Monday, August 17, 2015

LKH Blogflog: Vampires and Paranormal Thrillers

Several of you have written in about my Entertainment Weekly interview. You’ve said that I disrespected Anne Rice by saying that I pioneered my genre, not hers.

  1. Not to mention Elrod, Huff, and the many authors that dealt with that genre.
  2. If it's HER genre, then SHE would have pioneered it, not you.

I don’t consider Anne Rice and I writing in the same genre. Yes, we both write books with vampires in them, but I’ve never believed that vampires alone define a series, or a genre.

How very exalted of her.

But regardless of what she "considers" or "believes," she and Anne Rice are writing in the same genre, and it has nothing to do with "vampires alone." It has to do with the fact that they write stories with fantastical elements (vampires, ghosts, demons, witches) which are often set in a modern time in large modern cities. In other words, URBAN FANTASY.

I actually see vampire novels as having divergent sub-genres.

"Vampire novels" is not a genre. It is a description. A GENRE would be horror, or sci-fi, or fantasy. Sub-genres include... guess what... URBAN FANTASY!

First was Ms. Rice whose big new idea to the vampire novel was to make her vampires much more "human" than the writers that had gone before her,

And with "big new idea" we have the first little spurt of venom. Yes, it was a relative novelty in fiction, but the way she phrases it makes it sound like Rice's works have zero merit except being a novelty.

and she gave them a huge dose of angst and melancholy,

Unlike a certain author we know... whoops! She DOES give her vampires endless angst and melancholy, but rather than worrying about being damned for all eternity or being responsible for the death of their vampire child or something IMPORTANT, they angst about not getting enough lurve from the Doomcooch.

and made them beautiful though impotent which I always found an interesting choice.

The whole idea is that their "sex" is through vampirism, if I recall correctly. Not everything in urban fantasy has to be about Ikea Erotica, and it takes greater skill to portray sensuality and pleasure independent of sex than it just to describe thrust-thrust-pump-pump-shriek-claw.

And you know what's inexplicable? Having vampires have a sex drive, let alone a STRONGER-THAN-AVERAGE ONE, which is utterly useless to them and their kind.

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE came out in 1976 and I, like many writers to come after, would be influenced by this book.

I think we already knew that, given that Jean-Claude is basically Lestat in a wig, bad leather pants, a Pepe Le Pew accent and with endless whining about wanting Laumerita to wuv him.

"Have you noticed my pasty pectorals, ma petite? Dribble with lust!"

Not to mention Nikolaos, who is basically Claudia minus the thought-provoking pathos and plus a thousand pounds of Generic Evilness.

But I have to add that I was also influenced by 1975’s Salem’s Lot by Stephen King.

Huh? I don't really see any influence there. King's vampires are fucking scary, they're not alluring, and he's got a well-thought-out mythology that extends through his multiverse. They are not effeminate sex-obsessed disgraces to Charlemagne.

His vampires were as scary and mundane as Ms. Rice’s were otherworldly and esoteric.

"Mundane." Stop using that word. The common meaning of it is "lacking in interest or excitement."

And I don't see much about the scary or mundane about LKH's vampires, and haven't since the first few books of the series. Especially since she keeps trying to make them less and less mundane, meaning less and less like the boring humans.

For the sensuality, though no actual sexuality, I was influenced by Ms. Rice,

Yeah maybe once upon a time, but no longer. Now all sensuality in her books is "Fuck me while I'm tight!", odes to Anita's vagina, and yards of multicolored hair.

but for bringing vampires into the ordinary world it was Mr. King that intrigued me.

Erm, define "ordinary world." Lestat was a rock star, for cryin' out loud, and other vampires did "mundane" stuff sometimes, like Marius wandering off to a video store for some music video rentals (which I thought was strangely cute).

Does she means that the vampires lived lives of wealth in their own rarefied strata rather than working at Taco Bell? Well, LKH's vampires do that too now. She used to have less exalted vampires But now all the characters either have absurd amounts of money/influence for their limited skills (Anita, JC, etc), or are intimately connected to someone who does, and they're only concerned with the vampire/were affairs and problems. We never hear about a vampire freaking out because his tax returns got lost in the mail, or a wereotter zonking out because of a colicky baby keeping him up all night.

