This post was partially inspired by Nora’s excelent post on the Urban Fantasy boom (one scroll down, no turns) and partially by my normal answer to the “what do you think of Twilight?!” question.
Seeing as how nearly all of my conversations somehow come back to books, I get asked what I think of Twilight on a fairly regular basis. This question comes either from people trying to see if they’ve found another fan to gush with or from those testing the waters to see if Twilight bashing is socially acceptable. My answer, however, is always the same: I’ve never read Twilight, but I love it, and I hope its popularity continues to grow unchecked.
This answer tends to cause headscratching among both camps, so I often append the following: Any book that gets petulant teenagers to willingly enter a bookstore is a book I love. At least for the moment, Twilight has taken reading from what it was when I was in highschool, something nerdy kids did at lunch because they couldn’t sit with the in crowd, and turned it into the cool thing. Not only is reading acceptable, it’s socially required, and it’s not just teenagers. I see soroity girls reading Twilight at the bus stop, moms reading it in the checkout line at the grocery store, I see Wuthering Heights getting on the NYT Bestseller list because Edward Cullen likes it! This is awesome! If people who don’t normally read are reading one thing obsessively, they might just decide that books aren’t so lame after all and try something else. Maybe my book, maybe yours.
The teenagers reading Twilight now are no strangers to massive book hysteria. These are the Harry Potter girls all grown up. They know all about reading frenzies and the book you HAVE to have, and their dollars (or rather, their parent’s dollars) have provided the rich soil in which today’s fantasy is blossoming. Unlike the horror boom of the 80s Nora talked about and its subsequent genre collapse, fantasy seems to be using its boom dollars to deversify. Compare the fantasy selection of today to the fantasy selection of 10 years ago and difference is startling. There’s more opportunity than ever in the genre, more books, wider range, more pushing on the boundaries that have traditionally walled fantasy in. This isn’t because authors have suddenly decided to write new stuff, these books have always been out there. The difference is that publishers, flushed with fantasy’s success, are taking more risks, risks they are free to take thanks in large part to the recent spat of fantasy and urban fantasy megahits like Earagon, Twilight, and Harry Potter.
When reading is in vogue, everyone connected to reading benefits. So long as publishing supports diversity of stories, new voices, and wide range of reading choices, booms like Urban Fantasy, Harry Potter, and the Twilight craze only make us stronger. America is currently enamored with fantasy, and so long as we (publishers and authors) don’t shoot ourselves in the foot chasing fads, it should be a long and rewarding love story. After all, who could get tired of new worlds?