Paranormal vs Contemporary Fans

I am not sure what the word is – overheard? read? visually eavesdropped? – but I read a conversation between Shannon Stacey and Angela James about paranormal vs. contemporary romances, and why the fanbase for some paranormal series is more active, involved, and at times rabid than the fans for contemporary series.

This idea made me ponder for a good few weeks now about why that is. 

First, the idea that a paranormal romance series can enjoy a more active and sometimes coordinated fanbase is true, but that doesn't mean there aren't well-coordinated efforts on behalf of contemporary romance series.

Susan Mallery's Fools Gold series not only has an active Facebook page, but she also has a “varsity cheerleader” squad made up of fans who promote and celebrate the series. Mallery's website also has quilt patterns, recipes, knitting patterns, and swag to buy and win.

Debbie Macomber also has a very active fanbase – and as I learned from her acceptance speech at RWA a few years ago, she also has an agent for film, tv, books, and knitting as well. A knitting agent. (I can think of a few friends who would LOVE to be knitting agents!) Macomber's community of fans rests on a similar premise to Mallery's: that there are activities related to her books and the community of her books that can remind readers of the feeling and experience of reading those books, even then they're not actually reading. So if they knit or cook or visit a bookstore, they can both reconnect with their own experience with the books they loved, and share that experience with others.

But paranormal fans are a different sort of fan group. Contemporary romance series fans may knit, cook, quilt or drag race (I'm kidding) (that would be cool) and relate their activities to the series, but paranormal series exist in a whole other world apart or parallel to this one. And that disconnection from present reality creates a more intimate connection for the reader to the series – if online behavior of those fangroups is any indication.

Stacey and James' discussion was focused on the GoodReads awards, which were decided by reader voting, and the results of which revealed which books had active clicking fans and not necessarily which books were absolutely the top of the year's publications. JR Ward: active fans, and winner of the best romance of the year, despite the book itself having mixed and some very detailed negative reviews.

As per Shannon and Angela's discussion, the paranormal fans are more likely to click links, rate books, review books and spread the word about a series they love – and connect with other readers. That's not to say that the contemporary fanbase can't be built among readers; I think the limitation is that the contemporary world building is reality-based, and ultimately the connected activities are both based in the real world (knitting, cooking, etc.) and focused on real-world promotion instead of online.

When I brought this up recently, because I was looking for the original tweets, Moira Rogers Bree said that her theory is “that lots of us spec-fic fans have a background of enthusiastic fandom participation.”

That's definitely part of it. There's an isolation in liking something that's somewhat marginalized, and, as Rogers Bree pointed out, speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal fans are accustomed to the books they like being unappreciated generally, and the ways in which they demonstrate that regard being misunderstood – so they band together closely. Comic Con, Dragon Con, and other conventions with lots of costume play are not going to be matched in attendance by any similar conventions focused on contemporary romance. There's little in the way of costuming, for one thing.

And that is part of why I think paranormal series have this powerful thrall over readers at times. On the surface, there's not that much difference between the structure and community of contemporary series and paranormal series (and yes, I'm lumping some UF titles in under the 'paranormal' umbrella for the purposes of this entry).

Both contemporary and paranormal romance have world building, and some authors are wonderfully skilled at it to the point where the reader believes these places exist – or wishes like hell they did. Forks and Caldwell are not so far away nor different from Fools Gold and Cedar Cove, in many ways.

Both contemporary and paranormal romance are frequently published in series, so there are multiple characters and multiple opportunities to visit or re-enter that world, so readers get an intimate knowledge of those characters, that place, and that community. This is, I believe, part of why small-community romance is popular: it's intimate and allows readers to visit characters in multiple editions similar to the way paranormal series allow readers to visit and intimately know a small group of characters.

What separates the contemporary and the paranormal worlds and series, and why the paranormal has such a stronger following, I believe, rests in the content of the books themselves, and the prevalence of secrecy, the repeated focus on a quest, and the enticement to demonstrate similar loyalty.

