the point where some have legitimately accused the author/editors of pedophilia), many grammatical errors are present as a likely result of the books being rushed out, and otherwise it just exudes tween pulp fiction (not that it doesn't have its redeeming qualities). Lastly, as noted above, it's a Slice of Life YA series. Given its long span of publication dates and how quickly it faded into obscurity, it's likely it was only able to grab and hold onto the first round of readers/fans who stuck around only to see how it ended.
  • Point Horror was a line of teen-oriented horror novels written by authors like R.L. Stine, Diane Hoh, A. Bates, and Christopher Pike that was popular among middle school students in The Nineties, seen as an "adult" version of series like Stine's Goosebumps. They often had pulpy plots based around teenage girls battling psychos, cults, secret societies, and other malicious forces while dealing with high school life, in a manner reminiscent of films like When a Stranger Calls, Sorority Row, or The Skulls, and were never seen as "serious" literature even by the standards of young adult fiction. While there was once a time when Point Horror books could be found on any teen girl's bookshelf, the series died out and was largely forgotten in the Turn of the Millennium (even as Goosebumps and its ilk remained popular with young readers and nostalgic with older ones), and when it is remembered, it's mostly for its Strictly Formula writing.
  • Maximum Ride went from a New York Times bestseller (even with talks of a movie adaptation) to near-obscurity due to increased amounts of ass pulls, anvilicious green Aesops, and a very poorly done Re Tool to appeal to the Twilight crowd. The final book came out with almost no fanfare. It really says something when its graphic novel adaptation is more well-known and better regarded, to the point of Adaptation Displacement..
  • The Baby-Sitters Club used to be a smash hit phenomenon with a movie, TV show, and countless other merchandise. Now it's pretty much unknown, mostly due to aging very badly. There have been numerous attempts over the years to republish and/or reinvent the series (prequels, graphic novels, et cetera), but all of them flopped badly. The only people still actively reading and remembering the series seem to be snark blog writers.
  • As mentioned above, Twilight is already heading in this direction. It was enormously popular among tween/teenage girls and older women when it first came out in 2005, and actually received fairly positive notices from critics at the time. However, it didn't take long for audiences outside of its Fleeting Demographic to rip it up for its perceived Unfortunate Implications, Narm, moralizing, and general lax quality. Hype Backlash also played a big part, especially once the film adaptations started coming out. Now that the series is complete (both books and film), the books are only ever brought up to mock them and society in general for making them popular in the first place. People riffing on and insulting the books seem to vastly outnumber the people who unironically enjoy them, and even hardcore fans were disappointed by how the final book ended.

    It also really didn't help that the books got numerous cheap imitators trying to cash in on the fad. This caused the young adult sections of most bookstores to be absolutely glutted with horridly-written, cliché-infested Paranormal Romance books. As more and more imitators came out and the Twilight books themselves declined in quality and popularity, people began to see the whole thing as a terrible fad that just needed to die.
    • The Twilight books also had this effect on their writer Stephenie Meyer. Her only non-Twilight work that had any success was The Host, and that faded from public consciousness in even shorter time (it didn't help that The Film of the Book bombed). The books themselves and the behind-the-scenes details of them have created a perception of her as a lazy, misogynistic, one-note writer who panders to tweens and uses her books to preach Mormonism (and most likely to vent personal problems/cry for help), effectively making her a laughingstock.
  • Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, published in 1992 by relationship counselor John Gray, was one of the most talked about books of The Nineties. It was a relationship-themed self help book with the fundamental message being that men and women "essentially live on different planets and want different things out of life." The book sold more than 50 million copies, received constant media exposure (particularly on tabloid talk shows) and was frequently parodied in mainstream pop culture.

    A heavy backlash hit around the Turn of the Millennium, however, once both its claims and the credibility of its author came under fire. Many relationship psychologists and scientists argued that its core assertion of men and women being "completely different socially, politically, etc." was false and based heavily on gender stereotyping. But what finally did the book in was the revelation of John Gray's qualifications: he earned his "doctorate" from an unaccredited university (read: diploma mill) that was forced by the government to shut down in 2000. His background, meanwhile, seemed to be more rooted in transcendental meditation than relationship dynamics. Today, Men Are From Mars... is rarely (if ever) cited in relationship-themed academic discourse. And most professional marriage/relationship counselors have discarded it altogether, citing it as an example of all that's wrong with so-called "pop psychology."

    Fictional examples 
  • Browns Pine Ridge Stories: The author writes in the seventeenth story that "Maybe collecting turpentine has gone out of style," as a result of it being replaced with cheaper and/or more effective substitutes. Though it's worth mentioning that this observation is not entirely true, as an article on The Other Wiki shows that it still has uses in some modern day products.