I have written before about trying to anticipate trends in public taste where literature is concerned.
Who knew that the YA market would bleed into the adult arena to the point where so many readers of the Twilight Series were over the age of eighteen? Who knew the young adult market, energized by Rowling's Harry Potter series, would soar to such heights?
Some people in the market have posited that into the YA arena, there's a developing "literary" influence which I would argue has been there all along (I won't bore anyone with another tirade about "literary" fiction). Some have also pointed to the importance of that manufactured market as a way to instruct young people in issues related to social awareness and self-worth. Even with a book such as Twilight, which one would think of in terms of literary cotton candy, critics have found messages regarding female empowerment and a Mormon philosophy. Want to peek at the debate, here is a posting from The Motley Vision, a site on Mormon arts and culture.
Like it or not, the YA market has been the fastest growing market on the shelves. Step back from discussions about vampires and zombies and see the venue in which they have been dominating audience. Vampires? At this time I would wager the audience is predominantly female, with the majority between 16-25 years of age. The venue? Books. Sure, we can fall back on Buffy and the film versions of Twilight, but instead consider how much adolescent literature being pushed through Barnes and Noble is centered around vampires. The world of wizards, fairly dominated by males, has just about run its course and been shoved aside.
And speaking about boys? While many may embrace the world of the vampire, I would argue the love of zombies is predominantly male, following the above age span of 16-25. I would also bet that while the vampire has strength in literature at this point, zombies have come into their own basically through cinema.
This is changing. One only has to look at the explosion of animated dead novels and short stories suddenly becoming available. How deep an impact will zombie's make? That remains to be seen, but probably not as deep as the vampire's indentation. The walking dead have a different and limited appeal. When writing The Ravening, a survival horror novel which features zombies, I knew the appeal wasn't an identification with romanticization of the monster, as it is in vampiric fiction, but instead with the people struggling to survive (also I should note The Ravening isn't YA)
I don't know where the future is in YA, or what will next grab the imagination of boy or girl audiences. Where is the next Eregon? The next Harry Potter? The next Twilight? I'm sure the corporations will let us know.
All this being said, I would argue that vampiric and survival horror fiction, will retain an audience. Even when the folk at Barnes and Noble relegate it to a back shelf, or take away its identification tag altogether, even when the vampire is no longer en vogue, the vampire will still sell, reclaimed by its original audience and beloved by those who prefer the shadow to the sunlight, the world of the weird to the mundane and hyper-real.