Secrecy

There's a secret world element to just about every paranormal series. Sometimes the secret is the intricacy of the world which the characters navigate.

But in every case, only readers of that series are familiar with the secret, and have a deeper level of shared intimate knowledge with fellow readers of the series. Whether the secret is the existence of a society apart and alongside of the human world, or the secret is a danger that threatens everyone, paranormal and human like, there is always something large, dark and scary hanging over the community as a threat and a villain that must be vanquished – preferably vanquished without anyone noticing much of anything.

Why does that translate into strident and active defense and promotion of the series? I think it is because of the idea that nature abhors a vacuum, coupled with reader generosity and book pushing. None of us wants to be alone in knowing the secret amazement of a book, and we want to share the reading experience with someone – but in order to fully share and experience it, we readers need more readers to embark on each book until they, too, know the secret and can discuss it in detail.

In many of the cases of books that have rabid followings – Twilight, Harry Potter, the Black Dagger Brotherhood, or Dark-Hunter series, for example – there's layers of secrets within the secret world that readers learn, and tensions that sometimes depend on keeping those secrets from the “outside” or “normal” world and from other characters inside that world. By reading these series, individuals enter that secret world merely because they know about it, and they can bring other people into that world by enticing them to read the books.

Repeated Focus on a Quest

As I mentioned, often in the larger story arc of the paranormal series, there's a “bigger big bad” or threat that hangs over the community, a much greater problem that must be solved by everyone or by The Most Special One (looking at you, Jesus H. Potter), as the series draws to a conclusion (if it ever does). There are repeated smaller and larger quests and demonstrations of fealty to one another, and to the larger mission.

Natty Mae asked on Twitter while I was discussing this entry as I wrote it, “why do so many paranormal series center around groups of angry men living in frat houses of the damned?”

No kidding!

I think that feeds both the dedication to the quest and the secrecy elements that influence fan engagement. Most of these groups of “angry men in frat houses of the damned” (HA) are bound together by task or quest, and must shield one another from the outside evil or temptation – which makes those pesky women they get paired off with one by one (in color coded order, in some series) even more of a temptation and threat. That too engages fans because it's another small community to focus on in repeated visits to that world with each new book, and another step to understanding the plot of the larger story taking place over several books.

Add to that the “team” mentality, and the proliferation of these paranormal world fan groups, and there's a competitiveness that I think appears once the group is well-established that collectively seeks to edge out one series over another, to promote one secret enclave over another in online and public spheres (which is a bit of an echo of the battle within the books).

Enticement to Demonstrate Loyalty

Because these books focus on action, bravery, and dedicated accomplishment and loyalty, and because there are often community-generated or author-generated rewards for being among the most active members of the community, readers who are privy to the secret world within the books can be similarly inspired to demonstrate their loyalty by actively promoting and devoting time to the series in whatever way speaks to them. Whether that's fan conventions, online chats, bulletin boards, reviews and supporting of other reviews, readers embrace the secret world, share it with one another, and participate in the culture of the world by mimicking it online. And, of course, readers promote it simply because they love it and want others to discover the series as well. 

So that's my theory: paranormal series that feature a repeated large and small series of quests or adventures, and repeated demonstrations of strength, loyalty, and community focus, all within shrouded layers of secrecy, engage fans in a different manner than contemporary series. Perhaps this is why some contemporary (and historical) series have touches of paranormal now, in an effort to echo and attract those fans who can so fiercely defend and elevate a series they love.

What do you think? Are you part of a fan community devoted to a paranormal or contemporary series? Why do you think paranormal fans are so much more active and interactive than contemporary series readers? 

 

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Random Musings

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    TamB. says:

    I think it goes both ways.  I’m a huge paranormal reader and I find those authors are active in communicating with and rewarding their fan base. 

