Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Light Novel Recommendations: An Introduction

Light novels have been a frequent topic here, combining the evolution of the pulp magazine with Japanese pop culture to various degrees of success. In the 1970s, Japanese publishers combined pulp magazines with anime-inspired illustrations aimed at teens and young adults. Since then, the market for these short, pulpy and fannish novels (about 50,000 words or so, like the hero pulp novels), has exploded in Japan and abroad, with recent English publisher J-Novel Club releasing over 200 translated volumes in two years.

Success has changed light novels from their pulp origins. Rather than an episodic series like the Shadow or Doc Savage, the average light novel has returned to dime novel serialization, with many light novels amassing a dozen volumes of story and more. And, to fill the demand, publishers have been offering contracts to newer writers and web novel writers. So the polish expected of the pulps has started to rub away. But enthusiasm, novelty, and an editor's not-so-gentle prodding have carried many a light novel writer to success despite the deficiencies of technique. Currently, just as in American Young adult, the medium has been following their readers as they grow older. But the heart still remains--mystery, action, and a heavier leavening of the spicy than even Martin Goodman would consider wise.

Like in any medium that has been around for longer than a fortnight, writers have chased various trends. Currently, isekai portal fantasy and harem romance have been the rage, influencing Russian litRPG and the recent glut of American harem fantasies, to the point that many readers are searching for their next novelty fix. Prior to that, the fad of the day included, at various times, "devil" stories, sword and sorcery, space opera, magical battle academies, and high school secret histories.

Over the next few posts, I'll take a closer look at these admittedly broad categories and make recommendations in each, based on what is currently available, starting with my personal favorite category, the secret worlds.

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