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Wiscon panel notes: Romancing the Beast

Romancing the Beast
Track(s): Reading, Viewing, and Critiquing Science Fiction (Feminism and Other Social Change Movements)
Description: Paranormal romance almost always features the hero as a paranormal being and the heroine as an ordinary human. How does this resonate with gender relations and power relationships in our society? And is it emblematic of women seeing men as Other?
Moderator: Vito Excalibur
Panelists: Catherine Cheek, Stef Maruch, Heidi Waterhouse, Janine Ellen Young

I was a panelist so I didn't take very thorough notes.

When I read the panel description I immediately thought of a bunch of counterexamples, so I played the panel contrarian.

--Anita Blake books (everyone is paranormal. However, heroine starts out more human. In one sense she stays more human than her entourage, in another sense she becomes more paranormal than they are)
--Marjorie M. Liu, A Taste of Crimson (a romance in which the lovers are a male vampire and a female werewolf)
--First Underworld movie (ditto, except a female vampire and a male werewolf)
--My unpublished vampire erotica story, with a female vampire and a male human (Vito asked if my vampire character is very old. She isn't. However, she is older than the human character.)

We discussed stories in which the male beast becomes human (e.g., most versions of Beauty & The Beast) vs. not (e.g., Robin McKinley's Sunshine, although I gather this isn't a bog-standard romance)

I mentioned Cocteau's version of Beauty & The Beast, in which the beast becomes human but he resembles a man who had been pestering Beauty, and she expresses some displeasure/distrust at the change.

Things that were mentioned, but I don't remember what was said about them:
--Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance by Jayne Ann Krentz (Editor)
--The beta hero (I think this referred to a less dominant, more sensitive male hero. I didn't say this on the panel, but Liu's A Taste of Crimson had some gender-role switching between the protagonists and the vampire could have been said to be a beta hero.)
--Dark Hunter series
-- (the beast remains "beastly")
--Reaper TV show: Hispanic boy has relationship with demon woman
--Queer reading of paranormal romance

Someone suggested there should be a panel in the future about the uterine replicator.

Toward the end of the panel we began discussing "male human, female sexbot" romances. A theory was promulgated for why women prefer beast romances and men prefer sexbot romances: Women fear loss, and men fear failure. The beast is only attractive to the particular woman who sees his inner beauty, so she won't lose him. A man can't mess up with a sexbot (is this what was said? I can't remember), so he doesn't experience failure. (In her writeup  [info] - personalvito_excalibur said that this was interesting but these arguments could get too essentialist. I agree.)


Jun. 1st, 2009 09:14 am (UTC)
More counter-examples...
I can think of a few where both the female lead and her rotating male interests are paranormal, and they may have included human males as well. I should be asleep, but if I don't comment now, I'll forget to come back to it.

There's Carrie Vaughn's Kitty books -- female werewolf heroine, Kelly Armstrong's Bitten has a female werewolf heroine, who I believe is at least initially involved with a human male, but I don't remember much about it, and haven't read any further -- at least, I think it's a series. Kim Harrison is on my to-read list, but I believe that also a female heroine paranormal romance series, or maybe the fuzzy gray area between paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Julie Kenner's Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom series, sort of -- the heroine is human with extra knowledge and training, rather than superhuman, but that's as close to superhuman as any of the men get, too.
Jun. 1st, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
Re: More counter-examples...
Thanks for those!

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