Recently, (although I know the trend is anything but recent) I've been hearing a lot of writers and literary agents whining that certain genres or troupes are 'dead.'
Frankly, I'm getting quite sick of it.
I've had people ask me if High Fantasy is dead. (By the way, no it's not.) I've had people worrying if humour novels were taking a downturn, due to the subjective nature of humour. (No need to worry on that front.) Poetry writers often say there isn't a big enough market for poetry, and thus, since there isn't a market, poetry will take a downward spiral. (Even though I'll admit you don't see a very big poetry section at your local bookstore, it does exist.)
So, I assume by this point you're wondering why I, a lowly unpublished author, have the ability to say whether or not genres can truly 'die.'
Well, cause I say so. :P
Here's why: Genres are not a single book. Books can die. Stories can wither away. But genres are simply a type of book loosely connected by similiar themes. And as long as there are people worrying about it dying, it'll never die. Because those people will continue to write it. Literary agents and editors may stick their nose up at genres and troupes they've seen so often, but the people who love them will keep writing them. Eventually, a literary agent may look at a book that he turned down six years ago as 'too overdone' and decide he hasn't seen something like this in a while, and offers a contract.
I like to compare the book world to economics. The economy can't 'die.' The economy will change based on the influences of the world, and the economy will have periods of boom and bust as based on Keynesian Economics, but it will always keep chuggling along so long as people keep putting their faith in it.
So, for example, let's look at the whole vampire boom. (I'm aware this isn't a genre. Bite me.) We see the evolution of vampires from the traditional vampires and then we see the evolution of a more 'sexy' vampire through the '80s with Anne Rice's vampires. We see this trend continue to grow until we hit the boom of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight.
This is where we see Keynesian Economics play out in the book world. We see the gradual popularity grow for vampires, before Twilight creates the boom we were all waiting for (it was only a matter of time, really.) At the peak of the vampire boom, we saw many vampire books hit the shelves, in both adult and young adult fiction. But now literary agents and editors are turning their noses up at vampire fiction, along with many readers. Thus, we're seeing the bust happening, as the vampire curvve begins to fall.
It's nature. Nothing can stay popular forever. This is true in all aspects of art. Does this mean vampires are dead? No way, baby. There are still people who love it and will continue to read and write what they love. They will resurface, just like any other genre out there. Urban fantasy is hitting its peak right now, meaning high fantasy is taking a beating. But eventually people will begin to tire of the same-old, same-old and look for something they haven't seen. Urban fantasy will take a tumble, and something else will take the sweet spot.
Every troupe or genre changes over time. Next time we see vampires, who knows? Maybe some author will create a vampire who isn't as much of a monster but just an addict (which I know some books like that are already on the shelves) This may hit the shelves at just the oppertune moment to cause another boom in vampire fiction.
No genre will die. As long as there are people writing it, there will be people who want to read it, and as long as people want to read it, there will be a market for it. Genres will have their low times, but take a deep breath and calm down. Fluxuating markets are what make the economy-- and publishing-- so great. It's supply and demand, baby.