Deeper meaning in paranormal stories (aka: When I think too much)
A few years back, I wrote a blog post wondering whether or not fantasy (including urban fantasy, high fantasy, paranormal romance etc.) was a new form of spirituality, particularly for young adults.
I wrote it at the height of Twilight hysteria, when there was an explosion in popularity for everything vampire and werewolf – closely followed by angels, faeries and pixies.
Readers of all ages love these types of stories, but in recent years there’s been a much stronger push in the YA market for paranormal stories. Most of the appeal is about escapism – stories that take you somewhere else for a while.
Is the fantasy/paranormal trend a natural progression from classic horror stories (I certainly spent plenty of hours reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Peter Straub as a teenager), even if most of the new breed of stories isn’t actually about horror?
Or is it a symptom of something else? A need to live – albeit fleetingly – in a world where there is more to reality than we can see? A place where greater forces are at work and an ordinary person can discover they truly are ‘special’ – maybe even have an epic destiny?
Are these stories, in some bizarre way, a new form of spirituality? I’m not talking about lore/mythology as a doctrine, but as an experience.
In these alternative worlds, there’s generally a deeper meaning in life, death and suffering, even if it all takes place as part of a narrative far removed from reality. Readers can exist in a world where there are clearly defined rules (even if the characters break them).
Religion tends to play a stronger role in traditional fantasy (and often in a negative context), but is generally avoided in paranormal fiction. Yet the ‘other-wordly’ aspects remain a huge part of the genre’s appeal.
Given traditional organised religion isn’t necessarily an influence in a lot of young people’s lives (or is it?), are fantasy/paranormal stories a substitute – at least in terms of having a sense of mystery in life?
Or maybe I’m thinking about all this too much and it’s really just about hot guys with supernatural powers…