What Is Paranormal?

Soem of you may notice that I’m repeating myself from another forum, but what the heck, the more opinions the merrier (and let’s face it, anything is merrier right now than talking about the weather, if you’re on the east coast.)

Fantasy fiction, romantic or otherwise, is one of my first loves, and I started out writing in the fantasy genre (or at least my alter-ego Connie Wilkins did.) I haven’t been writing or editing as much of it in recent years as I’d like to, but I’m working on remedying that lapse, and it occurs to me that I need a clearer understanding of the related genre of paranormal romance. I’m pretty sure that vampires and shapeshifters fit in, but what else? I do have a lesbian vampire story in Cecilia Tan’s Women of the Bite, but that’s about it, depending on how liberally you define paranormal. I have a bisexual piece in Kristina Wright’s upcoming Steamlust, but I suppose calling steampunk paranormal is too much of a stretch. Still, some steampunk has considerable fantasy content; would that make it paranormal?

My alter-ego has an m/m (very rare for me!) fantasy piece in the Circlet Press anthology Best Fantastic Erotica, with an iconic Green Man figure in WWI England; does that count? And I have a lesbian one in Circlet’s sequel, Best Erotic Fantasy and Science Fiction, set in Brittany where WWII intersects with ancient legend (and romance) and explosions ensue; does that qualify? I think I’ve heard that time travel counts, but what about alternate history with fantasy elements? I’ll have a story out soon in Like a Treasure Found (Circlet Press) that may qualify as paranormal; it’s a lesbian Asian pirate adventure that dabbles in alternate history, with an undercurrent of romance and a hint of the supernatural.

If you like paranormal romance, what draws you to it? Do you think of it as different from fantasy? For that matter, do you draw a line between paranormal and supernatural and/or fantasy? Or is any fantasy story that also meets the requirements for romance considered paranormal?

Paranormal is a fairly recent addition to to literary terminology. When I first came across it I thought it might be a device of the romance industry to allow romance to include unreal characters and events without being shelved with that “geeky scifi/fantasy stuff.” But I’ve seen some really fine writing classed as paranormal, and I think there’s more to it than that. I’m just not sure of the parameters.

What do you think?

One comment

  1. Fascinating question, and one I’d love to know the answer to. I see my WiP fantasy stories as closer to magickal realism than to paranormal, but I’ll look to seeing how other people categorise them.

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