How Do New Genres Arise?

How Do New Genres Arise?

Historical events, cultural changes and unprecedented sales are three factors that influence the rise of new genres. Many new genres are not necessarily new at all; rather, they are sub-genres or a fusion of two or more existing genres, such as paranormal romance or romantic steampunk.

The rise of young adult dystopian fiction owes a great deal to Suzanne Collins, the author of "The Hunger Games." But the subject of teenagers battling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world is not new. John Christopher explored such themes in his young adult trilogy, "The Tripods," which was published between 1967 and 1968.

"The Hunger Games" differs from "The Tripods" because it is among a whole crop of high-action dystopian thrillers with strong, nuanced female protagonists. It is Dorothy from Kansas all over again, but with a machete, a dangerous mission and homicidal adversaries. Dystopian fiction addresses the collective fears of civilization, such as its collapse, gangs, violence, elitism and seemingly irreversible poverty.

Collins' premise for "The Hunger Games" and the novel's incessant tension inadvertently saddle readers with a thirst for more, which spawns a runaway bestseller and the kinds of sales numbers that the publishing industry loves to see: A new genre is born.

High school readers of "The Hunger Games" grow up and naturally seek stories about people in college: Enter New Adult, an up-and-coming genre about Young Adult readers who are now adults and want more "Twilight." Novels by NA author J. Lynn consistently sell well, signaling an emerging trend in consumer reading.

Twitter fiction is another new genre, influenced by flash fiction and the predominance of social media. So is true fiction in the spirit of James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces," which sold three million copies when it came out.