At work today my visionary boss was searching for a word to describe the center, the eye, the idea, the core, the communicable itness of a project. I said "meme" and the group around the table looked at me like I was speaking in tongues. Well I guess I was.
Wikipedia says a meme is "any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that gets transmitted...from one mind to another. Memes propagate themselves and can move through a 'culture' in a manner similar to the behavior of a virus." Thank Richard Dawkins for coming up with the term in his book The Selfish Gene. And like genes, he suggests memes face natural selection and either die or survive and mutate. In ESL publishing I would say the hot or recycled approaches to selling a series are memes. The meme for a book can be that it complies to some standardized testing or that it offers teachers of multi-level students a single book that can work for all or some other new hot approach. The newest of the new trends in teaching seem to shift meaning as they are developed for a book series. Like a slogan, an ad campaign, the hook for a song, the sound bite, the credo, it mutates until it is expressed in the fixed medium of print.
I just finished reading China Mieville's Un Lun Don. Enjoyed it. He has clearly been infected with the wild alternate city meme, the earliest instance I remember is The Gormenghast Novels by Mervyn Peake. But Mieville's humor, cleverness, plot, details, language, and sheer audacity of invention is what keeps me turning the pages. The only lack is characters, they're thin on development and side-kicks come and literally go (dead or worse) with the speed of invention rather than the pulse of affection.