Monday, December 1, 2008

Why is the paranormal still hot?

By Clare Langley-Hawthorne



On the New York Time's bestseller list for mass market fiction, ten of the top 20 are novels that deal with the paranormal - looks like (despite predictions that it's heyday was on the wane) that paranormal is still hot. The mega-success of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series and recent movie certainly confirms it and I have to confess, caught up in the wave of interest, I spent most of Thanksgiving week reading the Twilight series. Seems as though the angst ridden teenager inside me has not yet disappeared...and that got me and my good friend Charysse talking. What is it about the paranormal - particularly the vampire novel - that continues to intrigue us?

After some wine and way too much food our respective husbands disappeared into the other room and we talked some more. I was particularly interested as a YA idea had been percolating in my brain and while I didn't see any paranormal bent to it as yet - it did have some of the Gothic hallmarks of the fantasy and paranormal YA books that seem to be popular today. I'm not one to write to the market but the question was undeniable - why do we continue to be fascinated, as children, young adults and adults by the paranormal. What draws us to the mythology of the 'other-world'? Why continue to explore the question of whether vampires, werewolves or other demonic forms walk amongst us?

We decided that sex was one of the first reasons - hey, in the romance world, sex with vampires is pretty darn hot. Maybe the lure of the paranormal is the lure of out-of-this-world sex...or not?...One of the main attractions I think for the Twilight series was the fact that sex was too damn dangerous between mortal and vampire. That somehow made the repressed, tortured emotions and desire of young adulthood all the more fraught. And here was a guy who said no...the ultimate in teenage girl fantasies perhaps? Gorgeous, brooding, dangerous, immortal but also the quintessential gentleman...At this point my friend and I both shook our heads and asked WTF???!

So if sex (or the lack of it) isn't the allure - is it the bloodlust? Is it the fact that paranormal explanations for truly horrific crimes make them somehow easier for our human minds to digest? Does it provide us with some kind of reassurance that there are demons that are not human (as opposed to only those who are?)

I confess I'm happy to read paranormal novels as much (if not more) than the next girl. I was a huge Buffy fan and am someone willing to drink in (if you'll pardon the pun) many a vampire novel. I love Gothic tales and revel in an imaginative story that conjures up another world.

Nonetheless the continued appeal of the paranormal intrigues me - what do you think drives the continued demand for these types of books? Do you think interest is on the wane and if it is...what is likely to replace it?

7 comments:

  1. Ah, a fellow Buffy fan? And how apropos the sex question is- after all, in that series when Angel and Buffy finally hook up, it turns out to be their downfall. I think that the paranormal series take escapism to the extreme, which is particularly appealing in difficult times. It will be interesting to see if that changes when (and if) things improve politically and economically. I do think that the vampire thing is in danger of being done to death, the market saturated, especially with the success of Twilight and True Blood. I'm picturing people frervently trying to catch the vampire wave, which by the time their book is done will have already peaked and crashed. But I certainly could be wrong. Your best bet? Werewolves. Or maybe gnomes. So few books about romantic alliances with gnomes out there, it's sad, really...

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  2. I have never been a fan of vampires, but maybe the next craze will be young, hot-looking androids who dare not show their face, sort of a Twilight-meets Bladerunner-meets-Frankenstein-meets...I don't know, whatever that Will Smith movie was with androids. Instead of drinking blood, maybe the androids have an irresistable urge to replace their beloveds' less-than-perfect body parts with machinery, until we're all a bunch of "walking andys" as Phillip K. Dick described. Just thinkin...

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  3. Thanks Michelle and Kathryn - I'm going with the gnomes. Hot, faceless gnomes...:) But the android option could get huge. Interesting how sci fi has much more geek connotations than fantasy.

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  4. Dang it, I knew I shouldn't have shared that idea. There goes my next series...

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  5. I can see it now - a short dark and brooding gnome spies a beautiful fairy from across the garden...until true love is thwarted by a tall pink flamingo - a newcomer to the garden ornament array. You should have never let your idea slip...

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  6. The movie was "I, Robot", and it had very little to do with the Asimov short stories, but the concept could be fascinating. For now, though, urban fantasy is still the Hot Ticket.

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  7. It sure is Fran - and I'm betting the historical fantasy is a close second:) Maybe the historical mystey is on it's way up too:)!

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