Pharyngula

Mass market genre surprise

Today, I briefly emerged from my little academic cocoon and stepped outside. I was shocked to discover that the snow had all melted, the lakes were all thawed out, there were birds in the air, and the sun was shining — I think I somehow missed the appearance of spring. Don’t worry, I’m buckling back to work in my oubliette now, but it was a bit of a surprise.

But that’s not what I wanted to mention. It was another surprising bit of weirdness. The reason I was dragged out of the dungeon of academe was to run an errand, and I was at Wal-Mart (don’t ask)…and while I was there, bored and awaiting the mistress’s orders, I was browsing their book section. It’s also been a long, long time since I plumbed that paragon of mass-market genrefication, the warehouse shopping version of a bookstore, and I discovered a new (to me) development.

First, there was something entirely expected: wall-to-wall romance novels, with their pink covers and naked-chested manly men flexing their pectorals. That’s a regular fixture in these places. I even read some, several years ago, and as formula fiction goes, they weren’t my cup of tea, but they weren’t that bad. There are well-honed conventions there, but some of the better authors do manage to sneak a little imagination into the filigree.

No, the real surprise was the second most popular genre that was everywhere on those book shelves: vampire novels. It’s as if Laurell Hamilton and Anne Rice have recently had an unholy tryst and have spawned a scampering horde of little horror-romance novelists who have all skittered off and scrawled out series after series of stories about vampiresses, vampire huntresses, vampire princesses, vampire trailer park queens, and vampire lovers. They all seemed to be by female authors and feature female protagonists, too; some of the covers also blurred into similarity with the romance novels, except that the muscular-breasted Fabio on the cover was also sporting fangs.

I can’t judge the contents, and maybe they’re all wonderfully creative and entertaining, although I suspect Sturgeon’s Law will still apply. I’m just a little baffled about where this sudden surge in one narrow genre has come from.

Comments

  1. #1 Flamethorn
    May 11, 2008

    Pretty much from Laurell K Hamilton, just like the related surge of what I call Magical Detective stories.

  2. #2 BoxerShorts
    May 11, 2008

    I remember vampires being insanely popular in the 1990s. Probably as a result of the Interview with the Vampire movie starring David Miscavige’s butt-buddy. But I thought it was over and done with years ago.

  3. #3 Cat of many faces
    May 11, 2008

    Yeesh, my mother has started reading these vampire harlequin romance books as well. i looked at one and it was pretty bad.

    it’s just baffling.

  4. #4 FigaroTheParrot
    May 11, 2008

    If you’re into trade paperbacks, you need look no further than http://salmongutter.blogspot.com – its fantastic!

  5. #5 Kaf
    May 11, 2008

    PZ, I think you mean Sturgeon’s Revelation. Sturgeon’s Law is — or was originally — “Nothing is always absolutely so.”

    His Revelation (sometimes called the Second Law): “Ninety percent of everything is crap,” has sort of overtaken it in notoriety (for obvious reasons).

    /pedant off

  6. #6 Robin
    May 11, 2008

    If I’m wrong about any of this, please correct me, but it seems to me that vampires have been heavily eroticised since Bela Lugosi’s “Dracula” in the early thirties.

    Certainly, Bram Stoker’s version of the character was presented as repulsive, as was the bloodsuckers in movies like “Nosferatu” and “Vampyr”.

  7. #7 Richard Harris
    May 11, 2008

    I’m just a little baffled about where this sudden surge in one narrow genre has come from.

    Might it just be the latest fad or fashion in chicklit? Where do any such fashion constructs come from? Anyone who can answer that could make a fortune.

  8. #8 garth
    May 11, 2008

    vampire novels were exciting when i was in junior high. since i completed (as far as i can) my head-butt separation in later years they’ve been pretty dull.

    (random aside: i’ve been in a non-science cocoon for a few days, did this story already get commented upon?)

  9. #9 Ted D
    May 11, 2008

    I tried reading a Laurell K Hamilton book, and while the story seemed passable, I quickly got bored by the constant sex scenes. Honestly, you’ve got to work quite hard to make sex and vampires seem dull, don’t you? And since Hamilton and Rice are the originals, I haven’t dared brave the stacks of pale copies.

    For an entertaining book with (among other things) vampires in it, I’d say Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko wasn’t bad at all. I’ve got Day Watch standing on my shelf as well, should really get around to reading it.

  10. #10 Unstable Isotope
    May 11, 2008

    Oh, it’s definitely the fashion now. The most popular young adult series is Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series with a teenager in love with a vampire. I’m not sure why it’s the fad now but it’s been popular the last few years but it seems to have really surged this year. Perhaps it means the fad is reaching its peak?

  11. #11 Stephen Couchman
    May 11, 2008

    I live in Portland, Oregon and recently overheard two Powell’s employees discussing this phenomenon. One was explaining to his new-hire charge that “Supernatural Romance” is the largest growing, hottest selling category in fiction right now, a subgenre he described as “women committing every imaginable act of lust and perversion with vampires, werewolves, demons, Lovecraftian tentacled rape gods, basically anything you can imagine as long as it’s not a normal human man.” Selah.

  12. #12 Sangy
    May 11, 2008

    I’d bet anything it’s the Twilight series that’s doing this. It’s massively popular- think Harry Potter for angsty, tennage girls. The series isn’t that badly written, either- as far as teenmances go, not bad.

    Not really good, either, but not bad.

    (And a side note- the vampires in that series? Not your average mopey vampires, not sexy enough. Oh, no- these guys *sparkle* in the sunlight.)

  13. #13 Stephanie Z
    May 11, 2008

    Vampire fiction has been hot for a few years now, long enough for its death as a genre to be predicted a few times. Hasn’t happened yet. Now they’re confusing the genres with paranormal romance, some of it even vampire-free.

  14. #14 BoxerShorts
    May 11, 2008

    “women committing every imaginable act of lust and perversion with vampires, werewolves, demons, Lovecraftian tentacled rape gods, basically anything you can imagine as long as it’s not a normal human man.”

    So, kind of like anime, then?

  15. #15 Chris Bradley
    May 11, 2008

    Robin @ 5,

    The eroticization of vampires started about two seconds after Dracula was published, actually. The connection between blood and sex and death was leapt on by the original audience of the book and hasn’t let go since then. ;)

    Ted @ 8,

    If you liked Night Watch, you’ll like Day Watch. And Twilight Watch, and The Final Watch. Lukyanenko is pretty cool.

    Tho’ I have no idea why vampire romantic fiction is suddenly being found at Wal-Mart. There’s been a market for vampire romantic and erotic fiction for at least 20 years – one of my friend’s ex-wives actually had a magazine of vampire poetry, hehe, so I had some exposure to the phenomenon even back then. To me, the interesting thing is that . . . it’s in Wal-Mart.

  16. #16 bernarda
    May 11, 2008

    Aren’t all xians, well maybe only catholics, vampires? They all have the same victim though, and not even female.

  17. #17 Stephen Couchman
    May 11, 2008

    @5

    You’re wrong. :)

    Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897, and was continuing a literary tradition of erotic bloodsuckers in the vein (sorry) of Le Fanu and Lord Byron.

    If we accept the interpretation of vampire encounters as paralytic sleep hysteria, they neatly identify with hag attacks, incubi, and alien abductions (gotta love them anal probes), all of which have erotic, though terrifying, associations that reach back through millennia of folklore and protopsychology.

    (I don’t know much, but I know me some woo.)

  18. #18 writerdd
    May 11, 2008

    I love vampires and I read all kinds of trashy vampire novels and watch just about anything about vampires that comes out on film or on TV.

    I’m writing a monster series over at Skepchick. Here’s what I’ve written so far:

    Vampires
    http://skepchick.org/blog/?p=1337

    Mummies
    http://skepchick.org/blog/?p=1356

    Zombies
    http://skepchick.org/blog/?p=1361

    I’ll be returning to some of these again, and I have a long list of other monsters to discuss.

  19. #19 DGS
    May 11, 2008

    Vampire eroticism has been around a long time, to be sure, but I think this latest round stems from the continuing effect of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel TV shows. They were very well-written and have only gained fans and influence in the five and four years (respectively) since they were cancelled.

  20. #20 AntonGarou
    May 11, 2008

    I suspect that it simply is the new romance paperback, tailored for goth/emo kids.

  21. #21 Sili
    May 11, 2008

    Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight is certainly all the rage on DA at the moment.

    And there’re several animanga titles, too. I think Vampire Game or summat is one I’ve seen here in Denmark. A friend of mine is head over heels with Tsubasa: Reservour Chronicle.

    Never quite appealed to me, but to be fair my reading as a young adult consisted mainly of Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Detectives.

  22. #22 Andreas Johansson
    May 11, 2008

    Necrophilia is the new black.

  23. #23 JayneK
    May 11, 2008

    You aren’t the only one who has noticed the interest in vampires. This theme will be featured at this year’s Polaris (Toronto convention for “science fiction, fantasy and beyond”)as described on their website:

    http://www.tcon.ca/polaris/modules/content/?id=9
    ==========================
    STEP INTO DARKNESS: A VAMPIRE EVENT

    This is a theme Polaris Event featuring panels on vampire inspired topics, displays of costumes and props, and the “Victorian Vampire Reception” on Friday evening.

    The “Victorian Vampire Reception” is a Vampire costume party that starts on Friday evening at 10:00 PM. Vampires from all time periods and genres are welcome, or just wear black and come and party. Don’t forget vampires need victims too.
    ============================
    The April 24 issue of Time had an article about Stephenie Meyer who writes in this genre:

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1734838,00.html

    Time also included her in their 100 Most Influential People of 2008.

