Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Give Me Infertility, AND Give Me Death!

So when Kelly and Michele were kicking around the idea for a mothers and vampires theme week, I was like, "Huh. I've never really thought about that." And then I did think about mothers and vampires, and I realized that I had actually thought about this theme a lot.

Like all of my thoughts, they were disjointed, random, usually silly, and mostly consisted of "Wouldn't thinking about [insert random idea] be interesting?" These epiphanic moments, unfortunately, were usually followed up by such distractions as, "Oooo, look, hot man," or "Oooo, look, cake," or, "Ooooo, look, hitch testicles." I do live in Louisiana, after all, where hot dudes, cake, and hitch testicles abound. None of which allow me much time to focus, really.

But today I'm going to focus, a bit. In an unfocused way. I am going to talk about what I do like, and what I don't like, about the very different ways that motherhood is dealt with in various types of books.

My sort of gut reaction to motherhood in vampire fiction is one of ambivalence shaded with cynicism. I like the idea that vampirism-imparted immortality should be accompanied by the sacrifice of procreative abilities. Such a sacrifice makes sense to me. It makes me feel that the universe is balanced, and I assure myself that this sacrifice represents how nature protects itself. Then I realize I'm a moron, and if nature really wanted balance, it wouldn't have created humans as we appear intent on destroying the planet.

Perhaps, however, this desire for balance explains my gut reaction when I read some, usually paranormal romance, fiction that has a brand of vampirism that grants both immortality AND baby-making skillz. I get why such authors do it. After all, selling a heroine who was like, "I like to shag this immortal dude so much I don't care about the babies!" would be tough. And romance is about the HEA, and the romance fantasy, and it's not very romantic to make genuine sacrifices, especially when they're tinged with an aura of selfishness or non-feminine traits.

That said, and speaking of non-feminine traits, I read the hell out of books like this and I lurv them, but I ignore the baby part. Why? Because children FREAK ME OUT. I'm the most non-maternal person EVER. So I think that a huge reason I like vampire fic is that there ain't gonna be no kids. And if there are kids, they're like the kid in Interview with the Vampire, who is actually wicked old and would tear out your jugular. Because I think most kids would tear out our jugulars, given half a chance. Which is why I loved that Swedish vampire film, Let the Right One In. Seriously, though, I like my vampires pleasantly infertile. Which is TOTALLY ironic, as I've done the opposite, sort of, in Tempest Rising. But my vampires aren't really vampires, either.

Ooooo, look! Hitch testicles!

Sorry.

Despite my motherhood anxieties, I love what Michele did in creating a post-vamp mother. After all, I'm so used to images like that in True Blood (which I don't think was actually in the books) of Bill Compson looking at his wife and kids all sad because he wants to go hug them but he knows he'll just wind up eating them. So it was nice to see a character who balances motherhood and homicidal tendencies, and I think the idea is a very clever riff on the more expected impact of vampirism on families. The expectation being that the kids will become dinner, rather than be given dinner.

In conclusion, and yes, I've just come off of reading about 400 freshman comp papers, I think that the exploration of themes regarding motherhood in urban fantasy and paranormal romance is a rich one, and hasn't really been explored by many writers. There seems to be a dichotomous way of dealing with the theme: either you can have babies like a normal human or you're infertile like a normal vampire. Books such as Michele's, which engage with this theme in a new way, have a lot of turf to explore and a lot of opportunities for some really original work.

And now I'm going to go eat some cake. Rock it, sistah!

10 comments:

Terri said...

The way your mind works astounds me LOL.. You are too damn funny woman. i am coming to La and you better find me some testicle hitches so I can laugh my fat ass off !

-Kelly Meding said...

I saw hitch testicles on a pickup truck in Virginia once. Laughed so hard I almost had to stop driving.

They can be very distracting.

Jackie Ballway said...

It seems like, for the most part, once motherhood is introduced the parents are asked to exit stage left, like their story is over. That's why Michele's books fascinate me so much--her characters with kids can't be ignored, they make the whole story!

Nicole Peeler said...

Terri: They are AMAZING.

Kelly: I thought they were some sort of weighting system at first (I saw them on one one of those trucks where the bed has been removed and there's all this rig set up in its place). Anyway, I was like, "What the hell are those? They can't be . . . but they look like . . . but they can't be. . . ohmygod they definitely are . . . THAT TRUCK HAS BALLS!" I really want to get a pair for my new Prius. I'd have the ballsiest hybrid on the block.

