Saturday, February 22, 2014

"A New Kind Of Magic" By Evelyn Burke

To wonder which creature from the paranormal will next set our minds on fire is to ask a question that's probably wrong in the first place. It implies that we as consumers of YAP are simply waiting for the next thing to spin off the paranormal roundabout. But we know that isn't how it works. Vampires didn't suddenly become a humungously popular sub-genre simply because it was their turn - they did so because Twilight found a way to pull a new spin on it, i.e in a realistic, modern high-school setting, and with a heroine who wrestled with the idea of willingly becoming one of them. So maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is not, which creature next - it's what kind of spin could be put on the existing ones to make them fresh enough for us to keep reading?

A tricky one, as obviously the new spin on it is the freshest in our minds. But I began to imagine, in the later Twilight books as my mind started to drift, a parallel universe where it was not Bella but maybe Alice Cullen who had been the star of the story, and perhaps attended Fork High as the sole vampire among a school of humans. I believe that, given a similar downbeat treatment and with Alice perhaps showing more flair and a sense of humor at her predicament, while still being required to live practically as a vampire, this would be a take on the genre I'd be very keen to read. Why should it only be Edward having his fun with the humans, after all?

The supposed obsession with werewolves always seemed to me a little contrived - it was vampires, and you made out you loved werewolves in the same way you act like you also adore the little brother of the guy you have a crush on. Maybe that's just me. Either way, Teen Wolf is still a popular show on MTV, so there might be literary mileage yet in the genre. Perhaps what would really breathe new life into it is to have a werewolf in a high-school setting, a la Twilight and Teen Wolf - but as a twist on the conventional instinct they seem to have to conceal their paranormal alter-ego from the world, have them try to wear it as the badge of the baddest boy in school. I think that YAP readers are easily mature enough to deal with idea of, for example, a high-school boy who had to deal with symptoms of hypersexuality caused by his wolfish nature, while at the same oscillating between a mixture of fear at himself and 'If you've got it, flaunt it'. Werewolves don't automatically have to be all about slavering jaws and messy sideburns, after all - in the right hands they could be cute, and that person could also weave into the narrative some kind of funny and moving commentary on the difficulties of teenage sexuality.

On film and in print, for the last few years or so zombies seemed to be everywhere. From Brad Pitt's epic World War Z to the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to Nicholas Hoult playing love-struck zombie R in Warm Bodies, based on the 2010 novel of the same name, shuffling and moaning was the craze of the day. The inherent problem zombies pose to YAP, though, is that it's very hard to create a character that is both a convincing zombie and someone you want to spend much time with, although Warm Bodies was a nice attempt at reinventing the genre by depicting a zombie who retained just enough of his old self to fall in love. Frankly, though, of all these genres I think it's the one that shows least future promise, at least in book form.

Something Wicked This Way Comes?
This might just be personal preference, but the one 'paranormal' presence I feel is under-represented in YAP, and which could definitely lend itself to a compelling story, is the devil. If vampires and werewolves can find themselves struggling with the practical realities of life at the average high-school, why can't a devil? For one thing, he or should would have no problem acting like the biggest bad-ass on campus, and would provide genuine tension when interacting with earthbound people. How they came to end up there is also a back-story I'd be interested to read, and it seems there are any number of climactic outcomes that a talented author could spin from this premise.


Evelyn, thank you so much for writing this very thought provoking post. I always find myself wondering the same questions, "what creature will be the next IT thing?" or "What book is going to change the genre norms?". It  is something that is very interesting to see play out in the book world. I also seriously hope that some authors are reading this post, because Evelyn's idea about the devil in high school sounds awesome and needs to be written!

Thank you, again, Evelyn and I hope you all enjoyed her thoughts as much as I did. Make sure to comment below with what you think about all this.