For some reason, I didn't really notice this until I started doing Nanowrimo.. but more and more, it seems that all the new stores are merely re-writes, or slight variations on a theme.
I'm currently reading Dies the Fire, by Stirling... which is about a post-apocalyptic work without electricity. Last night, hubby turned to a new show called Revolution.. which is about a post-apocalyptic world without electricity. Sure, there are differences.. one is set on the west coast, and one is set in the Heartland.. in one, the failure of electricity extends to guns, and in the other, guns still work.. but both stories have lots of crossbows, lots of horses, lots of farming and agriculture, and a fiefdom sort of government.
Back in 2009, I did my first Nano... and wrote of a world where everything revolved around spices.. occupations, holidays, names of people, names of food, names of businesses.. with a strong controlling government. Two months later, in early 2010, Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey came out.. a world in which everything revolved around colors -- status, occupation, relationships.. with a strong controlling government. Sure, I'd read Fforde's earlier works, but S of G was quite different from his earlier stuff, which mostly dealt with characters in fictional works.
While we were watching Revolution last night, a commercial came on for a new show called Loopers, involving time travel. Although I'm a pantser, I do come up with a broad overall theme for my Nano stories in advance.. I don't really know the beginning or middle, and I definitely don't know the end, but I have to decide on some key elements in advance, so that I can do any necessary research before the starter's pistol goes off. For Nano 2012 -- yep, you guessed it, my story will involve time travel.
I guess I don't have a problem with recycling, and tweaking and twisting... it just surprises me that we seem to be out of new ideas.