Not specifically on undead, but relative to the romance side of paranormal/zom romance!
I’ve read a few comments and reviews on this doco and it’s been mostly negative. That the direction of the documentary shows those into romance books to be pathetic, sad sacks of loneliness or desperate for romantic attention, and ignores the range of romance readers. There’s one at Dear Author, and one at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.
It’s available online at SMH.tv (maybe only for Australian viewers? If you are international, it might not work for you)
Despite or maybe because of the negative images around it, I decided to watch it. I’m still new to admitting I read romance (mostly historical outside paranormals and zombies), but a lot of my friends are romance – particularly paranormal – readers and I do wonder about the difference between the stereotyped Mills and Boon readers and the real readers I know. What is it about the books we like?
So I’ve jotted down some quotes and comments onthings that happened in the doco.
Note: Words not exact because the video was being evil for me and I couldn’t go back to get the words right :S
Women make male or neutral pseudonym for sci fi (and other genres) – men make female pseudonyms for romance books
“It’s okay for her [my wife] to read these novels to compensate what I can’t give her” – a reader’s husband
Men must be alphas, have to look imposing, got to present a good physical appearance, got to be fit, never fat. The kind of man every woman would fancy – Romance writer
Mills and Boon readers are usually past the bloom of youth, intelligent, and have steamy determination – Romance writer
Sometimes are accused by ardent feminists of being anti-feminist, of promising women things that they will never have, which I think is ludicrous. Readers know they are reading a work of fiction, they don’t expect it in real life. – Romance writer
A reader takes up ballroom dancing inspired by the novels she reads. She admits to dressing up specially for her private tutor, but not so for her husband.
‘It gets hotter and hotter’, ‘Why can’t we expect that in real life?’ – a reader and her friend
‘There was a lot missing in my life and that’s why I enjoyed reading the books. I think it’s escapism. You just indulge yourself in them and think ‘wow, I wish that was me’ – A reader
Romance reader who likes ballroom also watches competitions and seems to admire other men who are tall and Harlequin-heroesque, pointing out features of men not her husband that she likes.
Writer takes notebook to cafes and restaurants and will note down snippets of discussion or movements. That’s what readers like, little things rather than big things, little words, little looks.
Of course she likes reading. It’s a harmless past time. – Reader’s husband
You used to get a sex scene that faded into dots … but now it’s very different – Writer
The idea that any fool can write a Mills and Boon is a mistake – Writer
The sex scene must always be in the context of a loving relationship. – Writer
This is all fantasy, it’s not the real world. It’s a nicer world and we want to maintain that image – Writer
That’s why you read the books. You want all that romance … At the end of the day, you live in the real world and everyone has their downfalls. – Reader
A Mills and Boon book is not just happy and straightforward – they have to work through trials to get to a happy conclusion – Writer
Why do men find it so hard to say ‘I love you’? Maybe because it’s so trite, everyone says I love you. There’s almost an in-built fear of commitment, they don’t really want to say something that will tie them down. – Writer
She’s an extremist [about reading Mills and Boon]. Militant, feminist. – a reader’s separated husband
The dancing reader is not happy. Her husband has joined her in dancing so she can go in competitions, but she envies those couples where the husband/male teaches the female. The husband is nervous, but excited to be working with her.
Women are more interested in relationships and talking about relationships than men. Women like to be told things over and over again. – Writer
We’re all yearning for love … I think a fraction of 1% get to meet their true love. It’s so powerful it’s unstoppable. You have to believe in that. – Model
In every book I write there is a development in the character. The person at the end of the book is not the same as at the beginning, they’ve both learned something about themselves. – Writer
Mills and Boons create an excitement in my life … but it’s not something I’m setting my heart on, because real life is about different things. It’s about romance in your self, that will save you. Relationships will come and go … but it’s the relationship with yourself and how you develop that – Reader
If you think it is getting a bit stale, you have to throw something in there – Reader’s husband
We celebrate, in every Mills and Boon book, the emotion of love which is in everyone’s lifes – Writer
Real life begins where the Mills and Boon ends – Reader
So a lot of this was about true life love and relationships and not just the romances. It feels a bit awkward to have watched someone else’s unfulfilled relationship.
I’m not so sure that reading the romances gave the women an unachievable relationship to desire as the film seemed to suggest. They wanted to be respected, to have some fun in the times they spent together and to enjoy each other’s company and work with their passions.
