How we know vampire romances have finally hit the big time:

When a certain notorious biology professor from Minnesota notices the massive wall o’ befanged man-titty adorning his local Wal-Mart, and finds it notable enough to blog about. Poor PZ. I can only pity his eyeballs. I don’t know if this is a sign that paranormal romances have finally hit the big time, or whether they’ve jumped the shark.

It’s always interesting to pop outside the romance community and see how people outside of it perceive the genre. Do I have thoughts on that? Boy howdy do I ever.

Some of the people sniping at Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series as being equivalent to Harry Potter for angsty teenyboppers except not particularly well-written made me stop and go: “Wait, Harry Potter was well-written?” (This is clearly because I am such a superior reader with superior tastes in all my literature, and anyone who thinks Harry Potter is awesome is wrong. And stupid. And racist. And a killer of puppies. Just so we’re clear about where I come from when I make statements of aesthetic judgment.) My pointless and incredibly silly snobbery when it comes to children’s and YA fiction aside, what struck me about some of the comments in Pharyngula that dealt with Twilight was the offhand dismissal of the series, not merely because they weren’t especially well-written (I myself couldn’t finish Twilight, and in that regard I’m totally in agreement that it’s the Harry Potter of vampire teenyboppers), but because they were obviously written for a teenage female audience in mind. There’s much casual contempt for literature that deals with the emotional and the female, and I see it as a logical extension from a culture that devalues female experiences in general; that teenage female romantic experiences in particular are singled out as being especially frivolous and assumed to be Not Worthy of Serious Thought isn’t anything new, but it still chafes at me when I see it pop up.

I am also fascinated—FASCINATED—that Harlequin has become shorthand for romance, all romance, the way it has, since books published under the Harlequin/Silhouette imprint cover only a very specific niche of romance. It’d be as if, in attempting to define ice-cream, somebody didn’t address the ingredients, or the characteristics that make ice-cream, well, icy and creamy, but instead chose to refer to it solely by a rather slapdash association of flavor and brand name, sometimes resulting in rather jarring juxtapositions if you know ice-cream well. “My mom’s a huge fan of Breyer’s Phish Food, but I just don’t get it—the thought of eating bits of unbaked chocolate chip cookie dough in ice-cream makes me want to hurl,” sez somebody, and it’s all I can do to not leap up like an obnoxious bastard and say “DUDE, Phish Food is Ben and Jerry’s, and for the love of God, it doesn’t have chocolate chip cookie dough anywhere in it, and really, YOU OBVIOUSLY DON’T EAT ICE-CREAM AND THEREFORE ARE UNQUALIFIED TO COMMENT ON WHAT WE’RE EATING, AND I’M GOING TO JUMP ON YOUR HEAD BECAUSE YOUR NEXT COMMENT IS OBVIOUSLY GOING TO BE HOW EVERYONE WHO EATS ICE-CREAM IS A FAT WHORE. SEE HOW I’M JUMPING ON YOUR HEAD? JUMP. JUMMMMMP.”

Right. Now that I’m thoroughly craving Phish Food (AND have successfully squelched my desire to act like an obnoxious bastard on somebody else’s comment board—at least this time): PZ’s question at the end intrigues me. Where DID this surge come from?Because people attributing the surge to Twilight are wrong. Twilight hit just as vampires and paranormal romance were huge and getting even bigger. JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood had hit the scene like a hundred-khilitohn bhomb the September previous to Twilight‘s publication. I’m not necessarily interested in tracing the whole trajectory to its source, because I think the current paranormal romance scene is not a direct reaction to, say, the disturbing eroticism of Dracula—I think Anne Rice’s novels are a better candidate for that.

Personally, I think the current paranormal romance boom is the direct descendant of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, which is more urban fantasy than a creature driven by older, more Victorian mythologies and sensibilities.

Regardless of what the Anita Blake series has become, and regardless what people may think, the popularity of the books and its unholy progeny is due to more than the thrill of reading taboo-busting inter-species nookie; somebody in the comments quoted a Powell’s Books employee defining the genre as “women committing every imaginable act of lust and perversion with vampires, werewolves, demons, Lovecraftian tentacled rape gods, basically anything you can imagine as long as it’s not a normal human man”—which made me go HAAAA, but also made me go “Oh, come ON, judging all of paranormal romance just because you were forced to page through the Merry Gentry series is hardly fair. I mean, taboo-busting inter-species nookie is pretty hot and definitely a factor in the popularity—and really, God bless our prurient motivations, because so much brilliant art would have gone (and continue to go) unexpressed if it weren’t for horny artists sublimating their unspeakable urges in beautiful ways, and I really don’t see any inherent wrongness in reading something to get your rocks off (but oh God that’s another topic for another time). But slapping the “It’s the Sex, Stupid” label on the phenomenon is too simple, and falls into the old “Psh, it’s porn, that’s why they like it” dismissal that covers everything and explains very little.

