Why We Love Monster Stories

Jess Mahler spent a couple hours combing through werewolf romances on Amazon the other day before coming back and crying on the team’s shoulders about how hard it is to find monster stories that aren’t full of “destined mate” or “alpha male” bullshit.

Paranormal romance and urban fantasy are full of some really nasty tropes, many of which fully deserve a place on our “No! Tropes List.” But we keep coming back to them, combing through the bad ones for the rare gems that we finish with a sigh of utter contentment.

Why do we love monster stories so much? Why do we put ourselves through so much trouble to find monster stories that don’t fall prey to the nasty tropes?

Because WE Are Society’s Monsters

we are society's monstersThe black man in his hoody who just wants to walk down the fucking street in peace, the trans woman who just wants to take a piss, the autistic enby who just wants to be seen as a whole person and not a broken jigsaw puzzle. We are society’s monsters–to be either hunted down or locked away.

So we love our monster stories. Werewolves, vampires, witches, dragons, the nightmares of European civilization. In our books, they have their own secret societies. They hide from hunters or fight back. Or they exist openly in “human” society. They live, and love, and THRIVE. And in them we see ourselves. The unloved, the unwanted, the outcast. The strong, the resilient, the tough ass bitches.

Like the monsters we love, we have built our own societies, our own communities. We have existed in the shadows, either hiding from those who hunt us or fighting for recognition from those who shun us. Sometimes both at the same time.

So bring on the werewolves, the selkies, the fae. We’ll read about vampires, dragons, wizards, and ghosts. Because you know the best thing about urban fantasy and paranormal romance?

In the end, the monsters win.

The “No!” Tropes List

At Cuil Press, we have what we call the “No!” tropes list. This is a list of popular tropes in fiction that we absolutely do not want to see. A manuscript with a “No!” trope is a manuscript we will not be publishing.

tropes listThe “No!” tropes list is continuing to grow as we, sadly, find more and more tropes and clichés in media that we never want to see in our books. While we can’t give you the complete list (again, it’s always growing) you can find a partial list here.

For today, we want to give authors and readers some idea of what is on the list and the kind of things we want to avoid. With that in mind, here are three of the top items on our “No!” tropes list:

The White Savior and Mighty Whitey:

From TV Tropes:

This trope [the White Savior] is about a plot where an ordinary, ethnically-European (white) person meets an underprivileged non-ethnic-Euro character. Taking pity on the other character’s plight, they selflessly volunteer themselves as the other’s tutor, mentor, or caretaker to make things better.


Mighty Whitey is usually a displaced white European, of noble descent, who ends up living with native tribespeople and not only learns their ways but also becomes their greatest warrior/leader/representative.

In both of these tropes, the protagonist is the white (usually man) who is saving the PoC side-characters.

Deconstructions of these tropes will be considered if done well.

Rape as Romance

Rape fantasies are a thing, and we respect that. But rape culture is also a thing. And conflating rape with romance is just way too common in the romance genre. If you want to pitch us rape fantasy erotica, we’ll take a look. If your romance has rape or sexual assault as part of the romance plot, even the “romantic” kind, you know—

“No.. We can’t…” but his hands felt so good and she couldn’t bring herself to push him away. She felt herself melting under his impossibly skilled mouth. Finally, she couldn’t hold back any longer. She twined her hands in his hair and returned his kiss.

Look, the moment she said “no” and he didn’t stop? This became sexual assault. And if this is in the romance arc of your manuscript, it will end up in the permanent circular file.

Are you sick of these tropes too? Lend us your voice to help promote our crowdfunding campaign and create original and inclusive fiction.

What Is Cuil Fiction?

What Exactly is Cuil Fiction?

The short of it:

Cuil Fiction is a (relatively) new genre that makes room for all kinds of suppressed & oppressed stories to burst forth and take form.

There’s room for the trauma of oppression to air out & be properly addressed, but this is also the genre for those who dare to dream: of futures, parallel universes, other—better—safer—weirder—more openly dangerous—worlds near & far where characters get to have agency and be fully themselves, come what may.