  24. #24 Blake Stacey
    May 11, 2008

    Does anybody remember that business with Kaavya Viswanathan? It was a big to-do a couple years ago: a Harvard freshman got a sweet book deal for a “chick-lit” story about a girl who had to remake herself in order to, surprise surprise, get into Harvard. Then somebody noticed that snippets from Viswanathan’s book appeared verbatim in other, earlier “chick-lit” books, and the whole situation turned nasty.

    Now, at the time, the biggest shock to me was how different Viswanathan’s novel was from the one I would have written. In my book, the girl would have gotten to Harvard in chapter 2, been bitten by a vampire in chapter 3 and had to use her vampire powers to fight a host of zombies unleashed upon Boston by a virus leaking from the BU biotech lab in chapters 4 through 9. There’s a real opportunity for inner conflict in that situation: every time the protagonist gives in to her vampiric urges, she loses a bit of her humanity, but she has to use those powers to save her friends. It’s got potential.

    Now that vampires are everywhere, I might have to try harder and ratchet up the story even beyond the vampires + zombies level. Curse you, market saturation. . . .

  25. #25 Clarke
    May 11, 2008

    Hmmm… maybe phylomemetic trees will give us the answer to this. Oh, wait that’l never work there’s too much horizontal meme transfer.

  26. #26 Saraht
    May 11, 2008

    Return to Catholicism

    In 1996, after spending most of her adult life as a self-described atheist, Rice returned to her Roman Catholic faith, which she had not practiced since she was 15. In October 2004, as she reaffirmed her Catholic faith, Rice announced in a Newsweek article that she would “write only for the Lord.” She called Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, her first novel in this genre, the beginning of a trilogy that will chronicle the life of Jesus.

    In an interview with Christianity Today, headlined “Interview with a Penitent”, Rice declared that she will never again write another vampire novel, saying; “I would never go back, not even if they say, ‘You will be financially ruined; you’ve got to write another vampire book.’ I would say no. I have no choice. I would be a fool for all eternity to turn my back on God like that.”

    I don’t know if your Walmart is like this, but mine has a very large section with bibles and other books on faith. I happened to be in a Walmart on Friday and noticed at ours the arrangement of romance to vampire to religious books. Perhaps it is not a coincidence?

  27. #27 Blake Stacey
    May 11, 2008

    Clarke (#24):

    Is your invocation of “phylomemetic trees” and “horizontal meme transfer” a descendant of mine or an independent occurrence of the same traits? ;-)

  28. #28 NinjaDebugger
    May 11, 2008

    The entire urban fantasy genre is plagued by this shit. I’ve read dozens of series in hopes that some of them wouldn’t suck and all but two or three of them have. It’s enough to make a compulsive reader shoot himself.

    The worst part is that if you actually read a lot of these, the majority of the women forbid the vampire from drinking their blood. It’s really just shitty romance novels with a bit of additional pseudo-danger.

  29. #29 HP
    May 11, 2008

    Ah, yes. I call them “sexy-sexy vampires” (with two sexies).

    Stephen Couchman, sure you’re not thinking of Polidori? (Although, IIRC, there’s a fragment of a poem by Byron with a vampire, but I don’t recall whether it’s sexy-sexy or not.)

    Polidori’s The Vampyr has the distinct disadvantage of not making a lick of sense, but LeFanu’s Carmilla is not only a ripping good vampire story, but is still as effective as teen lesbian softcore as it was when it was new.

    The penny-dreadful Varney the Vampire has a vampire who’s a bit more horrible, but he nonetheless holds a powerful sway over his victims (from what I recall; I never finished Varney).

    The first half of Lovecraft’s The Shunned House (before it goes all science-fiction) is the best example I know of a truly otherworldly, repugnant vampire.

    Still, I keep telling myself that one of these days I’m going to learn how to write fiction, and then do a loose adaptation of the Arnold Paoli case, with bloated corpses covered in adipocere, contagion, and unexplained death. It’s time for the disgusting vampire to make a comeback.

  30. #30 MH
    May 11, 2008

    I always associate Vampire novels with Anne Rice, as I was a big fan of her books in my teens (in the late eighties). I’ve just checked her Wikipedia entry, and was surprised to see that in 1996 she became a Catholic! She’s “declared that she will never again write another vampire novel”; she’s decided to write novels about Jesus, instead. Religion is such a killjoy.

  31. #31 Heather
    May 11, 2008

    There are some good ones, but there are also lots of really, really bad ones.

    I like the Black Dagger brotherhood books. They have a plot, and something happens other than sex.

    The Anita Blake books were OK at first – the first 3-4 of them had a focus on fighting whatever bad guy was causing trouble. But as the series went on, they become soft-core porn novels with a really thin plotline coming along for the ride.

    The “Harlequin romance” style ones are pretty bad. They are just like every other romance novel, only the man has fangs. Yawn. I don’t mind a little love thrown in with my vampire books, but I hate romance novels with a little bit of vampire thrown in.

  32. #32 Rub R. D'Key
    May 11, 2008

    Does any of this have anything to do with what I learned in Psychology 101 about consuming the love object or conversely being consumed? The drinking of human blood to transform one into a higher (or lower) state of being smacks as too much of an analogy to transubstantiation to whet my interest. Besides, I will forevermore see Vampires as little more than fallen Sociologist.

  33. #33 MH
    May 11, 2008

    Dang! Saraht beat me to it.

  34. #34 IanR
    May 11, 2008

    What was the vampire RPG that was so popular in the mid-90s?

  35. #35 Rub R. D'Key
    May 11, 2008

    Meaning no disrespect to “Sociologist” I meant “Scientologist.” Senior moment there!

  36. #36 El Vampire
    May 11, 2008

    Not sure what all the vampire stuff is about. I was never into Buffy either. How do the religious people reconcile the coolness of vampires, the strength of their cross against them, with the implicitly sacrilegious belief in monsters?

    I can’t speak for Muhammad, nor can I quote the Bible. But I’m damn sure of one thing.

    Jesus hearts Muhammad, and that’s what the crazy f*cking world needs to recognize.

  37. #37 wazza
    May 11, 2008

    It’s the… penetrative aspect.

    (see? I didn’t even have to bother to make up my own explanation… this is what mass market literature does to you)

  38. #38 Pierce R. Butler
    May 11, 2008

    PZ Myers: … while I was there, bored and awaiting the mistress’s orders…

    Don’t let the ninjitsu-trained Trophy Wife catch y’all together, and remember the TW is the one to call the next time you need bailing out from the police station late at night…

  39. #39 Facehammer
    May 11, 2008

    #28, there’s just one more horrifying, otherworldly sort-of slightly vampirish thing that I’ve come across, and it was also a product of Lovecraft. It was the subject of The Color out of Space.

    I think that story is the literary equivalent of a lot of stuff done by the band Opeth: I’ve never come across anything quite like either before or since, and for me, neither ever lose their sense of pulsing with dark life and power.

  40. #40 wazza
    May 11, 2008

    And yes, the christian interpretation of vampires is that they perform a dark sacrament, in order to gain eternal life. So even christians think of vampirism as a satire of communion.

  41. #41 Jaycubed
    May 11, 2008

    “Anne Rice ‘declared that she will never again write another vampire novel’; she’s decided to write novels about Jesus, instead.
    Posted by: MH”

    There was a comic book series a few years ago, Jesus Christ, King of the Vampires, which pointed out the reasons why Jesus was a Vampire.

    I don’t remember them all, but he wants your soul, you must drink of his blood to be a follower & he must be invited in.

    Personally, I love Cthulu Sex magazine.

  42. #42 Flamethorn
    May 11, 2008

    Ted, Day Watch and Twilight Watch are as good as Night Watch.

    And for Magical Detectives that don’t suck, see Dresden Files after about book four, and Patricia Briggs starting with Moon Called.

  43. #43 DiscoveredJoys
    May 11, 2008

    My guess is that the attraction of typical romantic stories, first appearing in the Medieval period, has run its course. People no longer expect beautiful but innocent young women to be found and won by tall dark handsome men. The genre has become commoditised and therefore devalued, but the desire for socially acceptable stories about sex and/or love has been met by the more fantastical vampire stories.

    Baudrillard proposed an ‘immanent rerversal’, a reversal of meaning and direction, where things turn into their opposites. Goods for barter become symbols of value (money), which in turn becomes credit cards (so we go from wealth in the hand to payment for current goods by ‘future’ money).

    By the same process I suggest romantic stories of pure love and life transform into stories of lust and death. I suspect the transformation of hard Sci-Fi into airy fairy Fantasy is also the result of immanent reversal.

    You could of course argue that, similarly, religious faith could transform into atheism, but at the risk that atheism could in turn transform into another illogical belief…

  44. #44 Gregory Kusnick
    May 11, 2008

    #18:

    Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897, and was continuing a literary tradition of erotic bloodsuckers in the vein (sorry) of Le Fanu and Lord Byron.

    Since you bring him up, Byron is a protagonist (along with Shelley and Keats) in what is perhaps my favorite vampire novel, Tim Powers’ The Stress of Her Regard. Tim Burton’s film Corpse Bride shamelessly rips off the setup of this novel, in which a young man, while nervously practicing his wedding vows, accidentally marries a creature of the undead.

    My second favorite vampire novel would probably be George R.R. Martin’s Fevre Dream, in which vampires haunt the antebellum South as Mississippi riverboat gamblers. What makes this book interesting is Martin’s naturalistic slant on it: these vampires aren’t supernatural; they’re a nocturnal hominid species evolved to prey on Homo sapiens, and all the nonsense about mirrors and holy water and converting people to vampirism is just ignorant mythology that has grown up around the kernel of anthropological truth.

  45. #45 Pierce R. Butler
    May 11, 2008

    MH: … Anne Rice… “declared that she will never again write another vampire novel”; she’s decided to write novels about Jesus, instead.

    Not a big difference, switching from vampire stories to zombie fiction.

  46. #46 Greg Laden
    May 11, 2008

    Hey! What are you doing out! Get back in there …

    /poke/ … /poke, poke/ ….