My theory is: it’s also about women, and putting women in control, and how we’re still not comfortable enough to put it in real-life/realistic fiction terms yet.

The surge of demand for women in a dominant role—as pursuers and protectors and warriors—has been a long time coming, and I think it says something interesting about us and our level of comfort with and/or inability to suspend disbelief about women owning a certain sort of cultural power that most of the asskicking happens in Not Quite Earth, and that many of the heroines are Not Quite Human. The current crop of paranormal romances owe a lot to Anita Blake, but they owe much to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, too.

And now I’ve pretty much reached the extent of my over-thinking about this particular bit of romance, it’s your turn: feel free to overthink paranormal romances in the comments. Or, you know, don’t. Do you read it mostly—even solely—for the hot sex and because you have a hard-on for angsty immortals? Sing it loud, and sing it proud.


General Bitching...

Comments are Closed

  1. rebyj says:

    Personally, I started reading vampire/ paranormals because of Anne Rice’s books.After she found Jesus and gave up on witches and vampires to write about Jesus, I had to find other sources.

    I never made it more than half way thru one of Laurel K Hamiltons books. My eyes hurt from rolling them so much. LOL

    I like the genre because although the subject IS familiar it has shown itself to be non-formulatic. There are a lot of variables in most of the stories, and there are some fantastic world building authors contributing to the genre.

    Maggie Shaynes vampires are much different than J.R. Wards and then you have darker ones such as Patricia Brigg’s series. There is variety.

    Reading the vampire/ paranormals have taken me from just romance sections of the bookstore into the nerd infested sci fi/ fantasy section and I’ve broadened my reading out a bit.  ( I can pick on nerds, I live with one LOL)

  2. RStewie says:

    I’m not uber-old, but I am at that point that age and life and the short length of it are smacking me in the face, what with being too old to have a new baby (personal choice there), and aging parents and teenage (gasp) neices…There is a strong draw because in paranormal stories, time is not a factor anymore.  Nor is age or aging, or the weakening of the physical or mental.

    I’m always thinking maybe it has to do with the aging of the readership, we’ve been sexually revolutionized (previous post) and are large and in charge females, but damn! we’re still frail and human, and that’s the next step we’re overcoming in our fiction.

    Or is it just me?

  3. Anj says:

    Honestly, I like the fun mix. I’ve always been a pretty big fan of anything with magic in it, and when you combine it with romance, it’s even better.

    But more so, I would say I read for the kick-ass heroines.
    Sure maybe it’s kinda cool to have a vampire/werewolf/zombie/witch hero, but much more fun is the way the women often get to dominate.

    I loved Anita Blake for about say… 5 books? 6? When she was all about kicking butt and taking names, she rocked. But as soon as it got all love-triangly and then the whole sex vampirism thing… I quit. I refuse to read them now.

    So what I guess I’m saying is I don’t read them for the kinky otherworld sex.

  4. rebyj says:

    Paranormal kinky sex is usually hilarious.  A nice neck bite during coitus is pretty sexy, however ripping her throat out because he can’t control his passion and hunger for her will usually have me laughing my ass off. She never minds because it’s hot sex.  I say SEX IS NOT THAT GOOD.  Don’t rip my damn throat out or I’ll rip something off of YOU!

    Now the shape shifter sex scenes can often creep me out.
    One of Kenyons, the shapeshifter dude had to stay “inside” the woman and shift time for her so she wouldn’t realize how long it took before he could withdraw. WAY up on the creepy scale.
    And Jacqueline Frank’s last one the sex scene between the man and the leopard(?) shape shifter was enough to stop me from reading the rest of the book. OFF the creepy scale.

  5. Marianne McA says:

    Didn’t think you’d read HP past book two, or something. Or am I confusing you with Sarah?
    And, yes, I’d kill the dog if I thought I could get away with it… I do not need to start Monday morning with that on my carpet.

    I thought Twilight was okay – definitely YA – for that period in your life where you think Donny Osmond is Sex God – but perfectly readable. And you can annoy teenagers endlessly by loudly expressing a preference for Jacob. (The not dead suitor. Always the better bet.)

  6. Helen says:

    I wonder what it says about me that I have never had the least desire to read a paranormal of any sort?  Nor, frankly, have I ever wanted to write one.  I suspect there’s a bunch of readers/writers like me.  Okay, I confess – I hope there’s a bunch of people out there like me.  Either that, or I’m WAY out of touch.

