Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Of Octopuses and Eight-Year-Olds
I've only been the Fiction Editor for a couple weeks now, but already I've noticed particular trends in the work folks have been submitting to Indiana Review. And I'm not the only one here noticing trends. The other editors--in both fiction and poetry--have noticed certain literary fads as well. These days, everyone seems very interested in writing about the following:
1) Nomads--Stories featuring bands of wanderers trudging either the northern tundra or the wind-swept desert.
2) Twins--Usually, these twins are brothers, all grown up, and they must deal with the echoes of their troubled childhood, or one must help the other through some crisis such as a failed marriage.
3) Precocious Eight-year-olds--Often told in first person, these precocious kids are usually female characters, and are too smart and too cute for their own good. Every now and then, we get double the fun with precocious eight-year-old twins! Now, we've always received stories about children, but lately the specific age of eight seems to be popular among writers submitting to IR.
4) Neighborhoods terrorized by cats--These felines are out of control, digging through trash, mating on characters' front porches, and meowing shrilly at all hours of the night.
5) Bears--Yes, bears seem to be everybody's favorite mammal. Brown bears, green bears, and sadly, caged bears have frequently shown up in the poetry and fiction we're reading through now.
6)The Octopus--Who doesn't love octopuses (or is it octopi?). No one, apparently, because our eight-legged, oceanic friends keep swimming into our poetry slush pile.
7) Lazarus--This biblical figure is resurrected again and again in the pieces we've seen lately.
8) The End of the World--The writers out there are becoming prophets, and our futures are bleak, yet beautifully lyrical.
Now, please don't misunderstand us. These trends aren't necessarily negative at all. (Heck, I've written a twin story myself.) We've enjoyed and accepted poems and stories featuring all of these characters and themes. Still, once you notice so many people writing about similar things, you begin to wonder: Where's this trend coming from? Is it our collective conscience? Maybe it's the year--2008--and everyone has eight on their minds, leading to the fascination with the eight-legged mollusks and the youthful age of eight. Who knows, maybe next year--2009--cats will survive another year with their nine lives and poets will call out to the nine muses. Whatever the trends, we think we're ready and we're happy to read them.