Yesterday’s discussion about YA and the readers who decry non-Twilight bloodsuckers as “not a real vampire” got me to thinking.
Paranormal romances have had a large following for awhile, as has the rest of the Urban Fantasy genre. With a few notable exceptions, Urban Fantasy hasn’t really ever been my thing. I don’t care about the Zombie Apocalypse and I find absolutely not one thing sexy about men who turn into dogs or are demon-posessed undead. The general schtick of Urban Fantasy involves putting the “real world” up against fantastical elements, thus giving a bit of a twist to what are otherwise straightforward romances and detective stories.
The thing that turned me off Urban Fantasy was the Real Vampire. When Bram Stoker dusted off the John Polidori novella The Vampyre, the sensual animus of Dracula entered the Victorian consciousness and dug in for good. Vampires are a part of the fabric of modern mythos, introduced to many of us in our childhoods. We know vampires in much the same way we know Santa Claus.
In the Christianity-themed fiction world we have a similar issue in that those who are raised in Christianity intrinsically know “Bible Stories” just as we know vampires sleep in coffins.*
Epic Fantasy, the genre of Tolkein, Martin and Rothfuss, has dragons.
I see Fan Fiction as a cheat and I feel the same way about using intrinsic folklores as story themes. Writers who are looking for an easy hook make heavy use of the things Everybody Knows. Readers looking for a book that takes less of a challenge seek those books out in droves. It’s a marriage of convenience for all concerned.
Now obviously not every Zombie story, vampire novel and fictionalized account of the lives of Bible personages is trite and basic. Writers looking to flex their creative muscles have long been able to take those Known Folklores and turn them into marvelous stories of the human heart in conflict with itself. Betsy Phillips’ Frank; Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula and Marjorie Holmes’ Two From Galilee are all instances of authors taking the basic ingredient and writing it out to the next level.
The frothing over happens when those who expect basic elements to remain basic run up against the acid pen of a writer who wants to remake the dragon in her own image. In a conversation last night with a friend I mentioned that while I loved Seraphina it took me awhile to get used to Hartman’s take on dragons. I never expected my beloved fire breathers shifting shape into human form. That’s not a REAL DRAGON!
I’m willing to make my peace with the easy reading experiences that are chockablock in genre fiction. By the same token I think it’s fair to ask that we all make our peace with the fact that writers can and do remake those known elements. I’d go so far as to say that every time I’ve encountered that, the book has been better for it.
*I need to make it perfectly clear that as a devout Mennonite Christian I believe the the Bible to be truth and not invented fictions.