    There. Now stay in there.

  47. #47 MPW
    May 11, 2008

    Visited family in Florida last weekend, and my precocious 13-year-old cousin is devouring the latest Stephanie Meyer book (gads, that thing is huge – when I was that age, I was almost the only kid reading books that size). She’s never heard of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, apparently, but squealed in excitement upon just seeing the word on the cover of the Season One DVD set I gave her. [rubbing hands and cackling in villainous glee] Another convert… eeeeexcellent.

  48. #48 Hairy Doctor Professor
    May 11, 2008

    Not having read any vampire books save for the original Dracula, I would have put down the speculation that the recent glut might have been due to the fans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” coming of age and writing their own fan-fic. From the descriptions of the genre listed here, I’m pretty certain that I’ve spent my reading time wisely.

    Only slightly off-topic, does anyone else here have the perception that the real value of Buffy, Angel, Forever Knight, et. al., was to show what the world would look like and how really screwed up it would be if religion actually worked as advertised?

  49. #49 MRL
    May 11, 2008

    @Flamethorn #42:

    Excuse me, are you saying that the first four Dresden Files books suck? Because if so, I’m afraid I may have to suspend your geek membership.

  50. #50 parmasson
    May 11, 2008

    Actually, I think that Anne Rice’s “re-conversion” probably directly correlates with the gradual decline in quality of her Vampire Chronicles series. Honestly, they jumped the shark after Queen of the Dammed and just kind of spun off into endless navel-gazing drivel. The last couple were just awful. (Reading the last couple of books for review at my job was a real chore.)

    To be quite honest, I don’t think she was ever more that a “self-proclaimed” atheist – most likely for the media shock value of calling herself that. If you read her later Vampire Chronicle books they are overtly religious examinations of good and evil and the nature of godhood.

    Remember kiddies, even when the scary satanic vampires fail you, God is always profitable.

  51. #51 parmasson
    May 11, 2008

    Actually, I think that Anne Rice’s “re-conversion” probably directly correlates with the gradual decline in quality of her Vampire Chronicles series. Honestly, they jumped the shark after Queen of the Dammed and just kind of spun off into endless navel-gazing drivel. The last couple were just awful. (Reading the last couple of books for review at my job was a real chore.)

    To be quite honest, I don’t think she was ever more that a “self-proclaimed” atheist – most likely for the media shock value of calling herself that. Kind of like all of those 16 year old girls who become Wiccans to (subconsciously) shock their friends and family. If you read her later Vampire Chronicle books they are overtly religious examinations of good and evil and the nature of godhood.

    Remember kiddies, even when the scary satanic vampires fail you, God is always profitable.

  52. #52 xebecs
    May 11, 2008

    At last I get to reveal my sole claim to fame!

    Back in the late 80′s, I worked with and was friendly with Laurell’s husband (now ex), and played D&D with the two of them maybe half a dozen times. This was before the vampire thing, when she was still doing conventional fantasy.

    Now for the pathetic part. Even though Laurell has certainly forgotten I ever existed, I feel compelled to read each of her books. I actually like the vampire ones, although I admit they have strayed away from good old-fashioned blood-sucking fun and into “How many ways can we shock grandmother this time” territory.

  53. #53 JayneK
    May 11, 2008

    “I don’t think she was ever more that a “self-proclaimed” atheist” -# 50

    No true atheist would become a Catholic, right?

  54. #54 Dave Lartigue
    May 11, 2008

    [Sturgeon's] Revelation (sometimes called the Second Law): “Ninety percent of everything is crap,” has sort of overtaken it in notoriety (for obvious reasons).

    Which is not to say the other 10% isn’t also crap.

  55. #55 Bachalon
    May 11, 2008

    @MRL, #49, I’ll say it then.

    All the Dresden files books are fucking terrible. LKH is terrible too, and so is Stephanie Meyer.

    Just because you’re a geek doesn’t mean you have to like everything. Keep in mind this is coming from someone who willingly sought out copies of Galaxy 666, Pink Dolphin, and has an undying love for writers like Murray Leinster because they’re bad (and that’s being kind).

    It seems people will read anything but what’s good. That’s why Paul Park and Barry N. Malzberg seem to go out of print immediately. Most modern readers of the genre (especially the younger ones) have no idea of all the forgotten classics that helped shape sci-fi into what it is today.

    Don’t get me wrong, taste is taste, and I will never tell someone they can’t read a book, but to me it seems like the reading public is hellbent on finding and elevating the worst possible stuff.

  56. #56 Dutch Delight
    May 11, 2008

    Vampires… for some reason I could never enjoy that stuff. I can deal with Heisenberg “compensators” but anything like vampires or other critters from the fantasy genre leave me cold. I mean, humans with fangs, sucking blood but only at night, garlic in the role of kryptonite together with crosses, silver bullets and wooden stakes… It makes no sense at all.

  57. #57 Ted D
    May 11, 2008

    When it comes to the Dresden Files, I can warmly recommend the audio book versions (I think they’re up to number four), read by James Marsters who played Spike in Buffy. Love his voice.

    What was the vampire RPG that was so popular in the mid-90s?

    Posted by: IanR | May 11, 2008 5:24 PM

    It was Vampire: The Masquerade. It still exists in another incarnation, Vampire: The Requiem. I own a copy of the former, along with a few books for its extension “Victorian Age Vampire”, which is excellent fun to play.

  58. #58 anonymouswriterinNM
    May 11, 2008

    Confession: I’m a regular Pharyngula reader, and I write “those” novels.

    Yup. I was one of the first romance novelists, back in the early 90′s, to write what’s now called paranormal romance. To that point, my background was entirely in reading SF/fantasy. So when I found myself writing a romance novel (which came about very strangely and without any real intention on my part), I chose a werewolf hero… not the cursed kind, but a species capable of changing at will.

    The book sold. I’ve been writing romance for 15 years, and this new incarnation of paranormal romance is just the latest and strongest of several that have cropped up over my career. I’ve stuck by it since the beginning, quite independent of fads, though I only recently added vampires to my repertoire.

    Romance readers have always enjoyed “dark” heroes. Many of the original tropes are no longer acceptable: the fanatasy rape novels of former years are long gone, and men who disrespect women are out, too. The natural fit for the new hero is a supernatural one. He’s dangerous without being a bastard, at least most of the time.

    And no, I don’t believe that what I write is true. I’m a closet atheist because if my readers knew, I’d lose 50% of them at least. And I do this for a living. (I read mysteries, SF, suspense and historical novels by preference.)

  59. #59 sueinNM
    May 11, 2008

    Confession: I’m a regular Pharyngula reader, and I write “those” novels.

    Yup. I was one of the first romance novelists, back in the early 90′s, to write what’s now called paranormal romance. To that point, my background was entirely in reading SF/fantasy. So when I found myself writing a romance novel (which came about very strangely and without any real intention on my part), I chose a werewolf hero… not the cursed kind, but a species capable of changing at will.

    The book sold. I’ve been writing romance for 15 years, and this new incarnation of paranormal romance is just the latest and strongest of several that have cropped up over my career. I’ve stuck by it since the beginning, quite independent of fads, though I only recently added vampires to my repertoire.

    Romance readers have always enjoyed “dark” heroes. Many of the original tropes are no longer acceptable: the fanatasy rape novels of former years are long gone, and men who disrespect women are out, too. The natural fit for the new hero is a supernatural one. He’s dangerous without being a bastard, at least most of the time.

    And no, I don’t believe that what I write is true. I’m a closet atheist because if my readers knew, I’d lose 50% of them at least. And I do this for a living. (I read mysteries, SF, suspense and historical novels by preference.)

  60. #60 Paul W.
    May 11, 2008

    Only slightly off-topic, does anyone else here have the perception that the real value of Buffy, Angel, Forever Knight, et. al., was to show what the world would look like and how really screwed up it would be if religion actually worked as advertised?

    Lots of people have that perception. Joss Whedon (the creator) is an atheist, and his shows are all very secular humanisty.

    In Buffy and Angel, supernatural beings are just especially problematic troublemakers to be dealt with. People who worship them are pathetic dupes and/or amoral opportunists and/or evil assholes.

    In one episode, a goddess demands to be worshipped, and Buffy says “We don’t bow down to gods anymore.” Cool.

  61. #61 Bob Vogel
    May 11, 2008

    No disrespect, PZ, but screw vampire novels.

    As a biologist who obviously loves life I cannot believe you do not spend more of your time outdoors enjoying what you first described in this post. Miles and miles using your quadriceps – skiing, biking, walking, running… steadily increasing your heart capacity, thereby, and hopefully, your longevity… thinking of your potential grandkids – all the while and in the moment, breathing in that fresh air, listening to those wonderful birds, sunshine beating down on your face along with the rain, wind, mosquitoes, and whatever else mother nature throws out in rural Minnesota.

    Its just that you and Hitch seem to have a lot in common aside from astronomical brain function – you both seem bent on letting your bodies go to hell while simultaneously sending the message about how this life is all that there is. (a message that I happen to rather agree with)

    So no disrespect at all intended here, and use of the word “hell” is strictly as a metaphor. I appreciate what you and other posters write everyday. This just makes me curious. I surely don’t expect you to look like Arnold or anything. Seems as tho this would be a very important factor in your life, if not one of “thee” most important things.

  62. #62 Julie K
    May 11, 2008

    @Dutch #56

    You want vampires that make sense? Read “Blindsight” by Peter Watts. He’s got hard-SF vampires. It’s also a first contact story that explores the reasons for consciousness. (Ans: not much use and a pretty bad idea, really). I enthusiastically recommend it.

  63. #63 Steve_C
    May 11, 2008

    Health nuts can be so annoying.

