The Good, the Queer, and the Undead

            Good day, gentle readers: we’re Nell Stark and Trinity Tam, and we’re in the process of writing a four-book paranormal romance series. The first book of the series, everafter, came out in October 2009. Book two, nevermore, was just released a few days ago. Today, we’d like to discuss with you why we believe that paranormal sub-genres have “taken off” over the past decade, and how this kind of book can help the LGBT community to articulate its struggle for equality.

            Much has been made of the renaissance of vampires and werewolves in literature and film, but we believe that this trend is more a re-imagining of the role of paranormal characters than a true resurgence of interest in the supernatural. Vampires and Weres (since it has become popular in recent fiction to “were” a variety of creatures) used to be the ultimate villains. Consider Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), in which the eponymous vampire’s sole raison d’etre was to seduce women away from their “proper” roles as wives and mothers. By contrast, Stephanie Meyer’s immensely popular Twilight series (2005)  features a family of heroic vampires and a tribe of wolf shape-shifters who protect humanity from the evil members of their own species. Over the course of a century, then, the vampire or werewolf villain has become the heroic “boy next door”–now a suitable romantic partner for a female lead rather than a demonic Don Juan determined to make her one of the undead.

            This trend has also taken hold in queer literature, as evidenced by the paranormal novels recently published by Bold Strokes: L.L. Raand’s The Midnight Hunt, Gill McKnight’s Goldenseal (and sequels), Winter Pennington’s Witch Wolf (and sequels) and our everafter series. These authors enjoy crafting stories that feature paranormal protagonists, and many BSB readers enjoy learning about the exploits of our Vampires and Weres. To what might we attribute this late twentieth and early twenty-first century re-imagining of the paranormal character from villain to heroine?

            Vampires and werewolves have traditionally lurked at the borders of literature. Mysterious and threatening yet also alluring, they are fundamentally queer. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, for example, they epitomized the objects of Western xenophobia against Eastern Europeans. In the 1980s, Anne Rice’s vampires came to symbolize the fear of an HIV epidemic. In the late 1990s, however, the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer diverged from this trend by introducing both vampires and werewolves who fought on the side of the “good guys.” Thereafter, vampires and werewolves began to move from the fringes to the limelight. We don’t think it’s any coincidence that this trend parallels the rise of the contemporary LGBT civil rights movement.

            Currently, television shows like True Blood and mainstream paranormals like Kim Harrison’s Hollows series feature Vampires and Weres who are seeking equality with the humans around them. Many of the BSB paranormal releases (most notably The Midnight Hunt and Witch Wolf) also take up this theme, and we plan to treat it extensively in the fourth book of the everafter series, titled sunfall. In our books, and in the paranormals written by many of our colleagues, the predominant form of “queerness” is not sexuality, but species. Writing a paranormal romance, mystery, or thriller allows us as queer authors to craft thought experiments about the present and future of our community’s battles, even as we simultaneously invite readers of all identities to pause and reflect on what it means to be queer.

            Fundamentally, paranormal stories are about community-formation, identity politics, and the struggle to come out—to emerge from the shadows and be recognized as separate but equal. We invite you all, whether you’ve never read a vampire story or you dress like one each Halloween, to join us as we explore these themes that rest at the very heart of the LGBT individual’s daily struggles.

3 Responses to “The Good, the Queer, and the Undead”

  1. 1 Eileende October 23, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    Hi Nell, Trinity, Your blog makes interesting reading, I have not got your books yet, they are a planned for later this year.

    However your blog raised a question in my mind. You write as if someone has ownership of the word “normal”, I can’t accept that, your normal is your normal, a straight persons normal is there normal.

    Is it because straight people, being in the majority, have the right of ownership to words to describe the world, I think not

    I look forward to reading, your planned treatment. You may or may not agreed with the above, I do hope you may give some thought to it. Regards Eileen


    • 2 Nell Stark October 26, 2010 at 11:22 AM

      Hi Eileen,

      Thanks for your reply. I couldn’t agree with you more about the fallacy of the “normal”–there’s no such thing in my book! That’s why rather than discussing some kind of Platonic “norm,” we wanted to focus on the subject of equal rights. The fact remains that the law in the United States endows some of its citizens with more rights than others. That imbalance causes some individuals to be pushed to the margins of society.

      Our argument hinges on the observation that often, marginalized members of society appropriate figures in literature which are similarly relegated to the fringes. Case in point: the vampire is relegated to the margins of literature (in that s/he can only be a villain) up until a certain cultural moment, when s/he starts to move toward the center in a quest for “vampire civil rights” that mirrors the contemporary LGBT civil rights movement.

      We’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts on the everafter series!




  2. 3 Carsen Taite October 24, 2010 at 10:40 PM

    Great blog, you two. I appreciate the thoughtful insights into the parallels between this area of literature and the struggle for equality.


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