First up, in case you missed it, I did an interview with ParaYourNormal over at their blog about Forsaken By Shadow and my Mirus series.
I feel like the walking dead today. After last week’s stint of insomnia, I’m still not really able to go to sleep without half a dose of Simply Sleep, and it winds up taking me all day to work through the haze–just in time to be wide awake come bedtime. My eyes have that pressured, gritty feel that says hey, we really object to being open. :yawn: It will sort itself out eventually.
In any event, during part of my not all there conversation with Pot this morning, I made the comment, “I read a book about a succubus once, but she really just seemed slutty.” I promise it made sense in context. I’m doing a second CP read on a book with an incubus as the hero and having to work hard to pull my personal prejudices out of things and just judge the book on its own merits. Either way, it got me to thinking about the paranormal and if there are, in fact, some creatures that do not lend themselves to romance. Incubi and succubi are at the top of my list.
See, there’s this rule in romance that the hero and heroine aren’t supposed to be sleeping with anybody else. Now it’s no longer the case that the heroine has to be virginal and the hero a rake (thank God). It’s expected that both will have some kind of sexual past, but for the duration of the story, it is not considered kosher for either of them to be with anybody else.
Incubi and succubi have to feed on sex the same way vamps feed on blood. You can see where this would lead to problems. Some readers might be more forgiving–it’s their nature, after all. They can’t help it. But it just doesn’t WORK for me as a reader. They do not make a hero or heroine that I can identify with because I don’t believe in sharing. Period. End of story. So even if the hero or heroine goes through a whole complicated character arc that leads to them only feeding on their beloved and nobody else, if they went through a bunch of others at any point in the story after they met said beloved, that’s an immediate turn off for me as a reader. So I usually avoid stories featuring either of these creatures as hero or heroine. Easy enough.
Are there any other creatures you can think of that really don’t lend themselves to romance?
you know, I’d almost think an interesting protagonist would be an incubi/succubi who was working on a “diet”, so to speak. In the same vein (pun oddly enough not intended) as the Vampire with a Heart of Gold, it might be a fun twist on expectations to have them be characters who were trying to resist that supernatural appetite.
But as for creatures I just can’t see in romances… Centaurs. Naga. The half-animal, half human creatures just – to me – feel a bit too close to beastiality scenarios, so I couldn’t really get behind that sort of concept.
Just my two cents, though.
Zombies! I even posted about that on my blog. Just…ewww!
I don’t feel the same way you do about incubi and succubi. I’m ok as long as the main characters end up together in the end. In my book, Starfane, the heroine has two guys. But it’s very important to the story, and it’s explained in the end.
Oh yeah, good one! Ew.
I haven’t read a zombie romance, though I know they’re out there. I just can’t picture it. I have a hard enough time wrapping my head around undead vampires. Talk about sex with the undead just does not do it with me. All I can think about is some girl putting some cold dead thing into her tender places. Ugh.
Live vampires like Christine Feehan’s I can deal. But Vampire Bill and Erik the Viking… can’t do it. I don’t care how sexy you might have been in real life. I’m not climbing on top of a corpse.
I second that Lauralynn! Zombies……ewwwwwwwwwwwww
Yeah, there’s Romance and then there’s other genres with romantic elements. Sometimes I really want to read a story because of its premise, and then realize that it’s not Romance, but Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Chick Lit, etc. While I realize it’s not fair, objectively speaking, to hold other genres to the rules of the one I prefer, reading is not really an objective thing. I can read and enjoy other genres, but it’s a really dicey thing with me, and I usually won’t pick up something “suspect” unless I’ve read and enjoyed the author before or it’s been recc’d for me by someone who knows my tastes.
I was reading and very much enjoying a Fantasy series once, enough that after the first book I went out and purchased several more in the series. And then, in the second or third book, the heroine succumbs to a magical seduction by another character. Her feeling for the hero wasn’t strong enough to withstand the magic, and the hero failed to rescue her, and as this “relationship” she was having with this bad guy kept going on, and the hero was still off doing other things–I just couldn’t keep reading it. Was it a valid story? Sure, and totally acceptable for that genre. Stuff like that happens in the fiction world. But it was such a turnoff for me such that I had to quit the series and it made me a lot more cautious about reading Fantasy.