  64. #64 Julie K
    May 11, 2008


    all the while and in the moment, breathing in that fresh air, listening to those wonderful birds, sunshine beating down on your face along with the rain, wind, mosquitoes, and whatever else mother nature throws out in rural Minnesota.

    I imagine the severe lack of cephalopods in Minnesota is partly to blame.

  65. #65 Sangy
    May 11, 2008

    An example of the breadth of this craze: Twilight is becoming a movie. Link to the trailer below.

    http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=33429578

  66. #66 Julie K
    May 11, 2008

    Steve_C #63
    Health nuts can be so annoying.

    Agreed. And as an antidote I recommend the novella “The Healthy Dead” by Steven Erikson. It is a fantasy about a city fixated on health and priding itself on how fit and healthy its corpses are. The book has a warning at the front warning lifestyle fascists away.

    Oh yeah, and I can be found inside reading while the sun is shining, birds are chirping, and baby squirrels frolicking.

  67. #67 Dave Godfrey
    May 11, 2008

    The closest I’ve come to this genre, other than the classics (Dracula, Carmilla, etc) is Sunshine by Robin McKinley, which spends an awful lot of its time talking about baking. Vampires definitely have glamour in it, but underneath they really aren’t pleasant.

  68. #68 Bourgeois Nerd
    May 11, 2008

    Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
    will tell you all you need to know, and more, about the current romance genre, including paranormal, and even tell you what REALLY sucks, what just kinda sucks, and what is awesome. Those bitches are FUNNY.

  69. #69 Thomas M. Wagner
    May 11, 2008

    The insane popularity of vampire fiction certainly is no surprise to me, as I review fantasy and science fiction online professionally, and find my mailbox bombarded with an endless stream of paranormal romances and paranormal investigator novels every single month. The Butcher stuff is great; the copycats, not so much. It’s sadly homogenizing the SF/fantasy racks in bookstores, making it harder for the truly distinctive and innovative books to stand out and find an audience. And while I would append Sturgeon’s Law to Wagner’s Law (90% of everything is merely mediocre), those books tend to be law abiding citizens in that regard.

  70. #70 Stephen Couchman
    May 11, 2008

    @ 52

    Ha. If Hamilton thinks she’s fooling anybody that her books are anything more than horror porn liberally sprinkled over role playing game plots, she needs a stronger buff on her sanity check. I’ve suspected for years that the people she credits as her “writers’ group” are actually the gamers whose characterizations she plunders.

    Props to #44 for the GRRM shout-out. I see nobody else has pimped the currently-running CBS series Moonlight, which is basically Forever Night with less moping and more humanity. If you’re fans of the genre, or if you just want to watch Sophia Myles be intelligent and fetching on a weekly basis, tune in.

    Of course, most of these vampire stories stylishly dodge the monstrousness of being a blood-drinking walking corpse. The vampires are basically occult superheroes, or in another sense, a dark, sometimes sensual expression of our desire to transcend our mortal limitations. When the transhuman singularity really takes off and biomorphism is commonplace, you KNOW vampirism is going to be one of the first big fashion waves.

  71. #71 Rey Fox
    May 11, 2008

    “What was the vampire RPG that was so popular in the mid-90s?”

    Bigfoot: The Malodorousness

    http://www.brunching.com/vampirefaqk.html

  72. #72 Rey Fox
    May 11, 2008

    I wonder if the werewolf genre will be as big as the vampire one some day. Seems like I trip over a new one of those every time I look at the paperback section at a store. Years ago, I had figured if I were to ever write a novel, it would be about shape-shifting animal people of some sort, but that seems to be awfully saturated these days too. *shrug* Oh well, I couldn’t ever write a novel anyway. I can’t come up with enough new creative material.

  73. #73 Ted D
    May 11, 2008

    When the transhuman singularity really takes off and biomorphism is commonplace, you KNOW vampirism is going to be one of the first big fashion waves.

    Posted by: Stephen Couchman | May 11, 2008 7:03 PM

    Now if that isn’t a the plot of a (probably mediocre) novel already, it surely will be soon.

  74. #74 Pierce R. Butler
    May 11, 2008

    Bachalon @ # 55: … an undying love for writers like Murray Leinster because they’re bad…

    I dare you (or anybody) to find a better premonition of Teh Internetz than “A Logic Named Joe” (1946).

  75. #75 dorid
    May 11, 2008

    These things come in waves. A few years ago, if you were paying attention, they were all knights and highlanders. Before that they were all Indian… er… Native American… and before that it was ranchers.

    One if the interesting things with romance novels is the large number of humor romance novels…. and yes, you get some pretty interesting humor vampire romance novels. Back about a decade ago there was a specific line of humor romance novels (called: A Wink and a Kiss).

    I’m not surprised we’re seeing an increase in vampire romance… we’re seeing it again on TV… loads of stories with vampires, fallen angels, redeemed demons and so on. It seems the more messed up a culture is (usually due to economic chaos and loss of personal freedom) the more interested in the supernatural (including gods)

  76. #76 Bob Vogel`
    May 11, 2008

    Ha. No health nut here. Just asking a question I figured would be obvious to just about anyone who has the ability to observe. Richard and Sam appear to take great care of themselves and live the very message they are trying to get across by just looking at them. How can this not be relevant if you are trying to convince people? Thought you guys loved a bit of controversy as well as reality. I see this as reality in your face. I’m no hardbody. I am the exact same age as PZ. But I know I could kick his ass hiking up the side of a mountain, or riding a century on a bike. My brother, who’s also an atheist and is 10 years my senior, is currently hiking the Appalacian Trail, from its southern terminus to Maine.

    My point? I admire and devour everything PZ writes, but in my mind, my brother actually lives it in thought, word, and deed. Words barely cut the surface with most people. Words coupled with lifestyle speak much louder and hold more weight in my mind.

  77. #77 Unstable Isotope
    May 11, 2008

    Rey, I think the werewolves and other mythical beings will continue to grow. I think they appeal as heroes in romances now because they can be the strong “alpha” types and not come across as a raging arsehole (which you wouldn’t be able to pull off with a normal male).

    SueinNM, I’m sorry you can’t really be yourself with fans. It’s sad to me sometimes that you can’t pick up a piece of escapist fiction without being hit over the head with Christian messages. I have a definite list of authors I avoid for this reason.

    If anyone is interested in the paranormal romance genre I recommend J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood books (vampires) and for kick-ass heroines, Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series (valkyries, werewolves, vampires, demons, ghosts…). Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters are also very popular and enjoyable.

  78. #78 Rey Fox
    May 11, 2008

    Are you gonna take that lying down, PZ! Grab a protein bar and head for the nearest mountain!

  79. #79 Evan
    May 11, 2008

    What you don’t realize is that those weren’t always vampire novels. They used to be perfectly ordinary romance and mystery novels, westerns, chick-lit… even hard SF. But then, late at night, the vampire novels snuck over from the horror section and bit them. And now they are doomed to spend eternity as goth-wannabe genre fluff. Tragic.

  80. #80 Blake Stacey
    May 11, 2008

    Miles and miles using your quadriceps – skiing, biking, walking, running… steadily increasing your heart capacity, thereby, and hopefully, your longevity… thinking of your potential grandkids – all the while and in the moment, breathing in that fresh air, listening to those wonderful birds, sunshine beating down on your face along with the rain, wind, mosquitoes, and whatever else mother nature throws out in rural Minnesota.

    If there were ever the perfect advertisement for junk food, caffeine and the companionship of a fast computer, this would be pretty damn close.

  81. #81 Voracious
    May 11, 2008

    With as many SF readers as have made themselves known in this thread, I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Fledgling, by Octavia E. Butler. It’s a good novel with the Butler twists and an account–based in fictional part on evolutionary biology–of the origin and future of vampires. Recommended as a health-giving antidote to Wal-Mart vampire softcore.

  82. #82 Noni Mausa
    May 11, 2008

    I read two vampire/werewolf writers — Hamilton, and the lighter, funny and complicated books of Charlaine Harris. (I was blown away by “Interview With a Vampire” when it was new — now, not so much.)

    I cannot believe that none of you have mentioned three of the fascinating features of these novels, besides the sex and violence.

    One of these is their complexity. Harris’ and Hamilton’s worlds are woven like a bosun’s rope, threads binding together across three, five, or all the books. Hamilton is beginning to annoy me with how slowly the plot advances, but generally keeping track of all the characters and their interactions keeps me interested.

    Another is the humour. Harris’ books in particular have an unusual and charming vein of humour that keeps me engaged. But those are minor beside the single, shared, anchoring premise of their books.

    The third and most important theme is power. In all of their books the main characters, all women, have strength, powers and position which mean their actions and decisions are central to the lives of all the characters around them — generally they are uniquely important.

    Meredith Gentry, Fairie Princess, is a trained killer and cunning political actor, but these are the least of her powers. Centrally, she is the source of fertility and beneficence which will reawaken the sterile life of the people of fairie. She adopts lovers the way some women adopt stray animals, by the dozens. They come from all the sentient fairie species, (and hybrids) and by her power, sincere care (and a lot of sex) is rapidly getting their stagnant powers growing again.

    How about Anita Blake, Necromancer and Vampire Executioner? Same deal, but without the scent of roses.

    Meanwhile, Sookie Stackhouse, telepath and lover to many of the vampire/shapeshifter/werewolf community, is a humble waitress who just happens to protect and defend and concern herself with their politics and well-being.

    There’s a strong taint of Mary Sue in all these books, but oh well.

    With these two authors, at least, the core formula is female power and protection, marinated in a spicy sauce of supernatural critters. (PZ!! Read Anita Blake! There are tentacles!)

    What does this tell me about the women who feast on these books? It tells me they are starved for the strength to defend and nurture themselves and the ones they love. Hamilton’s heroines can kill, but prefer to care and convert and transform.

    Why would American women by the millions want the power to protect themselves and nourish those they love? Could it be because they mostly feel they don’t have that ability? Ya think?

