Day Eight of Top Ten Mario’s Altar Call

Lynda Hilburn blog


Do I Write Paranormal?


Because my books feature vampires and other weird things, I’m often corralled into the world of the paranormal. So what is paranormal? How is that different from supernatural?



I’ve given that last question a lot of thought. Here’s my answer:


I don’t know.


But I did dig into the genres clustered around paranormal and supernatural and now offer this handy-dandy guide to most things beyond the pale of normal.


Once upon a time, anything involving the weird and fantastic was labeled horror, pure and simple. I suppose back then, monsters, flying machines, and things that go bump in the night were horrific. Alas, we’ve been jaded by modern living. Monsters? Hey, call special effects. Flying machines mean taking our shoes off to go through airport security. Things that go bump in the night is probably the government snooping on us.


To me horror has one sure definition: Creep Me Out. Make the hairs rise on my arms and have me check the locks. Too bad the only horror writing I read these days is my tax bill.


The term paranormal got pulled into literature when romance writers felt regular guys didn’t make the cut any more. Their lusty protagonists began sending personal ads to vampires, werewolves, and wizards.


Think of Paranormal Romance as the fantasy twist of the traditional tale: Girl meets boy. Girl loses boy. Girl wins boy. Girl discovers boy is lord of the zombie underworld. Girl decapitates boy. Girl does brunch with her gal pals and gay boyfriends.


What about Urban Fantasy? Urban, meaning gritty and contemporary. Not at all like the village cottages painted by Thomas Kincaid. (Unless Dexter paid a visit. Imagine the pretty blood spatter on the inside of the candle lit windows.) Fantasy, implying elements of the fantastic: magic, psychic abilities, monsters. (But not honest politicians. No one would believe that.) In Urban Fantasy we have a supernatural world with hot elf barristas, werewolf computer hackers, and vampire Tango dancers.


Science Fiction, not exactly Paranormal but close enough. Among the inside crowd, known also as Sci-Fi (pronounced sci-fi). We have the oxymoron, Science–which is to know geeky technological stuff, and Fiction, which is make-believe–the opposite of science. So from the start, the Sci-Fi community is bipolar and divided into two bickering camps, the Hard Science people and the Fantasy leather underwear people.



Hard Science looks at the what-if and extrapolates trends. These braniacs eschew fantasy–magic, psychics, vampires, anything that brings in busty babes in slinky outfits–so Hard Science is mainly the literature of people with cheap haircuts and sensible shoes. Boring. Until we introduce interesting stuff like crime and war. All the ills hard science is supposed to cure.


Fantasy people like to blend science with fantasy (what else?)–which is literary code for any excuse to introduce the babes in slinky outfits. (A running theme in paranormal/supernatural. Quick, think of one fantasy character known for appearing in baggy sweats.) Many fantasy readers are women who like men with swords. Big swords. What about a guy who’s really good with a switchblade?


Sorry, it has to be a sword. Size does matter.


You’d think then that women would admire a guy with a big gun, because a gun beats a sword almost every time. But no. Carry a big sword and you’re hot. Carry a big gun and you’re compensating.


Which brings us to Mystery Fantasy. The KING of all paranormal/supernatural genres, where the men don’t need to compensate, they’re so damn macho. Which is the genre I happen to write. (A coincidence?  I think not.) These stories combine hard-boiled noir elements with truly awesome supernatural characters. What’s not to love?


I close this essay with an altar call. Find salvation in the world of the paranormal. Put aside your category romance, your straight mystery, your political thriller and come amongst your sisters and brothers in the land of fantasy. Lay your burdens on my shoulders while I cast aside your fears and anxieties with my tales of the supernatural. If you ask, I’ll even bring a big sword.

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