The Brave New World of Paranormal Fiction
Day Walkers? Synthetic blood? The literati have released vampires from daily confinement in their coffins, turned their blood lust into a ‘beverage preference’ and generally overhauled one of literature’s longest-running and most hallowed of paranormal traditions. Will our silver bullets, stakes, hammers and holy water become charming, but ineffectual, relics as well? Is this a good thing or bad? Or is “unforgivable” more like it? Discover what our panel of paranormal authors have to say on the subject.
The novelists gathered here, Kelsey Miller,Danielle Blanchard Benson ,Graeme Reynolds, Jodine Turner and Arshad Ahsanuddin, are five of dozens of up-and-coming indie authors featured in “The Last Way Station Mega Book Tour.” This tour represents a new concept in virtual book touring: multiple authors participating in tag-team guest blog tour stops. We named the tour in honor of founder and sponsor, Jon Reisfeld’s book, The Last Way Station. Click here to take your chance at winning a Kindle Fire (Grand Prize) or a selection of ebook-bundle secondary prizes in the book tour’s official Sweepstakes. Want to learn more about the tour’s featured authors? Then, click here.
Kelsey Miller, 18-year old author of Retribution, kicks off the discussion by presenting a viewpoint shared by many of today’s younger readers. Kelsey explains “why” paranormal’s rule book continues to evolve.
“Paranormal stories aren’t really supposed to be scary anymore.”
How did we get from Dracula to Twilight? I think the best way any of us can try to make sense of why paranormal storytelling has shifted is to figure out how these types of stories evolved. What’s the first vampire story you ever read? Most likely, it was Dracula. I mean, it’s been around forever. Does anyone remember what that story was like? It was pretty terrifying. At least, I hope it was anyway, because it was supposed to be.
I think that’s the main thing, right there.
When you read Dracula, weren’t you scared, or creeped out? There’s imprisonment, torture, murder, and of course, transformation. But tell me. Did you like the Count? Did you want to spend all of eternity with him? I doubt it.
I think we can all agree that Dracula was the first real Vampire story, but, in recent years, new vampire stories have cropped up. In 1976 Interview with a Vampire appeared. This was probably one of the first stories — or the first — with a vampire who could be considered “moral”. And so began the transition of vampires from terrifying monsters to humans who happen to drink blood.
Paranormal stories aren’t really supposed to be scary anymore. With series like Anita Blake and Twilight, we now have paranormal books with creatures who are basically elevated humans. This includes more than just vampires. When was the last time you read a story with a vampire who fed off children or a werewolf who gleefully attacked travelers during the night? Why is this?
I think there are multiple reasons. First, there’s the obvious. Supernatural beings are just that: supernatural, paranormal. Better than us mere humans. They’re stronger, faster, more attractive. Why wouldn’t we love this new breed of paranormal stories? They give us a chance to dream, to escape from our mundane existences, to pretend we’re like them. And that’s fine.
But then you have the other stories. You know what I’m talking about. Sweet and unsuspecting human is thrown into a supernatural world with sexy creatures that may or may not want to eat her. A forbidden relationship ensues. If there’s anything we can conclude from these stories, it’s that we’re always curious about what we are not allowed to have. If you put a “stay away” sign near something, we’re bound to disobey it. And one of the reasons we desire to do this so badly is because, by having that relationship, by taming that deadly creature, we’re able to get in touch with that wild and dangerous part of ourselves.”
If anything, this means that now is a pretty exciting time for paranormal writers. There are no rules. In fact, we can make up our own. The paranormal genre is growing into something “para” of itself. Who knows what we can expect? I don’t know about you, but I’m fine with that.
Kelsey Miller is the author of Retribution, a story about werewolf Faolan, who is forced out of his wolf form whenever a certain vampire attacks him — a vampire who doesn’t drink blood. Soon Faolan is forced to go on a road trip with the vampire, but Faolan’s unexplained shifting isn’t his biggest problem. The vampire is a liar.