    Noni

  83. #83 Bachalon
    May 11, 2008

    Pierce, very true. I should have been more specific in that the bulk of his work (since Leinster was a prolific writer) was wretched. Have you read “The Greks Bring Gifts?”

    Keep in mind, also, that sci-fi isn’t a working model of the future.

  84. #84 Rav Winston
    May 11, 2008

    Well, what’s not to like about vampyr? At least, the kind they have in America these days?

    My family does in fact come from Transylvania, and if my grandparents wanted to frighten me, Necuratu would do it quite well.

    It seems to me that the vampyr has been stripped of its curses– Eternal thirst that can never be slaked, eternal life in eternal isolation from man and god, eternal lust that cannot be satisfied, vast powers over nature that are yet bound be equally great restrictions.

    But these days, the vampyr is simply a happy little sex-mosquito. Hell, in one of Rice’s novels, one of her vampires discovers it can survivie on menstrual blood instead of life’s blood! He must have been under the protection of every last female in the entire city! These days, if you’re a vampyr, you get to be eternally young, beautiful, have vast powers, and you still get to be self absorbed and feel sorry for yourself.

    Pathetic. That’s what it is.

    I rather like the portrayal in Shadow of the Vampire best. That comes closest to what I think of as a real vampyr.

  85. #85 SueinNM
    May 11, 2008

    The arrogance and ignorance I often see regarding romance novels is astonishing. They aren’t any better or worse than books in any other genre, on average, though most don’t suit my personal taste. Even romance novels can take a hell of a lot of work if you care about the craft as I do.

    Some people have actually put THOUGHT into building these worlds and don’t just rely on garlic and silver bullets. Some of us even think about the psychology of the characters and go for the complex, not the simplistic. In my last book, I used the dangers of religious fanaticism as a major plot point (and wasn’t even sure it would get past my editor.)

    But I guess I’m not likely to get through to the “hyper-intelligent” and tasteful folks on this site, much as I love to read P.Z.

  86. #86 Unstable Isotope
    May 11, 2008

    Sue, I agree that romance novels are often overlooked and made fun of. I think it’s because they are primarily written by and marketed to women, and are thought of as lesser. Romance novels are no different than other genres, some are well-written and some are not. A lot of people are hung up on the sex in many of the books even though most don’t contain more than other genres.

  87. #87 David Utidjian
    May 11, 2008

    All I can say is Kate Beckinsale in tight leather getup…. Rowwrrrr!!

    -DU-

  88. #88 Steve
    May 11, 2008

    Yeah, but have you tried buying a collegiate dictionary?
    I only go there to buy Shotgun News, the rest of my money in used bookstores, now that new books are to expensive. Remember when you could get a James Blish Star Trek adaptation for $.95 or less?

  89. #89 raven
    May 11, 2008

    Suzy Mckee Charnas:

    Walter Kendrick remarked in an article on current vampire literature that The Vampire Tapestry “ranks among the genre’s few modern classics.”

    – New York Times

    All right. While we are plugging real vampire novels. Charnas’s Tapestry is good. There is nothing supernatural about the vampire, it is a coevolved predator.

    And running out of room as humans become more powerful.

  90. #90 Alan Kellogg
    May 11, 2008

    For another different look at the matter consider the Kitty Norville books of Carrie Vaughn. Kitty is a late night radio talk show host and werewolf in a world which has just learned that werewolves and vampires exist. But which is not yet aware, largely because they haven’t thought about it, that other supernatural elements exist as well.

    What makes the series different is that Carrie considers consequences and implications others don’t. Such as the fact the mundane authorities will take an interest in how the paranormal community acts, and insist that such as vampires and werewolves behave. In the latest, Kitty and the Silver Bullet a Denver CO police lieutenant lets the town’s new master vampire know that the old ways will no longer be tolerated, and that Denver’s vampires had better change their ways or be destroyed.

    The best of these supernatural romances are stories about people. Some of them people with profound differences, but people. Those differences can produce great changes, but those changes are a result not only of newly gained powers, but of human nature as well. We think of vampires as being inhuman, but in truth they are very human creatures, with differences that are dealt with on a human basis. A house cat vampire would be a different beast indeed.

    In the long run these books are a way to get away for awhile. That’s all they need to be.

  91. #91 Dan S.
    May 11, 2008

    Let me just say, there’s a scene in Hamilton’s Obsidian Butterfly that I really, really wish I could un-read.

  92. #92 Jim Thomerson
    May 11, 2008

    My wife and I have stayed in the Anne Rice suite of the Hotel Ponchartrain in New Orleans, but I have never read a vampire book. Sorry about that!

  93. #93 Mez
    May 11, 2008

    I haven’t seen the film version that came out this year, so I don’t know how that treated it, but Richard Matheson’s book I am Legend, from the mid-1950s, was a good read for me in the 1960s, and an interesting twist on the traditional vampire idea.

    He apparently also wrote (or in the New English that’s around, writed) The Incredible Shrinking Man, better known from its film. It also is a good read, and the film’s not bad either. So maybe it’s an idea to check out his other works, if not new, second-hand or in libraries. They’re usually more compact than the sprawling paper bricks often around more recently, and tend towards horror or supernatural if you’re into that, e.g. Hell House.

  94. #94 Pierce R. Butler
    May 11, 2008

    Bachalon @ # 83 – … the bulk of his work (since Leinster was a prolific writer) was wretched.

    At age circa-14, when I gobbled up everything he wrote, that wasn’t a problem for me. Alas, can no longer recall enough of “Greks” to respond appropriately…

    Keep in mind, also, that sci-fi isn’t a working model of the future.

    Yeah, “A Logic Named Joe” aside, almost all of it was a damnsure poor prep for the 21st century. That said, sf does help in cultivating the now-necessary taste for dystopian surrealism.

    Thomas M. Wagner, consider yourself bookmarked!

  95. #95 Bob Vogel
    May 11, 2008

    Blake #80 – You forgot alcohol… Its amazing how a stiff shot of So Co on an empty stomach after a long ride will allow you to make a post when otherwise you’d just be content to lurk…;)

  96. #96 gleaner63
    May 11, 2008

    SueinNM in #85,

    You said: “The arrogance and ignorance I often see regarding romance novels is astonishing”.

    There also seems to be a lot of the same regarding the science-fiction venue. When I was in high school in the late 70′s, the teacher told us she had to approve the book we had to do a report on. I approached her with a Harry Harrison novel called “Skyfall”. You can guess the rest. Although we had to read the Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies and all the rest, we were never allowed to read anything in the Sci-Fi category. In a similar fashion, my sister who is an english teacher has NEVER read Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs or even H.G. Wells. I remember my second grade teacher calling my comic books “funny books”. She caught me one day with a comic book tucked neatly inside what I was supposed to be reading. On the cover of the comic was a huge red octopus destroying the golden gate bridge. Now that was literature!

  97. #97 Bachalon
    May 11, 2008

    Pierce @93:

    It was a reworking of the Trojan Horse myth. One of his better works.

    SueinNM. The problem is that a lot of what is popular is, to me at least, horrible. When someone says “romance” I have to remind myself not to immediately think of Danielle Steele and Nora Roberts. I wish more people were aware of writers like Jeffrey Farnol or Berta Ruck.

    I have no doubt that writing a good romance novel takes work as does all good writing, but how many authors are willing to do that? Now how many authors that do that are bestsellers. By and large what is popular is almost always so for a reason.

  98. #98 Clarke
    May 11, 2008

    #27 Blake Stacy, nope I developed that completely independently of your comment.

  99. #99 Bachalon
    May 11, 2008

    Gleaner, you can blame Hugo Gernsbeck for the pulpy images associated with sci-fi by many people.

    I have that same problem: as many readers as I run into, so few of them have read much sci-fi beyond Ender’s Game or Dune.

  100. #100 mn_monkey
    May 11, 2008

    I have no idea if this is actually the case, but The Historian http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Historian/Elizabeth-Kostova/e/9780641811685/?itm=1 was actually a really good read, IMHO. And its popularity might account for the resurrection of the blood sucking genre.

  101. #101 gleaner63
    May 11, 2008

    In regard to one’s prejudice about what is or isn’t “good” literature, this thinking extends into other pastimes as well, including music and movies (I’d rather listen to Bach than Bachman-Turner Overdrive). My former boss-lady asked me what my favorite movie was and I told her probably the original Planet of the Apes movie. “Oh”, she responded, “…I only like movies about real things…like Moulon Rouge (sp)”. I wanted to say but was afraid of getting fired that I wasn’t aware that Moulon Rouge was a documentary…

  102. #102 Blake Stacey
    May 11, 2008

    Clarke (#97) — aha! It’s convergent meme evolution!

    Bachalon (#99):

    I have that same problem: as many readers as I run into, so few of them have read much sci-fi beyond Ender’s Game or Dune.

    Neither of which, it happens, I have read. At least, I know I haven’t read Ender’s Game, and when my friends and I stayed up all through the night a few weeks ago watching the Dune miniseries, I couldn’t remember what would happen next, although I do seem to recall a copy of the book in my old bedroom. I picked it up (or maybe got it as a gift) sometime early in high school, and either I never started it or I read so little of it that it didn’t stick in my mind.

    There. I’ve said it. SF readers may now ostracize me.

  103. #103 Bachalon
    May 11, 2008

    Gleaner, not to nitpick semantics, but how are you defining “good” in this instance?

  104. #104 Stephanie Z
    May 11, 2008

    While we’re plugging, Saberhagen’s Dracula books were (mostly) excellent.

    SueinNM, I hope you’re at least getting the benefit of the trend in sales. That tends to be the major upside of the romance ghetto. For what it’s worth, some of us do understand that you need to do at least as much work to keep the genre fresh and the readers interested, and we appreciate it.

