Spooktacular: Devon dates a zombie! / NOW with contest!Tuesday, October 30, 2007 16:00
Zombie of My Dreams? Not Likely.
I’ve got monsters on the brain. Not surprising, given the season and all. Things that go bump in the night are everywhere, from my local Target to all the Halloween books and shows my kids have been overdosing on The Nightmare Before Christmas (back-to-back three times Saturday afternoon), to the elaborate lawn displays put out by some of my neighbors.
As I watch yet another Scooby Doo movie, I can’t help but compare the depictions of all things creepy and monstrous to the characters to be found in my favorite subgenre, the paranormal romance. How do authors take creatures meant to inspire fear and horror, and make them into heroes and heroines, objects of desire and romance?
The reasons for the appeal of the paranormal romance are numerous, in my opinion, and require multiple posts for me to explain all my theories. So I’ll spare you. But, how to make undead bloodsuckers and hairy wolfmen romantically appealling?
Putting it simplistically, it’s a matter of taking out the ugly, and leaving in the power and strength. Let’s look at perennial favorites the vampire and the werewolf. We don’t want a romance vamp to look like Count Orlok or even Bela Lugosi. Nor do we want our werewolves to look like that guy. He must be human enough not to squick a reader out. It’s the power and strength that we are drawn to, the heightened senses, the abilities no regular man has.
But along with the physical ugly, the ugliness of their powers must be downplayed. The vampire doesn’t drink blood for fun, but to survive (and it is often a source of angst). The shapeshifter turns into a wolf because it is what he is, he must. Not to terrorize necking teenagers or whatever. But what about the other creatures?
With the popularity of paranormal romance, we have seen a diversification. Witness the rise of the demon (a romanticization of the embodiment of evil). The shapeshifter romance has been branching out. There’s a number of big cats (especially lions), and quite a few dragons. Birds of prey. You’ve got a few selkies (half-man/half-seals from Celtic folklore). I think I’ve seen a dolphin story.
But this ties back into the ugly thing. These animals are predatory, beautiful, strong, almost elegant. There may be more wereanimals coming our way, but I bet we’re not getting a were-rat, a were-vulture or a were-cow hero anytime soon. Only cool animals need apply. What else? Fairies and elves? Notoriously good looking. Witches and sorcerers don’t count, neither do humans with extrasensory powers. I know there’s some gargoyle books out there, and I read one with a Yeti, though I doubt Yeti romances will catch on any time soon.
So what “monsters” will never be attractive subjects for romance? Zombies get my vote, as do mummies. Undead is one thing. Dead and shuffling around, possibly drooling, is another. You never see a zombie with a personality. Also Leprechauns. Too short and I can’t get past the association with Lucky Charms and a bad movie franchise.
What underrepresented supernatural creature would you like to see get a chance at true love? And alternately, what creepy crawly do you never want to see get his own sex scene? Devon will pick a comment to win a Zombie pack of three Berkley Books.
PS: If anyone knows of a decent zombie or leprechaun romance, pass it on. I always try to keep an open mind. For more ramblings on romance, particularly of the paranormal kind, visit my blog Is that a Stake in Your Pocket? And Happy Halloween!