Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Popularity of Occult Fiction

As I was putting together some author links it occurred to me how many of today's most popular authors are writing occult fiction. When Anne Rice came out with Interview With a Vampire, there weren't nearly as many authors who were writing about vampires, witches, werewolves or demons and everything else associated with the occult. But now, there are tons of authors coming out with books on all these subjects. I like most of them quite a bit. I read Anne Rice back when the original Vampire books came out, and I read other authors like P.N. Elrod who had the great Vampire Files series about a vampire P.I. But I can't remember any other mainstream authors who wrote in the genre. But if you go to the fantasy section nowadays there are tons of books that fall into the occult fiction category, and they're as different as night and day.......... Take Charlaine Harris and the Sookie Sackhouse novels. They are an absolute treat in my opinion. You have a main character who reads minds, who has a vampire as a boyfriend and a shape-shifting collie for a boss. The books have lots of humor, but enough action to satisfy anyone. Like most books that deal with the genre, there is more than a fair share of violence and blood. But Harris manages to balance the books nicely with Sookie's Southern sensibilities and wit. Mary Janice Davidson writes very similarly funny books in the Undead series about Besty Taylor, the Queen of the Vampires. She is incredibly powerful, has a sister who is the daughter of the devil and a shoe obsession. Both series' of books are funny in the Bridget Jones vein, but with vampires and werewolves thrown in. Laurell K. Hamilton goes a different route in writing about the supernatural. Her books are much more of the sensual type, with lots of sex and erotica. Her two series of books, the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Series and her Merry Gentry books have many of the same fantasy elements. The Anita Blake books deal more with vampires and werewolves as the supernatural characters while the Merry Gentry books have the Fae and the Unseelie Court as the main backdrop. Her books are also dark and often violent, but instead of the humor of Harris and Davidson, Hamilton seems to prefer a much stronger sexuality in her books. I haven't read Sherrilyn Kenyon, but I believe she also writes about vampires in a romantic context. In fact, her books are sold in the romance section under Paranormal Romance. Barb and J.C Hendee have become popular with their series of books based on the Dhampir, a half-human, half-vampire character. Their books are set more in a fantasy setting than the previous books I mentioned, which are all set in the context of the "real world." I featured Anne Bishop a few posts back, and she is also well known for her books that also have occult characters in a fantasy setting. I could go on and on about authors who write in the genre. Kelley Armstrong and Kim Harrison are also well known and worthy of a look. I also loved Patrica Brigg's novel Moon Called, another book about werewolves and shape shifters. For some reason, most of the occult fiction I am aware of is predominately written by women. I don't know if it is mostly aimed at a female audience, though I would guess that authors like Laurell K. Hamilton are much more popular with women. I have known many men to read Anne Rice and P. N. Elrod, and I would expect that the Dhampir series could also appeal to men. But most of the other books and authors I mentioned probably make it to many more female bookshelves than male. But mostly I wonder why there is such a current surge in occult fiction? We've always had the vampire and the werewolf legends and Dracula comes in and out of vogue pretty regularly. But I've been an avid reader of fantasy for about 20 years and I can't think of a time in my memory when occult fiction has been so popular and so available. I wonder why? Is the traditional sword and sorcery version of fantasy just getting old and stale to aspiring authors? Or perhaps it was just thought that most of the fantasy on the shelves was getting too similar. I admit, there are only so many stories one can read about a Prince trying to reclaim their throne or quest fantasies without wanting something new. I also wonder how long the pendulum will swing in the occult fiction direction? I wonder if it will remain popular or if the market will become so saturated that book readers will start looking for something else. Makes me wonder what the next trend might be. All in all, I like a lot of the occult fiction. But I admit I am starting to reach my limit. I'm already looking for something else to entertain me. Though I won't rule out reading any new, good occult fiction, it will have to have some new elements to get my attention. So what do you think? Is occult fiction here to stay or is it a phase? And are there any aspects of occult fiction that haven't been explored that you think we'll see in the near future? Are there any books I haven't mentioned that just need to be added to the list? Let me know, I'll only be too happy to check them out.

No comments: