Why I Don’t Read Most Paranormal

An on-line discussion prompted me to say that I don’t read or watch paranormal genre.

… paranormal genre… whats?

 
I don’t, as a rule, but years back when the paranormal genre went from being me almost alone, the lone voice crying in the wilderness,

… aside from Elrod, Huff, Lackey, Rice, Brite, Smith, Klause, Strieber, Romkey…

 
to being more like a suburb with all sorts of neighbors, I did read some of the writers.

… so she read more because there were more authors. And now that there are even MORE authors… she reads less. Yeah, that makes all kinds of sense.

 
Charlaine Harris was one of those exceptions.

So Charlaine Harris was the exception… to the writers she read. LKH speaks the gud Inglish.

Her background was mystery and the books reflected that making the plots and characters richer and stand out from a lot of the writers who jumped on the paranormal bandwagon.

… how? I like Charlaine Harris fine, but how does being experienced in mystery writing make the characters richer?

 
The Sookie Stackhouse series was a cozy mystery with vampires and telepaths.

… and weres and faeries and witches and other mythic characters. Honestly, this does not actually resemble LKH’s works that much.

 
Charlaine told me she had been inspired to write her series after reading my Anita Blake series, but she made her vision new, fresh, different in the early books that I read.

Ah, so that’s the reason that LKH is mentioning it, even though Harris has become much more successful than she is. She is acknowledged as the inspiration, meaning she totally came first and pioneered paranormal fiction SO THERE.

 
I have no problem if people use what I’ve done as a true jumping off point for their own unique world.

How gracious of her. Especially considering that she used Anne Rice the same way.

And yes, it has now been made into the wildly successful HBO series, True Blood.

… while attempts to adapt Anita Blake into a TV show/movie died a quick and humiliating death because LKH was obsessed with maintaining control over the writing, casting, etc, while Harris let them do what they wanted with the show because she knew it wasn’t canon, but it was great advertisement for her books. Even at her peak, LKH wasn’t even nearly influential enough to get that kind of power.

I like to imagine that she randomly dropped into the producers’ offices wearing skin-tight leather microminis and an ill-fitting bustier to show off the “mounds of creamy goodness,” with several awkwardly-placed guns on her person, and some careful mentions of how many pounds she lifts in the gym. You know, just to let them know that she totally could play Anita.

 
Mary-Janice Davidson writes a series as funny as she is in person, and she is a hoot. Her background is more chick-lit, and the books show that. Who else would create a vampire queen that had a shoe fetish to rival Imelda Marcos?

IE. She writes girly girl books that are totally not a threat to me, because they’re girly! So no overlap with LKH’s tales of clothes, crying, emotions, and sex.

And I wonder to myself if LKH knows that MaryJanice (all one word, no hyphen) once told a truly hilarious story about LKH (whom she says “has the reflexes of a crack-addled mongoose”) rambling for five minute about all the sexy sex stuff people were not allowed to ask her. MJD was a bit horrified that people had asked her this, and I can sadly believe it… but five minutes of that suggests more that LKH ASSUMES she and her super-sexy husband would be assaulted with sexual offers.

Sherilyn Kenyon found a way to explain her vampires that is, to my knowledge, completely unique to her. That’s pretty rare in a form of literature that dates back to the 1800s,

I’ll agree that she came up with some pretty original ideas. It’s too bad LKH doesn’t emulate her more, both in work ethic and in originality.

Also, it’s Sherrilyn, not Sherilyn. That’s the second typoed author name in this blog.

 
and if you count stories about lamia and folk tales of vampires then thousands of years. That is pretty nifty.

People usually don’t count folklore as paranormal fiction, because… it was originally believed to be NONFICTION.

 
Kathy Clamp & C.T. Adams created a take on werewolves that made me wish I’d thought of one or two of the small details that they created. I can’t remember reading anyone else that made me think, gosh, I wish I’d thought of that.

It’s CATHY Clamp, you moron. Third time!

It’s even more bizarre when you consider that LKH KNOWS THESE PEOPLE PERSONALLY.

 
L.A. Banks combined hip-hop/rap culture, music, and the paranormal. To my knowledge no one else has done it as well.

I want to know if anyone else has done it… ever.

 
If I’ve left people out, my apologies, but there are too many of them now.

Yeah, it makes total sense to mention Kathy Clamp and C.T. Adams and not… say… Jim Butcher.