    The best example I can think of this was when Karen Marie Moning launched Fever-con.  KMM and her fans took over a hotel for a long weekend.  KMM went above and beyond and brought in the man (voice) behind the audiobooks, the guy who inspired a lead character, other authors.  It was a tailor made fan event (and I was totally annoyed I couldn’t attend). 

    Further a lot of paranormal authors can be self published so they have to make and keep contact.  Debora Geary (writes about witches) on her FB page will ask for fan input for character actions in her books.  Not the should she/shouldn’t she but more like I need a quote / activity for character x.

    I agree with your premise.  I know when I find a great new book (typically UF) one of the first things I do is tell people about it.  I want to share the experience, have people to discuss the pros and cons of the world the author has built or the actions of the character.  There aren’t as many things to discuss in a contemporary romance – was the lead an idiot, is she TSTL?  The discussion is likely not to be as involved as “there is a vampire council that sanctions rogue kills?  Magic has swings? Vampires have come out of the coffin? 

    I also think romance suffers from stereotypes.  You tell someone about a new author and might get as far as “it’s a romance” and they’ve already decided their attitude and you may well end up defending the book rather than enjoying a discussion or sharing the joy.

  2. 2

    I agree that many SF/F, Spec Fic, and Paranormal Fans have a fanboy/girl past that makes it easy to join a community focused on a book series you love (I remember the days when my friends thought I was weird for obsessing over BTVS to the point of RPing and writing fan fiction. Now ten years later, they are all over vampires and Twilight and True Blood, lol).

    I also think the fanbases for paranormal romances and Urban Fantasy are large and legion because of the crossover aspect. People who wouldn’t touch a romance novel with a ten foot pole will grab the latest Nalini Singh release or glom Larissa Ione because those books aren’t coded as “romance” (aka Harlequin or “bodice ripper” historical romance covers). I’m sure the knitting and cooking angle does play a major part in Macomber’s success, but would her books be as popular if the covers had mantitty and knitting?

  3. 3
    Nichole says:

    YES! I totally agree with everything you said in this very well thought out post. I love paranormal romance and urban fantasy. I hardly ever read contemporary. And when I do, there’s usually some outrageous angle like the hero is a Greek tycoon or something. The less real world the better. That’s also why I love historical romances too – the stories I escape into are so different from real life. Also, sometimes contemporaries are just boring if there’s no quest. And a lot of contemporary series books are in the same world but focus on different related characters who get together. I like being able to choose this setup or follow the same character around from book to book as she kicks undead ass.

    I am a huge fan of Ilona Andrews. I just adore her UF and PR books, and I can’t understand why she isn’t more widely read. Her fans are rabid and I love recommending her, but I hardly ever get the chance. Reading romance is one thing, but reading about vampires and werewolves puts you in a whole new category of crazy. Twilight Crazy. So the fan communities have to be tight knit because we don’t have as much of an outlet for sharing and talking in real life about the books we like as contemporary readers.

    I agree with TamB about KMM too. I remember she brought to life a contraption (I don’t know how else to describe it) called the Mac Halo. It was something the heroine created and used a lot. Then KMM sent it on a tour of the US (and maybe internationally too?) to different fans who would take pictures of themselves wearing it. This was an awesome community building idea and we got to see what some of the fans looked like. Plus I think bringing to life something out of a fantasy book has a bigger impact than something out of a contemporary book. It’s almost like you’re bringing the magic into real life.

    As for the “angry men in frat houses of the damned,” I haven’t really encountered them at all. It seems like you would find them more in series that focus on a different couple for each book. And I guess the series I read focus on women who kick butt or just have male leads who don’t live in damned frat houses. :P Maybe I need to check out one of those angry men series, but they sound really angsty.

  4. 4
    Aziza says:

    I don’t read all that many romance books of any type, but decided to check out a certain semi-notorious UF series after many, many references to it here. It only stands to reason that I enjoyed it thoroughly. I read comics, so I am used to a lot of glorious ridiculousness.

