Continental Drift in Genre Fiction

If you look closely at modern fiction you will notice something I’d like to call genre drift which is similar to continental drift in geography. The genres are drifting apart, becoming more and more specifically aimed at their target audiences. Nowhere is this more obvious than in action and adventure novels which are becoming increasing bloody and brutal in competition with each other to create gladiatorial action and progressively deepening visions of evil. Adventure in traditional terms simply means a journey which involves danger, as in Gahan Hanmer’s The Kingdom on the Edge of Reality, which is suitable for both sexes and all ages.

Novels in the genre of action and adventure, however, have begun to target a very specific readership, one that relishes torture, cruelty, continuous brutality, horrifically graphic details and more and more twisted strata of evil motivation and behavior. The action in these novels is no longer suitable for any readers except the most ghoulishly inclined and the notion of adventure has become sadistically perverted. It is also worth mentioning that in order to be able to participate in the chain of atrocities that make up the plots, the hero has to be completely cold, cruel and devoid of any humane sensibilities. In no sense can these new protagonists be called heroes any more for there is nothing heroic about them.

The curious feature of genre drift that makes it different from continental drift is that the pieces of the original “continent”, which is literature in the broadest sense, are getting smaller and smaller. Action and adventure, once a huge section of literature available to all, is now a tiny island, where the action is repellent to everyone except a miniscule target audience and the grand idea of adventure has become totally meaningless.