    Anybody know whether Anne Rice has officially repudiated her Anne Rampling books as well? Or is submissive porn okay with Catholics?

  105. #105 gg
    May 11, 2008

    While we’re on the subject of ‘super-sexy’ vampires, I thought I’d highlight a post I did some time ago about ‘unconventional’ vampire stories, meaning not the super-suave types…

  106. #106 False Prophet
    May 11, 2008

    #55
    @MRL, #49, I’ll say it then.

    All the Dresden files books are fucking terrible. LKH is terrible too, and so is Stephanie Meyer.

    Yeah, I couldn’t get halfway through the first Dresden book; it was so bad. So many of these writers have such stilted, formulaic prose, committing many of the same sins as Christopher Paolini.

    #70
    See, there are so many writers recycling their standard college RPG experiences, and so many of them are bad. Once in a while you get a decent one like Raymond E. Feist (the first 10 books or so, anyway), but most just suck. Neil Gaiman said it best:

    “Once people realized there was a genre, they started “doing” other people, doing Tolkien. They became faint photocopies. You get these great big books which are set in a medieval kingdom that is basically somebody’s impression of what they liked about Tolkien, combined with what they enjoyed about playing Dungeons and Dragons as a high schooler. That’s not what we’re doing.”

    btw, speaking as a former Readers’ Advisory Librarian, let me recommend Nancy Pearl’s page rule: subtract your age from 100. That’s how many pages of a book you should read before deciding whether to put it down or not.

  107. #107 gleaner63
    May 11, 2008

    Bachalon,

    If I get your meaning, I don’t think I could define what “good” literature. It seems subjective to me. In reference to my teachers opinion about the relative value of scince-fiction versus the so-called “classics”, it seems to me she was placing a value of one genre over another; anything by Hemingway=good, anything by Harrison=bad. Personally I read different books for different reasons. It’s “fun” to read Star Wars, takes a little more thought to get through “Atlas Shrugged”. I’m not sure if I’ve answered your question though…

  108. #108 Bachalon
    May 11, 2008

    False Prophet, #106

    The thing is, few people have given Paolini the praise that a lot of other authors are getting. By now, people know he’s just a fourth-tier fantasy writer with no imagination.

    That being said, I tried to read the first Twilight book twice, and couldn’t make it past the first 50 pages both times. Reading should never be a chore. I like that rule.

  109. #109 Tulse
    May 11, 2008

    It seems to me that the vampyr has been stripped of its curses– Eternal thirst that can never be slaked, eternal life in eternal isolation from man and god, eternal lust that cannot be satisfied, vast powers over nature that are yet bound be equally great restrictions.

    Exactly. Without a notion of damnation, it’s not really clear why it is bad to be a vampire. Sure, there’s the blood sucking and late nights, but there’s also frickin’ immortality (in addition to various other cool powers depending on the writer/tradition). If there is no God to be forever parted from, I’d be willing to trade an odd diet and no tanning for living eternally.

  110. #110 Bachalon
    May 11, 2008

    gleaner63,

    I think you’re on the right track. Many people define good as “what I like,” but if that’s the case, then the least a book can aspire to is being “good.”

    Yet those same people won’t call a book bad when they run into an opposing opinion.

    I think the problem is that two people may end up meaning different things when they refer to something as “good.”

  111. #111 Monado
    May 11, 2008

    The first several Laurell K. Hamilton vampire books were pretty good. (It’s hard to beat an opening like, “I was covered in blood, but none of it was mine…”) They had an alternative history where everything seemed pretty much the same except that vampires and werewolves were real. Our heroine was a licensed vampire executioner and an animator of the dead (a natural talent that *must* be exercised). There were rules; things had to make sense, etc. But, about the time that she switched husbands, they’ve gotten more and more into the sex/vampire politics/more sex/werecritter politics/more sex/ vein. I struggled through a couple of them but gave up, then tried again, took two tries to read a couple of them, skipped “Micah” altogether then recently abandoned “Danse Macabre” half-way (rare for me).

    “Fledgling” was great! I recommend anything by the late Octavia E. Butler and am sorry she won’t be writing anything more.

    There’s also a werewolf story by Sparkle Hayter called, I think, “Naked Brunch,” which manages to rationalize werewolfery and be amusing at the same time. But my favorite werewolf story is a short called “Boobs” by Suzy McKee Charnas, which won the Hugo award in 1990. Let’s just say the protagonist discoveres that she doesn’t have to suffer high-school harrassers any more.

  112. #112 gleaner63
    May 11, 2008

    A person I know who doesn’t like science-fiction calls the genre “useless”. But I think he misses the point about what the genre is and isn’t. To me at least, it fufills an urge to explore-either on another planet or “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. What it isn’t is the playground of an idle mind. Some of the US astronauts I recall talked about how Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers “fueled” their interest in space travel…

  113. #113 Phoenix Woman
    May 11, 2008

    Laurell K. Hamilton was fine until she got “too big to be edited”. That was around about her fifth book. Then she quickly spiraled down into suckdom.

    Her rationale for the second-by-second delineation of her sex scenes: It would be “hypocritical” to “turn the camera off” for those. Um, gee, not every goddamn sex scene is integral to the plot, just as not every frickin’ trip to the grocery store or to the bathroom rates a second-by-second transcript. Though give her time — I predict that LKH will soon start describing what Anita Blake looks like when she takes a dump.

  114. #114 Gregory Kusnick
    May 11, 2008

    Gleaner, you can blame Hugo Gernsbeck for the pulpy images associated with sci-fi by many people.

    You can also blame Forrest J. Ackerman for coining the term “sci-fi”, widely used as a put-down of SF by mainstream critics (although Forry never meant it that way). To serious SF people, “SF” refers to the 10% good stuff, while “sci-fi” is the 90% crap.

  115. #115 Jams
    May 11, 2008

    Why so hard on genre fiction?

    Martin Amis said that “all writing is a campaign against cliché.” How tired has it become to say that genre fiction is cliché? Tired or not, this seems to be the basic argument against that ever expanding section of the book store where one is not only likely to find cliché, but where it’s manditory.

    The difference between literature and genre fiction isn’t just a difference in category, but a difference in purpose. You could say that literature fails with every cliché, while genre fiction is lashed to it.

    Granted, it’s always impressive when an author can breath life into a tired cliché. The difference is a lot like the difference between fine art and commercial art. The later comes to life within predefined constraints, while the former must reach beyond all constraints.

    I wouldn’t say that all writing is a campaign against cliché, but that all writing measured against it.

  116. #116 Bachalon
    May 11, 2008

    Gleaner, I would humbly like to recommend “Galaxies” by Barry N. Malzberg to you.

    For me sci-fi is a look things that aren’t, that never can be in some sense (some hard sf excepted). It’s an idea take to a logical extreme.

  117. #117 Jams
    May 11, 2008

    I wouldn’t say that all writing is a campaign against cliché, but that all writing is measured against it.

  118. #118 Bachalon
    May 11, 2008

    Gregory Kusnick, I tend to use the terms interchangeably.

  119. #119 gleaner63
    May 11, 2008

    My guess is that science fiction, like our other reading tastes is wired in early (teen years?). I don’t find that most people “stray” from their preferred literature. As for the mainstream critics, I think they take themselves *way* to seriously sometimes. I recall seeing a critics roundtable type discussion some years ago with about 5 critics involved. The first four in their review of the movie in question described themselves as “unmoved”, “left the theater feeling empty”…and so forth. The fifth reviewer looked up and said something like, “…guys…IT’S A MOVIE..maybe you shouldn’t watch movies with the hope that you’ll get some sort of spiritual fufillment or something…”. It’s interesting that Star Wars was turned down by Universal Studions…somebody gotta still be kicken themselves over that one…

  120. #120 gleaner63
    May 11, 2008

    Bachalon at # 116,

    Did a google search on that…looks interesting, I’ll see if I can get this from Amazon. Thanks.

  121. #121 valor
    May 11, 2008

    I used to read “normal” romance novels religiously, and I tell you who I blame for this paranormal romance sh… er, crap. And it’s a name that romance readers know well. Nora Roberts. Now, I’m not anti- paranormal romance when it’s done well (and it can be) but this bizarre chimera of romance and urban fantasy that results in… oh, the Silhouette Nocturne imprint and others of its ilk is pretty appalling. They feature, among other things, the worst puns in written English. And I do not jest.
    But I think the reason it’s so popular is related to a flaw in the standard genre. In formula romance the heroine is always good. Really, really good. I mean, she’s come home from her big-city job (where she conveniently made enough money that she now doesn’t have to work) to sacrifice something for someone who doesn’t deserve it. And she gets rewarded for it. But in paranormal romance, the women are oddly… normal. Human, even. They don’t sacrifice shit, usually. And I think in a way that it’s more realistic because most of the women reading romances aren’t paragons of modern virtue.

    and that’s my two cents.

  122. #122 gleaner63
    May 11, 2008

    Valor at #121:

    You said; “…most of the women reading romances aren’t paragons of modern virtue”.

    Very interesting. When we read novels, regardless of the type, don’t we all imagine ourselves in the roles of the characters? There has to be something there to interest us or we wouldn’t read it. One of the reasons I love Star Wars is because I love the characters. Han Solo is flawed, and yet he manages to be a hero. One reason I dislike the modern Battlestar Galactica series is because all or most of the characters are so flawed that I couldn’t imagine wanting to be any of them or even hang around with them after work. They should call it Battlestar Nuthouse instead. The old series had characters I liked, Lorne Greene for example.

  123. #123 valor
    May 11, 2008

    @gleaner63 #122

    See, the emotional need for a romance novel (if you’ll forgive a bit of pop psychology) is more the hopeful belief that love exists in the world. Therefore, if every heroine is significantly “better” than the reader, the hope that “true love” will ever happen for the reader gradually declines. A realistic and somewhat flawed heroine can prevent this. I’m not saying that she should cheat on her spouse (whom she married specifically so she could cheat on him- that Starbuck thing is weird) just that she shouldn’t be caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s/ orphaned nephew/ child who’s father tragically died every single time.