    The Black Dagger Brotherhood IS the X-Men. Living in secrecy? In a mansion? With a disabled leader? A purple dragon? Plenty of money although no one has a regular job? Always fightin’ these deadly menaces though nothing much changes and nobody stays dead except for the one who does? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes, Wellsie is playing checkers in heaven with Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben. Hell, Vishous is an entire X-squadron on his own even without his half-dozen extra superpowers. Long-lost secret twin? Wife who died but “got better”? Mother is Magneto* and father is Magneto* (*figuratively speaking)? You know it, bub. And angst, always with the angst…and continuity issues….

    Not a vampire/mutant? Just sit tight for a few days, Beth and John Matthew. As for the rest of you…okay, Jane and Mary, you’re Kitty Pryde and Wolverine, respectively. Butch O’Neal…does the name Doug Ramsey mean anything to you? No? Well, we’re going to decide that on technical points you ARE a vampire/mutant, give you the WORST codename ever, and wrap your new best friend (a runaway techno-organic alien with daddy issues) around you so you don’t die in the first 10 minutes. Dr. Manny Manello…hello, Dr. Moira MacTaggert! No powers, but you get to dally with the X-vampire of your choice PLUS you get a visible accent! (You’re going to have to drop that ‘bambina’ shit for “Och, ye bonny bairn” or something. Work on it.) Also, we’re under quota on secret siblings, so congrats. Jose de la Cruz: no change, just go about your business. We’ll call you when we’re ready for your close-ups in the spinoff.

    Oddly enough, there are also sitcom underpinnings in the extended cast. Meet the Shadows: Dotcom cooks and drives, and Grizz sits on Rehv when Rehv gets overstimulated. The new dudes that showed up in the latest book? “Hi, my name is Cannon, this is my cousin Fodder, and this is my other cousin, Fodder.”

  5. 5
    Pam Regis says:

    I smile every time I type “Smart Bitches, Trashy Books” onto a Works Cited page, which I will be doing, I strongly suspect, for this post.

  6. 6
    Aziza says:

    PS: Marissa’s “Sex. Arson. Pants.” comment in Lover Revealed is just a number away from a Stephanie Plum title.

    PPS: I’m convinced those coffins stacked up in the garage are leftovers from a Two For The Dough crossover that went unrealized due to bureaucracy.

  7. 7
    Joanne says:

    Frat houses are fun and bad-boys & bad-girls are much easier, and safer to hang out with in a book than they would be in real life.
    Certainly authors of contemporary and historical authors have loyal readers – but paranormals stories are often more all-inclusive. If you’re reading about a dragon or homicidal vampire then nothing in your real life makes you ‘other’.  The characters are the draw. The author is the Moses that brings you their words of whisdom (had to throw in an H). You’re welcomed among the ‘others’ simply with your book purchase.
    It’s that being included that incites the loyalty plus it’s the amount of enthusiasm the author has for her characters rather than her books that makes a bond with a fan.  I think the communities ebb and flow. Long time readers drop out but new readers pick up the banners. George R.R. Martin comes to mind.

    Contemp & Historical authors have fans that are more likely to spread their loyalty over many other writers.

  8. 8
    Estara says:

    This is a fascinating post to ruminate – because to me it highlights my personal differences where UF/PR are concerned. And I wonder if they are there because I developed as an sf/f reader at the same time that I started reading romance – I almost exclusively read these genres now.

    I like PR and UF because they combine my love for fantasy with my love for romance, but while I started out with Feehan’s Carpathians and even read the first three? books of the Brotherhood, they didn’t scratch my itch enough to overlook the sameness and I stopped reading them. I never got into Kresley Cole and whoever else is so famous for the big male companionship romances.

    The PR/UF writers (and I’m following the current UF definition here, not the original one a la Charles de Lint or Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks) I’m a rabid fan for have women at the center of the story (therefore are usually women themselves), and for my money I prefer series with one heroine and her ongoing journey (There are exceptions: I’m looking at Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling, Meljean Brooks Guardians, the Andrews team’s Edge novels and Marjorie Liu’s Dirk & Steele books – some of them anyway), but I didn’t enjoy the first Harry Dresden or Hounded much, although those would be male versions I guess – probably not enough romance for my taste.