  7. Lulabel says:

    I agree that one of the important appeals of this genre is the idea that the woman is in control.  I think it goes beyond that, however, as there are plenty of “real-life” modern romance novels which can fit into that description too.  In the paranormal novels, it takes things one step further, the woman is not merely in control, she is powerful, and she kicks ass.  She is often aggressive, confrontational, sexual and generally acts in ways to bust feminine stereotypes. 

    I think this genre is not merely a safe outlet for expressing these non-traditional yearnings, this genre is a expression of subversion, in all the best possible ways.

  8. I am thoroughly insulted whenever someone says that the current Urban Fantasy or vampire trend is the result of Laurel K. Hamilton’s books.  I didn’t start writing Urban Fantasy with this dream of being the next LKH.  I didn’t know I wrote “Urban Fantasy” until someone at Romantic Times Book Club told me I did.  I did not need LKH to break some invisible wall and let the books I write out of my head for me.  I would have written them if she had decided to become a lawyer instead.

    The idea that one author inspires an entire genre or trend to blink into being is absurd.  A genre forms when there is a readership for it and a felt need for writers to create it.  Urban Fantasy sprang largely out of a Fantasy/SciFi base that had become clogged with elves on quests and a Paranormal Romance following that was tiring of male vampires finding their soul mates and turning human.

    For this anyone to credit the surge in vampire fiction of any genre on one author’s success is like saying that any vampire fiction anyone writes is a watered down imitation of that author’s work, or that these books would never have found a readership without the help of that first, miracle author.

    As for Twilight, what did people think was going to happen with those books?  YA had become a land of Bridget Jones Jr.s, and suddenly someone throws out West Side Story with vamps and werewolves.  Most of the people sniping are just pissed that they didn’t think of it first.

  9. orangehands says:

    I read paranormal cause ooo, magic and I like seeing people’s take on old myths and kick ass heroines rock and I am way too fascinated with violence for my own piece of mind. OTOH, you have some of the biggest alpha jerks in this genre. Anyone remember that article about vampires, werewolves and bears, oh my, and how the genre gives the jerk alpha a chance to reemerge? Did I just make that up?  {And was waiting for you to mention Buffy; I think she had a huge impact, just like Xena did, on kick ass heroines}

    Anyway, not sure if I started reading fantasy and then paranormal romance or the other way around first.

    I like the Twilight books (ok, not so much the third’s ending), just very melodramatic (not saying that’s a bad thing, and HP was plenty drama-fold, omibob he was a school bully and you have an evil dude after you find some priorities man). But anyways, I thought they were good. Plus, Edward’s devotion was just nice, and it was cool wondering if it was based on blood lust or actual personality liking (cause I personally didn’t find her all that great. She committed way too much TSTL behavior). But the trailer looks great: (Whoever created that song rocks!)

    Ok, reading this over, I think I need some sleep.

  10. Flo says:

    I’d just like to inject that “Blood Ties” (fuck all if I can remember the author) came before Hamilton.  And Rice before her.  And several other authors were dipping into that genre.  HOWEVER Hamilton was the easiest to read.  Not because of memorable characters but because of the writing.  There was no complexity to her writing.  It was written very much like a quickie HEA romance.  You KNEW what you were getting when you picked up her stuff.  Not so much with the others.

    I also don’t associate all vampire stories with Urban Fantasy.  I actually think of Emma Bull and Charles de Lint WAAAAAY before these stories.  They just wrote in the more fae theme.

    I think the surge of vampire fiction is because of our mentality as readers.  We WANT to be seduced.  We WANT to be told we are hot sexy bitches with crazy powers who will turn the eye, head, and boner of an undead hunk who’s been around foreeeeever.  We (as readers) WANT that visceral NEED that all these vampires seem to have.  We WANT to be needed.  YET WE DON’T.  So this fiction gives us the release.  And from there it turned into a genre surge.

    Frankly, I’m tired of it.  Even in series where the vampires aren’t the focus, if they come on stage I make the frowny face while I read.  I don’t WANT to read about them anymore.  I want solid characters who want to LIVE.  Not secretly die “the little death” when some dude sucks out their platelets.

  11. K.L. says:

    I like the freedom that the paranormals and fantasy/sci fi books have.  I like the world building.  I read enough books that without variety, I’d get bored.  And there is freedom in exploring sexually explicit themes that I would never visit in real life.  You can go a lot of places in a paranormal that you just can’t go in a “standard” vanilla romance.

