Monday, August 07, 2006

SB Day: Werewolves of London

“He's the hairy, hairy gent, who ran amok in Kent. Lately he's been overheard in Mayfair. You better stay away from him, he'll rip your lungs out Jim. Huh, I'd like to meet his tailor.” --Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London

On this Smart Bitches Day I would like to announce that any and all love I have for the paranormal romance genre can be blamed on L.J. Smith, Christopher Pike, and Warren Zevon. The Young Adult section of my childhood is nothing compared to the YA sections that inhabit stores now, full of subgenres based on every teenage situation possible. Back in my day (when we weren’t trudging fifty miles up hill or whatever) YA was just a few shelves—a bay at most—and filled with books that I’d finished long before reaching puberty (like when I was around 8) or Lurlene McDaniel whose books seemed to be composed purely to work in as many horrific deaths of her young, attractive protagonists by unpreventable diseases as possible).

(Side note: I’ve often found that the bubble gum angst teens who love McDaniel also love A Child Called It and feel the need to exclaim how it is the “best—book—evah!” loudly within the confines of my store.)

For those of us looking for something a little more interesting our only hopes were Smith, Pike, or convincing our parents that adult books are a great and wonderful thing for all. Smith with her Vampire Diaries and Night World series (did she ever finish that series?) and Pike with Remember Me, Witch, The Last Vampire series skirted the outright horror that R.L. Stine embraced and mixed plots that were equal parts romance, wish fulfillment and supernatural with some blood mixed in for color. They took teenagedom and allowed ghosts, vampires, werewolves and witches to play the main roles, and they hooked an eleven year old girl on the path of paranormal love.

Because really, who wouldn’t (or didn’t) want powers when they were in school, whether it was super strength or mind control? And what girl hasn’t had a crush on a broody guy, so why shouldn’t have a reason to brood within a supernatural world. Pike particularly (as I recall, it has been a very long time) was good at writing a female protagonist who was strong and appealing (Remember Me, Witch and The Last Vampire series were all told from a female point of view) while L.J. Smith’s Night World series followed the trials and tribulations of teen love between different aspects of the Night World races.

It is with fondness that I remember these books, and it is this fondness that I feel when I come across a new paranormal romance. Special powers and epic love? Helloooo escapism, bring it on. A good paranormal for me is just as soothing as extra salty fries and a chocolate milkshake after a bad day, which is why I’m said that the sub-genre as a whole is being to suffer from a glut of work that at times feels recycled. The world, as a whole, is filled with mythology, from the Green Man to the Gods and Goddess of Egypt and while some themes tend to overlap there’s enough out there to give a new twist on that old vampire tale. Of course, maybe vampires are all getting staked, I’ve noticed that angels might be the hot new thing. As for werewolves, well, I can’t think of them without thinking of Warren Zevon (for which I blame my parents). It’s not that I can’t enjoy a good shape-shifter romance without letting the hairier details get in the way, it’s just that in the back of my mind I’m wondering, “But what if he slips his leash and mauls someone?” Or Zevon warns:

“Ya hear him howlin around your kitchen door, ya better not let him in. Little old lady got mutilated late last night, werewolves of London again.”

I like my limbs all attached, thank you.

What books from childhood have affected your adult reading choices?

7 comments:

Little Willow said...

You must, must, MUST read Prowlers by Christopher Golden. It is a quintet of goodness. Shapeshifters. Modern-day. Good guys (and gals). Bad guys (and grrls). Read them. You won't be sorry!

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I love how you describe those shelves. Oh, how I know those shelves! There was one little spinning rack. I would lament, "I've already read ALL OF THESE!"

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My favorite prolific authors as a kid: Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Ann M. Martin (I heart the BSC), L.M. Montgomery.

nir said...

Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury in middle school. Tolkien later on.

Eileen said...

I love that song. I have it on my iPod and love to blast it in the car howling along. Did you ever read the Phantom Tollbooth? I love the mix of fantasy and whimsy.

Ovation Leader said...

The godlet of my childhood fantasy was Roald Dahl. Later it became Ray Bradbury. Now it's my own imagination and the words I give it. Cheers for fact and fiction--never was and never will a better bed be made.

Bernita said...

"Fifty Famous Fairy Tales" and "Eagle of the Ninth," probably, ie. magic > paranormal and history.
Thing is, as a child, I would read ANYTHING I could get my hands on.

Anonymous said...

BSC, when you mentioned Christopher Pike and The Last Vampire, I must have squealed, because my co-intern just gave me the weirdest look. I was actually thinking of those books recently and could not for my life remember who they were by, what the titles were, or even that much of the story- I just remembered that I used to love them. So thank you, because now they are back on my list of books to read! The Changeling, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder is another book that I haven't read in years but still remember vividly...I should see if I still have my copy...

Erin

Bonnie said...

Bookseller Chick, you hit two of my favourites, Pike and McDaniel. (Other key reads in the YA years included Gloria Miklowitz's after the bomb and Star Trek novels.) Anyway, I just wanted to mention that I don't think McDaniel's escapism (or disaster novel escapism)is that different from the other special powers/epic love books. They are books about the circumstances that define the characters, and that theme of defining oneself is so key to YA.

As for lasting influence, I still love me some melodrama and angst, not to mention weird circumstances.

(And, as an aside, I really enjoy your blog!)