    If there was more clear fantasy romance a la Elizabeth Vaughan I’d eat it up with a spoon, too. And I quite love Linnea Synclair’s work.

    So: Stories about Kate Daniels, Mercy Thompson, and Maxine Kiss are auto-buys.

  9. 9
    Lala says:

    I remember a time when I was excited about paranormal romance and loved UF (back when it was ‘modern sword and sorcery’ and before it became ‘chicks who fuck monsters’). However, I’ve watched too many authors buy into their own popularity and stop even trying to write an original, well-crafted story because their rabid fandom lets them get away with writing crap. It has become impossible to find anything remotely like the books that snared my interest five to ten years ago because the established authors have stopped trying and the new ones are knockoffs of what’s already been done.

    ‘Worst book she’s ever written! Here, have an award for best romance of the year!’ is about par for the course at this point.

  10. 10

    As a paranormal romance fan, I’ve actually had to take a conscious step back from some of the rabid fandoms in order to keep my sanity. Being a part of that comes with a price. Most notably, you lose your objectivity when it comes to honestly reviewing books. When I found myself giving a J.R. Ward a 5/5 even though I KNEW it deserved a 3 at best, I knew I needed to re-evaluate. Why was I feeling pressure to like a bad book? Well, for one thing being a part of a community like that makes you feel tremendous pressure to praise the author, praise the stories, and promote the book. That’s great for the author, but how good is it for individual fans? How good is it for the reading community as a whole? Is it fair that people like Ward will keep selling books at top dollar in hardcover long after the stories have dried up, while new authors with original ideas can’t get published?

    I’m not trying to bash fandoms, but there is a definite downside to them, and they can be taken too far. I’ve stopped participating beyond lurking/occasional commenting with most authors because I’ve been burnt before. So it’s fine with me if contemporary romance never acquires fans that will tattoo character’s names on their butts, because that means the author’s website is a safe and calm place for me to visit.

  11. 11

    I started poking around this issue when the Goodreads nominees were posted and the romance category was dominated by paranormals. They were based, basically, on the most activity. Who had the most ratings.

    I didn’t write down my random sampling I did, so I did another, using a few books from Amazon’s Best Books of 2011: Romance listing, with a few contemporary romances I threw in because they were, once again, under-represented.

    Silk is For Seduction by Lorette Chase: 658 ratings
    Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh: 2556
    Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison: 3068
    Breaking Point by Pamela Clare: 1004
    The Next Always by Nora Roberts: 1685

    Those are titles I took from Amazon’s list. Here are a couple of contemporary romances that, not only did I love in 2011, but got great buzz:

    Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis: 1634
    A Lot Like Love by Julie James: 2064

    Note: A Lot Like Love made it into the semi-final round by write-in vote, which was awesome.

    And here are a few heavy hitters in their genres:

    Contemporary romance—
    Harvest Moon (Virgin River #15) by Robyn Carr:  796 ratings
    Only Mine (Fool’s Gold #4) by Susan Mallery: 839

    Lover Unleashed by JR Ward: 11,586
    Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning: 13,102

  12. 12
    Holly says:

    I think TamB is quite correct about discussing the world-building of paranormal. I think that’s one of the draws of them for me, they give fans a sandbox to play in, mythology pieces to debate and discuss. I think there is definitely less opportunity to do that with contemporary.

    That can be so much fun (yes, I’ve spent *hours* discussing paranormal series with my friends as we debate what could happen in further books), but it also lends a certain tension to the reading that I sometimes need a break from. That’s when I reach for a contemporary or a historical romance, something less stressful for me to read.

    Someone else also pointed out another downside to the way readers bond over mythology discussion: that community isn’t always in agreement and groups can be exclusionary to those who don’t interpret the text in the same way they do.