And honestly, in Rice's current-day books I found that it was less that her settings weren't mundane, but that her style wasn't.

It would be more than a decade later before I wrote my own vampire novel, but I know that these two books contributed.

Well, at least she admits that.

I guess no one counts Stephen King in this vampire genre because he only did the one book.

YAAAAAAAARRRGGGHHHHHHH! He did NOT do just the one book! They appear in the Dark Tower series, "Night Flier" and others.

And "vampire" is not a genre - it is a description of the focus of a book, and it spans different genres. You can find vampire chick-lit, vampire horror, vampire fantasy (Barb and JC Hendee), vampire historical fiction, vampire erotica, etc. Those books are NOT in the same genre just because they all deal with vampires. It's like talking about the "technology" genre or the "magic" genre.

Second is what I consider my genre which is mixed genre, a horror thriller/romance, but that doesn’t really say what I write.

No it doesn't. And that is not a genre, but a SUBgenre. And other people were there first anyway. Tanya Huff anyone?

Let's see: vampires, thriller, mystery, romance... I'd say that fits the bill.

The closest description of what I consider my genre is Paranormal Thriller.

I wish it were still thrilling. And again, if I had to use that sub-sub-genre's description, I'd apply the first example to Tanya Huff or PN Elrod.

In both the Meredith Gentry books and the Anita Blake novels I take thriller or mystery,

Okay, I could conceivably stretch my definitions of the Anita Blake series to thriller/mystery since occasionally she does something vaguely resembling detective work. But the MG series has barely had ANY mysteries in it, except the last disaster (which was solved by a random dude wandering in and telling them "My buddy is the killer") and the first (which was just for LKH's rape fantasies).

And no, wondering what magic powers the goddess will give her next is NOT mystery, and occasionally crushing someone with her superspeshul powers is NOT thrilling.

mix it with horror and fantasy elements, then add a strong dose of sensuality, romance, and sex.

... mix it with horrifying writing, personal fantasy elements, then add a strong dose of Sue and sex. There, fixed it.

I’ve yet to hear a single word that described it.

Most genre names AREN'T a single word - science fiction, historical fiction, cozy mystery, magical realism, police procedural, etc.

And there is a single term to describe it: urban fantasy. Not all classifications have to be specially tailored for your awesome books.

There were actually editors asking other writers to give them Hamiltonesque books a few years ago when I was the only bestseller in this genre.

She should define "a few years ago" because I know Butcher's Proven Guilty made it to #21 on the NYTimes list, and White Night made it to the top five. I think that counts.

And I don't think she should take it as a sign of her sovereignty in the overall urban fantasy genre, because what it basically means is that she's selling well enough for people to want URBAN FANTASY with vampires, weres etc. It doesn't mean that the subgenre is hers, or that she came up with it. It just means she used to be the most prominent example.

I thought I was a little young to be an ’esque, but a lot of writers have made a career out of doing just that.

Being described as an "esque" because they were the most prominent example of a kind of book?

The two things I think I brought first to the vampire novel was that my vampires were out of the coffin as it were and everyone knew they existed.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Rice also handle that? Her vampires didn't really come out en masse and dance in the streets or anything, but Lestat was pretty open about being a vampire. He called himself "The Vampire Lestat," for fuck's sake. And if I recall correctly, Akasha (remember her? The original MOAD who actually got out of bed?) caused quite a bit of mayhem that would probably out the vampires quickly if anyone paid attention. I somehow doubt people would forget about that.

And there's the Anno Dracula books by Kim Newman, which if I recall correctly has vampires out in the open and yes, was written before LKH's. It isn't all UF, but she still wasn't the first.

Also, yes, everyone in her books knows they existed. And they know nothing else even though the vampires have been around for millions of years. Why? Because Anita needs to be Teh Expert.

Anita’s world is ours if we woke up tomorrow and had to deal with the monsters of nightmare and fantasy.

Hell no. LKH basically takes the monsters and plonks them into a mundane setting, but she doesn't work out how this would affect the world socially. She just puts a "victim of discrimination" tag on all the vampires and weres, and has them be strippers or thugs. She doesn't really address how the world would be changed by this revelation, or how the world would NOT be like ours if it had centuries of were/vampire backhistory.