  124. #124 kat
    May 12, 2008

    vampires are hot. but for added hotness be sure to have long hair… u can bite me now

  125. #125 Bachalon
    May 12, 2008

    Really? I watch the new Battlestar because I want to find out what happens. Now, a chance to take an excursion with the Doctor…

  126. #126 Kseniya
    May 12, 2008

    Where’s Kenny? Isn’t it his job to suck the lifeblood out of every thread here?

  127. #127 Nintenfreak
    May 12, 2008

    All my Wal-Mart ever has is this huge shelf full of born-again Christian bullshit.

  128. #128 Michael X (as Kenny)
    May 12, 2008

    Where’s Kenny? Isn’t it his job to suck the lifeblood out of every thread here?

    Ok, ok, I’ll do it.

    *ahem* “Vampires are metaphors for NDE’s which are proof of my particular version god, who himself has suggested drinking his blood.”

    So? how was that? Did I make too much sense?

  129. #129 Kseniya
    May 12, 2008

    So? how was that? Did I make too much sense?

    Yes, and you forgot the part about how atheists don’t understand vampires because they don’t care but one day they’ll put christians to death anyway because that’s what reason leads to. Or something.

    Ok, now I’m not making any sense. Falling asleep… at… the key…boardzzzzzzzz…………

  130. #130 wazza
    May 12, 2008

    FWIW, those people condemning PZ for not being an overathleticised he-man can shut the fuck up.

    Enjoying life doesn’t mean running ten miles every day. Personally, running ten miles a day counts as punishment. I’d rather encounter new ideas, new viewpoints, new humour. I get out a lot, but I also spend a lot of time on the internet, because I enjoy the meeting of minds I find here. Complaining that PZ isn’t living life because he doesn’t live it the way you think he should is missing the point. Go read some of his posts about science. You can tell, from those, that he’s doing what he enjoys. And that, not conforming to some “healthy” ideal, is the way to live a full and happy life.

    As for this thing, I think people should read what they enjoy. Doesn’t matter if it’s literature. Just so long as you like it.

    As for crap proliferating, I think it’s because if something caters to the LCD, you can recommend it to everyone and be sure they’ll like it.

  131. #131 Venger
    May 12, 2008

    Considering Wal Mart’s known standards and biases I’m shocked anything recent by Hamilton can get sold in their stores. Cheap, badly written, trashy porn would be giving her latest garbage too much credit. Her remaining fans are apparently throwing wild orgies of joy over the fact her newest book starts with a four chapter sex scene.

  132. #132 trrll
    May 12, 2008

    I think that the vampire as sympathetic/tragic hero originates with Dark Shadows, although Anne Rice took it much further. Laurell Hamilton refined the genre into the “vampire porn/gothic.” I still find Hamilton’s novels highly entertaining, even though the very female-oriented (a multitude of beautiful, exquisitely dressed, otherworldly men, all hot for the heroine) explicit sex scenes (which sometimes go on for multiple chapters) don’t do much for me as a man. But she has constructed an interesting alternate world in which vampires and werebeasts are “out” and somewhat accepted (although Kim Newman did something similar previously). She also has developed aspects of vampire and werebeast governance and culture that seem to becoming standards for the genre. And while I generally prefer it when her characters actually get out of bed for a few chapters, she manages to make even the sex scenes advance the plot. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro also wrote some decent “sympathetic vampire” novels, but her St. Germain character is a bit too noble to be really interesting–more of an oppressed superhero than a tormented antihero–which may be why her novels do not seem to have enjoyed the same degree of commercial success as Hamilton’s and Rice’s.

    Hamilton’s success seems to have spawned a swarm of imitators. I’ve picked up some of them, and with a few exceptions (all of which have been mentioned in this thread–I was hoping to hear of some new ones), they’ve all been pretty disappointing.

  133. #133 valor
    May 12, 2008

    trrll,

    if you want good paranormal romance (as I said, it does exist) I suggest Gena Showalter and Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Ann Quick (she writes under different names depending on the timeline of the story). They aren’t vampires, but they’re good. In my opinion, of course.

  134. #134 Quiet Desperation
    May 12, 2008

    Newsflash: PZ emerges into daylight after spending life in underground bunker! I mean, sheesh, where have you been? I avoid sexy vampire fiction like rape, but I know it exists. Well, OK, I watched Underworld, but, c’mon… Kate Beckensale in tight leather outfits? Who doesn’t like that?

  135. #135 gaby
    May 12, 2008

    well unfortunately at my local Wal-Mart the wall of romance novels is right beside the second largest offering of books …religious texts….what an interesting dichotomy

  136. #136 C. L. Hanson
    May 12, 2008

    One funny thing about the Twilight series is that the author is LDS, and Stephenie Meyer isn’t the only Mormon writing vampire romances. The Mormon community’s new-found love/hate relationship with vampire romances is fascinating — I’ve written a bit about it on a Mormon sexuality blog here: Unrealistic Expectations?

  137. #137 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2008

    Michael X (as Kenny) wrote:

    “Vampires are metaphors for NDE’s which are proof of my particular version god, who himself has suggested drinking his blood.”

    And that’s why Anne Rice converted to Christianity and wrote a story about Jesus; “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.”

    I also confess to enjoying a few vampire novels and films, crazy old Whitley Strieber’s “The Hunger” was fun. “Fangland” by John Marks is worth a look.

    These days though, I’m into sexy Cylons.

  138. #138 Flamethorn
    May 12, 2008

    Egads, MRL, I didn’t notice you’d replied.

    I’m just saying… they get better at around Dead Beat. Dude, the zombie that Harry saves the day with!!(Spoilery)

  139. #139 jim
    May 12, 2008

    Interesting. I didn’t realise Anne Rice had converted to Catholicism; I just noticed her swift spiral into dreck at about that time. I enjoyed the first few of the Vampire Chronicles … being a bookish geek, I’m familiar with the usual shrinkage as people borrow books and never return them, and I’m fairly sure my own collection contains several that I borrowed off other people. Rice’s “Memnoch the Devil” is the only book that somebody has borrowed off me and tried to return, and I wouldn’t let them.

  140. #140 alex
    May 12, 2008

    possibly the most jaw-droppingly dismissive example of “genreification” here in the UK is in the music retailers HMV. witness(!) with awe(!) as they brush every single electronica album and every single album ever made by a black person into the highly genreified “Urban/Dance” section, leaving the “Speciality” section exclusively free for Jamie Cullum and friends.

  141. #141 Tulse
    May 12, 2008

    Kate Beckensale in tight leather outfits? Who doesn’t like that?

    Sure, but is it an occult power of vampires that they can’t act their way out of a paper bag?

  142. #142 Bill Dauphin
    May 12, 2008

    [Sturgeon's] Revelation (sometimes called the Second Law): “Ninety percent of everything is crap,” has sort of overtaken it in notoriety (for obvious reasons).

    Which is not to say the other 10% isn’t also crap.

    Actually, I think it is to say exactly that. Sturgeon’s Revelation (which, I confess, I too had been erroneously calling “Sturgeon’s Law” until I read the wiki on Eponymous Laws just last week) is one of my personal touchstones: It’s a perfect counterargument to curmudgeons who point to all the “crap” on TV, or the “crappy” music the kids these days are listening to, or the supposed decline of literature to bolster their contention that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. The point is, it’s the 10% that’s not crap that survives in our cultural memory… with the result that we over-evaluate the brilliance of earlier generations, because all of their crap has disappeared into the recycling bin of history, while ours is still sitting at the curb in full view.

    In college I had a friend whose favorite biblical maxim was “a prophet is not without honor, save in his own country” (I suspect he liked it as much for its mellifluous rhythm as for any meaning he drew from it); I would paraphrase that as “an artist/artform is not without honor, save in its own generation.” Sturgeon’s Revelation is a way of reassuring ourselves that the best of our generation’s output will one day be honored alongside the works of Shakespeare and Mozart, and the worst will be just as forgotten as Shakespeare’s and Mozart’s more pedestrian contemporaries.

  143. #143 Graculus
    May 12, 2008

    What was the vampire RPG that was so popular in the mid-90s?

    Masquerade, from White Wolf.

    Like all RPGs it was pretty romance free. Experienced players could have a lot of fun playing it, though.

    “We’re going to get killed.”

    “That’s OK, we’re already dead.”

  144. #144 Faithful Reader
    May 12, 2008

    Chelsea Quinn Yarborough and Tanith Lee were tapping this vein (‘scuse the pun)twenty years ago. Saint Germaine– now there’s a vampire! All these latter-day poseurs trace to him.
    Someone mentioned Suzy McKee Charnas’ Nebula-winning “Unicorn Tapestry” written in 1980. Weyland the vampire in therapy . . .

  145. #145 Bill Dauphin
    May 12, 2008

    Aren’t all xians, well maybe only catholics, vampires?

    I think most flavors of Christianity “celebrate” the eucharist; I’m not sure how many (if any) other denominations share the Roman Catholic church’s doctrine of transubstantiation.

    But whether symbolic or “real,” the eucharist more closely resembles cannibalism than vampirism: It’s body and blood, and it’s actually the “body” that’s the essential part. The bread is always offered; the wine, not always.

    And, of course, even when you get “blood,” it’s not sucked from a fresh bite wound! ;^)

  146. #146 Kseniya
    May 12, 2008

    The point is, it’s the 10% that’s not crap that survives in our cultural memory… with the result that we over-evaluate the brilliance of earlier generations

    Bill, it may not shock you to learn that my dad has made the exact same argument. He claims there’s always good new music out there, and says anyone who claims otherwise just isn’t listening. When my middle brother decided to become a rock’n'roll scholar, and started saying things like “Older music is better,” Dad pointed out that while every era has its dreck, you’re less likely to hear stale dreck…

    And when Middle Brother proclaimed that “Hendrix stole Clapton’s style,” well, that sparked an interesting conversation… lol.