This is kind of a big omission, because by Butcher’s own account, Hamilton actually helped him get into the publishing business. You’d think she’d be really, really proud that a guy whom she saw potential in and helped get a publishing deal had become so wildly successful… unlike a certain Ms. Gryphon I could mention. He’s a powerhouse of the genre now, and one of the authors totally unaffected by the post-Twilight slump of paranormal fiction.

But not a mention. I think it’s partly because he’s something of a threat to LKH, because he writes actual noir-ish fantasy fiction, with a hero who’s actually endearing. And because…. well, in 2010, not only had Butcher become a well-beloved urban fantasy author, but he put out a book that completely changed everything. Appropriately, the title was Changes. In that book, he did everything that LKH doesn’t do – he had a complex suspenseful plot, shocking twists, an epic climax, character deaths and a cliffhanger that FRIGHTENED HIS PUBLISHERS. They would not publish the book until he showed them chapters from the NEXT book.

Now THAT is a book. And no matter how much LKH tries to hype her books by declaring that they’re suspenseful, have tight plots, and are really challenging… she plays it safe ALL THE TIME. She couldn’t bring herself to write something like Butcher.

 
Some, were left out because reading them is like reading watered down me. Some of them make me feel like I should be charging a franchise fee.

  1. Oh shut up, you cow. You’re no different from them – most of the stuff in your books was done better AND FIRST by other people like Rice or Huff.
  2. Tough female detective? Huff. Noir atmosphere? Elrod. Sexy French vampire? Rice.
  3. The only difference is that you delude yourself into believing that you were the first, and therefore that gives you some kind of superiority over the people who, yes, have probably been influenced by you. You didn’t generate the genre; you were just lucky enough to be there before it really took off.
  4. Yes, I acknowledge that she was a shaping influence on a lot of people who now write paranormal fiction. The problem is, these people come in two categories:
    • authors who suck hardcore.
    • authors who do similar things… but way better than she does.
  5. As much as I like to rage out at authors like Dennis McKiernan for being incredibly derivative, being derivative does not make something bad. Some of the greatest artists in history like Shakespeare and Michelangelo took a lot of inspiration from prior art, but that doesn’t mean that what THEY created was inferior or that they somehow owed the “original.”
  6. And again: LKH is very derivative and has outright ripped off stuff from other authors. So yeah, shut up.

 
When I’m done at the end of the day, I don’t want to read anything similar to what I write. It’s not relaxing to me.

Well, then you shouldn’t write. No good writer should be ignorant about the genre in which they read, because if they don’t read that kind of thing, they lose an idea of what is being written, what’s successful, what NOT to do, etc.

Also, LKH allegedly writes thrillers and mysteries, and she apparently has no problem boasting about the mysteries she reads like Robert B. Parker.

 
Someone on line asked, “Doesn’t that mean you aren’t up on your genre?”
I don’t need to be “up” on my genre.

Yes. You do. Any writer does. It’s like learning codes you might not necessary You’re no better than anyone else, and you’re definitely worse than many.

Here’s an example: LKH has a weird art crush on Neil Gaiman, the author of such brilliant and timeless urban fantasy books as Neverwhere and American Gods, as well as the book Stardust and lots of other things (including Dr. Who episodes and comic books). He is a genuinely great writer with a lot of very original ideas. HE reads huge quantities.


And you know what? A lot of those books are fantasy books. Yes, he reads a lot of nonfiction and stuff (a larger version of his library pictures shows books like The Fall of Rome and books on magic and superstition), but he also reads his fair share of fantasy and sci-fi.

In fact, he confessed that he was worried about the book The Good Fairies of New York, because he was worried it would be too similar to his own book American Gods. Which it wasn’t, by the way, so he could enjoy it for itself.

Any author who doesn’t read the kind of book that they write is pretty much guaranteed to fail, because it means you have no idea of the sort of rhythms that you should have, no idea of the tropes, and no idea what actually works for readers.

I don’t know exactly what the reasons are, to be honest. But if I had to guess, I’d bet that it helps you not only see pitfalls to avoid, but it subconsciously puts your brain “in the mood” and creatively stimulates it to think of things that are similar. If you’re a creative person, reading something that really touches you will make you want to write something similar, but only the talented people will give it a good spin. That’s why so many people who read Lord of the Rings and try to write high fantasy end up writing derivative works, whether they’re good (Tad Williams, George RR Martin) or bad (Christopher Paolini, Dennis McKiernan).

