Go Farther: Two-Dollar Dreadfuls

I've often heard Twilight called a modern "Penny Dreadful."  I myself am no fan of the series – I find it overblown and turgid, and frankly feel the manga incarnation looks superior in artistry to the novels.

But when people call it a Penny Dreadful, I think they're missing an opportunity here, and they're dismissing a valid business model.

Let us be honest, there is plenty of room for guilty pleasures: overblown romance, cheesy action, video games filled with more explosions than dialogue, and so on.  There is plenty of room for the "Penny Dreadful," the overblown, trashy, and ultimately just plain fun.

There is room for the literary/artistic equivalent of junk food in our lives.

This is a perfect time for it.

With eBooks people can crank out fast-and-fun books that meet people's needs for Penny Dreadfuls.  Call them the Two-Buck Dreadfuls.  Fast, cheap, easy to get (and easy to hide on your iPad and laptop if you're easily ashamed).  Why not have fun, trashy literature these days?

What about video games?  DLC means fast delivery, game tools let people make games quickly.  I've seen a few games that are not artistic statements, but are just plain fun, from hilarious actioners to old-school retro shooters where AI stands for Automated Ignorance.  Quick hits and old-school fun have their place.

Movies?  Todays technology lets many people make quick films, to judge by Youtube and successful endeavors like The Asylum.  Why not make quick, fun junk-food films?

We have the tools and we have the technology to deliver fast cheap fun for people that want it.  So why not embrace it?  Let's admit that there's an opportunity because people want guilty pleasures, and its fast and cheap to make them.

I'm sure there will be some naysayers that worry about an onslaught of lousy literature, games, and films.  There's always been that worry – and there's always been lousy stuff.  But people still love Tolkein and Shakespeare, gasp at the art of Van Gogh, and marvel at the subtleties of video games years old.

It's just now and then we want the equivalent of a greasy burger.  Today's technology lets us get it – and make it – fast.  So I say embrace it.

Besides, with enough practice on Two Dollar Dreadfuls, who knows what amazing potential will be unlocked in an otherwise obscure author . . .

– Steven Savage