I think there’s probably a great incubus/succubus Romance story out there, in the ether. But it would require a certain amount of imagination, much like the imagination it took to really romanticize the vampire.
Reader attitudes are changing too. It may be that we start to see more of a blur here, as more and more readers are able to draw a line between casual sex that serves a certain purpose, and emotional/relationship sex. (And I think Diana Gabaldon’s an example of an author [who is not a Romance author but sometimes seems like it] who got away with this with a lot of readers, while other readers threw the book at the wall.) They’ll say that as long as the character isn’t giving their emotions away, it’s not the same kind of sharing and doesn’t count for them, in the same way that, for some people, oral doesn’t count as actual sex.
That’s really the clincher for me, I guess. As a person I don’t believe in casual sex, would never have casual sex, etc., so that’s automatically creating a character that I can’t really relate to. I may be hopelessly old fashioned, but sex is (or should be, to my mind) a Big Deal.
I agree about zombies no brain and rotting not very romantic. I would add trolls except I think the hob in the Patrica Briggs novel may be a troll. I did not realize that the one partner thing was a romance convention. That explains some things to me.
I agree. There are only 2 books I can clearly remember doing a “did not finish” on and they both had those “sharing” issues. One was an old school scifi, and as Susan mentioned, maybe it should have been held to a different standard, but this was the 3rd book in the series and all of a sudden the MC went from being a married character to a let’s-not-mention-the-wife-and-instead-have-him-be-involved-with-this-slut character. The other was supposed to be a romance – I think – but the first half played out more like a rake’s memoir. Um, no.
I’d also agree with the comments above about zombies (I don’t get that fascination) and any non-shape-shifting beasties.
Of course I say all this, and yet my own work pushes this boundary quite a bit. 🙂 I hope I did it in an intelligent, sympathetic way.
Completely agree on the zombie thing. Rotting flesh doesn’t do it for me. But it seems like I heard recently about a romance with zombies… Maybe on Smart B**ches, Trashy Novels? Just… Blech.
I also agree, however, that boundaries are being pushed. I always understood the vampire thing even though it wasn’t my cup of tea. Sexuality has been part of the vampire mythos as long as it’s been around. But the werewolf thing? Um… I didn’t get that at first. Remus Lupin of HP was the first werewolf I encountered who had my sympathy at all, and not in a sexual way.
Of course, I say this as someone who doesn’t tend to enjoy paranormal romance most of the time. It has to be pretty focused on the characters, not the magic, and the heroine has to be pretty strong for me to like it. (This is, by the way, why I never read the “Twilight” series. I don’t read YA, and I hate mousy heroines.)
I think a succubus/incubus involves plot (the “diet” thing) could be interesting, but I agree with you, Kait–sex is a Big Deal. I’m working on a fantasy series, and my hero *is* a rake, but part of his character growth is realizing that doesn’t work for him. What can I say? I think monogamy is awesome. 🙂
Interesting discussion. 🙂
Yeah, zombies are a huge no. Ew. Shudder. Gag. Blah. Also, yes, non-shapeshifting beasties would be more than a little weird. I mean, I suppose there’s an audience somewhere for that, but…O.o
I actually think having creatures like incubi/succubi could be really interesting. Now, I don’t know a lot about the rules of the romance genre, but I like a lot of conflict in the romances I read about in other genres, so the fact that the incubus/succubus would be constantly fighting his/her true nature to be with this one person (for whatever reason) would I think be extremely tantalizing (much like the Vampire with a Heart of Gold thing that someone mentioned in a previous comment, and no, not SPARKLY Vampire with a Heart of Gold, PSH).
Well while it is a shame that Succubi and Incubi don’t work for you, I think they are interesting beings, and you don’t necessarily have to follow the traditional myths for them to work well in a story.
