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A Proposed Paranormal Taxonomy

 
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1369

PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2012 1:16 am    Post subject: A Proposed Paranormal Taxonomy Reply with quote

The term "paranormal" (as used in paranormal romance) covers quite a range.
I think we might want clearer or more detailed labels than the overly broad use of "paranormal" for the same reasons given in my "Genre Labels" essay some years ago (still on the WWW board). Clearer labels can make the reading experience more enjoyable by setting more realistic expectations. With paranormality, there is also a disbelief or comfort issue. As a long-time F&SF reader, I enjoy all the variations I've listed, but I know of other readers who can enjoy some subsets of the paranormal but not others. Clearer labels would let such readers pick and choose more carefully without having to try or avoid everything with the paranormal label: approachers could look for subsets they like and avoiders could steer clear of subsets they don't like.

Here are some possible categories (with labels I coined--I have not run across standardized terminology).

Everyday light paranormal romance includes things that some people ascribe to paranormal talents and some people don't, such as hunches, intuition, thinking about someone right before a call or contact, etc. Things like this pervade fiction.

Mild paranormal romance includes people demonstrating actual psychic abilities, but mild ones such as dowsing, psychometry, etc.

Psionic paranormal romance includes people consciously and accurately using strong psychic/psionic abilities, such as telepathy, telekinesis, precognition, telehypnosis, teleportation, clairvoyance, clairaudience, etc.

Magical paranormal romance is the same as psionic paranormal, but is presented in a world in which magic is known to work.

Beyond human (metahuman or transhuman):
All the categories to this point just include human characters. There are many stories with characters other than humans. Such stories often also include humans with paranormal talents.

Ghost paranormal romance adds ghosts or wraiths, which in most stories are transformations, survivals or residues of humans.

Undead paranormal romance adds vampires, revenants, zombies, liches, ghouls or other varieties of undead creatures from various cultural traditions (or new types invented by authors). In most stories the undead are (usually but not always magical) transformations of humans, but I've read some vampire stories that present the vampires as a separate non-human species. Most paranormal romances with undead protagonists modify the traditional undead natures fairly substantially to enable romantic relationships with humans.

Shifter paranormal romance adds werewolves or other shapeshifters. The explanations are almost always magical. Some allow humans to become weres (contagion or curse models), but many treat weres as separate species established by major magical events in the past.

Multi-sapient paranormal romance adds other sapient species (often but not always humanoid) on this Earth or an alternate Earth. These sapient species can be from any mythology or cryptozoology or new species invented by authors. This can include Bigfeet, brownies, dragons, dryads, dwarves, elves, faeries, fauns, giants, gnomes, kobolds, merfolk, nymphs, ogres, pixies, satyrs, selkies, trolls, yeti, etc.

Multi-dimension paranormal romance adds planes/dimensions beyond Earth. Access to other dimensions is mostly magical (e.g., Faerie realms), but sometimes a scientific-sounding explanation is given. This isn't the same thing as alternate history, which has many instances of the same Earth that have developed along different historical lines.

Genie paranormal romance adds one or more version of afreets / afrits / afrites / efreets / ifrits, djinns, genies or jinni. These are (usually strongly magical) sapient species, often with partially or completely non-physical natures. Elementals probably also fit in here.

Demon/angel paranormal romance adds angels, cacodemons, cherubim, daemons, demons, devils, imps, seraphim / xerafeen, etc. Incubi & succubi probably fit in here, since I believe they are usually categorized as classes of demons. Many, but not all, demon/angel stories use a Judeo-Christian-Islamic framework or background.

Gods paranormal romance adds beings like gods: Aesir, demigods, gods, goddesses, Olympians, titans, etc. These are usually lowercase (polytheistic) gods or just beings with great (god-like) powers. Greco-Roman, Norse, Celtic, Egyptian and Native American traditions are probably the most used. God-like beings are rarely the protagonists.

In SFR (science-fictional romance), there are also often aliens with varying levels of divergence from familiar Earthly humans, or human races from other planets (often without any attempt to explain origins).
Also, an observation: SF, fantasy & paranormal romances treat the concept of "species" rather strangely, since they have many separate "species" that somehow manage to breed together despite interfertility usually being one of the defining characteristics of a species. All the interplanetary and other breeding would require a really wide definition of Homo Sapiens, with all the planetary populations, shifters, weres, vampires, elves, fairies, etc. as sub-species.

A few examples of expanded labels:
The Demon books by Meljean Brook are Magical + Undead + Demon/Angel + Multi-dimension PNR.
The Parasol Protectorate books by Gail Carriger are Magical + Undead + Shifter Steampunk.
The Undead books by MaryJanice Davidson started as Undead PNR and now are Magical + Undead + Shifter + Demon + Multi-dimension (counting Hell as a separate dimension) + Time travel PNR.
The Elder Races books by Thea Harrison are Magical + Undead + Shifter + Multi-sapient + Multi-dimension + Genie PNR.
The Dark Hunter books by Sherrilyn Kenyon are Magical + Undead + Shifter + Multi-dimension + Demon/Angel + Gods PNR, including the only protagonist god I've been able to remember so far.
The Arcane Society books by JAK (Jayne Castle / Jayne Ann Krentz / Amanda Quick) are Psionic PNR.
The Pack and Pride books by Shelly Laurenston are Magical + Shifter PNR.
The Wild About You books by Vicki Lewis Thompson are Shifter + Multi-sapient PNR.
The Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris are Magical + Undead + Shifter + Multi-sapient + Multi-dimension (counting an offstage fairy realm) Mystery/Fantasy.
The Lupi books by Eileen Wilks are Magical + Undead + Shifter + Multi-sapient + Multi-dimension + Demon + Gods Urban Fantasy.

I urge anyone discussing (or reviewing) paranormal stories to qualify the term to increase clarity.
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NoirFemme



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1476
Location: America

PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2012 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think "paranormal" is such a broad term because it's relatively new sub-genre in romance. Whereas the SF/F genre has had decades to expand and create new sub-genres under its fold, romance was an is mostly just contemporary or historical.

If anything, I think many romance readers might get a little "scared" (??)off if "paranormal" romances were even more stratified--isn't that why feel Science Fiction Romance or Fantasy Romance have never really taken off? Romance readers are "simple" in that we align our reading tastes with certain markers (covers, titles, key words in blurbs, etc--though, this backfires when we have the umpteenth The Duke's Wicked Sins of the Night sort of titles), and too much delineation is distracting. I think extra stuff proposed would fit better on blogs, where they can tag the books!
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Kayne



Joined: 31 Mar 2007
Posts: 892

PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2012 7:19 pm    Post subject: Re: A Proposed Paranormal Taxonomy Reply with quote

Thanks so much for this classification system of paranormals. I am going to keep a copy of this. I don't see any missing categories!
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1369

PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2012 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My own history is that knowing more before I start reading leads to a more enjoyable reading experience because my expectations are closer to what I read (hence a lot of rereading and books in series), but I know some people don't even read blurbs for fear of spoilers, so my increased clarity could be someone else's TMI.
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