Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Time for Comedy?

Wouldn't you know that the day when I develop a raging case of the Don't Wannas is the day when I have stuff I really need to do. It will require an act of will to force myself to do a few things that are due today. Oddly, I think most of this is because I'm actually in a writing mood, and that's what I want to do. And clean my kitchen because it's starting to bother me.

While I was at that conference, I took advantage of the opportunity of having several high-up publishing executives opening the floor for questions to ask about the status of a particular trend that interests me: the state of the comedy. Historically, comedies do very well in difficult economic times. The Great Depression was the golden age of the screwball comedy, and they're already seeing this year that the comedy films that were released during the winter film dumping ground time have done better than expected. Yet right now, the trend in publishing seems to be "dark and dangerous." Aside from the big names who survived their respective gluts, romantic comedy and chick lit are just about dead. Fantasy has become mostly about saving the world from being sucked into the pits of hell by the Ultimate Evil, and urban fantasy allows a few quips from the kick-ass heroine while she navigates a dark, gritty world straight out of a nightmare.

They couldn't really answer me, and I'm not sure they even understood the question. One publishing executive even claimed that there wasn't a trend toward dark and dangerous. I suppose it would be rather silly to buy books now based on the idea that comedy does well in bad economic times, since it could be a year or more by the time any book bought now makes its way to store shelves, and by then things could have changed. It will probably go the way film is going, where the comedies that happen to come out at this time, that were already in the works, will do well, but the industry won't be able to respond fast enough to take advantage of the real-world situation driving the demand. With books, there's also the fact that readers can draw from a couple of centuries worth of fun books that are still in print or available at libraries.

I do think this is yet another example of the fallacy of doom-loop, trend-bandwagon thinking -- if you throw out everything that isn't currently hot, then you're not prepared when the situation changes and people start wanting something that isn't currently hot.

Or maybe I'm the only person who really can't bear the thought of reading about a dark, dangerous, gritty world where people are struggling to survive in society's underbelly. There's also the trend to think that dark automatically equals good -- that darkness is somehow more authentic and less of a cop-out, and the more you torture your characters, the better the story is. Comedies seldom get a lot of respect.

I did realize that The New Project, which made its way out to editors last week, is kind of a screwball comedy in disguise, in that it involves a working man and a madcap (in this case, the "mad" part is literal, not just used in the sense of "wacky") princess/heiress. I didn't plan it consicously, but all the elements are actually there, buried in a lot of fantasy stuff. Now I hope someone buys it because I really want to write the rest of it.

And now I suppose I should chain myself to the keyboard and force myself to write some radio scripts about medical research.

1 comment:

Carradee said...

I've actually been wondering where the comedy is and fully expecting it to start showing up on the tail end of the current situation.

Well, now I know to stop expecting it. :-)