Among the questions she totally ignores: What would the military do if it had access to vampirism/lycanthropy? What advances could be made in science, and what would science reveal about them? Would marriage to a human-turned-vampire still be valid if "till death do you part" is part of their vows? Why wouldn't the vampires/weres have taken out notorious tyrants if they had the strength? For that matter, what positions of political power would they place themselves in?! Why wouldn't the world be more like the world of Vampire Hunter D where vampires rose to prominence and conquered humanity?!

Some authors do semi-decent dabbling in explanations - Jim Butcher's vampires don't hide so much as they do their business and have humans go into denial because they don't want to admit that the sex industry is run by vampires. Kim Harrison's supernaturals kept themselves secret until they were no longer vastly outnumbered by humans. I can't remember the specifics of Ilona Andrews' universe, but I am fairly sure the Lyc-V and vampirism viruses are supposed to be relatively recent developments.

No one had done that before.

... except, you know, the people who DID.

The other thing I did first, or that’s what editors and publishers tell me, was raise the stakes on the sexual content.

We're living in the 21st century, lady. It's not like there was nothing but G-rated Regencies before you came along with your Ikea Erotica and peculiar fetish-of-the-week.

Oddly, most of the writers who have come after have taken the sexual content

And the ones who are best-beloved rather than vilified are the ones who contain PLOT and well-written characters and a coherently-made world, with sex as mere topping on the sundae. For instance, the Dresden Files, the Hollows, the Kitty series, Neil Gaiman and many others, as opposed to LKH, Sunny, Talia Gryphon and the like.

And yes, those ARE recommendations. Not always to the author's extended works (I advise stopping Anne Rice's vampire books after the first three, and de Lint can be a dick sometimes) but certainly to some of them.

but the only one I’m aware of that has outted her vampires in her world as much as I have in mine is Charlaine Harris with Sookie Stakehouse books and the TV series "True Blood".

The key word being "I'm AWARE of." Because there ARE other high-profile UF series that have vampire-outting, sometimes with much more detail and care than LKH has done.

Of course, the series I find interesting as far as "outing" supernaturals is Carrie Vaughn's, because she actually studies some of the societal effects of it in Kitty Goes To Washington. And not all the humans react the same way. And she's taken some hilarious pokes at Anita - one book has a character who is clearly Anita calling Kitty's show to whine and brag, and another time we have a nasty sexily-dressed gun-happy she-man heroine in the Anita mold.

But she's not going to mention Vaughn, because she has definitely copied some plot points from her.

The first Sookie book was in 2001.

See? See? She came after me! I came first! I'm awesome!

The higher sexual content has been more popular with other writers.

So is she admitting that other writers do sexual content better?

Now, notice I don’t claim that I was the first to invent the idea of adding mystery to vampires.

Good, because it totally isn't the case. But I wonder what her exact definition of "paranormal thriller" is if mystery + vampires isn't close enough. Or does the definition narrow to whatever allows her to be first?

That was first done by Lee Killough in 1987. P.N. Elrod would hit the shelves in 1990. Tanya Huff in 1991.

All correct, and all came way before AB (and I suspect she totally wanted to be Vicki, minus the impending blindness). But she forgot Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Whitley Strieber among others.

I wrote the first Anita Blake short story in 1987.

Doesn't matter. If it wasn't published, it doesn't count as being ahead of the trend.

Especially since that sort of thing is IMPOSSIBLE to track. I'm not saying she's lying, and I'm not saying she's telling the truth - but I AM saying that with only her word for it, there is no proof that she "started" the genre or was ahead of the curve. We only have HER word for it that it was actually written at that date rather than, say, 1991, and frankly that ain't good enough when there is a motivation to lie. Which she has, since she seems to base her status on being "the first" at whatever she wrote.

And IIRC, there were NO vampires in that story. Just Anita raising a zombie. She was a lot less hateable in that story too.

What the heck was happening in the world from late ’80s to early ’90s that we all came up independently with the idea to mix mysteries and vampires? It would be interesting to figure that out.

Teehee, I'm totally in the same club as Huff, Elrod and so on! We like totally all have the same brilliant thoughts, teehee.