“If you don’t have anything new to write about in this genre, which has been beat with a stick, set on fire and beat some more, then it really is a waste of time to write anything at all.”
|Danielle Blanchard Benson|
When I wrote my first paranormal novel, Death Wish: Book I (The Vamp Saga), I purposely did not read any paranormal works. (I have since read Dracula, Interview with a Vampire, am just now exploring J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood and I have Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series on my Kindle.)
Some book review bloggers have criticized my book, because I allowed the main character to become what was in her nature: More sinister, evil, and cunning, as the story progressed. (And she only killed one “person”: another vampire!)
I do explore the whole Day Walker phenomenon in my novel because I treat vampires as a species, not just supernatural beings
with a hard-on for the next ‘Mary Sue’ approaching. I would be the first to admit that my main character, in Death Wish, might come off “Mary Suish” at times, but there is a method to my madness. She was not chosen at random, and the reason why she
“turns” is explored in the second book, which is due out this April.
Personally, I am from the school of thought that says if you don’t have anything new to write about in this genre, which has been beat with a stick, set on fire and beat some more, then it really is a waste of time to write anything at all. If your
novel is just going to revisit what Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, J.R. Ward, Charlaine Harris, and yes, even Stephenie Meyer have done, then why bother?
The worst insult anyone could give me would be to say my series is “copycat” or boring. I dont mind all the other insults
because they are just another’s opinion and nothing else. I write to entertain, and I hope I have added a little oomph to a
genre that is so tired, it should be put to sleep.
Danielle Blanchard is the author of Death Wish: Book I (The Vamp Saga), available exclusively on Amazon, in ebook and paperback ( https://www.createspace.com/3719572 ) formats.
“I want my vampires to be cold, ruthless killers. I want werewolves to be tortured souls ….The only time a vampire should “sparkle” is if he has a pocketful of iron filings on him when he bursts into flames.”
There was a time when fear of vampires and werewolves wasn’t just a byproduct of literature or movies. Not so long ago, the fear was very real to a great many people. Frightened villagers would remove the heads of family members who died suddenly and bury them with a stake through the heart and cloves of garlic stuffed in the mouth. Families huddled in their homes at night,fearful of the predators that stalked the dark forests beyond the sanctuary of their villages.
These legends have haunted mankind for centuries. There are records, in almost every culture, of vampire-like creatures and shape shifters. The walking corpse with a taste for human blood. The man cursed to become a monster, or the man that willingly becomes one. These themes have been explored countless times, and have inspired some of the most terrifying pieces of cinema
Then, Anne Rice and Buffy came along and spoiled it for everyone. Little by little, modern culture has started to tame these great archetypes, until we are left with “sparkling” vampires, cute fluffy werewolves and a strong, yet vulnerable, female character caught in a love triangle with them. Werewolves and vampires have become love objects, when by rights, they both should be ripping off the female character’s head and fighting over her corpse.
What’s next? Paranormal romance with a zombie? Don’t answer that. I haven’t checked, but I know, deep down, as I type this, that someone, somewhere, will have written this and I despair. I mean…with a zombie? Really?
As you may have gathered, I am not in favor of the current neutering of our paranormal monsters. I want my vampires to be cold, ruthless killers. I want my werewolves to be tortured souls, cursed to become bloodthirsty monsters every full moon.
As the volume of books, short stories and movies begins to pile up, people start to look for ways to differentiate their take on the old legends from everyone else’s. They try to become original for the sake of being original, and hence we end up with day-walking, sparkley vampires, werewolves who work as lawyers, zombies with a sense of humor, and goodness knows what else. For the record, the only time a vampire should “sparkle” is if he has a pocketful of iron filings on him when he bursts into flames.
Don’t get me wrong. These creatures need to progress from the old tropes that are associated with them. Very few people could get away with writing a vampire novel set in a crumbling castle in eastern Europe these days. Some of these progressions are good, some make sense in the context of the story. Others make me shake my head and want to go for a cry in the corner. People go too far, and as a result, end up taming the monster and removing its ability to frighten us, which was ultimately what made it interesting in the first place.
