Searching the book rack at a nearby satellite location of the giant merchant chain founded by the Retail Sage from Bentonville I discovered a disturbing notion. The world has gone dark. Given my love for the written word, I never pass a collection of written material that I do not stop and peruse the offerings. This is what I term an “Artist Date.” I first began this pastime as a part of a writing curriculum I participate in that has been most beneficial in my pursuit of fame and fortune as an outlet of written insight or, depending on the given moment, gobbledygook.
It has taken me many places, this distraction, and I find much comfort in it. I will admit that I probably would do better if I chased literature at an actual book store, but I find myself miserly in the dispersal of funds as well as lazy. There are no electric carts available in Barnes and Noble to ride and I, in my advancing infirmity, do not stand or walk as well as in years gone by. Besides, it is spring and the advent of scantily clad members of the fairer sex abounds. I can chase more women at Wal-Mart with the least amount of rejection or effort. Not that there is hope in me of catching anything, I have been, woefully, outdistanced by the fairer sex for many years now.
Disgusting chauvinism aside, I noticed a trend in the literature available that disturbed me greatly. The cosmos has apparently been taken hostage by legions of vampires and zombies. There is also a multitude of diabolical schemes and conspiracies being perpetrated on the One True Church by secret societies and cabals wishing to enslave or enchain the true believers of Jesus Christ. Volume upon volume of demonic conspiracies, founded in ancient writings or eliciting from practices of all sorts of arcane organizations have engulfed the literary world as well as the cinematic arts. I peruse the DVD racks as well as the book shelves only to find gritty, gruesome, and gory tales that adulate the horrific, and idolize the shedding of blood.
The books my students revere all have dark tones to there narratives. We recently took a field trip to that bastion of literature with no electric conveyances for the purpose of increasing our school library. Books on the military arts and the treatises on the art of war (not Sun Tsu) now fill our shelves. During a recent absence of mine these young future captains of industry were shown an end-of-times film that is currently popular. It was apparently not possible for them to view the film in its entirety, and they wanted me to show them the remainder of the movie. I did not have it as it was a rental that had to be returned, and received much derision from the future members of Time magazines list of the top 100 most influential people. I fielded numerous questions on the authenticity of the prediction that gave foundation to the script of the teleplay. When I attempted to teach a lesson on historical predictors of the future (Nostradamus, et al) I received even more scorn for my efforts. I finally had to plead ignorance of said matters and move on to the much maligned scheduled lesson on Earth Day.
I can not fully scorn this trend, it is a fact that the well read instigator of this blog had his foundation in comic books. So much so that he suffered a broken wrist one time while attempting to practice the art of flying because his cousin had informed him that he would grow up to be Superman. I recognize the draw of fantasy, and revel in the imagination of the young. I do take umbrage with the content. In my time villains were much more intelligent. Lex Luthor (not the charlatan that is portrayed on “Smallvile”) had vast intelligence. Criminal masterminds actually had minds. I yearn for the diabolical ingenuity of Doctor Moriarty, or the alliterative capabilities of the Riddler.
I seek the mesmeric abilities of Count Dracula and not the pseudo intellectual claptrap that speaks of differing powers and abilities then that envisaged by that Irish dramatist of much import, Bram Stoker. Twilight be dammed! Give me Igor or Van Helsing any day. Body snatching and a good old fashioned stake in the heart in place of the walking dead going to algebra class is what the true nature of a horror story should be.
My preferences aside, it is a curiosity of where this proclivity for the Dark Side comes from. My kids are not of an age where they could appreciate the nuances of the dynamic between Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, or the universally HOT (particularly in the slave outfit) Princess Leia. Bela Legosi is just two strange words that no one knows the meaning to, and entrance into the Fortress of Solitude was impossible unless you could perambulate your way around the huge freaking key.
The lone venue I find in current fictional culture is those animated features that find their way to the Big Screen. Walt Disney is still alive, Pixar is amazing, and Shrek rules! Hope springs eternal! The salvation of mankind can be found in these gigantanormous cartoons.
This still does not give relief in my vexation with the publishing world. I find a great amount of women holding place on bestseller lists, and that is encouraging. The originators of bestseller lists seem to be open to narrowing the gender gap, or is it the content? I wonder if there are really that many police detectives, coroners, private investigators, F.B.I agents, C.I.A. operatives, or Navy S.E.A.L’s out there who are actually women. I wonder why the world has demonized the Muslim world in, well, both fiction and everywhere else. Maybe that is because believers of Allah have a tendency to be the guilty parties in many atrocities. What happened to demon bikers, where is La Cosa Nostra, and what of my beloved heritage…the IRA? Who is there to replaced the Knight in Slightly Tarnished Armor that John D. MacDonald detailed in his should-have-been-honored books. Where is the next generation of Steinbeck’s, Hemingway’s, or Pearl S. Buck’s? I wonder who laments the loss of Robert Heinlen? I wonder if there are answers for my questions, or if there is anyone reading who has the first idea of what I write?
Perhaps it is that yearning for things past feels nostalgic and comfortable, or a need to move my fingers across the keys, but I do believe that I can get past the umbrage I take with today’s genre noir. Or maybe it is the hope that some one will heed the message that I send today and want to publish that amazing fiction locked deep in the vault of my desktop computer. Hope does spring eternal, as does the alternative which is certainly just around the corner…in the cast they select for the next installment of the Twilight series.