After spending three quarters of an hour perusing the shelves of the young adult section in Waterstones, I found that the quality of books has really diminished. After the international phenomenon that was The Twilight Saga (made incomprehensibly more popular by the travesty that was the adaptation) everybody with access to Microsoft Word has published some form of vampire romance novels.
Pages and pages of badly-written, ill-conceived and plagiaristic waffling, these latest creations have run the genre into the ground. Like the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest, when nearly every country echoed the memorable winner of the previous year, Lordi, with their heavy metal music, every modern piece of vampire literature is a failed attempt at bygone glory. As with all new crazes, you expect some replication as proof that the series that started it is doing well to influence other writers. But it has been driven to the point of insane extremism where no other type of fantasy story can survive. The same story is repeated over and over in different words, and if a new voice tries to break through the thin veil of fangs, blood and lack of true romance, it is silenced as quickly as a vampire’s victim’s cry for help. Great books like The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, A Series of Unfortunate Events and Artemis Fowl are swept from the shelves to be replaced with endless duplicates; yet mention the origin of all real vampire horror, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and self-proclaimed lovers of such fiction will look at you as if you are speaking an entirely foreign language. I can only be pleased that for some benign reason the same destructive forces have not attacked the unparalleled masterpiece that is the Harry Potter series; perhaps writers thought that there was no point in even attempting to duplicate the complexity, depth and – if you’ll pardon the pun – the real magic behind the wizarding world.
What I can’t fathom however is the fact that the true masters – or in fact mistresses – are either cast aside or somehow unheard of. The experts in the field, such as Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and J.R.R. Tolkien are ignored, defiled and disgraced in favour of works such as ‘Diaries of a Chav’. The classics seem to be viewed only now as archaic pieces of history rather than the vivid, intriguing and entertaining pieces they still are. These pièces de résistance show more clearly and eloquently the truth of human nature or how an epitome of a fantasy novel should run than fifty different versions of a vegetarian vampire.
However, what I fear the most is that these types of books are not at all encouraging younger children to read chapter books or write any material of their own. Literary works are already competing with computer games and mindless television programmes, and these outside foes are being aided by inner enemies who provided pointless and boring stories which are as likely to encourage children to read as they are to turn into a cat and start cooking a soufflé. The Times acclaimed JK Rowling as having “woken up a whole generation to reading”, but as the series drew to a close a few years ago, neither a writer or a set of books have stepped up to fill the gaping hole left behind. It seems there is no-one talented enough or with an idea genuine and inspiring enough to urge the next generation to use their imagination. Books should transport someone so drastically into another world that leaving it behind makes you feel homesick; nowadays it seems that they are only there to teach new expletives or the dangers and glories of dating a vampire.
I hope that writers will put more thought into their latest creations, so that literature becomes less about the money made from the debacle and more about urging young children to dive headfirst into the world that is reading and writing emotive and inspirational pieces themselves.