And this is obviously her trying to cover the past fibs she's made, because at one point she announced that she wrote urban fantasies with vampires, weres and stuff because she claimed it was what she wanted to read and NOBODY WAS WRITING IT. See here:

My first Anita short story got lovely rejection letters but no one wanted it because it mixed genres.

NOBODY UNDERSTOOD MY GENRE-MIXING GEEEEEEEENIUS! Seriously, she just admitted that other authors were "mixing genres" before she was ever published, and there are plenty of genre blends. Star Wars is something of a genre hybrid itself, since it it basically a fantasy story with a sci-fi setting. Dhampir is a vampire book with a high fantasy setting. Firefly is a sci-fi Western. The Talisman is dark fantasy. And so on.

If there is a wikipedia entry for the WHOLE DESCRIPTION of "mixed genres," then you likely probably didn't pioneer anything. And the very idea of it is clearly not new or unusual.

And someone needs to tell her that mixing genres or adding something unusual does not automatically create a NEW genre. It creates a sort of sub-sub genre.

Here's a basic diagram:

  • Overall category: Fantasy
  • Sub category: Urban fantasy
  • Sub-sub category: urban fantasy/mystery
  • Sub-sub-sub category: urban fantasy/mystery with a focus on vampires.... and so on.

If you were searching through amazon categories like this, you'd have to do something like that to narrow it down. You can't just take any grouping of vaguely related books that you choose and call it a "genre" so that you count as being the first. Well, you CAN, but no one will listen to her.

Mix-genre didn’t sell back in the late 1980s.

Despite Mercedes Lackey, Tanya Huff, PN Elrod and Anne Rice writing it.... trust me, nobody wanted it and it didn't sell! PLEASE BELIEVE ME NOBODY WANTED IT I WAS SPESHUL AND UNIQUE...!

I know with this being one of the hottest trends in publishing today it’s hard to believe that, but trust me no one wanted it.

So I started the WHOOOOOLLLEEEEE genre! It was totally me, not Elrod or Huff! It was ME even though I didn't get published till after them.

GUILTY PLEASURES my first Anita Blake novel would take two years and around two hundred rejections before it would sell to Penguin/Putnam as an Ace paperback original.

And since it reportedly took many rewrites to even make it a tolerable BAD mystery, I am honestly not surprised. I don't think those rejections were based on her trendsetting genre-creating genius that nobody understands - I think it was just a mess, and some Penguin editor saw potential if it was heavily reworked.

Also, I question whether there are two hundred publishers out there who will accept urban fantasy books. Did LKH exaggerate the number, or did she just send her book to publishers regardless of what they choose to release?

It would finally see publication in 1993. I didn’t go into hardback until OBSIDIAN BUTTERFLY, book nine.

And... so? Many bestselling authors didn't - Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs also had a bunch of softcover releases long before they were rereleased in hardcover. Butcher's weren't in harcover until in the late single digits, and Briggs only relatively recently went hardcover after a bunch of mass market paperbacks.

So why does LKH think that it's super-significant that she didn't go right into hardcover?

None of these early books have the sensuality that I chose to put in mine,

Well aren't we awesome and speshul! After all, no other vampire mystery has TEH SEXXORZ like she does! Nobody had sensual sexy vampires... oh wait, there were. Anne Rice's vampires, Henry Fitzroy, etc. Not to mention Whitley Strieber's The Hunger which is quite sensual if I recall correctly.

And lusting after a hawt slimy guy in leather pants does not equal sensuality. Nor does being "forced" to kiss men her Sue barely knows. Or magically-induced rape. Nor does Ikea Erotica, wherein Tab A goes into Slot B, repeat ad nauseam.

and to my knowledge none of them would add the sexual content that I’ve become known for in both of my series.

Teehee, I'm the ONLY one who's awesome enough to put sex in my books instead of plot! I'm so amazing!

Notice I consider the Meredith Gentry series to be part of the same sub-genre as Anita, even though there are no vampires on stage in Merry’s world.

Which doesn't make any sense, because she insisted that she TOTALLY wasn't in the same genre as Anne Rice because though they both wrote vampire novels, they didn't write the exact same kind. Yet fairy porn is the same as her vampire books?