  13. 13
    Kelly says:

    So, as I was starting to explain on Twitter, before I realized I could use all my words here, I think that accessibility is probably a big part of this, too.

    By accessibility, I mean that paranormal romance novels are more accessible to readers who might normally play pretty exclusively in the scifi/fantasy section of the bookstore – who for whatever reason also seem to be the same people who are likely to throw themselves fully into worlds and fandoms. Paranormal romance shares a lot of the same genre sensibilities as “regular” scifi/fantasy – in fact, I admit that even though I read SBTB for years because I liked the snark, I didn’t actually pick up a “real romance novel” until a friend passed me a paranormal and didn’t *mention* that it was a romance.

    Like most people who had grown up with a mother reading the stereotypical Fabio bodice clenchers of the 70s and 80s, I had firmly rejected any and everything to do with romance novels, and instead voraciously read scifi/fantasy. I wasn’t going to “lower” myself to romance, thankyouverymuch. (And this is a prejudice that I’m sure everyone is pretty familiar with.) But the paranormal romance that was given to me, with “romance” cleverly left out of the description, sucked me in – hell, I’ve read “normal” scifi and fantasy that have more (and more explicit) sex!

    Anyhow, I think that the reasons you listed – world-building, mythology, etc, – are things paranormals share with scifi/fantasy genre books, and that similarity ends up drawing in a lot of the readers who are accustomed to throwing themselves headfirst into fandoms (and fandom debates). “Angela’s Ashes” isn’t going to get passionate debate and defense, whereas “Twilight” will – and I suspect that the audience overlap for contemporary versus paranormal romance lines up with the audience for literature versus genre.

    Of course, I also could be entirely full of it – but I do know that I’ve gotten most of my scifi/fantasy loving friends hooked on several paranormal romances, while they still wont’ touch “the rest of that stuff.” The plural of anecdote is not data, but it certainly helps fill out online discussions. :-)

  14. 14
    Darlynne says:

    Very clever and gloriously ridiculous, thanks for making me laugh out loud. “Sex. Arson. Pants.” is still my favorite line from any book, ever.

  15. 15
    Jim L says:

    Kudos on your X-Men knowledge!  And I always felt sorry for Doug Ramsey: Okay, you’re part of a team where members can throw cars around, shoot energy beams, and fly through the air.  You’re good at translating languages.  Good luck.

  16. 16
    Alpha Lyra says:

    I think paranormals, with their edgier heroes, are just more polarizing. If you’ve read them at all, you probably either love them or hate them.

  17. 17
    JL says:

    My thoughts, as one who reads a lot of UF and a fair bit of contemporary (and – gasp – no historicals whatsoever), is that the world-building is what keeps paranormal fans so obsessed. First, you get more and longer-running series in paranormals than contemporary. Second, you can get lost in the imaginative worlds so easily, even beyond the stories. That’s not to say that contemporary writers aren’t fantastically creative, because they are, it’s just that I don’t catch myself wondering if it’s really feasible for a bakery or hotel to be located in some small quaint town the way I question how the intricate technology and magic waves weave together in Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels series, and the potential disaster scenarios they could create for the characters. There’s more in them to keep our heads buzzing. Also, I hate to say it (though the original post alludes to it), it’s not just that the baddies are more bad, it’s that the heroes of paranormals are often more heroic in the other sense of the word than contemporary characters. They are saving the world, the stakes are much higher, and the mysteries much, much bigger, so we get more obsessed. And as for KMM, it’s those damn cliffhangers that kept us salivating for more.

  18. 18
    Kate Pearce says:

    I think you’re right but I think there is more to it. As a reader, I can enjoy a great contemporary, but it still reminds me of my real life and quite often deals with issues that I can relate to in a good or bad way. When I read a PNR or UF I’m in a totally different place and I can totally submerge myself in the fantasy and let my imagination run free. That is the addictive part for me and why I’ll happily sit at my desk and fantasize about what Barrons is up to now and whether Mac really is good enough for him. When I think about the contemporaries I’m usually still tied to this world and this life and sometimes, I just want the total fantasy that PNR or UF gives me. :)

  19. 19
    Flo_over says:

    Paranormals also tend to have (not always I’m thinking more of the UF world) more of a plot arch in terms of action and movement besides the romantic angle.  There is effort on the part of the protagonist to change/grow/learn/fart etc. that moves beyond just the romance.  With the contemporary romances I’ve read the protagonists HAVE grown but it’s always focused back towards the romance.

