The Future of Fiction? | CoyleNeal

Image: Amazon

Izzy knows everything about horror movies. She’s seen them all, memorized the tropes, and she knows exactly where she stands in the genre, should someone start knocking off teenagers. and someone is killing people. The book opens with a serial killer taking out most of the cool kids, leaving only Lindsay who has managed to kill the killer and now has to rebuild the homecoming court. It turns out that the homecoming court she has assembled is made up entirely either of gals who have survived murderous rampages, or who fit the movie trope of girls who do. Hence the title The Last Final Girl.

The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones is an interesting book with a clever hook, a thoughtful plot, and a super irritating style. Hopefully the first two are obvious enough from the description above. But the structure of this book is, well, it’s hard to describe. But it’s easy to show an example of the writing style (a screen capture from the Kindle edition, specifically–it isn’t less irritating in the paperback version, so Kindle format doesn’t really affect anything)

This style of writing is what we’d get if we were watching a horror movie and trying to type everything down as fast as we could. Or, you know, it’s writing in the style of Twitter. Maybe both. The point is, this isn’t the way normal books are written, or were written a decade ago. I also find it endlessly irritating (but that’s maybe just the cranky old man response?).

I suspect there is some future for this style of writing. As technology is ever more pervasive and the American attention span continually shortens, our ability to read books will continue to decline. It may be that this kind of short, choppy, writing is what books will increasingly move towards–we may not have the ability to consume anything else. In one sense, that’s fine. There’s nothing divinely inspired about the classical structure of the novel. It functionally didn’t exist in the 18th century, there’s no reason to assume that we can’t adopt to new forms.

Still, as Christians we ought to be concerned not so much with the form of pop culture in and of itself–that will always be in flux. We can enjoy film, music, novels, etc in perfectly good conscience–and even think that one format is not necessarily better than another. We should, however, be concerned with the effect that the form of culture has on us as developing human beings (and yes, the short version of this review is: Neil Postman was right). Is our collapsing attention span something to be concerned about, even resisted? Or is it just a change in the way human beings work, either neutral or even good–akin to the decline in the self-sufficiency of the household? (I certainly have no complaints that we no longer have to churn our own butter or stitch our own clothing.)

This is something Christians should think carefully and well about, and The Last Final Girl is a place to do so while enjoying the nods to the horror movies of the 1980s.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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