  12. Courtney says:

    First off I should have stayed away from that blog and second I probably shouldn’t have read the comments.
    Do people understand how idiotic they sound when commenting on something they have no understanding of? And I really hate it when Romance is called “formula fiction.” There is nothing formula about it. I
    really wanted to remind this gentleman that Bram Stoker’s Dracula has heavy sexual undertones in it. The seduction of the brides. The purity of Mina, Harker is not able to take Mina’s viriginty on their wedding not,  when he forces her to drink.  It’s all there. Dracula, in the book, simply doesn’t look like Gary Oldman or Gerard Butler or Bela Lugosi.  He is still the Alpha male.
    I think the appeal of paranormal, which I write, is the chance to explore different mythogolies and histories. I like to read paranormal romances as well.
    When I read I want to escape and books containing magic and witches and dragons and vampires do it for me.
    This brings to mind a training class I recently attended from my job, led by an older retired military man. Upon seeing a romance novel next to my class materials he launching into a tirade about romance not being real writing and so forth. I was livid. I did manage to shut him up when I calmly reminded him Jane Austen was considered Romance Novels in her day.

    Okay I’m getting off my high horse now. 😉

  13. Tae says:

    I’m a little drugged up right now (dayquil) so I hope I make sense.

    Hrm… I’ve always read fantasy and science fiction books, so the leap to urban fantasy was a no brainer to me.  I’ve also always loved vampire novels and I started with Anne Rice.  I’ve read Kenyon, Ward, Hamilton, Butcher, Harrison, Meyer, Shayne, Kressley Cole, Vicki Pettersson, Lynn Viehl (love love love), Feehan, Briggs (love love love even more), Blood & Chocolate author,  and I’m sure I’m leaving some authors out.  I’m always looking for more vampire romance books. 

    I have to say that I started with LKH after Anne Rice.  It was there and I was aware of it.  I think it’s because I shop in the science fiction fantasy section of the book store before I hit the romance.  My friends don’t really read much romance so I picked up the books that they read and recommended to me.  I never really watched Buffy though, oddly enough.  I think that LKH did help the growing trend of vampire romances because it became mainstream, hardcover, New York Times Bestseller and it was fantasy.  It showed publishers that people wanted this type of material and that they should take a chance on writers who wanted to write about these topics.  I still read LKH in hopes that there will be some plot inserted into the books like her first six.

  14. Willa says:

    The only paranormal romance I’ve ever been able to read all the way through is Monica Jackson’s “Mr. Right Now,” and I don’t even think it was categorized as paranormal romance.

    I couldn’t even finish JR Ward’s “Dark Lover,” and I was really disappointed—I SO wanted this to be my new addictive series. Especially with the talk about sexy guy/guy almost-love! Sigh. Oh well.

    However, I do read tons and tons of Fantasy/Science Fiction, and Fantasy’s subgenre of sorts, urban fantasy. Love that stuff.

    My question: is urban fantasy just paranormal romance, without the romance? Or is there a bigger difference between the two genres?

  15. Esri Rose says:

    That’s pretty much the identical process of analysis I went through, but the variables are still kicking my ass. Could be one, could be any, could be that there were a couple authors that really caught the public’s attention and then it was a publisher-bandwagon thing. The market drives itself for a while, but then there’s usually some fall out. Still, boot-cut jeans are still a big thing, so maybe vampire romances are here to stay, like regencies, which are just as weirdly specific when you think about it. Why do I like regencies? I dunno. I just do.

  16. Esri Rose says:

    Oh, I forgot to say what a fabulous phrase “befanged man-titty” is. Thanks for that.

  17. Arethusa says:

    For this anyone to credit the surge in vampire fiction of any genre on one author’s success is like saying that any vampire fiction anyone writes is a watered down imitation of that author’s work


    No, it’s saying that publishing houses saw a phenomenal success and started buying up tons of stuff that conceivably fell into the same category. Candy’s comment has little to do with writer’s intentions (although they are certainly some who must have taken the sub-genre’s success into consideration) and more with publishing trends.

    That’s why there was a surge of attention in YA fantasy lately. It’s not that it did not exist or that writers weren’t producing those kinds of stories it was that the audience had grown and publishers were buying ‘em up.

  18. DS says:

    Comment one:  anyone else ever read Varney the Vampire?  Bless Dover’s Thrift Editions. There were definite sexual undertones and overtones in the book and the illustrations, but it was also hard going like lots of mid Victorian gothic novels.  It was also wildly successful although it was later overshadowed by Dracula. 

    Comment two:  What is this about Twight Moms?  I know that one definition is people who are members of a group at this name, but I also think it is term for women who are fans of Twilight who have been accused of stalking the actors involved in making the movie.  This creeps me out a bit or maybe I just don’t understand.

  19. Esri Rose says:

    Willa said,

    My question: is urban fantasy just paranormal romance, without the romance? Or is there a bigger difference between the two genres?

