Thursday, January 17, 2013

HOLD THE GHOSTS PLEASE


According to a long ago college professor, we're living in an extremely depressing time period. The professor claimed popular fiction and movies say a lot about the mental state of people of any era.  During World War II people turned to comedy because they were depressed and scared, but continued to hope.  He listed several other examples, but the one that stayed with me concerns the paranormal.  If the professor is right, then the upsurge in fantasy, the supernatural, the occult, magic, and mythical creatures in today's books and movies denotes depression and fear without hope. 

I'm not sure why I remembered that old lecture and I'm not sure what was used to back up those premises.  Perhaps it came to mind because the last half dozen books I've read have all had some supernatural element--and these were all books by writers who are active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a group that is usually pretty conservative and pragmatic.  Usually as far as LDS writers stray into this field is to touch on miracles, angelic manifestations, and glimpses of the afterlife. Let me say up front, most of these books are very well written and carry positive messages that go beyond the supernatural or paranormal.  I enjoyed the stories and admired each author's ability to tell a tale.  However, though it may be just a matter of taste, I've had enough. I'm tired of ghosts, demons, and assorted magical paraphernalia.  Right now I have a strong preference for realistic people doing realistic things whether they do it now, in the past, or in the future. 

My personal reading tastes have gone through phases since I was a small child and read every animal story I could find.  In the third grade I was fascinated by fairy tales and mythology. From there I leaped to girl sleuths.  I read all the Tarzan books I could get my hands on and from there explored science fiction.  Westerns came next.  My love affair with historical epics and sagas followed and alternated for years with mystery/detective books.  Romance novels became a quick, easy break from stress.  During all the years I worked as a librarian, I dabbled around with all kinds of books and as a reviewer I read a wide variety of genres.  Though I don't like horror, I can tolerate the horror elements Jeffrey S. Savage and Gregg Luke add to their mystery/suspense novels because they're great writers and spin fascinating yarns.  I find some science fiction novels clever and interesting, but most seem to go on much too long and I lose interest before I finish.  Generally the Young Adult ones are better than the ones aimed at adults, if they don't get too silly.  Overall, I enjoy a broad spectrum of novels.  I'm more interested in well-written than genre, but I get tired of too many books of the same type read consecutively.  Today I cringe at the thought of checking out from the library a dozen or more books of one genre as I once did.  And did I tell you to hold the supernatural?  I've had enough for now of ghosts, demons, and things that go bump in the night.

That's something I enjoy about today's LDS fiction; there are enough genres and literary works to suit most tastes, phases, or preferences.  There are enough styles, too, to satisfy readers who prefer simple, straight-forward tales to the complicated "most of the story is found between the lines" type of story. There are books with strong LDS themes and ones where a reader would have to search pretty hard to find anything remotely church related.  I can't help laughing when I hear people say they don't read LDS fiction. He/she read so-and-so's book and decided LDS fiction was inferior and not to that person's taste.  I don't care how popular one author may be, his or her books cannot be judged as indicative of all LDS fiction. If a person doesn't read general market romance, he/she will not be impressed with LDS romance. If a person has zero interest in historical novels why would that person expect to enjoy an LDS historical?  Even so, as a person who once overloaded on a single genre, I suggest readers try different types of books from time to time.  It's surprising what one may discover.

A wise teacher once told me "never get too grown up to believe in fairies."  I've decided he was right.  Each life needs a bit of magic, but for now, hold the ghosts.


Don't forget every comment this month is a chance to win a book from my review shelf or my new book, Where the River Once Flowed.

11 comments:

Karlene said...

I love most speculative fiction so I doubt I'd ever get tired of vampires and werewolves. But I do need to take a break in between, like clearing your palette with lemon ice between courses in a long meal.

And I agree with you. There are so many LDS authors now, both in and out of the "LDS" genre, that blanket statements no longer apply.

Anna Maria Junus said...

I'm an eclectic reader too. I find belonging to book clubs keeps me varied and introduces me to new authors that I wouldn't normally read. As for your theory, I can see it. We all feel powerless and reading and watching things with people who have some kind of super power is a great escape.

Mindi Battraw said...

I loved this post! I've done the same thing, though more with authors - reading everything there is out there by an author until I can't read them anymore.

J Scott Savage said...

The interesting thing is that several of the "ghost" books coming out now were actually written a long time ago. HB Moore's Heart of the Ocean and my novel, Dark Memories were both written over eight years ago. Sometimes a bunch of books with similar topics just hit at the same time.

Heather B. Moore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather B. Moore said...

True, Jeff. HEART was first drafted in 2002. And Sarah Eden's UNLIKELY MATCH, another ghost story recently released by Covenant, was self-pubbed under a different title several years ago. I think we're seeing more paranormal novels by LDS publishers because they are opening their doors a little wider to various genres. I remember when it was a big deal that Deseret Book published Rachel Nunes' paranormal series AUTUMN RAIN . . . many authors saw that as a great opportunity to get their paranormal books published with an LDS publisher as well. It was big news for many LDS authors, and they were watching to see how the series would be received by the LDS reading audience. The other publishers were watching as well, taking their lead from DB. Before Nunes' break-through, the LDS writers who wrote paranormal were submitting to national publishers. At least that's what I was doing :-)

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with the main premise of this post, but doesn't the fact that "darker" fantasy genres are more prevalent mean things are better now, not worse? If the general mood is depressed, been through a lot, needs to relax, they're going to turn to something light-hearted, like comedy, not stories about ghosts and vampires and whatnot.

Erin K said...

Thank you. I love that you suggest reading many types of books and not judging a whole selection of books and authors by one novel. Well written! :) Thank you again.

Lizzie said...

Very well put!

Lisa said...

I joined to a book club to expand my literary horizons. However, there are still genres that I don't fully appreciate. Romantic vampires just don't do it for me, no matter how many are in print and how many films have been made. Personally, I do gravitate to murder mysteries. Thanks.

taylorfamily83316 said...

I use to enjoy the ghost, crime, and other similar scary genres, when I was younger, but now I am more about reading the happily ever after, life will be alright no matter the challenges type. Not to say that the other books were not good, but my tastes have changed over time.