In 1993, when NYPD Blue first aired on ABC, there was a near deafening outcry from various conservative and parenting groups. Turns out that the police drama contained “adult language and scenes with partial nudity” and that “Viewer discretion” was advised. The “Bible Belt” was up in arms and no-one had even seen an episode!
Twenty years later, American pop culture has changed so much that by modern standards, NYPD Blue is practically G-rated. Today’s television landscape is a virtual morass of nudity, foul language, sexual escapades, and broken marriages. But far more importantly, it’s now—closer at least—to real. Desperate Housewives showed us the seamy side of life behind the white picket fence. Sex And The City went even farther, giving insights into vibrators and oral sex. Revenge exposes the downside of the society set, while Dexter and Homeland explore how some people are vastly different from what they outwardly seem.
Yet beyond mere shock value, our modern entertainment culture clearly reflects a stark rejection of traditional, counterfeit morality. A generation ago, father always knew best. Today, father is stealing money from the office, mother is a closet drunk, daughter is getting pregnant by her high school biology teacher, and son is experiencing flashbacks from sexual abuse suffered at the hands of the local priest.
So where do indie readers turn, people searching for a similar, even deeper, visceral experience? Unfortunately, no category exists. Contemporary Fiction? Too broad and bland. Comic Fiction? It seems trite, like a clown with a bright red nose and oversized feet tooting a horn.
I respectfully submit that the newly minted genre, “Modern Edge” says it all. Rooted within our contemporary world, it’s gritty, stark, funny, and brutally authentic. It tackles life head on, holding nothing back in terms of content or feeling. Sex, marriage, divorce, religion, financial issues, parenting frustrations…everything and anything is on the table.
Ripping away society’s soft veneer, Modern Edge revels in the deeper truths of our 21st century existence. And now, through the rise of indie publishing, it’s about to explode.
Luke Young’s Friends With Benefits series is already leading the charge, dealing with life and love among a myriad of different characters. My Sweet Saga, from Brett Sills, opens with a very funny scene about a guy attending his girlfriend’s work event, and how he come to despise both her and everyone else there. Dee Ernst’s wildly successful Better Off Without Him, about a middle-aged woman who’s husband leaves her for an office fling, has been optioned for television.
My own novel, The Bull Years focuses on the career and life frustrations of four Generation X young adults. As a former talk show host, it proved to be an outlet of similar tone and expression to what I’d done on-air. But I also wanted to connect with the world-at-large in some essential fashion, bringing texture and depth to our collective, modern-day experience.
Right now, there’s no one place to find these books, which often get thrown together with crime novels or full-blown chick lit. (And really, what guy wants to buy a book ranked right above a generic husband hunting novel, and below the latest whine about being thirty and unmarried?) They need their own safe haven in the indie publishing world, where progressive, forward-thinking readers can discover them in all their existential glory.
We’re searching for raw, intuitive reality, a validation of our own conflicted desires and tangled vision. It’s time to recognize Modern Edge as a cohesive, vibrant genre in its own right.
Phil Stern is a former radio talk show host and commentator and the author of both Contemporary and Science Fiction. His debut novel, The Bull Years, was published in 2011.