    I won’t speak of fandoms.  I have had my time as a fan girl and hold my head in shame for those moments.  I would say it’s easier to get involved in a fictional verse because it lacks that element of reality and therefore that connection to the fantasy, as a reader, is easier to imagine.

  20. 20
    ECSpurlock says:

    I think it’s not just the worldbuilding, or the “insider” feel, but also many of the series mentioned have an overarching mystery that runs through the whole series and beyond. Even if the main plot threads are tied up neatly, there is always some question left hanging out there, always more of the world to analyze and speculate about, and always more new powers/twists and variations on same that develop bit by bit as the series goes on and the worldbuilding deepens. It becomes more than “what’s going to happen next?” but a larger “what COULD POSSIBLY happen next?” that creates a constant conversation and speculation that fans of the series can toss back and forth among themselves. Contemporaries have limitations in that regard; paranormals do not. I think that makes the paranormals more engaging, in that readers have to explore the possibilities much more deeply and analytically simply because the possibilities are so much broader.

  21. 21
    delphia2000 says:

    I wonder if some of the difference lies in how fans of either genre use the computer. I have two older sisters (and I’m no spring chicken) who aren’t on the computer as much as I am and they don’t have ‘online friends’ or belong to online communities other than facebook to stay in touch with other family members.

    Both are avid contemporary/Macomber type readers. The older one will read romances that have some paranormal elements, but she also reads mysteries. The other sister won’t touch a paranormal, but she doesn’t care much for mysteries either. She’s also the one who told me that she won’t read SF or SF romance because she doesn’t like trying to figure out the jargon or waiting for a ‘reveal’ at the end. That certainly covers the idea of paranormals having secrets although there are enough contemporary romances with secret babies.

    Both of my contemporary romance-reading sisters are quite social, very much the ‘mom’ types and can knit a whole lot better than I do. Neither of them would think of writing a review online anywhere. When we were younger, they looked forward to a life of getting married and having kids and I was longing for adventure. I’m the family black sheep, the dreamer, the writer and most of my social life is online. I read a good book and I can’t wait to share it online.

    It seems to me that how one uses the computer is at least a part of the whole picture.

  22. 22
    My Life. One Story at a Time. says:

    Y’all have such a great blog that I’ve awarded an award to you. Hope you will stop by and collect it. Donna

    http://mylife-in-stories.blogs…

  23. 23

    Terry Goodkind, epic fantasy author mind you, he races cars.

    I like the points you made, but the real key thing for me is that nobody really knows who is in someone else’s camp. For instance, there might be 50,000 Deborah Cooke fans, all of whom have no idea who the 48,000 fans of Cassie Clare are. Some of the 50k fans of Deborah Cooke may have never even heard of Cassie Clare or picked up one of her books and vice versa.

    So really, each author and each author genre has its own camp of followers. It’s nice when you can find crossovers, but let’s face it, the only people crossing over a lot are book bloggers, other writers and people in the publishing/book industry.

    Namaste,
    Rhi

  24. 24
    Rebecca Kovar says:

    People like mythology. PR/UF gives them something to explore, whether it’s magic, supernatural abilities, or a revamped existing mythology. The symbols are bigger. The stakes are often much higher: saving the world (however that’s defined) vs. saving the heroine’s home/company/etc.

    Turning the things we were raised to consider monsters into sympathetic characters also continues the attraction of the bad boy or anti-hero in a big way. Demons? Okay, why not? Or, if that’s not your thing, have angels (who ought to be SO scary, but often aren’t). There are stories about every creature/being you’ve ever thought was misunderstood or found so cool you wish you could be that. Also, it’s often a way to dispense with the need for condoms as so many of them seem to be disease resistant.