The only exceptions are the TRUE pioneers of a genre. Not the bullshit “I totes made my own genre and now there’s lots of people ripping me off!” way LKH thinks of herself, but people like Lord Dunsany, George MacDonald and William Morris, who wrote the first fantasy fiction as we know it. And you know what? Those fantasies were heavily influenced by myth and fairy tales… and they had their flaws, especially Morris. And later fantasy greats like Tolkien and Lewis had NO PROBLEMS admitting they were influenced.

Or, say, Wilkie Collins, author of The Moonstone, the first sorta-kinda-police procedural mystery ever. Or “Charles Felix,” author of the very first mystery novel ever. Or Edgar Allen Poe, creator of the first mystery STORIES ever. THOSE people have an excuse for only basing their works on non-mysteries, because they actually came at the start of the genre. And yes, they have some “screwups” that have been ironed out by subsequent authors… because those authors read those books, and figured out how to do what those early writers did, but minus the flaws.

LKH? She came after a large number of urban fantasy novels stretching back through the twentieth century. Even Dracula was technically an urban fantasy in its time, since it was a contemporary novel in a mundane setting (to his readers). So she has no excuse to avoid reading other novels by other UF authors… and in fact, I don’t believe she does. It’s just that she has SO MUCH invested in this myth that she was effectively the mother of the whole genre, and therefore nobody who comes after her can possibly be as good or better. She couldn’t bear to admit that those other people who have similar formulae could actually do better than her.

 
My research and ideas come from nonfiction, folklore, mythology, real life interviews, true crime. I don’t get ideas from other people’s fiction.

…. HAHAHAHAHA.

Bullshit.

Honestly, this kind of smacks of Terry Goodkind’s genre snobbery, where he writes about magic, wizards and monsters… but insists he doesn’t write fantasy. Sounds like LKH doesn’t want to be considered a writer of urban fantasy, but of REALISTIC TOUGH CRIME DRAMA that happens to have vampires, weres and asspull magic powers. But at the same time, I don’t think she could ever bear to actually write realistic mysteries and thrillers because… well, let’s be honest here: Anita would be nothing special without her giant sack of magic powers.

And really, true crime? Pull the other one, LKH. She misrepresents the FBI, the Marshal Service, profilers, serial killers and other stuff in a thousand ugly little ways. She mostly seems to just get ideas from TV, or little mentions of things like PCP or phosphorous grenades that don’t actually have anything to do with the story, but they sound like she knows what she’s talking about.

And finally…

Nice try, LKH. You’ve been caught out adding elements to your books that are very obviously lifted from other CURRENT urban fantasies that you totally are not reading because they’re just “watered-down you.” The most notorious example is Skin Trade, which came out shortly after a book by Carrie Vaughn called Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand.

How did she rip this off? Well, to put it simply, both are located in Vegas and involve giant werecats… but while the Vegas setting is actually necessary for the Kitty book, it’s just another bland-featureless-random-city-filled-with-homophobic-sexist-white-trash location for LKH.

This one is also notable because it contains one of the most bizarre scenes in the entire Anita Blake series… well, from a logical standpoint. I think Anita dangling upside down with her stiletto heel in a vampire’s chest, showing her netherbits to the entire police force, counts pretty bizarre. The scene I’m talking about is bizarre in the sense that it comes out of nowhere, is completely out of sync with the supernatural races in the story, adds nothing to the story, and is never referenced again. Ever.

What is it? The archangel Michael shows up and saves Anita for NO REASON, and she’s glowing with holy light that shows how wonderful she is and dazzles even hardened killers.

So why does this scene exist, especially since LKH is a Wiccan? Well, to put it simply… it’s because Jim Butcher did it first. In the novel Small Favor, Harry Dresden has a small meltdown in a chapel where he yells at God. He’s then met by a kindly old janitor… who is actually the archangel Uriel. Uriel, a quiet and weird archangel who likes to work in mysterious ways, sort of becomes a patron for Harry in the books that follow.

It’s almost like LKH saw that as a challenge to her supremacy, or to Anita’s status as Best Person Ever In All The World Galaxy Universe. Even though it has NOTHING to do with her story and doesn’t reflect the story’s cosmology AT ALL… she just HAD to one-up Butcher. Not only does Anita get protected by an archangel TOO, but hers is WAY better! He’s bigger and manlier and has a big flashy image! SO THERE! MY SHOEHORNED-IN ANGEL IS WAY BETTER THAN YOUR PLOT-RELATED ONE! NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAH!