  147. #147 Iain Walker
    May 12, 2008

    #31:

    The Anita Blake books were OK at first – the first 3-4 of them had a focus on fighting whatever bad guy was causing trouble. But as the series went on, they become soft-core porn novels with a really thin plotline coming along for the ride.

    … additionally padded out with a lot of incredibly dull scenes in which characters stand around explaining the same points of vampire etiquette and werewolf politics over and over again. For sheer, brain-melting banality, Hamilton takes some beating.

    For a decent modern vampire series, try Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula trilogy.

  148. #148 magetoo
    May 12, 2008

    Julie K (62)
    You want vampires that make sense? Read “Blindsight” by Peter Watts.

    I’ve had that book lying around for a while now, courtesy of my local library, and I was just wondering what I should take outside to read.

    For everyone else, the author has made it available online under a Creative Commons license.

  149. #149 Jim A.
    May 12, 2008

    Let me be the first to reccomend Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story. by Christopher Moore. IMHO not as funny as his Coyote Blue but quite funny nontheless.

  150. #150 Will Von Wizzlepig
    May 12, 2008

    WAL-MART?!?!?

    Giving that company any of your money is quite possibly a more offensive action than donating it to a church- letting anyone you know do so without a flaming, scathing work-over is nearly as inexcusable.

    While most large corporations have questionable practices and behavior, Wal-Mart’s business practices are criminal. Period. They purposely and routinely *egregiously* break labor laws, steamroll small towns and communities, force their own workers onto state aid… the list of blatantly offensive illegal behavior is so long I can’t even begin to cover it in a simple comment.

    Poor people in this country are screwed by definition, Wal-Mart purposely takes their situation and makes it even worse in the interest of profit- patronizing their stores is a kick to the teeth of every person struggling to make their life a tiny bit better.

  151. #151 Nimravid
    May 12, 2008

    She’s “declared that she will never again write another vampire novel”; she’s decided to write novels about Jesus, instead. Religion is such a killjoy.

    In this case, I think thanking God is in order.

    There’s a strong taint of Mary Sue in all these books, but oh well.

    Ya think? ;-) I’m pretty sure Harris’ and Hamilton’s heroines are self-inserts, and the sex scenes not simply due to audience demands. Anita Blake especially is on a constant exponentially rising ascent by the accumulation of supernatural powers and lovers. At least she spends less time wangsting in later novels. But that doesn’t really make up for the fact that the books’ plot quality seems to be inversely related to the number of sex scenes included.

  152. #152 Maria
    May 12, 2008

    Oh, PZ, where have you been?

    A huge number of these awful things are being spewed out by Mormon best-selling author Stephenie Meyer. She’s writing Young Adult vampire romance. I am not making this up. They’re filming one of her books — Twilight — as I type this. And millions of kids across America are eating up this crap because of the “sexual tension” in them — essentially human girls falling in love with “good vampire” boys who drink the blood of animals rather than humans. Meyers’ stunted Mormon sexuality spills onto the pages of goofy novels that glorify vampires as romantic figures. It was unique and cool when Anne Rice did it. It’s now overworked, unoriginal, and frankly retarded. But that’s what’s selling. I’ll let you aim your salvo at exactly whom that might be. I’m sure you’ll hit the target.

  153. #153 Bachalon
    May 12, 2008

    Kseniya, I need to put your scholar brother in touch with a friend of mine. Her knowledge of music can only be described as “encyclopedic.”

  154. #154 mjfgates
    May 12, 2008

    Two hundred comments about vampire erotica and nobody so much as mentions Poppy Z. Brite. What is the world coming to?… well, aside from “ignoring Poppy Z. Brite,” which is not such a bad thing.

    I think I’ve seen exactly one vampire tale without a strong romantic or sexual subplot. It’s what vampires do, I guess. The exception is a short story by Connie Willis.

    If we’re plugging books, fine. You all. Go read Steven Brust’s Agyar and C.S. Friedman’s The Madness Season. Actual good vampire books, by actual good authors. Also, that Connie Willis story is in her anthology Fire Watch, which Everybody Must Read, because it’s an entire book full of Connie Willis stories.

  155. #155 Kseniya
    May 12, 2008

    Eh… Middle Brother doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, and is a long way from encyclopedic. He’s somewhere between “clueless” and “able to hold his own in an intelligent conversation.”

    At least now he doesn’t have that deer-in-the-headlights look when you mention Eric Clapton, and understands that there is worthwhile music that’s older than he is. Now if we could just get him to realize that the same holds true for movies…heh.

  156. #156 Graculus
    May 12, 2008

    I think I’ve seen exactly one vampire tale without a strong romantic or sexual subplot.

    Try Gearge R R Marin’s “Fevre Dream”, and Barbara Hambly’s “Those Who Hunt The Night”/”Travelling With The Dead”.

    Tanith Lee’s vampires tend to be more “mythic”, as does most of her work. I don’t think you can even mention her stuff in the same breath as Anne Rice.

  157. #157 Pierce R. Butler
    May 12, 2008

    Good vampire novels, without a heavy sexual emphasis?

    Keep an eye open for Nightshade by Jack Butler (no known relation), arguably the very best of the vampires-on-Mars subgenre.

  158. #158 Monado
    May 12, 2008

    Pierce R. Butler, Well, sure: James H. Schmidt, with Telzey Amberdon’s ComWeb. His heroine was playing online chess on a device with a flexible screen in a worldwide tournament when she was interrupted… And she could pull up maps, tourist info, etc. when she travelled.

    But you know the really revolutionary thing? He never included the then-obligatory description of how Telzey looked or what she was wearing: just “hiking clothes” or whatever.

  159. #159 Monado
    May 12, 2008

    Good vampire stories: Don’t forget “My Dear Emily” by Joanna Russ in her collection, The Zanzibar Cat

    Vampire stories seem very Victorian with the dangerous vampire standing in for SEX!

  160. #160 Monado
    May 12, 2008

    Jim [#139], fortunately I belong to Bookcrossing.com, so if a book is not my cup o’ tea I console myself that it might be someone else’s and release it into the wide world. Some people have even typed book IDs into the web site and let me know where the books ended up.

    So if I don’t like a book enough to keep it, I just tell the borrower to pass it along to someone else.

  161. #161 Jaycubed
    May 12, 2008

    I have to heartily recommend Neil Gaiman’s A Short Film About John Bolton.

    Caveats:

    Do not read about the film beforehand, either reviews or the package.

    Watch the film through (it’s about 40 minutes).

    Immediately watch the film again, playing the commentary track.

    Later, in the special features, you can hear Neil Gaiman reading a number of his short stories at a Comic-Con.

    (And NO, it’s not about our Yosemite Sam former U.N. Ambassador.)

  162. #162 MandyDax
    May 12, 2008

    Maybe Anne Rice would like to combine her old and new genres and write something like “Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter”! That’d be in line with the Churches teachings and show what she thought of her vampires. Oh, wait… It’s already been done.

  163. #163 McKingford
    May 13, 2008

    I was introduced to Anne Rice when I picked one of her novels at a book exchange in Malaysia once (it was the only English book there – and there was a long night bus ride ahead).

    I can’t describe how terrible the writing was. I remember finishing the book and thinking I wish I’d looked out the window into the dark as a more productive use of my time.

  164. #164 Lisa
    May 13, 2008

    I’m a regular Pharyngula reader, but I’ve never commented before. I’d like to humbly recommend the Lara Adrian series as it has a few elements in common with J.R. Ward’s series. If I could match up Adrian’s heroines with Ward’s heroes that would be some fun reading.

    I read the first Hamilton book and couldn’t really get into it, and I’ve never read a Nocturne. I loved Ann Rice’s book, as well as Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. I find it amusing that people assume all Romances are Harlequin Romances, which is entirely inaccurate.

    To commenter #132 who said: “And while I generally prefer it when her characters actually get out of bed for a few chapters, she manages to make even the sex scenes advance the plot.”

    This is a prerequisite for all Romances, BTW. Just like violence, if it doesn’t advance the plot or add to character development then sex is gratuitous. This is mostly what separates Romance from other genres, IMHO.

    Also, Smart Bitches Trashy Books has posted this today in response to this very discussion.

  165. #165 Cathy
    May 14, 2008

    Although I usually like my science fiction to be Asimov- or Clarke- or Brin-flavored, I just read Stephanie Meyer’s science fiction book “The Host.” I enjoyed it. It had a few spots when I was lifted out of the plot by an oddity or misstep, but in general I found it interesting and fun.

    BTW, it is nothing to do with Meyer’s YA vampire series. It’s meant for adults, for one thing…

    I hardly dare to recommend it to any of you, because (as comments here prove) taste is individual…I do think “The Host” is more likely to appeal to women than to men. Many women will not-not-not read science fiction, however. Example: today I mentioned “The Host” to a 20-something young woman who LOVES Meyer’s Twilight series, and she said she wouldn’t read it because it’s about aliens…

  166. #166 ansuzmannaz
    May 14, 2008

    Why so hard on genre fiction?
    Martin Amis said that “all writing is a campaign against cliché.” How tired has it become to say that genre fiction is cliché? Tired or not, this seems to be the basic argument against that ever expanding section of the book store where one is not only likely to find cliché, but where it’s manditory.
    [...]

    I must agree. There are so many more possibilities inherent in endless Victorian tea parties.

  167. #167 Laser Potato
    May 14, 2008

    Bah, there’s never any Victorian werewolf stories >:C

  168. #168 Weatherwax
    May 16, 2008

    Walmart is a vampire. Why wouldn’t they pimp the genre?