Back in the 80’s a romance was published with a rape scene, it was incredibly popular and sold tons of books. This led to every bodice ripper romance being sold by mainstream publishers having a rape scene. Even authors bought into the idea that in order to sell books it was necessary and the general consensus was that although rape was demeaning to women they ‘had’ to have it in books. Funnily enough publishers and romance authors found out when they actually gave the market a chance, people would buy books that didn’t have a rape scene and only contained consensual sex.
I’ve seen a similar marketing trend recently in fantasy and science fiction. Dark is in. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, are all very popular but the dark goes deeper than that. The situations are more tragic, the murders are more horrible, characters are darker, crueler and often characters get hurt, badly. It’s not uncommon to see main characters recovering from blood loss, fractures, burns, torture and worse at the end of a book.
Everyone seems convinced that readers are jaded and have to be shocked into paying attention and that the solution is to be ever more shocking. This works up to a point but eventually readers have seen it all and are no longer interested.
I find that I am gravitating towards books that have a balance of conflict against a backdrop of calm. I wish that there was more fantasy and science fiction coming out without so much gratuitous pain, suffering and darkness. I want more light in my books and I think that if the market would release more of that type of book there would be others like me who are interested in reading it. Just like with those rape-centric romances the market could probably diversify and still make money.