Friday, January 06, 2006

Erotic Dark Fantasy: Things that Do More than Go Bump in the Night

Another stolen idea for a blog from Catherine Lundoff:

"Stories detailing the romantic and sexual relationships of vampires, werewolves and other critters have been popular for years and are only getting more so. What's the allure? Who does this well? Would you really want to do the nasty with someone who smells like a wet wolfhound?"

No, and I also wouldn't want to have sex with someone whose skin is dead... and cold.

I actually have my character in Tall, Dark & Dead talk about this. In Garnet's own words she says: "The fact remained that he was dead. As a doornail. And dating doornails was no fun. Trust me, I tried being with a dead guy once and it was miserable. I found that whole cold skin thing a big turn off in the bedroom. You can only do so many things in a hot bath or shower, and even then the heat didn't... well, penetrate, if you know what I mean."

This was one of those contemporary fantasy moments where the reality, if you will, of having sex with an animated corpse makes for a humorous reflection by the main character. I intentionally asked myself the question Catherine wants the panel to consider: what nitty-gritty, true-life details would you encounter if you took a supernatural being to bed?

I also have Garnet deal with the fact that vampires are nocturnal, and eighty percent (smaller? higher?) of the world is not. Like the majority of people, Garnet has a day-job. Dating someone who comes out after sunset is hell on one's sleep schedule. I know a lot of people who exist on very few hours of sleep at night, but I'm not one of those. Even though I can do short bursts of late-night living, I find I generally need to get eight hours of sleep (or more!) or I get really cranky. And, part of how I deal with writing contemporary fantasy is asking myself: what would it be like for me? Thus, Garnet ended up skipping a lot of work to nap.

The question is actually a gnarly one, because there is a kind of line you have to walk when you write fantasy. Getting the details "right" makes the story ring true, but if you were to say go into great detail about sleeping with a corpse you run the risk of losing a large percentage of your intended audience (minus, of course, the necrophilics.)

I guess the answer is to put in just enough to keep things real and willfully ignore the rest.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Van Helsing's Heirs

In keeping with my theme of 2006, this is another stolen discussion topic from the MarsCON programming ideas page. This one comes to us curtsey of Minneapolis/St. Paul writer Catherine Lundoff.

Catherine asks her panelists to consider these questions: Are slayers and hunters heroes or villains? Why do the vampires (or other critters) so often win in the end?

I think these are interesting thoughts because for me they tap in a question I asked myself at the very beginning of this blog: what on earth makes vampires so damned sexy?

Van Helsing should be the hero. I think when Dracula was first published in 1897, Van Helsing was meant a force of good in the novel. Dracula is a seductive evil that spoils the virtue of young Ms. Mina Murray (among others).

But when I review my memories of the novel, I can hardly give you any concrete impressions of Van Helsing's character. In fact I had to look up in Wikipedia to see if reading about him sparked anything.


Dracula, however, is singularly memorable. The book is named after him, after all, and not for the slayer.

So, why isn't Van Helsing the hero?

I think that the problem comes from the fact that even at their most alien (when being cast as demons in "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" or even as alternate species or space aliens) vampires are often depicted as very "human." In a way, they're kind of uber-human because they've left all the mundane trappings of life behind and have been reduced to humans at their essence (blood?) as hunter/predators (which we all know we are, deep in our hearts.)

And, as I've discussed previously, I find that kind of Romantic (with the capital R) vampire to be the most successful. A good hero needs a good villain. And, if the vampires are just mindless, hungry beasts, then their hunters might as well be shooting quail or ducks for all that the story interests me.

So the hunters have to be morally ambiguous. They're killers. And one of the big questions vampire literature asks us is -- aren't we all?

That's why the critters often get away in the end. It's a big, fat morality play in which two sides of the same dark coin are being played out. Van Helsing representing the "moral" killer, the one who kills for "justice" and with the trappings of the Church (crosses, holy water, etc.) vs. the unrestrained beastial passionate killer who feeds on others for self-serving, self-indulgent reasons.

Both are evil. But I think the modern reader comes to the self-righteous killers with a lot more baggage, a lot less willingness to forgive. He is the Inquisitor, the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities....

The vampire is just our passion -- our lust for life -- gone a little too wild.

The image for this post came from

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Contemporary Fantasy -- Where Elves are Sexy

... and Available.

The title of this blog is taken from a list of programming ideas for Marscon. This particular idea was submitted by Minneapolis writer Paula Fleming.

Paula asks the panelists to consider this question: Contemporary fantasy often juxtaposes elements of old mythologies with cell phones and fast food. What do we find so compelling in this mix?

I thought I'd answer it here (and hopefully also on the panel.)

For me, the answer is: who doesn't want to meet an angel at McDonald's

Part of the reason I find "contemporary fantasy" or urban fantasy or paranormal romances so compelling is that, when done well, they give the reader the illusion of "it could happen."

Plus, I don't know about y'all, but I've spent a large part of my life in the realm of make-believe. When I was a kid, I chased my share of imaginary villains through the very real forests of Grandad's Bluff. But, then there was also... yesterday, when I was waiting in the doctor's office and I imagined what it would be like to be an international jewel thief. My imagination didn't switch off after I reached the age when it was no longer socially acceptable to play pretend in the woods with your school buddies. So, I guess the contemporary fantasy element appeals to the part of me that would STILL like those fantasies to be real, here, in my world.

Also, I think there's something inherently funny about an elf in a 7/11. I think that the format of the contemporary fantasy is one that allows us to look at both the mundane (the 7/11) in a new and possibly amusing way, but also to poke fun at all of the high fantasy stuff (the elf) we grew up reading. There's a lot of tongue-in-cheek that goes on in the works of, say, MaryJanice Davidson or Rachel Caine, like when your million year old djinn has to deal with... I don't know, pumping gas. It's not surprising to me that a lot of the popular contemporary fantasy is also intentially humorous and light.

It's funny because, in a lot of ways, the more ridiculous the situation, the more "real" the fantasy feels. This isn't always true, but I really enjoy it when, for instance, the vampires in the various chick-lit books I've read have to deal with the particulars of their existance. These kinds of questions (like how DOES a vampire get rich when he can only come out at night) obviously fascinate me (see several previous blogs). In fact, I find that the more those sorts of things are thought about and dealt with in contemporary fantasy the more the paranormal characters seem REAL.

And that appeals to my magical side, if you know what I mean.

If readers of this blog happen to be in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area on the weekend of March 3-5, 2005, they should check out Marscon's main web page for details.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A New Year of Reading

Instead of doing the usual post about books I enjoyed in 2005, I thought I'd put together a list of books I'm looking forward to reading this year.

WORLD-WIRED by Elizabeth Bear. I'm actually reading this book right now. It's the conculsion to Bear's Jenny Casey series that started with HAMMERED.

PLUTONIUM BLONDE and DOOMSDAY BRUNETTE by John Zakour and Lawrence Ganem. Both of which are the prequels to RADIOACTIVE REDHEAD, which I reviewed below. If you like fun, fast, and funny science fiction, then these books are for you.

WARCHILD and BURNDRIVE by Karin Lowachee. Dark SF. A worthy read, however.

POLARIS by Jack McDevitt. I don't know nothing about this bok except that Shawn recommended it to me.

And that's what's on the pile for now.

P.S. I resolve to be a better blogger in 2006.