I didn’t think there was enough breadth in the film – there was no happily married/together couple of which one reads romance, there had to be something lacking or different in the relationship. The people were set up to be seen as trying to live in their own fantasy world, but I didn’t feel that’s what was really going on. Also, the restriction of only connecting with Mills and Boon romance – there are soooo many other imprints and publishers and types out there.
And none of them seemed to read or write or model for paranormal romance. Mores the pity, because I think it brings a new dimension in. I particularly love when the female is the special paranormal, and the male is lesser aware of the paranormal because all too often, it’s men as alpha weres/head vamps and women as the humans. Where once a woman had to be a lady to marry a lord – and there’s more than enough stories about lower class women and higher class men – it’s about changing an entire life-state, not just being able to pick nice clothes and not insult a royal guest. Could argue that romance is the same all around, it’s just paranormal types ramp up the problems that can be had in any normal relationship. Still, I think it’s a missed opportunity to show only one kind.
There’s almost always a part in zombie stories where someone is bit or infected and one of their loved ones has to face a choice: to watch them turn and become dangerous to the rest of the survivors, or shoot them while still human. This is never an easy task. Maybe this happened off screen, and you see the survivor shaken and not quite sane, shocked by what this war with the undead has made them do, and they question themselves and if live is worth living after what they have done.
There are some short stories I’ve read lately which deal with the bond of lovers or family after death. You might question if they are zombies because they might not be precisely called zombies; maybe just undead, reanimated corpses. This is not romance WITH zombies but love for the human-that-is-now-zombie (although one story by Williamson isn’t on this specific theme of love in the time it’s set).
I do think that we can’t be so direct about what a zombie is or isn’t, because authors are bloody inventive creatures and they will force these creatures we once knew to evolve. There’s been quite a few changes in the short 100ish years of the Americanised fictional zombie, and that’s a damned quick evolution from zombiing individuals to mobs (Vampires used to be hidden singular vamps or in small groups, and now are a whole known race in literature with great numbers).
Anywhoos, here’s the stories (I haven’t finished the whole compendium yet, so might add more later):
Was it a dream? by Guy de Maupassant (1910)
The Cairnwell Horror by Chet Williamson (1990)
Later by Michael Marshall Smith (1993)
“The next step in evolution of this highly specially subgenre will likely literalise the metaphor, presenting narratives in which the zombies tell their own stories, acting as true protagainsts and even heroes”
~ Kyle William Bishop, American Zombie Gothic
Why can’t we love the undead? So many friends push aside the idea of a zombie lover completely (you guys can’t judge me! You read about vampire sex!)
As discussed before, zombie romance is more romance. Sex never enters the equation. It’s about a relationship of souls (personalities), a coming together of two people.
But still zombies aren’t good enough! The rotting is either done away with completely or can be avoided with medication. The eating of people or brains is the same. So where is the problem? They are undead humans, as are vampires.
With rational thought, being capable of emotions, moral agency and free will, why are the undead any less suitable as mates? They can’t procreate and have different lifespans, and perhaps different nutritional needs, but so can human lovers. (Zombies, Vampires and Philosophy Should Vampires be held Accountable for their Bloodthirsty Behaviour – John Draeger) Some undead choose to vegetarian and will not eat humans, just as some humans choice to not eat meat or meat byproducts. (Z,V & P – The Blood connection between Vampires and Vegetarians by Wayne Yuen)
So, they might have a disease, parasite, genetic mutation or be cursed by magic. Why do we accept a Trill then (a humanoid that is capable of hosting an inner snakey-alien that shares its lives)? Or a Bajoran’s nose? They are different from humans physically too. (Can you tell I just rewatched Deep Space Nine?)
Frankly, people stereotype zombies. And if you think its too far from cultural zombie lore, look at Day of the Dead. Bub could recognise death and exhibited signs of sorrow. Big Daddy in Land of the Dead looked after his zombie community. There was even a cute couple holding hands, strolling about the apocalyptic scene, who were zombies.
As far back as forever there are stories of love between humans and the unknown, gods , fairies, monsters etc. This evolution of the zombie is no lesser than those stories. At a time, werewolves might never have appealed or vampires not been sexy (but Alexander Skarsgard is always sexy!), it is time and literary evolution and imagination that allow us to perceive injustice to these creatures.
Don’t prejudice your daughter’s next boyfriend just because he’s a zombie. He’ll treat her right!