The Last of the Red Hot Lovers: A Zombie in the Land of the Eternally Undead, Evidently

This was originally published in 2010 at

I was browsing through Amazon's directory of book reviewers to find someone, and I ended up lost in the weeds for hours. It's the usual story.

I got waylaid by the substantial number of featured reviewers who list "paranormal romance" or "vampire romance" as their favorite reading theme. By my informal census it was the most popular of all book themes, this burgeoning paranormal romantic literary canon.

The only good lover is a half-dead, blood-sucking, accursed vampire or zombie, I guess.

Reams have been written about, and truckloads of money earned, on the freakish popularity of Twilight and the Vampire genre. There are probably a dozen dissertations underway on the topic right now. But what I glean from it is that the most popular narratives of heterosexual romance these days have shifted from the romantic realm of the Improbable, to the post-romantic realm of the Entirely Impossible.

Of course, the Harlequin romance bodice-ripper is and always has been downright unlikely. No deposed Count from an obscure, vaguely European country with a gorgeous hard-body physique, ambling about in a randomly-tattered shirt is going to fall in love at first sight with a sad, sexually frustrated housewife in Ohio in the checkout line of Walmart. But at least it could happen, owing to the simple fact that the hero and heroine in a Harlequin romance are both full-fledged Homo Sapiens, who do not subsist by the exsanguination of human blood out of necks for all eternity. Nor is the hero prone to turn into a wolf according to phases of the moon.

In contrast, Paranormal Romance--evidently our most popular mise en scene for romantic tales these days--moves romance from the realm of fantasy into impossible sci fi. In a moment when we still believe in the romantic tale, but not entirely, and not quite, it seems only fitting that we stage our romance in the purgatorial limbo of the undead.

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