I realize that it’s not a novel, but the television series Lost Girl has a Succubus as the lead character in it and she is not your typical Succubus, which I think makes things interesting to watch.
Generally speaking, I find that the novels that take the concept of Succubi or Incubi and just use it as a means for sex scenes, as a method to push the characters into bed, aren’t really well written to begin with. Using them as a crutch when writing a story isn’t a mark of a good writer.
Here’s something to consider that really bothers me about the use of Succubi and Incubi a lot more… Why is it that Succubi most often are confused with vampires? They are two different kinds of beings and, honestly, they shouldn’t be mashed together. Vampires are “undead”. Succubi are, depending on what myth you believe, either children of Lilith, which makes them human in a way, or beings of evil from hell, which aren’t undead beings either…
Anyway, I think that a decent writer with a clue can write something decent with Succubi or Incubi in it. After all, a challenge like that should be welcomed by them…
Zombies. Honestly, they are just ick.
Ah, here’s the book I was thinking of: http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/comments/married-with-zombies-by-jesse-petersen-a-guest-review-by-carrie-s/
Honestly? Zombies? I just don’t see it. But this book review makes me curious, so I suppose anything is possible, right?
There’s just too many gross jokes that would be possible with zombie interplay, I just couldn’t write that with a straight face.
But here’s something else, too. While I as a rule practice monogamy, I don’t necessarily write my own personal sense of morality into my characters. What they do (and who they do it with) are actually, in my perspective, a wonderful opportunity to explore elements of society to which I personally do not prescribe without actually exploring it personally.
To date, most of my main characters have been young enough (and take place in a more victorian setting) so that I don’t have sexual themes directly involved – comments like “grown ups are so weird” and the like being the extent of it – I do enjoy the concepts of budding romance and young love. But my next series of books will cover the 20-somethings in a contemporary supernatural setting, so I will be including more adult themes. Some of my characters – many of them, in fact – will not share my own sense of preferences in terms of sexuality, and it’s a distinction I’m actively looking forward to as a writer.
I may even address zombie sensuality, though I do not anticipate being entirely explicit in such regards. Because, you know, Ew.
My first thought in answer to your question (like a lot of others, it seems) was zombies. Other than that, it’s hard to say. One thing that I have a hard time with, though, are things that are supposed to be Evil supposedly turning good. I understand the desire to redeem the Bad Guy, but still. How can you have Good and Evil if the Evil suddenly isn’t? Pet peeve of mine, I guess.
Also – having tried casual sex (once), you’re not missing much. It’s so much better when it’s a Big Thing than when it’s not.
And – I had misgivings about incubi & succubi in romances, but Larissa Ione’s “Demonica” series changed my mind about that. I love the slight tweaks she makes to the need for sex that make it fit for a romance novel.
Oh now see you’re giving a fantastic example that I’d forgotten about, probably because she never (that I can recall) refers to the seminus demons as incubi or succubi. I LOVED those books, so clearly it CAN be done.
I read an incubus story that I really liked because it focused not on the fact that the incubus needed the sex, but on the torment of both the demon and his lover when he did have to go out to feed.
He couldn’t survive on just his lover without killing the mortal. It was an interesting story as they tried to balance what they could give to each other with the demon’s needs, and both partners hating that the demon needed to go elsewhere. I think if the demon hadn’t hated the outside sex as much as his mortal lover, the story probably would’ve rubbed me the wrong way too.
My next book has zombies and has sex…but no zombies having sex. I can’t imagine dead people with rotting flesh getting hot and bothered with each other. I would have to fiddle with my imagination quite a bit to make that work. There is quite an erotic scene in James Reeses’s book, The Book of Shadows, between an incubus and the hermaphrodite main character, but it is one more of lust and power than of romance.
The whole concept is creepy, I agree. And you know with all that rotting flesh, relevant body parts could fall off in situ….
Ha ha, Kait. Did you ever read my post about zombies? I said something pretty gross. But I think your comment tops mine. LOL