Genre Talk

Monster Porn, Children’s Books, and Anti-Heroes

dr_seuss_plushMy toddler-aged daughter is fascinated by “boos.”  It’s a general term in our house for monsters, ghosts, witches, and also includes the fanciful and absurd, like the plush Dr. Seuss creature she sleeps with.  Recently she’s become a bit of a fear junkie, curious about nightmares in her closet, bears in caves, and the big bad wolf. 

Now, personally, I’m a chicken.  I don’t like horror at all and waiting for a serial killer to jump out of the closet in a movie only stresses me out.  But long before I ever had kids, I subscribed to the developmental theory that dark stories are the safe way kids encounter the realities of danger and death. 

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 10.29.19 AM

At the same time, my friends keep sending me those Internet articles about Monster Porn, and insist this should be my next endeavor. I will not be writing Chupacabra or Lochness erotica (it’s been done).  But a part of me can’t help but wonder WHY people want to read this stuff.  I haven’t read any (okay, much—I did once accidentally stumbled upon some tentacle porn via Twitter and of course I had to finish the story) so I can’t presume to speak from vast experience, but I do have a theory that monster porn is just way out at the end of the spectrum of the Byronic Heroes most of us paranormal fans (and general romance readers) love.  If you’re not familiar with the concept, here’s a short example from the Wikipedia article on Byronic Heroes (bold emphasis is mine).

ByronharlowByron described Conrad, the pirate hero of his The Corsair (1814) as follows:

That man of loneliness and mystery,
Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh— (I, VIII)

and

He knew himself a villain—but he deem’d
The rest no better than the thing he seem’d;

And scorn’d the best as hypocrites who hid
Those deeds the bolder spirit plainly did.
He knew himself detested, but he knew
The hearts that loath’d him, crouch’d and dreaded too.
Lone, wild, and strange, he stood alike exempt
From all affection and from all contempt:
(I, XII)[2]

You can probably get the picture from that passage, but I’ll add the saying “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” was first spoken in reference to Lord Byron himself. My favorite Byronic Hero is Jericho Z. Barons from Karen Marie Moning’s Fever Series.  There were many things I didn’t love about those books (like the cliff hangers and the constant retelling of events that just happened instead of them happening in the story’s present) but I was willing to forgive it all because Barons is the the perfect anti-hero—inscrutable, possibly untrustworthy, with irresistible animal magnetism.  Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 10.29.57 AM

The feminist in me is sometimes disappointed that I like JZB. And I don’t want every book to about these types—I like nice guys too, I like betas, I like men willing to explain themselves and be vulnerable.  But sometimes, I also like a little bit of monster.  The “mad, bad” hero speak to parts of me utterly indifferent to feminist sensibilities.

I suspect the love of monsters, from Beauty and the Beast all the way to the Cockness Monster, is at least a little bit about the universal human instinct to wonder what its like out there on the end of the Byron spectrum.  How far can we go before we lose our humanity? How inhuman can someone be and still be lovable?

In the language of children’s books, if we sail to the island Where the Wild Things Are, can we still return home when we smell good things to eat and are hungry?  And maybe deeper than that, it’s about how close the feelings of anxiety, anticipation, fear, and excitement can be.  That addictive blend has my daughter glued to my husband’s iPad asking to see pictures of bigfoot, and it keeps a lot of us reading too.

In my Blood Vine series I have a macho patriarch vampire, a sensitive book worm, and a brooding biologist for heroes. I love them each in their own way.  But one day I hope I can write a Byronic Hero as captivating as JZB.

What about you? Do you have a favorite anti-hero?  Do you love or hate JZB?

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9 thoughts on “Monster Porn, Children’s Books, and Anti-Heroes

  1. Oh, yes…love JZB and the anti-hero. Love a little bit of monster and a lot of darkness, so long as the hero is redeemable. Have stayed away from monster porn so far. 🙂 Fun post!

  2. I absolutely dislike Jericho Barrons. I also disliked Mac but was glued to the books anyway for the story. I don’t think I will read the next series with Dani though. I only read the Mackayla Lane series as I loved her Highlanders, and hated them in these books.

    I have read reviews on blogs I follow about monster porn. Bigfoot and Dinosaurs, and I just shake my head. I really cannot understand why someone would want to read it, let alone why someone would want to write it. Do you really want to have sex with King Kong? Of course, I don’t really like erotica at all, but from some authors I don’t care what they write, I will read it.

    And Amber, you are not alone in not wanting to watch (or read) horror. My boyfriend has learned to be very careful in what movies he wants me to watch with him, as I will wake him up to hold me when I have nightmares later.

    • Hi Aurian! I know what you mean about movies. My husband watches The Walking Dead, and I have to wear earplugs even if I’m in the other room. Zombie sounds will give me nightmares.

      LOL! You hated JZB and you read that book for the story? Okay, fair enough. I wanted to know Mac’s relationship to the Shide, and JZBs secret (that was a pretty awesome backstory) and then the way Mac solved his problem with the dragon. But mostly, I just reread those rather sparse sex scenes over and over again. There’s one with a mango in the last book…yum!

      I’m curious–is your complaint about erotica that it has no story? I feel the same way, when it’s really just a lot of sex, but if there is a real conflict, and sex is part of how it gets worked out, then I like erotica. Yes, I agree, I have no interest in reading the monster stuff, except perhaps a detached curiosity to see how they pull it off. When I read that tentacle porn story, I had no idea that was a “thing.” Silly me!

      • Hi Amber, no, not at all. I just don’t particularly like reading elaborate love scenes, or sex scenes. I am always impatient to go back to the story itself and find out what happens next. One of the tropes I hate the most is the “we must have sex because of the magic or it will not work”. In an average book, I will read the first two or three love scenes, and I will skip the rest. The genre doesn’t matter, there is so much nowadays in every genre. The old fashioned books where the love scenes take place behind closed doors, I am perfectly fine with that. I am not a prude, I absolutely love everything Bertrice Small writes, and she wrote erotica in her historical romances before the genre was invented. And I am a mad re-reader of everything Laurell K. Hamilton and yes, I do read all the love scenes (except the lesbian ones).

  3. Barrons is a douche. Not hot. What’s worse: I found him *dull*. Well, to qualify, I only got as far as bk 2… perhaps he improves after that. It’s funny, because I generally love anti-heroes.

    Shrug. I guess you can’t please everyone!

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