Except that angels have never been a part of the AB series. Ever. There’s some vague hints of God giving protection via crucifixes, but otherwise there’s no divinely-related stuff going on… and then this comes out of nowhere and has no connection to anything else in the series.. Whereas the DF series had had demons, holy knights and mentions of angels for several books before Uriel ever entered the story. So he made sense in the series’ cosmology.

And of course, Dead Ice featured an energy-sucking zombie named Thomas, and a wilting naive virginal girl named Justine who thinks she has Twoo Wuv with him. Of course, Anita shits on both of them AND their emotions, because we all know Twoo Wuv involves a strange man lubing up with soap and raping you in a shower. Of course, the whole thing ends up with sex (what else?) and then him being buried while still conscious..

Why is this relevant? Because Harry’s brother Thomas is an energy-sucking vampire, whose girlfriend is a sweet girlish-looking human named Justine… who is neither wilting nor virginal. Their twoo wuv is not explored until the SIXTH BOOK in the series, so clearly LKH didn’t just read Butcher’s early work and then stop once he got off the ground.

So why are Carrie Vaughn and Jim Butcher different from the authors I mentioned above? Well, Butcher does the kind of things that LKH likes to think she does – he writes noir-ish mysteries, has a well-developed world, has a huge cast of characters people aren’t sick of, and has a flawed but likable protagonist who tries to protect his friends and gains a lot of power and has to fight to keep his soul intact. That’s what LKH says she does… but BUTCHER is the one who does it.

And Carrie Vaughn has a much more intelligent take on the whole “supernaturals coming out” thing. Unlike LKH’s approach (“supernaturals have always existed and people have always know about them, but somehow history is EXACTLY THE SAME and nobody knows ANYTHING about them except Anita!”), Vaughn depicts them as having been a part of the Masquerade until Kitty Norville cracked it open. While obviously it doesn’t explore the ENTIRETY of this “coming out,” the Kitty books DO explore

(Also, she’s made fun of Anita a few times, and it’s funny as hell)

So yeah, she clearly DOES read other paranormal fiction. Probably not enough to stimulate her creative juices, but enough for her to be aware of what other UF series are doing and even take offense if they do something better than her.

 
At best, decades ago I would read something and think I wish the writer had done this instead.

LKH, that is what people are now doing with YOU.

I wrote both Anita and her world of preternatural creatues and Merry and her world of faries and myth because no one was writing vampries and shapeshifters the way I wanted to read them,

“I wanted them to be written as wilting bishies who worship the ground I… I mean, a short busty dark-haired gun-toting heroine walks on, and endless power over everyone in the world. Why wouldn’t someone write that?!”

 
and no one was writing Celtic myth the way I wanted to read it either.

As being all about sex and Wicca?

 
I wrote the first Anita short story in the late 80’s.

… but since it wasn’t published, there is no proof of her being in any way ahead of the curve. No credit given, sorry.

 
The Merry Gentry series was begun over ten years ago.

Yes, 2000 was a bit earlier than many series, since that is the year the Dresden Files began. But it doesn’t change the fact that

  1. She wasn’t the first.
  2. Similar series that went on for years, and some that are STILL GOING ON, were around before her.
  3. Being earlier than a literary trend doesn’t mean you are still in the vanguard.
  4. It doesn’t mean that you are creatively untouchable either.
  5. Again, let’s mention the great and mighty Gaiman. Gaiman wrote his classics Neverwhere and American Gods before the whole urban fantasy thing became a trend, and long before Merry Gentry… and has managed to not completely piss all over the stories he’s written.
  6. Does that mean he’s decided that he’s too good to read any other books in his genres? NO. He does not.

 
My world, my characters were pretty set long before paranormal was even a phrase in publishing.

  1. I sincerely doubt that.
  2. And the label doesn’t matter, really. Dunsany and MacDonald wrote fantasy, even though there was no word to describe what they wrote.
  3. It’s funny how she thinks of reading other people’s paranormal books in terms of “Do I need to get anything from these stories?” instead of “Is this a good book that I would enjoy?”

 
I was originally sold as mixed genre.

That is not a thing anyone has ever said but her. “Cross-genre” is the phrase.

 
Meredith Gentry and her Celtic band of characters owe their world to archeology, folklorists, and mythology.

