The day the “Twilight” series was published, many of us feared the literary world as we knew it had come to an end. It ushered in an age in which all young adult fiction had to include these angsty aberrations. And it got worse. What began as (somewhat) innocent stories of teen romance developed into raunchier and rompier adult “literature.” And yet it got worse. They made the Twilight movies. And other vampire movies. And TV shows about vampires.
Some of you may be asking, “What is the problem? I love vampires, and can’t get enough of them!” Well, I might respond to those readers with a reminder that there were once people who felt that way about bellbottoms. And beehive hairdos. And Pokémon. Vampire books are a fad, and will hopefully go the way of most fads: away.
The vampires seem to be overwhelming us with pale skin, pointy teeth and bloody chins, and we might at times despair that literature will never be the same. While that may be true, I would like to draw our collective attention to a few other fads which have lingered on the pages of literary history.
- The Middle Ages: the Arthurian Romances
The ‘roman’ in ‘romance’ comes from an Old French word for adventure stories, complete with legendary heroes and daring deeds. Oh yeah, and there often happened to be a damsel in distress involved. (In modern French ‘roman’ is the English equivalent of ‘novel.’)
The legends of
Arthur and his knights of the Round Table were told and retold, translated, adapted and spread from England to France and Spain to Italy and Germany to Portugal all throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Morgan le Fay, Tristan, and Isolde were household names from at least 800AD onward.
- The Enlightenment: Space Travel
It may seem odd that authors in the seventeenth century were thinking about space travel, as they were three-hundred-some years away from making those ideas a reality, but scientific discoveries in the Enlightenment brought about ever increasing awareness of the planetary community and ever growing desire to travel to infinity and beyond. Bishop Francis Godwin is noted for his ground-breaking novel about moon travel, “The Man in the Moon,” published posthumously in 1638. His work was quickly followed by numerous aspiring astronauts hoping to reach the far off planet of successful authorship.
How, might you ask, did these early space pioneers travel? They attached glass bottles filled with water to their bodies and waited for the sun to heat the water and produce lift. Or they harnessed a flock of birds tethered to a wooden seat. Or they smeared themselves with a cow’s bone-marrow, which the moon naturally attracts, bringing the greasy individual closer to her cheesy plains.
- The Victorian Period: the Silver Fork Novel
The Victorians loved the three-volume novel. Well, at least the publishers who sold the books did. One favorite subject of these weighty tomes: the aristocracy. As readership grew among the professional and working classes, the demand for an insider look into the lives of the titled elite also grew. Sound familiar?
Successful “silver fork” novelists such as Catherine Gore would give readers unabashedly indulgent descriptions of the extravagant dress and luxurious lifestyle of the lords and ladies of the day. Favorite features in the plots included lavish expenditures, trips abroad, love affairs, and duels.
History shows us that fads come, and then they go… or do they? Medieval romances didn’t go out with the Dark Ages, and they’re still alive and kicking today in countless movies and books. The sci-fi phenomenon ensures that we’re still fictitiously traveling to the moon, not to mention real life voyages. A quick trip down the supermarket check-out lane ensures that the tabloids are still recording the vanities and vulgarities of the rich and famous. It seems that these fads haven’t left us, that they have just metamorphosed along with our culture, supplying an ever-eager public with tantalizing escapes from reality. I guess this means that we’ll still be seeing vampires for a while, so keep your garlic and wooden stakes handy.
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