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.

Breaking Tropes: Looking for a Different Kind of Werewolf

Cuil Press is all about breaking tropes. Mostly we focus on breaking tropes that are actively harmful to people. Tropes like Sexy is Evil, the Magical Minority, or Asexual=Prude.

But some tropes aren’t harmful–they’re just done to death.

Werewolves are awesome. But how many books do we really need about hierarchical werewolf packs where everyone bows to the (male) alpha, and a mystical tie joins mates for life?

Or the dark, brooding (again male) vampire whose world is turned upside down by romance?

And while we get the appeal of having a hot, sexy, billionaire fall in love with plain-jane and sweep her off her feet (Be honest: most of us would love to be jane -or john-in that scenario. The wish fulfillment is awesome.)–haven’t we seen it enough?

Cuil Press is currently accepting manuscripts, and one of the things we will be looking for is stories that are different–that break the standard tropes. Maybe by having a werewolf story about an asexual werewolf in an egalitarian pack–or maybe by not having werewolves entirely.  Maybe it’s time for some stories about selkies or tengu instead.

If you are breaking tropes and trying something different in your fiction, we’d love to hear from you.