It’s a genre where we can break not only the fourth wall, but the 4th dimension—and still turn to mush thinking about a crush…or a squish… and spend time talking about what’s for dinner back on your home planet.

Expect #disabled #romance, & #kinky #aro #lovestories, and of course the power of #friendship & #queerplatonic partnership.

Expect Black girls who get to be princesses, & their suitors of all genders to treat them right. Expect parents who teach consent and leaders who apologize, but expect no apologism. Expect justice to be fought for & eventually served. Expect the chance to heal.

Take what you’ve come to expect & shake it right outta your head! Expect to be delighted. Expect the unexpected. That’s #CuilFiction

The long of it:
Michon sat down at age 12 and invented a new genre. One filled with absurdism and satire about all of the ideas that people took for granted like normality, amatonormativity, religion, mental states, physical capabilities, etc.

Basically, cuil fiction is inclusive fiction that breaks society’s expectations. That means stories about intersex, BIPOC, pansexual, women, gender variant, ace, aromantic, autistic, disabled, kinky people and all others normally marginalized, ignored, or misrepresented in media are centered without explanation or undue angst.

It is trauma-informed, neurodivergent-affirming, and built of self-love rather than self-loathing. It is transformative, acknowledges the struggle, and endures until the end.

Cuil fiction regularly involves discussions of informed consent by those who span the scale of emotional intelligence. It involves many non-monogamous configurations even the alternative relationship communities have yet to acknowledge. It runs the gamut of the sexes, preferences, orientations, health, and races in intersectional ways that most haven’t seen anywhere else. It is cuil because, ironically, it depicts the variation and reality among humans that people deny or are ignorant of in real life.

cuil fictionHow does the Cuilverse fit into Cuil Fiction?

The Cuilverse consists of a specifically integrated set of cuil fiction stories. These stories are primarily written by Michon Neal and Ripley Santo, but other authors may be invited to become canon within the Cuilverse. So the Cuilverse is a special multiverse made up cuil fiction stories.

Nothing is sacred in the cuilverse; Michon tore apart everything ze came across, daring imaginary future readers (likely simply variations of hir) to question everything people believed was absolute.

There are no flat characters in the cuilverse, there are only dynamic people. The focus is on their relationships to themselves, others, and the world around them and not simply on how beautiful that plant in the corner is. They actually react to, change, and interact with the universe they inhabit. And while they do tend to break the fourth wall, you’ll find the science, philosophy, anatomy, and diversity is more real than people realize.

Cuil Level

Following Michon’s custom, a Cuil Level is assigned to each work published by Cuil Press. Each level is progressively further removed from oppressive reality as we know it. Cuil Levels are from one to six and in ascending order for the amount of abusrdism/abstraction/presence of surreality/ratio of queer/disabled/BIPOC to straight/cis/able-bodied people. And level zero is downright bizarre and uncomfortable for everyone.

In general, the higher the cuil level the more absurd, impossible, and abstract the events. Basically, it’s like the books are ranked from realistic fiction to anime-level creativity and beautiful insanity.

For example: The Cuil Effect Project

The integrated works that stem from The Black Tree series are called The Cuil Effect Project.

Each series within the project has different cuil level. All of the cuilness stems from one universe breaking and leaking into other universes. Events become entangled, people get zapped into other universes, and random shit happens, seemingly for no reason. The cuil levels are also affected by how far the given universe is from the crack that created all the spillover. The actions the people take either add to the insanity or work to restore it, knowingly and unknowingly.

The Allison Dutch Series, within the Cuil Effect Project, is cuil level 4. The many fantasy creatures (vampires, witches, and lycans, oh my!) put it well outside of reality-as-we-know it. However the series is based in a variant of Earth today and includes a lot of real history and little known facts.

As nonsensical as it all seems closer to the break, however, there is actually point and a purpose. All the stories and series within the project are inextricably and meaningfully integrated.