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.