Keeping up with people is never easy, and it’s also never the way. Whenever something breaches new territory in a medium, it very often starts a trend, and the medium is then inundated with other attempts to capitalise on the trend until the idea is thoroughly beaten to death.
I’ve always felt like it’s a difficult thing to follow – that shooting for whatever is currently popular is not only false, but a trap. If you have a novel about a Reincarnated Sumerian Technowarlock when Cyberpunk goes popular again, by all means submit it, but trying to chase (or even predict) what’s next is tough.
One of my favourite TV shows, Odyssey 5, played with that concept. The cast travelled back in time five years, and one of the characters (Dr Kurt Mendel, as played by Sebastian Roche) decides to capitalise on his knowledge of future events – actually, tries that a few times. One such time has him hook up with a girl that he knows is going to be a huge music star in a new genre and tries to push for her success earlier, with him as a manager, but the conditions aren’t right. It’s akin to the concept of going back in your own timeline to avoid the mistakes you made and then attempting to recreate the good aspects of your current circumstances. It probably couldn’t be done.
The saturation that goes on with popular genres/styles/settings leads to most of the entrants bleeding into each other, and not many of them standing out. I don’t begrudge anyone their popularity, but do think about what this level of conformity does, when so many writers are attempting to squish their originality into a neatly packaged box. With this week’s announcement of Amazon’s movement to commercialise fan-fiction, this could become even more common.
There is a mantra of new being better, or that new is worthier of our attention than older things that are untested. There are always exceptions, and anything that achieves either cult or classic status is assumed to be something we should have already watched. Not writing paranormal romance (alright, even that reference seems dated now)? Haven’t read Catcher in the Rye? Still yet to watch The Godfather? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?? It rarely comes up beyond best-of discussions, with the beginning of the questions being asked as “Have you seen the new–”
I have my own ideas I’m working on with writing, but even with the temptation to chase trends, I’ve kept with them. It’s unbelievably tempting to try my hand at one of the current in-genre’s, at least with regards to writing – and I can almost justify it because of the potential of a) getting something out there, and b) generating a readership. Whether or not what I’m working on now is going to be marketable is beyond me – I just know the story I have to tell.
I do also talk about ‘old stuff’ with some regularity, though it’s nostalgia and backstory that has somehow become relevant to my actual point. With the exception of an episode of Buffy, a book review, and my long-running love story with Mass Effect, everything I’ve written about that wasn’t writing-related has been a recent entity at the time of write-up. Today, I saw a refreshing break from that. Darren Wells of CVG wrote about the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man. I think it’s unlikely that a majority of his readership (or even mine) had an Atari, though it’s reasonable that they (and you) would have heard of Pac-Man. For me, it was a nice piece of nostalgia, since I did have one, had that same version of Pac-Man, and then via the comments on that (and a similar write-up), remembered some of the other games I used to have on that console.
It’s been a busy week, as we also had the reveal of the Xbox One. With it, the WiiU out, and the PS4 on the horizon, there are diminishing odds of me being able to write about a game at the time of its release. Throw in that my Laptop is halfway through its fourth year of service and struggles with most of my computer games, and it looks pretty damn unlikely. There’s an upshot of the laptop being like it is, which is that if I’m at the computer, it’s much more convenient to write or blog than it is to play games. For a while, I’ve been tempted to bring over my review of the indie game Journey to this blog, as the one that review sits on is more-or-less defunct.
The discourse that results is lacking. Pushing out the first-glimpse review/impressions is okay, but if it’s not something that has had been widely sampled, not much conversation will come out of it. If it does, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to the subject matter, not a treatise. The other issue with trying to compete with others in the review-space, is that the longer it’s been since the thing has been released, the more outlandish you need your viewpoint to be to attract people. There’s a current of negativity in review trends where it gains more attention if you were to say “Game of Thrones is a festering pile of elephant shit” than trying to discuss it. They’re usually fired off and never returned to – there’s rarely a followup.
Whether you’re telling a story, or writing about something, you shouldn’t chase what’s popular. There will be times when you feel compelled to write something topical, but that’s not the same as doing so at the expense of what you really want to write or create.
Apologies for the somewhat disjointed nature of this post – I promise it isn’t one of those redonkulous SEO posts.