Jackie: That's SUCH a good point. It's hard enough to balance a day job and motherhood, or a husband and motherhood, imagine balancing everything when your day job is sleeping, your night job is fanging people, your husband is a big alpha male warrior ball of sex, and you have to worry about your children FOREVER.

Heather said...

Nicole, you totally crack me up!!! I always love your posts. Its nice to know I'm not the only one content to let the rest of the world have kids. I'm happy to be an Aunt. Do you have any pets? I have 2 wonderful puppies, and I think they are way better than kids. :) As a check, plenty of truck balls in Indiana. ENjoy your cake...I hope its chocolate.

Nicole Peeler said...

Heather: Thanks! And I, too, LOVE being an Aunt. I have the best niece and nephew EVER, and it's very satisfying being their crazy, crazy auntie. But no, I don't even have a houseplant because it's too much of a commitment. I have issues. What kind of puppies do you have? I think the truck balls are spreading, you're right.

JD said...

The joys of being an aunty mean you get all the fun stuff, then hand them back when they wail/have a dirty nappy/when you're tired of them. Win/win all round.

Myself, I have a cat. Much less of a commitment than a dog. Though that doesn't stop me from treating my cat like a dog. Everyone has their issues and mine is all about having opposible thumbs and being the top of the foodchain. I am not my cats' 'staff'.

In relations to being a mother, my mum worries enough about my siblings and me as it is and, as sad as it is to admit it, we'll all die eventually. To be a mummy vamp and have to worry about them FOREVER is just too cruel.

And then there's that 'immortal' thing. Does a woman really get to have it all? Fabulous looks (because there doesn't seem to be any point to an ugly vampire), usually a schmexy alpha-male type who worships the ground she walks on in a taciturn manner with wads of cash so she never has to work a night of her life again, immortality, AND kids? Not fair on the rest of us mere mortals. They can't have their cake and eat it too. There's got to be more of a downside to living forever than just having to drink blood. The universe has to have a greater sense of justice than that, surely.

I had to Google 'hitch testicles'. I'd never heard of them before. I did have an idea of what they are (since it's a rather descriptive term) but I had to see for myself. The only thing that comes to mind is 'Oh my'. 'Trucks with balls' now has a whole new meaning.

Heather said...

We have 2 puppies that I classify as the best of all breeds. So, they are mixes. 1 is 3.5 years old, her name is Gabby, and she's a lab/skipperke/shepherd mix, and Harley, who will be 1 next week, is an australian shepherd/chow mix. We love them bunches. They're our babies. :) Honestly, I think plants are harder than puppies. I always forget to water my plants. I never forget to feed the pups.

Nicole Peeler said...

JD: I have inspired many a person to google hitch testicles. And I agree with everything you said re: "having it all" (which is an interesting choice of words, when applied to the HEA idea, as it reveals a level of neurosis to what women feel should make them happy) and being an auntie. Yay for aunts!

Heather: They sound adorable! I do love dogs. If I didn't travel so much I'd probably have one.

kim wells said...

As a mom who reads vamp fiction, I think probably they are not really things that work together. And I like the way you explore the idea. :) There's absolutely no reason for you to be maternal. Your books are your babies at this point. Love THEM feed THEM. If that's what you eventually do, then that's awesome too. :) But I do like seeing all aspects of "female roles" explored in fiction, so I like it when someone thinks about what would happen. If there's a lot of mad sex, does it eventually lead to??? That's probably the main thing that kept me glued to the last Twilight book-- (spoiler alert). How they dealt with "that issue." It was interesting to imagine the two seemingly incongruent things.

Who the HELL Do We Think We Are?

We're a bunch of paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors who occasionally blog, make filthy jokes and prowl the halls of conferences and conventions with switchblades!

Current roster: Mario Acevedo, Michele Bardsley, Sonya Bateman, Dakota Cassidy, Carolyn Crane, Molly Harper, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Stacia Kane, Jackie Kessler, J.F. Lewis, Daniel Marks, Richelle Mead, Kelly Meding, Allison Pang, Nicole Peeler, Kat Richardson, Michelle Rowen, Diana Rowland, Jeanne C. Stein, K.A. Stewart, Anton Strout, and Jaye Wells

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