The term contemporary fiction tells readers to expect stories set in modern times. Yet modernity is relative because it’s about the now and as we all know, the now today becomes yesterday tomorrow. Since that is the case, contemporary fiction gets stuck in time. At least that’s how I see it. It’s relevant today but can it remain so in the future?
References to Facebook, Twitter, texting, iPods, IM, and the likes are relatable today but who is going to remember or care to read about these things? When I read books from the 80s or 90s that mention mix tapes, walkman, gameboys and stuff, I can still keep up with a sense of nostalgia because as a kid, I still came across all these things. Throw in record players or telegrams, and I’m transported to a completely different world, a historical one. And I’m not as partial towards historical fiction. I prefer contemporary with occasional books set in the future.
When I read yet another casual reference to Facebook and looking up the profile of some schoolmate in a book I was reading recently, these questions just hit me in the face:
- What is the place of contemporary fiction?
- When does it seize to be contemporary?
- Do they cross over to be classified as historical fiction?
- What happens to all those books that don’t attain a classic status?
Now, is that timelessness desirable? I think maybe not so much if the aim is to portray a familiar reality that is also believable. If timelessness were the aim, then shooting for contemporary would be a misplaced aim. Still, I can’t help but wonder, how long can a contemporary book stay relevant as a contemporary?
What is it about contemporary fiction that draws you in or repels you from the genre? How important is the modern setting to you? And how can today’s contemporary fiction remain relevant tomorrow?