Teen Trends In Speculative Fiction

Three years ago, I interviewed some editors for an article on horror and paranormal fiction, and asked what they saw as upcoming trends. Let’s see if they were right….

“There’s definitely been a rise in the popularity of thrillers, ghost stories, and stories based on the paranormal,” a Delacorte editor said. “I think the most popular books are the ones that set the ghost story in the contemporary world. There’s something about believing those things are out there right now that is thrilling for young readers.”

“Pure horror will probably never explode the way fantasy or sci-fi have exploded at different times,” a Scholastic editor said, “but the wave of terror ebbs and flows. During any given year, some subgenre or another seems to take off. For the past couple years, apocalyptic zombie stories have been big, thanks to Max Brooks, Brian Keene, and others.”

At Llewellyn, an editor said, “We see good, steady demand for well done paranormal thrillers, books that might even be called ‘dark fantasy’ or ‘urban fantasy,’ especially for girls. Witty, graphic horror, such as the books by Darren Shan, seems to work well for boys.”

In a Candlewick Press editor’s opinion, “I think we’ll see more graphic fare in all of these areas as the graphic novel continues to gain popularity. It’s a natural fit. For middle-grade readers and younger, the emphasis seems to be on series publishing and story collections, while YA readers range more between genre/series fare and lush, literary novels like Twilight.”

Seems like they did pretty well. And how about today? At the SCBWI New York conference a few of months ago, Susan Raab said that mystery and ghost stories are thought to be growing. Vampires and werewolves are still big, but not expected to last. Fantasy in general is softening, but dystopian fantasy is growing.

Of course, who really knows? A fantastic book may be ready to launch, and pull back up one of these trends, or start a new one. And as for fantasy, editor Ari Lewin noted that eight or nine of the top 10 books on both the hardcover and paperback children’s bestseller list that week were fantasy of some kind. We keep hearing about the death of fantasy, but that seems to be wishful thinking on the part of editors who are tired of it. Readers just keep on reading. (Note that these were not high fantasy (knights and dragons), but lots of dystopian and paranormal books.)

So what’s the next big trend? Have you read — or written — a book that you think will light some fires? Personally, I’m hoping that Rick Riordan’s new Kane Chronicles series will reignite interest in ancient Egypt, both historical fantasy and straight historical fiction. Because, you know, I have this Egyptian novel I haven’t beChris Eboch with Haunted booksen able to sell yet….

Chris Eboch has this fantasy that she’ll start a new trend and beginning authors will submit their manuscripts with covers letters that says, “It’s the next Chris Eboch” so often that it becomes a cliché.

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4 responses to “Teen Trends In Speculative Fiction

  1. Natalie Aguirre

    I can’t wait to read Rick Riordan’s new book. I just met Beth Fleischer at a SCBWI conference. She said publishers and editors are looking for middle grade books, including fantasy, after the Bologna conference. I hope so, because that’s what I write.

  2. I can’t wait for the Rick Riordan series – I think we may be at Borders this weekend! As for fantasy, at the SCBWI-NJ conference a couple of years ago, a literary agent told me that he thought that while fantasy was still strong, he felt it was likely to ebb quite soon. I wonder if it’s because every now and then a new fantasy sub-genre appears, or that a new book comes out with a unique spin on the genre. Fantasy is the zombie of genre – it’s very hard to kill.

  3. Okay, this is totally OT, but I’ve got to say…
    “…lush, literary novels like Twilight.”

    Literary? Really? From a Candlewick editor? That’s truly either horror or fantasy in action. ;)

    Back on topic: Fantasy will never die. There will always be a hardcore set of fans, IMO (and in my ever-lengthening experience.) The rise and fall of cycles is mostly the impact of readers who would not otherwise identify themselves as fantasy fans or buy those books until they bubble into the mainstream.

    And one dynamite book (or movie) can always turn around any trend or genre lying fallow. Sci-fi was repeatedly pronounced dead in the years after its hey-day and before Star Wars came out. And George L revived it almost single-handedly.

  4. It’s always fun to look back on the projections and see how true they are. As a fantasy nut myself (both a reader and a writer), I certainly hope that is not true. I like the zombie analogy. :)

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