    I’d say that’s the basic difference, yes. In straight urban fantasy, you have little or no depiction of romance or sex (Although Heinlein had the sex without the romance—or was he always SF?). With paranormal romance, the weighting of the two aspects is flipped and the focus is usually on the relationship. But I’d say that paranormal romance has a lot more variety (and sheer numbers, these days). So while it’s difficult to find a straight fantasy with much in the way of romance, it’s fairly easy to find a paranormal romance that has a lot of world-building and adventure plotting. (Plugs self) I think I fall more in that latter range.

  20. NHS says:

    Susan Sizemore’s Law of the Blood series from Ace dark fantasy from 2001 is still some of the best vampire fiction out there. (with the worst covers!) Better than her romance series as far as I’m concerned. 

    If you asked me Fonzy is already out of his skis and back at Arnold’s.  I’m 98% over it. I’ve read Susan Sizemore, LKH, SK, Kensley Cole, Maggie Shayne, Lynne Veihl, Angela Knight etc etc etc. I switched for historials during the Buffy years but now I’m right back to only historicals with an occasional werewolf thrown in. It just doesn’t do it for me anymore. 

    My 2% continued love of vampires is from downloading episodes of Moonlight.

  21. michelle says:

    Sorry maybe someone already answered but Tanya Huff is the author of the Blood Ties series.  Also she wrote the Keeper series-starts with Summon the Keeper-awesome book with a talking cat.
    Don’t forget Emma Bulls War for the Oaks.  Wasn’t that one of the first Urban Fantasies?

  22. kukulcan girl says:

    Sarah, what is your deal with Twilight??  I loved that book!  I thought it was a great twist on the whole teenage vampire plot.  The other books in the series are really good, too. 

    The movie looks like it’s going to be cheesy, tho.

  23. SB Sarah says:

    Hi folks – that was Candy up there ranting. You can tell because Candy never met a run on sentence she didn’t immediately make porn-tastic love to, and because she loves her some/slashes/and/not in/the gay/sense.

    I did not read past book 4 in the HP series, because I didn’t like where Rowling was going with the series and character development, so I stopped reading it and made up my own ending. But I’ve never read Twilight and don’t know if I will.

    I have more thoughts on paranormal and vampirism and formula one racing or whatever it is, but I need more painkillers, stat. Ow, head, ow.

  24. I’d push the urban vampire beginning back to at least The Holmes-Dracula File and An Old Friend of the Family by Fred Saberhagen.  And for angsty vamps, it’s hard to beat Yarbro’s Count St. Germaine, who first appeared in Hotel Transylvania in 1978, long before Anita Blake hit the streets.

    So no, this isn’t a new phenomenon.  Having it shelved as romance is new, but the stories aren’t new.

  25. Candy says:

    Jennifer Armintrout:

    I am thoroughly insulted whenever someone says that the current Urban Fantasy or vampire trend is the result of Laurel K. Hamilton’s books.

    Didn’t meant to imply this at all in my post—sorry if anyone got this impression. I don’t credit LKH for inspiring legions of other people to write about sexy sexy vampire hunters (and vampires, and werewolves, and were-jaguars, and Chthonic be-tentacled fairy lords, and all the rest of the crew) and their accompanying sexy, sexy orifices (whether fanged or not).  I do think the immense popularity of Anita Blake, especially the kick-ass heroine aspect, meant publishers were much more likely to buy books along those lines. And for whatever reason, people were ready—starving, in fact—for those types of stories, so they scarfed ‘em up, and publishers started buying more. And several years down the line, whaddaya know—a wall of vampire titty in a retail story blinds an unsuspecting biologist/blogger.

    So in short: I don’t credit LKH for making vampires sexy or interesting, or even in being some kind of intellectual Proteus for the paranormal romance genre. I do credit her for creating books that led to the huge surge in popularity.

    …Actually, in reading all the comments instead of just skimming and replying at will, I just noticed Arethusa has explained my point for me in a much shorter, much more precise fashion. Thanks, dude!

    Marianne McA:

    Didn’t think you’d read HP past book two, or something. Or am I confusing you with Sarah?

    Nope, you were thinking of me, and you’re right, I didn’t read past the first two books—my general policy is, if a series hasn’t caught my interest by the end of book one, I don’t pursue it. In Harry Potter’s case, the hullabaloo was so big that I decided to give book two a shot even after being completely underwhelmed by book one, and then put that down when I realized that the sole reason I was reading book two was to find out what exactly people were excited about, not because I found the experience enriching or interesting in and of itself. Which is a kind of readerly masochism I’m willing to put up with only for reviews for this website.

