I discovered a new (for me) newsletter on the weekend. The attraction was an article titled “Goblin mode: a gothic expert explains the trend’s mythical origins, and why we should all go ‘vampire mode’ instead”.
Actually, it was the word “goblin” that caught my eye. As supernatural creatures go, goblins aren’t particularly popular at the moment. Zombies and vampires are everywhere, goblins not much at all.
As the article explains, “goblin is a ‘general name for evil and malicious spirits, usually small and grotesque in appearance’ “ (from Dictionary of Fairies by Katharine Briggs).
The reason my literary antennae immediately quivered is that in my first book, the defining event that sets my heroine on the first steps of her journey takes place at a charitable fete called The Goblin Ball.
When I write, I often storyboard in my head, and one of my first boards for my upcoming Chaos Roads trilogy was a vision that just popped into my mind of my heroine holding a chic black invitation embossed with dancing orange stick-goblins, and so the event was christened.
(Note: If you’re not familiar with the concept of storyboards, which is a story planning technique heavily used by filmmakers, this article, “What is a storyboard and why do you need one?” explains it beautifully.)
I’ve been interested in the supernatural since childhood, probably inspired by movies like The Wizard of Oz. The scene in the Haunted Forest fascinated me, and, like everyone everywhere, I found the flying monkeys really creepy. Also definitely inspired by dressing up as anything other than a (semi-)normal girl and walking around in the cool, leaf-scented October night without my parents every Halloween.
My older brother and I became obsessed with the Dark Shadows television series after we discovered it, and my mom quickly joined us. While modern viewers might find the special effects cheesy, it was a ground-breaking supernatural soap opera at the time, with a dark and spellbinding atmosphere that developed a cult following. Strange Paradise was another gothic soap running around the same time period, and it also became a favourite of my mom and me. When I discovered vampire movies, the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and other authors that wrote in his universe, and the Elfquest saga by Wendy and Richard Pini, I was hooked.
What is it about the supernatural that engenders such an enduring love among its fans? There are lots of theories, but for me it symbolized all the possibilities beyond our largely humdrum daily lives. As many adventures as my hubby and I have experienced in our travels, I still long for a world where Halloween opens the doors between realms, foggy days might hold anything in their clouded horizons, and the shadows of the night cloak all the creatures I love to dress up as.
The popularity of sci-fi/fantasy/comic conventions attests to our widespread desire to find some fun in our lives, to spend some time in alternate realities. One of my favourite episodes of the Castle tv series is Final Frontier, an affectionate tribute to conventions and dedicated fans. In the episode, a murder takes place at a fan experience for a fictional short-lived sci-fi series called ‘Nebula 9’, a purportedly cheesy production that nevertheless garnered a raft of passionate fans. At one point in the episode, Castle himself comments “Such is the power of fantasy”; his detective partner Kate Beckett, notoriously of the mind throughout the series that everything has a logical explanation, was herself one of the ‘mega fans’ of Nebula 9 during her university days.
That resonated with me. The original Star Trek series in syndication got me through some tough times in my university days when my parents were constantly fighting and my mother’s battle with alcohol caused me many sleepless nights.
Returning to the original article that prompted this post, the writer makes reference to the modern trend for vampires to be sexy and cool, as in the mega-successful Twilight series of books/movies. I’ve seen that trend treated with scorn by a variety of writers over the past few years, but I would argue that the challenge for modern authors is to make the supernatural work in our modern world, which isn’t full of the convenient dark and isolated places that authors in the 1800s and earlier could draw upon to offer their supernatural creations a place to hide in.
Stephenie Meyers clearly gave some thought as to how modern-day vampires might exist in the world without being discovered. Other authors, like Kim Harrison for her The Hollows series and Nalini Singh in her Guild Hunter series, create complex alternate realities in which the supernatural is open and accepted. Either way, the author has to craft a believable ‘world’ for their story to play out.
Our fascination with the endless possibilities of the supernatural continues unabated since the earlier days of the genre and the original publication in 1897 of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the vampire novel that has had such a profound influence on subsequent writers. An article in The Guardian in 2014 placed Dracula as number 31 on its list of the 100 best novels. That’s quite a distinction and something we modern authors can dream of.
If you’re reading my blog, I’m assuming you’re also a fan of tales of the supernatural and fantastic, and I’d love to hear why you personally love the genre. If you’re not such a fan, I’d love to find out why it doesn’t appeal to you. Polite, respectful comments are always welcome!
As always, all photos are by me unless otherwise specified and all rights are reserved. E. Jurus