Friday, June 14, 2013


I write paranormal. Angels, demons, ghosts, I'm up for anything. But there are a few things that have been bothering me for way too long.

1. Human non-humans

This one has been dragged along in the back of my mind like a house cat carrying an eagle. What is the appeal for aliens, demons, monsters, and fabulous beasts to look like humans? And I'm not talking 'stands upright, has two eyes and a mouth' because, y'know, that's pretty standard. I don't care about humanOID, this complaint is just plan human.

This bothering started long, long ago. Maybe about a year ago. Somewhere around there. Anyhow, I read a book I can't even remember the title of. Very-slightly-littler-than-now me loved, and still loves, aliens. Alien books, alien fact sheets, you name it, I read it. Even the ones that I know realize were really bad. But this one was the one that struck me as off.

The aliens weren't green.

They weren't slimy.

They had no fur.

They had no natural weapons.

Actually, these aliens weren't alien at all. They were humans. There was an entire race of blonde-haired, blue-eyed humans. And that was it. They looked like a classmate of mine, and that just stabbed me in my laser-powered heart.

It seemed like an isolated incident. And that feeling lasted a month. And then I was stabbed again.

Humans. Not aliens. Humans.

It was never explained why they were just human. The whole appearance thing was hand-waved. And that has been what has happened in way too many paranormal books for me. I've even figured out what those authors must have decided together on some boring, rainy day.

Aliens are to have blonde hair and blue eyes, possibly dark hair instead. All other aliens are to be described as an animal and not elaborated on.

Demons have dark hair, dark eyes, but are not allowed to be minorities. Nor are aliens. Or anyone else. Latinas and Latinos, Africans, and Asians do not exist. Anywhere. Except sometimes as a very minor character who probably dies anyway.

Werewolves just look like humans of any sort (but not minorities, what do you want to think they are?) and then wolves of any sort. Even illogical, impossible ones. See later rant.

Vampires have dark hair and yellow or red eyes. See Mr. Sparkles.

Now, if you can justify it, and I mean JUSTIFY it, not give a first-thought excuse, that's all good. Christian demons can look like whatever they so choose. Japanese animal spirits (you might know kitsunes, but there's a rant for this very thing later, so I won't elaborate) take any form, including multiple people or animals or demons or X. Maybe, and I'll risk anime references for this one, there hasn't been any human forms for werewolves at all. They're just illusions for interspecies communication.

I understand if it's a romance and they need to be relatable, though. Then you get some leeway.

Once again, it's justifying that's important, but you probably can't justify...

2. Illogical forms

We'll start on werewolves, because these are front-liners on the war on logic.

Human forms can look like anything but minorities, as previously cleared, so whatever. It's the wolf forms that get me.

Okay, quick reality check. Wolves can't have green eyes. Ever. Nor can domestic dogs, though some breeds have brown-green eyes. Blue eyes are rare. Most pictures of blue eyed "wolves" are just huskies, or just photoshopped. Yellow eyes? Also a rarity.  Some have light brown eyes that look yellowish, but aren't really yellow. Almost all wolves have plain, boring brown eyes.

And fur? If you want red fur, it's a red wolf. Sadly, those apparently aren't desirable because red wolves are coyote-wolf hybrids, and coyotes are frowned upon in shape-shifter society. I like coyotes. They're smarter than most wolves. But boo hoo for me.

Then there's the yellow/light brown fur thing. It makes sense to an extent, but most wolves with that have white and black or gray, too. Or they're Mexican gray wolves, which are undesirable too, apparently. Apparently all wolves are rocky grays.

 Interestingly, people love wolves because they relate them to more-lovable dogs. But Canis lupis had no part in modern dog. Spot is from Canis indica. Indian wolf. Just a quick notice there.

After warwerves, there are no-sense-here aliens. Remember kiddies, gravity, selective pressure, and class are all important when it comes to appearance and intelligence. It should all be considered. If your species has been up in the vacuum for a long time, they're probably long and spindly and easy to break. Just saying.

Demons don't have to be beautimous, but please, kids, they're demons. They're supposed to be at least a little off.

