What Is Dark Without Light?

I'm going to get all deep on you and make a, how do you say, an artistic statement. Ready? BOOM:

The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart is fundamentally my rejection of the Game of Thrones aesthetic.

Things have gotten awfully... dark around here lately, don't you think? With all of the incest and children being murdered and cities burning and the, you know, hopelessness? Don't get me wrong, there's a time and a place for dark, for gritty realism, for straight-up tragedy... but from where I sit, media has become unrelentingly bleak in recent years. Not just Game of Thrones, either. It's The Wire, it's Mad Men, Girls, it's even crept into Superman, for crying out loud. Epic fantasy has gone from the Belgariad to Wheel of Time to Game of Thrones, darker with every passing year. 

But it wasn't always like that. Whither Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Can you even imagine that getting published today? Just before I launched Lucy, I caught a few episodes of Hercules and Xena on late-night TV, and thought: that. THAT. I miss that so much. Why do all of our stories take themselves so seriously nowadays? So I set out to write something that didn't take itself seriously at all. 

And now I've made a curious discovery. Half the feedback I get from Lucy Smokeheart readers amounts to "I loved it, and so did my younger brother/daughter/ little cousin!"

Now, I'm definitely not going to complain about attracting a younger readership. I've got two kids myself I'm dying to impress with my mad word fabrication skillz, and I think some of the smartest and best books I've read in recent years have been nominally for children or teens. 

To be fair, I did have an inkling I might be heading toward a YA audience from the get-go. I've long said the way I write for teens is: I write something exactly the way I would for an adult. Bam. No other changes. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, individually and collectively. 

But this strikes me as a symptom of a particularly pernicious marketing stance in publishing: that if something is not serious, if it's not dark or realistic, then it's not for adults. The recent explosion in adults reading YA works might just be that all of us are getting tired of the idea that fiction for adults has to be unremittingly grim.  

So here's my plea for allowing playfulness back into adult literature. There's room for both ends of the spectrum, right? And I, for one, would like to live to see the second coming of Douglas Adams.