    I’m actually more impressed when the monsters remain monstrous, but that’s a matter of taste. I don’t think sympathetic and monstrous are mutually exclusive, and by the readership stats of PR/UF, I’m not alone.

  25. 25
    kkw says:

    Does anyone else hold contemporaries to a different standard?  I’m not sure if any of this is even relevant, but with paranormal I’m already committed to a greater suspension of disbelief.  So I can enjoy lousy paranormal far more readily than lousy contemporary. So I’m more likely to recommend a paranormal than a contemporary simply because there’s a bigger pool of selection.  I don’t write reviews for Amazon or Goodreads or anything, so I’m not the fan base being considered.  There are probably only half a dozen people in the world to whom I regularly recommend books, and only one of them admits to liking romance.  I’d probably have an easier time recommending, say JR Ward to an acquaintance than I would Crusie, not that it reflects my personal preference, but because…I take it less seriously, maybe?  I’m not sure.

  26. 26
    JL says:

    Just thought I’d add that a lot of people are familiar with stories set in contemporary settings (if not contemporary romance). However, when folks are new to the sff genre and paranoramals, their first introduction often blows their minds, and they get really attached. The first urban fantasies I read (after Harry Potter, if that counts) were Twilight and Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books. I read those series a million times over and spent an embarrassing amount of money on other series to to get more of a taste of what was out there. Now, skip ahead a few years, I’m much more discerning about my own tastes, but I still can’t bring myself to hate Twilight even though I’m an intelligent woman and I know it’s mostly crap. On the flip side, I can’t remember 90% of contemporaries that I’ve read, much less the first ones, and none of the stories stand out for me. They’re mostly just palate cleansers for me. (The exception being Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski Brother’s series. It’s seriously good stuff, and I’m buying my mom an e-reader for Christmas just so she can read them.)

  27. 27
    Jane O says:

    I did not grow up reading Tolkein or Madeline L’Engle or Harry Potter or any of the scifi/fantasy books many people read in their teens. I wasn’t even a Star Trek or Star Wars fan. Maybe that’s why I have never been able to develop any fondness for paranormals. I’ve tried, but it never appeals. It obviously isn’t any sillier than many contemporaries. (Handsome billionaires, Greek or otherwise? Who are you trying to kid?) And it certainly isn’t any sillier than many historicals set in Romancelandia.

    Is it maybe an age thing?

  28. 28
    Estara says:

    Oh! And I forgot to mention one more female heroine, a person of colour at that, who for some reason does not get the same attention as the aforementioned ladies: Kira Solomon and her tasty Nubian warrior ^^. Loads of Egyptian demonology abound, but for he vampire aficionado, those exist in her world, too.

  29. 29
    Estara says:

    I am an idiot – I was trying to reply to my own comment – as an add-on, and not to Lala. Sorry!

  30. 30
    Holly says:

    kkw, I was actually just tweeting about this different standard yesterday after reading this article. I definitely think I require a higher standard of writing from contemporaries than I do from paranormal, whether its YA or romance (I read both). Run of the mill dialogue or characterization is easier for me to overlook when the mythology is different and interesting than something I’ve read before. Contemporaries don’t really have that mythology to fall back on.

    I read a lot more contemporaries when I was a teen and the Harlequins at Wal-mart were what I had access to, but even then, I leaned towards those that had fantastical elements like Navy Seals or secret agents. To pull me in now, after years of reading paranormal and urban fantasy, a book that takes place in this reality with no fantastical elements needs to have outstanding dialogue and really incredible writing for me to read it (which is totally on me, not on the many fine authors I’m who are writing contemporary). I picked up a random contemporary off my shelf, a Desire from the late 90s or early 2000s, and only lasted a couple chapters because it just doesn’t do it for me anymore.

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