3. Everyone is the best known X

This one hasn't bothered me as long, it just occurred to me and now bothers be a bit.

If you have a Japanese demon, it's an animal spirit. Maybe a yokai if you need them in bulk. And if it's an animal spirit, it's a kitsune. Why not a sazae-oni? Okay, not them. Never them. Never mind. But Abumi-guchis sound cute, why not them? Bakeneko? Baneneko? Not them?

Greek monsters are limited to minotuars (even though there was only one of them), chimeras, and dragons. Not empousas (Percy Jackson is fabulous in the respect that they were there, if briefly), kobaloi, or the sad, lonely, kinda freaky, Erebus. Only one of him, though. Not like that has stopped some of them.

Vampires could easily be replaced by strigoi. Strigoi are more savage, but, hey, I’m tired of vampires being angsty kids, not savages.

Werewolves have plenty of options. Skinwalkers, demons that shapeshift, animal spirits. C’mon, the German variety is overused now (though, really, they only use the name).

4. Research is considered unnecessary

This goes for everyone.

So, a big reason I love paranormal is because there’s so much creative freedom. If you can explain it (at least a bit) you can write it. But there are some core things you really, really need to get down.

First off… Country of myth’s origin. Werewolves are from Germany, kids. In the medieval times, there was a case about a man suspected of turning into a wolf and killing livestock. Why? Because Germany.

The oldest vampire stories can be traced to Babylonian times. There were female demons that ate/drank the blood of newborn babies and pregnant women. But those are creepy and not what we’re looking for. You might prefer the Slavic ones that could be killed with holy objects. The immortal vampires are strigoi, and they’re Romanian.

No one ever seems to write about poltergeist. Which is sad. But if you hate patterns, they’re either Swedish or German. The word is German.

Demons are from everywhere. They've been around since humans learned how to make fire. The same goes for angels. So don't be boring, unless it's Christian fiction, Christian angels and demons are not your limit. I'll risk gloating when I say I have Taino, Russian, and Nordic ones. Because they're cool.

Second, make sure everything's at least somewhat possible. If the answer is 'magic' and there is no magic otherwise in the book, you have failed me. I already mentioned that aliens need extra research because of gravity and environment and such.

Lastly, for folklore and myth stories only, research your monsters in general. Where do they come from? What are their powers? You don't need to be completely by the book, in fact it's best if you aren't, but it's always good to have a base. Plus, alluding to the original stories is fun. Maybe your species is a new branch of X? I don't know, but I want to.

5. ... Why aren't there any minorities?

Seriously. Why is this? There are plenty of gals, but everyone is straight and white. I don't get it. In every other genre, you can be a minority and it's all good, but Sci-fi and paranormal...

End of rant. Thank you for listening, I hope you learned something.


1 comment:

  1. Great post, as usual!

    1. This one, I can actually understand. The story becomes less about what the monster is, and more about what it means. That more internal paranormality might still be interesting, although less spectacular. For example, some New Agers believe in something called Starseeds, which are souls from another constellation who incarnate as earthlings. Of course they'll look like ordinary earthlings, but what "alien" means to this belief system is the intense feeling of not fitting in or belonging in this world. That's deep. Sticking some tentacles on the main character in starseed fiction... just might detract from that emotional resonance a little bit.

    2. Illogical forms? Yeah, if they break your suspension of disbelief so you're thinking more, "Why bother to call them vampires? When has sparkles ever been part of vampire lore?" then I can't argue with this.

    3. This, too. I can't pretend that most writers would already be knowledgeable about the lesser-known mythological beings and made an executive creative decision that, "The most popular X is the most popular FOR A REASON. And that reason is AWESOME!" Nah, it's more likely due to lazy research.

    4. Agree. Aren't demons Greek, though? I mean, the word "demon". There might be mischief-makers or outright evil entities in almost every culture in the world, but to my understanding, it's only the institutional power that Christianity grew into that had the English-speaking world using that vocabulary for those creatures in other cultures.

    4. Rick Riordan has loads of ethnic minorities in his books, and Lindsay Ellis recently picked up a joke that almost every paranormal romance after Twilight now has an ethnic third wheel.