Thursday, June 23, 2011

Riding the Cultural Zeitgeist?

Status: I only own an umbrella for when I’m in New York. So ready for the perpetually sunny skies of Denver.


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? MYSTERY by Anita Baker


Even though we agents and editors have seen this phenomenon repeat itself for years, it still strangely takes us by surprise.


Sometimes a theme or a type of story will hit the cultural zeitgeist and suddenly we will see a slew of submissions that have very similar story ideas.


And I’m not talking about obvious trends. For example, in Young Adult, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that paranormal romance has been “hot” for a while (thank you Twilight). Then the Hunger Games took off and dystopia became the new trend. As titles released in that, the latest is now SF or speculative fiction.


These are popular trends.


This is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about storylines that suddenly start popping up that are potentially outside of these trends but for some reason, the stories all hit our submission inboxes around the same time.


For example, over the last 6 months, there have been a lot of queries and sample pages for fairy tale retellings (and this started happening before Little Red Riding Hood and Beastly hit the screen).

I was out to lunch with a children’s editor yesterday and for him, he had suddenly started seeing a ton of submissions that were what he called “man vs machine a la Terminator-style.”


The submissions came from different agents/agencies and yet all had very similar settings and main storylines. And this isn’t actually a rare occurrence. As an agent, I’ve seen this happen any number of times in my career.


So, there is something percolating in the cultural zeitgeist where any number of totally different authors who don’t know each other will have eerily similar story ideas for their novels.