YALSA’s upcoming YA Literature Symposium will explore the future of young adult literature. The symposium begins on November 2nd, but we wanted to get a head start here at The Hub, so we’re devoting October to 31 Days of the Next Big Thing. Each day of the month, we’ll bring you forecasts about where YA literature is headed and thoughts on how you can spot trends and predict the future yourself.
Who was the first weather person to call snow “the white stuff?” When did the phrase “I know, right?” become the nearly universal signifier of assent? Why haven’t I received my check from a Nigerian prince? Why cat videos?
What these items have in common is that they are all potentially memes. What does that mean? As defined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, a meme is “a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.” Using the vocabulary of genetics, Dawkins compared memes to genes because the meme’s function is to replicate and survive through generations. The “fittest” will survive and the weakest are weeded out the same way that adaptations that improve a species survival will be passed on to offspring.
In many ways a meme is like a virus or a parasite. They rely on a vector for transmission (a sneeze or blood if you’re thinking of a virus; a cat video or spam for a meme). They infect a host when you either breathe in the microscopic snot of the sneezer or sit in front of your computer watching the Invisible Children fundraising video. Congratulations! You are now infected. Feel free to sneeze on others or forward the video to me (don’t do that, I beg you). Thus, the cycle begins anew.