What in the world happened to paranormal fantasy? It used to be that the genre evoked images of specters and revenants, parallel dimensions and zombie apocalypses. But a cursory search of the genre will reveal that things have changed. Sure, there’s still timeslips and shapeshifters. Only now they’re flanked by sassy leather-tight chicks and “blood-sucking fairies.”
That’s the phrase being used on some message boards to describe the vampires in Twilight — “blood-sucking fairies.” Apparently, hardcore horror fans and vampire aficionados are repelled by the sparkly, Vegan vampires that inhabit Hollywood’s interpretation of Stephanie Meyers’ series. Next to Stoker’s Dracula, King’s Salem’s Lot, and Murnau’s Nosferatu, the Twilight vampires look like wusses.
It’s part of a larger trend spear-headed by the sub-genre of Paranormal Romance, one of the fastest growing genres on the market. I might not like it, but who says vampires can’t be fairies and that little giggly teenage girls shouldn’t swoon for undead, limp-wristed, loners? In the same way that I am free, as an author, to place vampires in outer space, the old west, or a dystopian wasteland, Paranoramal Romance authors are free to turn vampires into girly, homoerotic, pre-teen, crush toys.
Or Chippendale dancers.
Hey, it’s the way of fiction – genres morph.
From Bookends blog, literary agent Jessica Faust commented on Women’s Fiction and, in the process, genre-blending itself:
The first thing to understand about genre definitions is that there’s a reason they are so difficult to understand. Genre definitions, like genres themselves, are fluid. They change with the market and with the times. In other words, years ago, there was a very clear line between what was considered romance and what was considered fantasy. Now, not so much. Books that were previously considered strictly fantasy are now finding their way into the romance section at bookstores and vice versa. Which is why I try to encourage authors not to get too hung up on the specifics of a genre. (emphasis mine)
I’ve always liked hard-to-define genres. My agent, not so much. So while agents are busy trying to find niches for their clients, many authors are trying to shake the restrictions imposed by genre definitions. Perhaps this is why I found Faust’s observations so liberating. “Genre definitions, like genres themselves, are fluid.”
So I’m minding my business, perusing some end-of-the-year lists, and stumble upon the Goodreads Choice Awards 2011 for Paranormal Fantasy. Goodreads has a pretty knowledgeable reader base, so this should be interesting. But I was disappointed. The common denominator of the Goodreads nominations?
Hot chicks. With guns, knives, swords, or nunchucks.
Who the hell hijacked my monsters?
The experiment has gone awry! The virus has left the test tube! Genre-blending has produced a mutant species. Alas, Harlequin romance novels have morphed into Paranormal Fantasy. Forget the claws and fangs and winged appendages. Rippling thighs are now what we fear. It’s one thing to endure Dracula’s psychic persuasion. But who can resist a “rock hard wall of muscle”? Gamma rays don’t stand a chance next to an Immortal abdominal six-pack.
However you look at it, it’s more romance than paranormal. Either way, it seems sacrilegious. Spacemen, gill-men, mummies and medusas — these were the stuff of my youth. Sorry, but werewolf strippers just don’t do it for me. Go ahead and call it “romance” if you want. But please, please, don’t call it “paranormal.”
So perhaps Van Helsing looked in the wrong place. I mean, who needs holy water and wooden stakes to kill the undead? Erotica and horny teenage girls have done more to disarm the Prince of Darkness than a forest of Wolfsbane.