I think she just wants there to be a genre called "LKH" and every UF writer who came AFTER her can be included. I don't know why she's so obsessed with being the FIRST rather than being the popularizer, because many awesome authors - including trailblazers like JRR Tolkien - were not the first in their genre. In fact, they often pay open homage to those who came before them.

For me it's the fantasy/horror/thriller element mixed with the romance and a heavy dose of sex that defines what I do in my two series.

The big problem with that is that she is the only one who categorizes literature this way and she's twisting the definition to the breaking point so she can be considered the first.

F'rinstance, I can go out and say that I'm the most beautiful young woman in the world and then twist the definitions of "beautiful" and "young" and "woman" and "world" as much as I want, but that doesn't make any difference to the rest of the human race.

If you take the vampire out of this sub-genre and just allow thriller/mystery and horror elements then Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde books qualify. They came out in 1989.

Except one of the Diana Tregarde books DID have vampires - Children of the Night. Nice try at fudging that, but other people HAVE heard of her books.

Again, what the heck was happening out there to make this suddenly seem like such a good idea?

... and why was LKH the one to become popular instead of Elrod or Huff? Oh yeah, she turned her series into wish-fulfillment porn.

Why do I say I pioneered the genre if there were books before?

That's what I wanna know.

I’ve never said I invented the sub-genre, only that I pioneered it or popularized it.

She called it "HER" genre. That's enough to make it clear that she regards it as hers.

And I think she doesn't realize what "pioneered" means - it means you were THE first or ONE of the first to do something. It is not synonymous with "popularized."

past participle, past tense of pi·o·neer (Verb)
1. Develop or be the first to use or apply (a new method, area of knowledge, or activity).

When I was getting all those rejections for the first book they said vampires were dead as a genre,

Which again makes no sense, because by her own admission there were plenty of vampire books selling - see Rice (bestseller after bestseller), see Elrod (whose series is still going), see Huff (who was just starting her series which spanned a number of books and got a spinoff AND a TV series), etc. I suspect they were trying to find a nice way of shoving her off because her first book was crap.

that mixed genre of any kind didn’t sell unless you were Charles de Lint, and he did fantasy mixed with modern day, no vampires to my knowledge.

I have shocking news for you, LKH - it's not called mixed genre or "fantasy mixed with modern day" (what is "modern day"? That's not a genre! It's not even a DESCRIPTION!), but urban fantasy. It doesn't matter if it has vampires or not. That's the classification. If it takes place in modern settings and has fantasy elements it's urban fantasy.

And if those authors didn't sell, they wouldn't have continued to be published. That is the way publishing works, along with all other entertainment industries. So obviously "mixed genre" wasn't the problem here, because other authors managed to sell their works enough to justify a series - some of which are STILL GOING.

But he’d made a career out of mixing modern day with the fantastic and at that time no one else had.

Ah, so that's why she doesn't wanna classify her works as urban fantasy. If she called them that rather than vampire fantasy/mystery/horror/hardboiled/alt-universe/porn/three bags full, she'd have to admit that someone else was first in the genre.

There’d been a few books but no one had carved a successful niche for themselves.

Define "successful." Many authors consider it successful if you sell well enough to justify an entire series of books, especially if they stand the test of time.

None of the early books had reached a wide enough audience to help my book sell, or maybe mine was just too different,

My book was SOOOOOOO different and totally misunderstood and nobody liked it because it WAS TOTALLY UUUUNIIIIQQQQUE!

either way the genre was too new to even exisit. It was just this new idea that no one wanted.

Again she's contradicting her prior admissions in the interest of self-glorifying, because she already admitted that other people did it first. Urban fantasy existed long before her. Vampire urban fantasy existed before her. Vampire mystery urban fantasy existed before her. SHE DID NOT DO ANYTHING THAT NEW. Certain plot elements like having vampires "out of the coffin" or having Anita lusting after JC's pasty chest do NOT make it a separate genre.

What I’ve been hearing from writers and editors for years is that my books have helped them sell theirs, or made the editors want to buy things like mine; Hamiltonesque.

They want books with cardboard characters and horrible punctuation!