    Regarding the distinction between vampire romance, paranormal romance and urban fantasy: I know, I know, I was sloppy in mashing all three up with such wild abandon. But a lot of non-historical paranormal romance overlaps hugely with many of the elements of urban fantasy, in my opinion, in terms of the roles the feel and tone of the setting, even if mainstream urban fantasy doesn’t focus on the romantic relationship.

    Esri Rose: Yeah, the variables break my brain, too. Hence my (admittedly rather arbitrary) cut-off at LKH. And I’m not sure why certain things push our buttons; what I’m hoping is that by talking to enough people about what pushes theirs and figuring out what pushes mine, that I’ll be able to start tracing the bare outlines.


    In the paranormal novels, it takes things one step further, the woman is not merely in control, she is powerful, and she kicks ass.  She is often aggressive, confrontational, sexual and generally acts in ways to bust feminine stereotypes.

    I think this genre is not merely a safe outlet for expressing these non-traditional yearnings, this genre is a expression of subversion, in all the best possible ways.

    YES. You’re right—the aggressive and powerful bit is what I wanted to express when I tacked on the phrase “warrior” to describe the prototypical paranormal romance heroine. Female warriors are in fairly short supply in other romance sub-genres. I think it does subvert the dominant paradigm (IM IN UR BKS SUBVERTING UR DOMINENT PARADIME) in a lot of ways, but as with most things pop culture, there are bits that fall in line with the paradigm, too.

    What do people think about vampire chicklit, by the way? Holy god am I ever receiving, like, a hojillion ARCs for those books.

  26. Wayward says:

    I’d just like to inject that “Blood Ties” (fuck all if I can remember the author) came before Hamilton.

      Tanya Huff’s Blood series.  Great fun for those of us from Toronto and its environs, since she used real places.  Read ‘em back when I was a teenager.  Saw a few episodes of the show and wasn’t impressed, but that might just be because I have a very specific image of what the characters look like in my mind and the show didn’t match it.

      One thing I noticed, though – when I read them when I was a teen, I was cheering for the vampire.  When I re-read the series a few years later, I was cheering for the human hero ( in a general way, not a win the ‘prize’ ( heroine ) way. )  I never seem to find the heroines interesting no matter how much butt they kick.

  27. Willa says:

    Is Vampire chicklit (Mmm… Chiclets…) like MaryJanice Davidson’s “Undead and Unwed” etc. series? Or is that series paranormal romance?

    And is LA Banks’s Vampire Huntress series just regular Urban Fantasy, or what?

    I need more definitions! How can I pretend to be erudite and learned about a genre if I don’t even know where half its books belong?

  28. mlg says:

    Can I just say maybe blog prof missed the memo that vampire stories of all kinds have been around a long time and people like them. Hello?! When I started reading LKH I loved the mix of noir-ish detective with the paranormal because, hey, hybrids are fun. And although WE all know that romance does not equal porn, does anyone agree with me that the Anita Blake novels are now pretty squarely in the porn category? It has gotten to the point that the plot is just a device to string the sex scenes together. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I think that’s why so many LKH fans got so upset with the direction the books went; they were enjoying the romance and then they got the porn.

  29. BBridges says:

    My problem with Twilight has nothing to do with it’s crap writing, which isn’t much worse than tons of other books I have read, but the horrifying message it sends.  Edward is a straight up stalker, he hangs around in Bella’s house watching her sleep without her knowing (they did that on Buffy too and it was meant to be super creepy) and spies on her through other people’s minds.  Creeptastic.  And Bella is a terrible person for young girls to read about since she doesn’t want to do anything with her life except die so that she can be with Edward.  It’s all really really gross to me and sending a terrible message to teenage girls.

    I wish that just about any other paranormal, or YA book had become so popular.

  30. TracyS says:

    I wonder what it says about me that I have never had the least desire to read a paranormal of any sort?  Nor, frankly, have I ever wanted to write one.  I suspect there’s a bunch of readers/writers like me.  Okay, I confess – I hope there’s a bunch of people out there like me.  Either that, or I’m WAY out of touch.

    Nope Helen, you are not the only one.  Just not my thing either.

  31. SonomaLass says:

    So while it’s difficult to find a straight fantasy with much in the way of romance, it’s fairly easy to find a paranormal romance that has a lot of world-building and adventure plotting.


    See now Esri Rose, I disagree there.  There’s a lot of awesome romance in fantasy—Sharon Shinn, Jacqueline Carey, Lous McMaster Bujold immediately come to mind.  I actually tend to prefer a book where the romance and the rest of the plot are in balance, and neither feels like an afterthought.  And I shouldn’t just mention the girls—Guy Gavriel Kay does romantic relationships wonderfully, for example.  Okay, Tolkein didn’t, but he wasn’t the master at EVERYTHING.

