With the final instalment of Twilight hitting our screens this November, it marks the end of what has been one of the most lucrative franchises of our time. When the first book was published in 2005, it was merely part of a trend in young adult fiction for vampire tales. It also led to various other romances for teens featuring lycanthropy and the undead. Before that, young adult books were saturated with tales of magic, spurred on by the success of the Harry Potter books. Teen obsessions tend to move in trends and publishers and film studios are now eyeing what could be the next young adult subgenre to blow up.
Io9, the science fiction blog, suggests that mermaids might be just the thing to fill the vampire-sized hole in the lives of teenage readers. It notes there have already been 18 young adult books about the mythical sea creatures released this year. And by not being bound to the many rules dictated by vampire lore, the mermaid genre is much more flexible. The young adult mermaid fiction being released includes every underwater scenario from murderous sea nymphs to sunny, hippy tales about the ocean. Some are stories of friendship; other love stories.
Orange-prize winning Helen Dunmore has written five mermaid books for young adult in her Ingo Chronicles series, the most recent of which, Stormswept, was published earlier this year. In the US, titles such as Wake, about a teenaged siren, Wrecked, which has a merman as the main character and Fathomless, which will be published in the UK next month, are making waves. Studio execs will be watching closely the reading habits of teenagers. The success of the Twilight and The Hunger Games books has translated into big box office. So if it is mermaids that are currently capturing teenagers' imaginations then it is surely only a matter of time before a couple of dark, angsty films are given the green light. And in the same way that two Snow White films were released this year (Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman), a similar battle between mermaid-themed films seems almost guaranteed.
For those who grew up with the familiar faces – and tails – of Splash's Madison, played by Darryl Hannah, and Disney's Ariel, it might seem strange that mermaids have only now been rising to the surface. Sure, for die-hard mermaid fans there was H2O: Just Add Water, an Australian teen soap. But it's only recently that there have been signs that mermaids are ripe for a comeback, with Lady Gaga donning scales for her "You and I" video last year and Katy Perry, looking rather more glamorous and a lot less otherworldly as a sexy sea creature in an ad for GHD hair products.
The fashion world, typically one step ahead of the game, embraced sea nymphs in their spring/summer 2012 collections. Chanel had Florence Welch singing live in a huge white seashell at its underwater-themed show and designers such as Alexander McQueen, Givenchy and Armani have all been inspired by mermaids of late. And with Azealia Banks, currently one of the hottest acts in music, proclaiming to be the first mermaid of hip-hop, having released a mixtape called Fantasea (track titles include "Atlantis", "Aquababe" and "Neptune"), as well as putting on "Mermaid Ball" gigs in New York and LA, are mermaids set to replace vampires and werewolves as pop culture's new mythical obsession?
It looks like it's time for a sea change.