Maybe it’s time to take a step back, strip away the years of baggage, and rediscover the monsters that our ancestors spoke about in hushed tones. Read the classic books that helped define and shape the legends we have today. How many self-proclaimed vampire fans have read Salem’s Lot, I am Legend or even Dracula? How many werewolf fans have read Moon Dance, The Wolf’s Hour or The Wolfen?
The trend in urban fantasy, paranormal romance, or whatever it’s called at the moment, isn’t going away, and if it’s getting people reading, then that’s great. All I’m saying to the fans of such books is this: Take a step outside your comfort zone once in a while. Stray a little closer to the darkness. Peek behind the veil. You never know, you might like what you find.
Graeme Reynolds is the author of High Moor, the story of a werewolf attack victim, who returns to his hometown decades after his attack, only to find the town in the grips of another paranormal predator. Can he help save the town? And how?
“I am thrilled to see this current paranormal trend branch out and embrace the magical, mystical unseen worlds that lay parallel to our own.”
Yes, Kelsey, vampires, werewolves, and zombies were originally frightening. And ugly. When novels started portraying them otherwise, I wondered, “why?” Perhaps, it has to do with our two primal fears: the fear of death and the fear of our own darker natures. If these scary, gruesome creatures can be sugar-coated to appear prettier, nicer, more likeable, and “not so bad after all,” then maybe we can pacify our own deepest fears and make our internal boogeymen more palatable.
While I am not a fan of candy-coating the inherently macabre, I am thrilled to see this current paranormal trend branch out and and embrace the magical, mystical unseen worlds that lay parallel to our own physical existence and that extend beyond our five senses.
Jodine Turner is the author of the urban fantasy, visionary fiction, paranormal romance novel Carry on the Flame: Destiny’s Call. Sharay, a young priestess in modern day Glastonbury, England, fights her jealous aunt’s black magic aimed at stopping her from fulfilling her destiny to help humanity discover that love, both human and divine, is the ultimate magic.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer put an interesting twist on the classic paranormal romance: The love interest became the vampire’s equal as a mystical predator.”
Originally seen as evil predators that hunted the living and unwary, the vampire was usually portrayed as an unredeemable monster in world folklore. Even Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula was seen as an otherworldly monarch, a damned warrior that was repelled by sunlight and holy artifacts.
Then, moral relativism rendered the vampire into a sympathetic character, a hero with a tragic flaw to be overcome. From this shift in viewpoint, the paranormal romance was born, giving the transformative power of love a major influence in the outcome of the spiritual struggle. Indeed, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, although heavy on eroticism, deal mostly with romantic relationships without much explicit sexuality.
Coming to the twenty-first century, Buffy the Vampire Slayer put an interesting twist on the classic paranormal romance: The love interest became the vampire’s equal as a mystical predator. Later works, such as Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series, embraced this new standard, with the vampire’s mystical strength equalized by the lover’s acquisition of a supernatural power. The Twilight Saga is actually a step backward: The heroine’s self-worth is defined by her two suitors.
In any case, the vampire archetype remains, whether sexual predator, tragic hero searching for love, or lost soul seeking redemption.
Arshad Ahsanuddin is a practicing hematopathologist, a physician who specializes in using microscopic and laboratory data to diagnose diseases of blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes, such as leukemia and lymphoma. Yes, a blood doctor writing about vampires. The irony is not
lost on him. It certainly amuses his colleagues.
Sunset.Los Angeles, 2040. The terrorist, Medusa, and her followers threaten to destroy the metropolis with a nuclear bomb. One individual, the vampire Nicholas Jameson, comes forward to oppose them. As Nick takes on the terrorists, the fragile peace between the races hangs perilously in the balance as the supernatural peoples are exposed. Can Nick lead the four races into peaceful coexistence, or will the final war destroy them all?
Thank you, Ritesh, for allowing us to share our authors’ views on the new paranormal rule book with your readers. – Jon Reisfeld