    As others here have noted, what sells drives what’s published.  With women comprising a larger segment of the fantasy market than they use to of the old “sci-fi” market (we were always there, but the boys outnumbered us for a long time), it makes sense to me that fantasy novels more often contain real romantic plots (as in, the central couple have to overcome obstacles in and between themselves, as well as resolve the major plot complications, in order to end up together).

    Myself, I read less paranormal romance than I do other speculative fiction.  The different ways of world-building vampires, werewolves, etc., interest me some, and I can see the erotic attraction of some well-written non-humans.  And when mythos is well-done, I really enjoy it.  But a little seems to go a long way for me when it comes to vampires, and I’m not sure why that is.  (But Esri, I picked up your book and Gena Showalter’s at Border’s this afternoon, based on reading excerpts, so obviously some paranormals DO ring my chimes!)

    I did read the Twilight books, on my teenager’s daughter’s recommendation.  I enjoyed them—a light read, not a “keep on the shelf and read over and over” enjoyment, but then that’s true of most of what I read.  I liked Harry Potter too—of course, I used to teach Children’s Literature, and my definition of “good” is largely based on what hooks kids and gets them to read more.

    Oh and I gotta say, “befanged man-titty” is my phrase of the week!

  32. Fiamme says:

    My 2 cents on Vampire chicklit—for me, it’s entertaining but for me mildly unsatisfying.  Mostly, I guess because it takes away the element of danger that makes the heroine (usually) earn her HEA.  So for me, it lessens the payoff if the hero is too safe.

    That’s not to say I mean I want scary abusive heroes.  But generally, if you’ve bothered to write a heroine or hero that’s got a big streak of dark in their heritage, it’s more interesting to me if that’s explored.

    E.g. Kim Harrison’s Ivy to Mary-Janice Davidson’s hero, Eric Sinclair.  This is not to slam her – it’s a case of “I like Tip Top Hokey Pokey icecream.  She’s writing Ben and Jerry’s Phish Thingammy”.  When I read the book it was a nice antidote to some angsty annoying My Life Is A Dark Room stuff.  It made me laugh, but it didn’t in any way haunt me.

    The proof for me? I had Ivy’s name at my fingertips.  I had to go look up Eric.

  33. Esri Rose says:

    SonomaLass: I only knew one of the names you listed (Bujold), so clearly I’m behind the times. And thanks for picking up my book!

    Oh, and here’s a bit of fun trivia I heard (last week) on NPR’s radio news-quiz show, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me..” Bram Stoker’s Dracula was patterned after Walt Whitman. According to them (I haven’t read it), it even says so in the book. Talk about your bisexual moody vamps… Booyah!

  34. Trumystique says:

    I remember in the 1997-1998 my two favorite shows were Buffy the Vampire Slayer and La Femme Nikita. I loved James Bond but thought he was an imperialistic chauvinist and idiot pig ( didja ever read the novels, he was an eeidiot!) but I wanted to kick ass too. So Buffy and Nikita perfectly melded my wanting to be an attractive kick ass woman (as the feminist that I am) and totally escapist as I was dealing with heavy shit in my life.

    Who doesnt want to be a woman that can kick demon behind or put down a terrorist plot while looking super cute wearing designer clothes, lipgloss and heels and have time to have a steamy relationship with a tall dark and sexy man?  You dont have to appear weaker to be with this man. You dont have to give up your sex appeal to be strong and you dont have to be stupid either.  You can be a kick ass chick because he’s a super strong sexy killer in his own right. Its the ultimate wish fulfillment for a modern woman.

    Prior to this period my reading tastes were more varied ( lit fic, classics, thrillers, mysteries, SF and romance). But at work I was dealing with lots of fucked up, sick and dying people and really didnt want to be reading anything based in the here and now. But I was a big time SF reader. And I had read Anne Rice with her angsty vampires that I thought were cool. I had read stuff by Tanya Huff and liked that her vampires werent whining all the time. I had read other stuff that was urban fantasy but there wasnt too many other memorable vampires until I read Anita Blake. ( I think urban fantasy is a subgenre of SF. While paranormal is a subgenre of romance).

    I tell you I thought Jean Claude was fucking real and I though about getting myself a silver cross to protect myself from those scary bloodsucking fuckers. I remember awaiting every new installment like it was crack. I passed books on to my friends and got them hooked too. In the meantime, lots of folk (like me) were like “where can I get a hit of some reading that is like ABVH?”. Thats how I discovered Jim Butcher who has maintained stellar writing while LKH has churned out un-edited crap and made Anita a superwhore.

