Saturday, 24 April 2010

Paranormals whatever

Although I find publishers’ marketing trendiness for so-called paranormal/ supernatural romance books a vaguely interesting cross-genre project, I have avoided reading any of those novels… There are simply too many series of books, the market is obviously swamped, and I prefer TV adaptations of such things on DVD – amongst a batch of boxsets, I watched Blood Ties (based on Tanya Huff’s Vicki Nelson series), and I’m likely to be reviewing True Blood (derived from Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books) for Black Static, soon.   

My concern is whether such experimenting with varied tropes is any kind of genuine literary development or worthwhile genre progress..? By making traditional horror’s creatures (vampires and werewolves, especially) the heroes/ heroines or characters in modern romantic dramas, former subgenre menaces have lost much of their gothic appeal (Buffy has a lot to answer for), and such contemporary over-familiarity risks domesticating the monsters. What’s happening to essential otherness of horror in all this? Is ‘urban fantasy’ just another gimmicky category label for bookshops or does it represent horror tamed into mediocrity? 

Hopefully, new vampire anthology, The Bitten Word (Newcon Press) - which I bought at the World Horror Convention in Brighton, will contribute something… terrifying or fascinating to whatever’s the next big thing or movement for independent publishing. Back in 1985, Tom Holland’s comedy-drama Fright Night had a vampire moving in next door to a horror fanboy, and then kidnapping/ seducing a teenager’s girlfriend, but at least Fright Night’s vampire remained (mildly) scary. When horror abandons subversive traits, adopting/ favouring romantic plots instead, and ghastly monsters/ transforming creatures are domesticated, we get awfully boring soap opera/ sitcoms like TV series Being Human.

Is that sort of material a suitable advancement of meaningful horror for 21st century, in TV, film, or books?

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