Now the question is, what books are these? Like Talia Gryphon of the Liquefying Panties and Ghost Buggery, and Sunny (who still insists that the moon is a PLANET)? Not a great advertisement.

It's undeniable that her popularity has helped out some other authors who are worthy examples of the UF genre, but it doesn't take long for them to stand on their own merits, and what makes their series appealing has little to do with LKH. What's more, some of them are capable of writing in other genres (Butcher's Codex Alera series, Patricia Briggs' Dragon/Demon/Raven books, Kim Harrison's books as Dawn Cook, Carole Douglas Nelson's straight and/or historical mysteries etc). Often when I hear a decent book compared to the AB series, it mentions the EARLY books.

And some of those are in turn inspiring their OWN series and names to be used as examples of quality in the genre. F'rinstance, Jim Butcher: One book recommendation says "will probably appeal to most readers who like Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden but wish that Harry would stop being so damn nice all the time." And Catherine Sykes' novel Ironclad has a couple of funny JB references that cracked me up.

I mean there were techno-thrillers before Tom Clancy, but his popularity made the genre into the monster it became.

So she's admitting that there were vampire-themed UF/mystery before she came along? She insisted a minute ago that the whole thing didn't exist before her majesty introduced her Snappy Sue, because nobody was buying it.

Someone has to sell well enough before there’s enough market for other people to jump on the bandwagon.


No one blinks in publishing at the idea of mixing vampires and supernatural beings with anything now.

Which is all because of MY GENIUS MINE MINE MINE!

It’s all game, though nothing is quite as hot as vampires right now.

Mainly because of the rabid Twilight fangirls and True Blood, not because of what LKH has done. And speaking from the present... zombies are now the hot thing. Vampires have died down. They're still there, mostly in shows like The Strain or From Dusk Till Dawn, but they're not oversaturating the market.

There’s Stephanie Meyers and her Twilight books and movies. Her first book hit in 2005.

... why is she telling us when the book was published? Is she trying to inform us that she TOTALLY came before Smeyer? Because I doubt anyone deludes themselves that Smeyer was the first.

I would say that her vampires are more Anne Rice than mine.

Only in the sense that they wangst and they get stonelike skin. In the sense that they are whiny superglamorized effeminate wangstaholics who exist to gravitate around the Sue, feud with werewolves and have highly destructive sex, they are much more like LKH's.

Would that make her vampires Riceian? Or perhaps Ms. Meyers had created yet another sub-genre for vampires

No, she hasn't. Plotless vampire romance is not a genre, it's a description.

I’ll bet you money that editors are asking for Meyeresque books, or Twilightesque books.

Genre: LKH duz not get it. Having someone describe it as an "esque" does not make it a genre, it just means something vaguely similar in the same vein. Yes, LKH - Meyer is in the same genre as YOU and no amount of word-twisting will get rid of that fact. You can deny it all you want, but YOU ARE IN THE SAME GENRE.

I mean, do we think that Agatha Christie created a new mystery genre because mystery fans will say "Christiesque"? NO!

Charlaine Harris’s books have led to a hit TV show in "True Blood" and vampires have never been more popular.

I doubt she meant for it to sound like that was a direct result of "True Blood," rather than her uber-awesome genre-creating self.

I wonder if the editor that told me all those years ago that vampire novels were dead and no one wanted to read about them anymore is watching all this with wonder? Nah, she’s jumped on the bandwagon, too.


Seriously, like I said, I think that editor either didn't like vampire books (and if so, probably still doesn't), or was being nice given the wretchedness of LKH's mystery storylines. Given that Anita actually forgets the bad guy's identity in the first book, it says a lot.

I guarantee you she’s got her own writers doing Riceian, or Hamiltonesque, or Meyeresque, or maybe Harrisian-esque?

HARRISIANESQUE? Who is Harrisian? That said, it's nice to see her acknowledging that Kim Harrison is a major player in the UF world. Or does she mean Charlaine Harris? So confused.

That long ago editor should have remembered that the vampire never truly dies. They’re not dead, they’re undead, and apparently you can’t keep a sexy vampire down.

Or maybe they appeal to the masses because lots of people love the ideal of eternal sex appeal, power, youth and beauty. Without those, vampire fanbases shrink a lot.

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