The Decade of the Aughts: Genre Fiction

Jeff VanderMeer • January 3rd, 2010 @ 12:24 pm • Culture, Fiction

Much happened outside of the world of genre fiction in the early part of this century that might give further context to it, but for purposes of a focused overview, I have eschewed both general History and the Personal in terms of my intimate relationship to all I set out below.


***

The publication of Kimber Adla’s Abasi Forgives You All in 2000 by a small press out of Long Island, New York, will prove to be the seminal genre fiction event of the 21st Century, but this fact has not yet leaked out to the critics or the public at large. Therefore, we can say that the Aughts, for all practical purposes, began for fans on nonrealistic fiction with the publication of China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, and the riots that followed it. Violence as a result of fiction during this decade has its roots in that core event—marxists versus capitalists on the streets of London—and Longwood’s eventual contribution notwithstanding, created a sense of Us versus Them that lasted more than eight years. One could say that the New Weird world-wide political party that rose from the initial ashes of this conflict was Old Wyrm eating itself Ouroboros-style. It’s a shame that so many writers died in the fighting, their voices stifled forever, and that so many of the young who came to power subsequently mistook the blood for a mandate against extremes, becoming conservatives.

Also rising at the beginning of the Aughts were the somewhat cerebral Technophiliacs, whose mantra of “open source” resulted in massive breakthroughs in nanotechnology and divided the populace into self-proclaimed Immersives, those who lived now with stories in their bloodstreams, and the self-proclaimed Purists who wanted their stories delivered in a more external fashion–soon to be labeled “Closed Source” and “Copyright” by their detractors. The violence endemic to this movement and those who opposed it occurred within the synapses of linked and unlinked minds alike and thus was not as overt as the early New Wave pogroms. Still, in virus-like fashion, it infected the landscape and changed it, sometimes on a microbiotic level.

By the mid-Aughts, however, we had all gotten used to the onslaught of the New and the Old posing as the New. We were comforted by the reappearance of dinosaurs in the form of three-volume heroic fantasy series, these series hardened by the New Weird fight and enlivened by contact with the Technophiliacs. They bestrode the land like something between giant versions of the teddy bears we clutched for comfort as a child when trying to sleep and new, street-savvy beasts.

Fairy tale, periodically orphaned from its origins, rose again toward the end of this period, at times dissected and at times worshipped. Whether wild or tamed, it worked its magic on adult and young adult alike, another familiar sight to remind us of childhood and, uneasily, that adulthood is itself a phase. Gradually, too, these fey folk became more domesticated, more urban, entering into our cities and necessitating the creation of an entire class of “slayers” known for affecting dramatic poses—with guns, with swords—on hills and in public parks, on balconies and rooftops. They weren’t posing so much as scenting their prey, but we did not know this and ridiculed them for their affectations. Others, the Old Folk, who had been there forever and were just being rediscovered, created fastnesses in places like Kiernan Wood.

Hard on the heels of all of this–bloodbath and reconciliation alike–the late Aughts saw the rise of the Other and the rise of the Fail. For it suddenly became apparent amid the din of heroic fantasy dynasties falling like arrow-riddled oliphaunts to the earth, and the tinkling of the faeries in the forest, that there had always been among us other peoples who now, as some perceived it, came out of an empty landscape, to whom most of us had been blind, and made themselves unblinkingly known. It was an insurgency that registered in the bloodstream like the Technophiliacs had, but for social not technological purpose. It traveled through Time, showing those who were blind where it had always existed, handing out magical glasses for those who still had acute astigmatism. The accompanying war was brutal and drawn-out, and conducted in fits and starts. It is still not over, for the old guard, which consisted of some who had been the new guard at decade’s beginning, still could not see these new folk, and the process of coming into focus might take years.

These then were the Aughts–perilous, exciting, bloody, enlightening, and ferocious. They were the end of something. They were the beginning of something. I hated the Aughts. I loved the Aughts.

3 Responses to “The Decade of the Aughts: Genre Fiction”

  1. Adam Callaway says:

    I cannot find anything about Kimber Adla or that book!

  2. Marty Stephenson says:

    I’m an agent. I helped a client (off the clock) persuade his hacked Kindle to read some old pulp fiction sword and sorcery files, that 73 people from around the planet shared with him (in the course of an hour). I told him I didn’t know these files existed. He said they didn’t and left. It was a beautiful moment. I love the smell of used bookstores.

  3. Gracie @ Callaway Worldwide says:

    Hello, just doing some research for my Callaway site. Lots of information out there. Wasn’t what I was looking for, but very nice site. Cya later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>