  1. Archaeology?! When? How? WHAT?
  2. You know, I actually like Celtic mythology. I have read a great deal of it. LKH’s depiction of Celtic mythology is a completely bastardization.
  3. For one thing, she falls into the trap of what Diana Wynne-Jones called the “PanCelt,” where all Celtic cultures are sloppily crammed together like there aren’t any actual differences between them. Yes, they had some obvious similarities like horse deities and horned gods, but each mythology had their own gods, own folklore and own stories.
  4. For another, she pulls a Marion Zimmer Bradley and transforms the complex and wide-ranging pantheons of the ancient Celtic peoples… into a simplistic Wiccan theological formula. All deities that don’t fit that like Crom Cruach and Nodens are just turned into faerie bishies who have lost all their power, with the Goddess being the only deity who is unaffected by everything.
  5. Major elements in Celtic lore that could make for GREAT world-building, like the Fomorians or the Dagda or the Morrighan or the Welsh cauldron of rebirth or Thirteen Treasures or Ys or… you get the idea. Other authors have mined this material for great or epic fantasy stories… but LKH was more interested in some obscure legend about a woman supposedly getting knocked up by multiple men.
  6. Yes, I know she DOES include some real Celtic myth, mostly a grab bag of faerie creatures, the Wild Hunt and the Death Coach and stuff like that. But she’s not NEARLY good or extensive enough to be worthy of “oh, this totally is ONLY inspired by archaeology and mythology!” Her stories aren’t fueled by Celtic myth, but by “SPARKLY SEX AND MAGIKS!”
  7. For instance, she has a roane/selkie character who is stranded on the land because his skin is gone, obviously based on the old “selkie wife” legends.
  8. Except male selkies NEVER had that legend attached to them. Selkie males were supposed to seduce (and sometimes impregnate) women and return to the sea, and women could summon them by crying a certain number of tears into the sea. They were NEVER known for being trapped on the land because their sealskins were taken away.
  9. And the gender-flipping of the selkie wife thing doesn’t make any sense, because the whole legend works into the oppression and control over women. Why would that apply to a MAN?
  10. It only works if you assume Roane was having a sexual affair with the guy who destroyed his sealskin!

 
Oh, and pain.

I’ve noticed. I feel it every time I read it.

Anita Blake is still fueled by my own early tragedies, I’ve come to accept that.

Specifically, that one tragedy from half a century ago.

 
I didn’t know until books into it that Merry was fueled from the pain of my first marriage and divorce.

Spoiler alert: absolutely nothing about it gives any indication of that.

There are books that show when someone is dealing with relationship problems, like the endless assrape of Richard in the AB series. The MG series show that LKH wants to have a magical coochie.

 
Books come from places of deep emotion for me, so far, I’d write lighter if I could, but apparently if it doesn’t hurt somewhere I don’t feel the need to write it down.

  1. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go bleed on my keyboard to show what a tortured artiste I am!”
  2. Won’t someone think of the poor abused commas?
  3. I guess we have an answer for why LKH likes to pick at every emotional scab, and never seems to let anything go.
  4. Fun fact: Merry is raped in the first book. She isn’t even slightly traumatized.

 
Most of us write because we are readers first, but there comes a point with most of the professional writers I know that we cease to read most fiction.

  1. And how many do you know, pray?
  2. I’d rather hear it from them, rather than a woman who has informed us that her books are superior to the works of Tolkien, Christie, Doyle, etc.

 
You know how the trick is done, and it’s hard to be fooled by the slight of hand, because you know where the magician hid the rabbit, and when it’s coming out of the hat. Hard to enjoy the show when you’re in the business.

And a better writer might realize that that’s a crap simile. A book isn’t a trick or a deception of the senses. It’s a piece of art, and each one is unique. It has layers and different dimensions, like character development, style, pacing, plotting, and description. A MAGIC TRICK HAS NONE OF THAT.

By her logic, no movie directors or actors or editors will ever watch movies by other people, because they aren’t “fooled” by any of the many artistic layers of it. Yes, they might be more critical… but the upside is that greater knowledge of the technical aspects means you’ll be even more dazzled by the stuff that is brilliant.

But hey, maybe that’s how LKH sees books. Maybe she sees them as one-note thrills like a magic trick’s reveal, with repetitive stories/interactions/dialogue/characters where if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Maybe she thinks that nothing new can come from any work in a genre, because someone’s already done everything worth doing.