    Of course people were already writing urban fantasy and the sucess of Buffy meant that lots of people were churning out stuff ( movies, books, videogames etc) to make money off stuff that was so popular. So couple that with ABVH fiends (that sent ABVH to the bestseller lists) looking for a fix and NY houses started to notice. And then of course they started taking a chance on some authors some who were writing ABVH-lite and others who were creating interesting novels based on the idea that creatures of legends and scary stories live among us. But now that NY houses keep out churning this stuff with absolute no regard for quality or craft- I am left with a new syndrome I call Urban Fantasy Fatigue Syndrome (UFFS).

  35. Kay Webb Harrison says:

    Has anyone read P. N. Elrod’s vampire books? Her “Vampire Files” feature Jack Flemming, a reporter turned detective and nightclub owner after he died and rose as a vampire, in 1920s/30s Chicago. Her Jonathan Barrett books are set in Colonial and Revolutionary New York and Georgian England. I don’t remember when the first one came out, but it must have been late 1980s or early 1990s.

  36. Arethusa: I stand by my assertion.  Yes, publishers buy more of a type once one author has a success, but for anyone to say that LKH’s success was the golden ticket for everyone else to get published assumes that if she had become a janitor instead of a writer, none of the other quality writers of the genre (Like Charlaine Harris or Kim Harrison or J.R. Ward) would have ever been contracted. 

    We need to look at trends in what is being purchased and what is flying off shelves has more to do with readers than it does with the writers behind it.  If tomorrow I write a space cowboy book and it hits big, that doesn’t mean that I’m opening any doors for the space cowboy writers out there.  It just means mine was on the shelf first.  Space cowboy writer #4 might have had the same success if they had gotten there first.

    Twilight is the best example of this.  YA experienced a slump, so publishers took a chance on something they did not have to offer their customers.  Is it the absolute best the genre has to offer?  Probably not.  It could have been anyone’s book about vampires going to high school that hit that big.  Does that mean other YA vampire authors would not have sold if Meyer had not?  No, not at all.

    That’s where I take issue.  It’s one thing to say, “So and so was the first in a wave of such and such books” and another entirely to say that someone “spawned” an entire genre, which implies that other authors owe their careers to the creationist hand of the first author.  That is what the people at the linked blog were implying.

  37. Candy:  I was taking more of an issue with the people commenting on the linked blog.  You didn’t really imply anything beyond the fact that LKH’s success made publishers hungry for similar dollars.  We all sorts of cool.

    One of the comments on the linked blog called current vampire authors the “spawn” of Anne Rice and LKH… two authors who are so very different they should not even be compared, let alone lumped in as writing in the same genre (hullo, Anne Rice writes Literary Fiction, LKH is all sorts of Urban Fantasy, maybe Paranormal Erotica these days), as if all authors writing vampires now fell off of AR and LKH like seed pods or something.

  38. Trumystique says:

    Yes, publishers buy more of a type once one author has a success, but for anyone to say that LKH’s success was the golden ticket for everyone else to get published assumes that if she had become a janitor instead of a writer, none of the other quality writers of the genre (Like Charlaine Harris or Kim Harrison or J.R. Ward) would have ever been contracted.

    Nobody said LKH is a golden ticket. Its more like a wake effect. She made it big first and made it that much easier ( not the right word) for other writers writing that kind of urban fantasy. Look at American Idols sucess. After American Idol hit it big suddenly you saw a million variety talent elimination shows on TV. If some one else had got there before LKH we would have been saying Vampira du Sangre started it all. Those authors may or may not have been published. I think Charlaine yes. Not so sure about Kim Harrison since in some ways certain SF houses are kinda conservative. I really hope Ward wouldnt have been published if LKH had never been born but I dont know.

  39. Alpha Lyra says:

    BBridges, I had the same reaction to Twilight as you did. Its message seemed to be: “Girls! If you meet a guy at your high school who (1) is controlling and domineering and claims he is “addicted” to you, (2) sneaks into your bedroom and spies on you at night, and (3) warns you that if you go out with him, he may kill you, TOTALLY GO OUT WITH HIM. Nothing bad will happen. He’ll be the best boyfriend evar!”

    It also has the world’s most passive female protagonist.

  40. Trumystique says:

    Anne Rice is literary fiction? Me no think so. If Anne Rice is lit fic then so is Danielle Steele. Just cause its mainstreamed and they shelve in the “fiction” section dont make it lit fic.

    Dey put Cheez Whiz, Cracker Barrel cheddar, Velvetta singles,  gouda, feta, ementaler, Baby Bel and dem odder cheeses in de dairy section at me supermarket. Dont mean all dem is good cheese or is even cheese.

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