Random Thoughts on the Allure of the Paranormal
by J.K. Beck
With a new paranormal series on the shelves (The Shadow Keepers, Book 1 out right now, When Blood Calls, and books 2 and 3 coming in October and November), I’ve been thinking a lot about the reasons behind the recent explosion in paranormal-themed books and movies. Sure paranormal’s always been around, but lately, it’s everywhere. A reality that I’m extremely happy with since I’ve always gravitated toward the paranormal anyway.
And when I say always, I mean always. I was weaned on I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched, and I even went so far as to comb flea markets, hoping to find a discarded bottle that happened to have a genie in it. I’d dig in piles of old coins, hoping to find an enchanted one. And I was more than happy to believe that there were ghosts in my grandmother’s old house (although in my imagination they were good and kind ghosts who’d be fun to hang around with—the horror possibilities came later).
But why? Why was I so keen on fantasy and paranormal and escapism fiction and television?
For kids, I think the answer’s easy: You’re never the one in charge. Someone’s always telling you what to do—from combing your hair to packing your stuff to go spend the summer at The Other Parent’s house to eating your broccoli. Big and little stuff, but ultimately, for kids, life is a bottom line out-of-control experience.
Fantasy lets the kid be the one in control. The one with the power who gets to make things happen—little things like making a feather float, all the way up to saving the planet from The Big, Bad Evil. In fantasy, the kid often isn’t just The Kid. Often she’s a princess, a demi-god, a changeling. And the allure of reading those stories is that the reader gets to escape to that place and play that role, even if only for a few minutes in their head. (Heck, even Nancy Drew is a fantasy—she goes and does all that stuff and always figures out the answer and never gets in (real) trouble and is always rescued. Fantasy. Yup.)
Theoretically, adults and kids are significantly different. In actuality, though, we’re much the same (though don’t tell that to my eight and six year old). Sure, we now have the illusion of control—but that’s just it, an illusion. The desire to run our own lives has been replaced by the responsibility to do that very thing, for ourselves and for others—kids, spouse, older parent, even our boss.
The freedom of lazing about during the summer has been replaced by the obligation to earn a paycheck, to pay the bills, to mow the grass, get the car inspected, balance the checkbook. Life fills up, and that same lure of fantasy draws us in again, and we crave the escape. Granted we’re now coming at it from a different perspective—I no longer actually believe I’ll find the magic bottle—but the fantasy of having that magical ability is just as alluring. The concept of immortality is just as intriguing, but unlike a kid who tends to think they’re immortal anyway, adults can see the pain that would go along with living for centuries. The vampires of horror become a creature of empathy. We not only get the characters more, we still have a reason to want the fantasy. To slide into a world not our own.
My favorite paranormals are ones that are actually set in our world, but there’s stuff going on underneath. It’s the kind of world I’ve created in the Shadow Keeper books, in which the premise is that all the creatures from your nightmares do walk among us, but their kept in check by a secret judicial system tasked with investigating and prosecuting paranormal creatures who break the Covenant. I love the idea that a whole world of activity could be going on right behind a curtain, in the shadows, and I don’t think I’m the only one.
In the first book, When Blood Calls, the heroine is a human assistant district attorney, who’s given an amazing promotion, and is exposed to a world she never knew existed. She’s thrust in, only to find out that the first defendant she’s tasked with prosecuting is not only the man that she’d had a brief fling with—but also a vampire.
Talk about rocking your world!
So how about it? Why do you like paranormal books and movies? Do you like pure fantasy or “world-based” stuff?
Leave a comment about that or anything, and one random commenter will win a $15 Amazon gift card!