Let’s not beat around the bush. My father thinks I’m a loser.


Growing up to eventually become a career genre fiction book reviewer – reading about vampires and dragons and aliens – just doesn’t compute with him. He has never come right out and said it but I’m convinced that he thinks reading genre fiction – and paranormal fantasy in particular – is an outrageous waste of time. It’s literary garbage with no value whatsoever. The last time he was over to my house, I handed him a copy of Green-Eyed Demon by Jaye Wells; I was so excited that Orbit Books had used an excerpt from one of my B&N reviews on the back cover. He just looked at it and said, "What is this? Vampire porn?"


I love my dad – don’t get me wrong. But we’re about as different as two people can be. He worked as an accountant his entire life (he retired about a decade ago), always drove the speed limit (I remember countless irate drivers passing him while flipping him the bird), never broke a single law in his life, and, on rare occasions, got a little crazy listening to The Dukes of Dixieland. He never read fiction – at least that I can ever remember – only newspapers and magazines. He was – and always will be – obsessively organized, rational, undemonstrative, and wound tighter than a two dollar watch. Like a Vulcan with too much fiber in his diet.


Fast forward three decades: I’m almost 50 and have been reviewing genre fiction for almost half my life. That’s a long time and a lot of books. I’m arguably one of the most well-read science fiction/fantasy book reviewers around – 6,000+ reviews, hundreds of author interviews, review excerpts on dozens of book covers – but every time I see my father he inevitably asks, “When are you going to get a real job? I hear they’re hiring at the post office.”



And it’s not just my father – many people that I've met (mostly nonreaders) think paranormal fantasy is somehow dumbed-down, uninspired fiction. Supernatural shlock. There is a definite stigma – trust me, I’ve dealt with it for decades.


But truth be told, reading fantasy – and specifically paranormal fantasy – has been an undeniably educational experience for me. I’ve radically expanded my vocabulary and learned about innumerable mythologies. Authors like Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, Kat Richardson, Marcus Pelegrimas, J.F. Lewis, etc. have not only entertained me, they’ve educated me as well.


Bottom line: I am smarter for having read science fiction and fantasy, especially paranormal fantasy. Additionally, I know how to kill zombies, romance a succubus, defend my home from vampire invasion, and survive the apocalypse.


So, in honor of my father – and everyone like him – who think paranormal fantasy is mindless literary escapism, here is just a short list of words that I’ve learned from reading genre fiction – particularly paranormal fantasy. (And a big “thank you” to all of the BarnesandNoble.com forum regulars for their fantastic suggestions as well!)


Put this in your pipe and smoke it, dad – I will never work at the post office, and I don't care if they're hiring.



• Lycanthropic: (from LKH’s Micah) having characteristics associated with  lycanthropy, which is the ability to turn into a wolf.


• Dolmen: (from Laird Barron's Occultation and Other Stories) a prehistoric megalithic tomb typically having two large upright stones and a capstone.


• Psychopomp: (from Stacia Kane’s City of Ghosts) a guide to the afterlife/underworld.


• Exsanguination: (from the Unbound anthology) draining an animal or person of blood.


• Defenestration: (from Polgara the Sorceress by David and Leigh Eddings) the act of throwing someone out of a window.


• Widdershins: (from Promises to Keep by Charles de Lint) in a left-handed, wrong, or contrary direction.



• Homunculus: (from The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia) an artificially made humanoid creature supposedly produced in a flask by an alchemist.


• Doppelganger: (from Laura Resnick’s Doppelgangster) a ghostly double of a living person, especially one that haunts its fleshly counterpart.


• Chthonic: (from Blake Charlton’s Spellwright) of or relating to the underworld.


• Oubliette: (from The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi) a dungeon that is only accessible from a hatch in a high ceiling.


So if you’re like me and are a big SF/fantasy and paranormal fantasy fan, add some of these words into your arsenal and unleash them the next time someone mocks what you read. Telling someone "I read paranormal fantasy. Respect me or I will defenestrate you." shuts thems up surprisingly fast...  :smileyhappy:




Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. In his free time, he reads.


 Keep up with all of my blogs – as well as all of Barnes & Noble’s exclusive reviews, authors interviews, videos, promotions, and more – by following @BNBuzz on Twitter!

by ‎06-14-2011 08:08 PM - edited ‎06-14-2011 08:20 PM

It's not about doing something in life that others recognize as worthwhile, it's about being lucky enough to make a living doing something you love. You know you're lucky Paul, so don't fret about what others think. 


P.S. <Shrugs>, OK, so a lot of people think that fantasy and paranormal fantasy are frivolous. Hey, I think professional sports are ridiculous, car racing is stupid and my husband's obsession with timeliness is crazy. He thinks my reading tastes are curious to say the least. But, so what? Doesn't mean a thing. Everyone has to get by in this life the best way they can. And, a big part of that is discovering what kind of entertainment makes you happy. For me reading fantasy, urban fantasy and an occasional mystery or romance rings my bells.   

by piratewife on ‎06-14-2011 08:52 PM

Great post, Paul.


I think there's always an undercurrent of anything that can be fun or escapist is automatically the equivalent of reading junk food. Paranormal and dark fantasy can make for a better (safer for the reader?) realm to explore the darker elements of human nature, our fears, societal issues and the like without blatancy.


Also, we can learn to use words like doppelganger, exsanguinate and lycanthropic in our everyday vocabularies.


Chelsea / Vampire Book Club

by on ‎06-14-2011 08:57 PM

I don't complaints for what I read just that I own too many books and should get rid of some of them but I can't help it I am a big rereader and so don't want to get rid of any of them.  Thanks for the blog Paul because that is how I feel about reading.  I am keeping up with my education.  I learn something every day.



by 3monstersmom on ‎06-15-2011 02:56 AM

Very funny blog Paul. I love reading Paranormal fantasy, but I hate explaining it to others because the conversation always goes the same way:

Random person: "Oh, so your a big reader.  What do you read?"

Me: "Mostly paranormal fantasy stuff."

Random Person: "What's that?"

And here is where I insert a description of the genre varying in length and depth depending on the person's reactions.  Which is almost always followed up by:

Random Person who is now looking at me weird: "Oh, so do you mean like Twilight-y stuff?"

This is when I like to bang head on wall, whimper, and go: "Something like that."

by MThomas1975 on ‎06-15-2011 10:58 AM

Well said, Paul, well said.  I love paranormal fantasy; it is my genre of choice and people thinking that it isn't "real fiction" annoys me.  What the frak is "real fiction" anyway?

by ThirstyFlea on ‎06-15-2011 11:41 AM

Great article, Paul! People really are judgmental when it comes to genre fiction- I don't even bother trying to justify my choices to others anymore, I know what I like (their loss).You are lucky that you get to do this for a living and be so successful at it, and where would we B&N forum members be without you?!? And what a great spin on the genre to look at it from an "educational" perspective- I'll be sure to throw in a few of these words when asked what I'm reading from now on!

by Pym ‎06-15-2011 01:53 PM - edited ‎06-15-2011 01:56 PM

Love it, Paul,


My reading tastes are insanely ecclectic. So much so that taste preference suggestion software tends to throw it's hands up in surrender and say it can't figure out what to recommend because I'm too confusing. But I have to say that my favorite genre has always been fantasy. Yes, it's totally escapist, but it feeds into the reasons you loved stories when you were a little kid. A great story with fascinating characters, places, and events that grab hold of our imaginations and run with them. What's truly great about fantasy, beyond expanding our vocabularies, is that it opens our minds to new things with every binding we crack. I think it helps make us far more open-minded to new and different ideas in real life and far more accepting and understanding of differences. Not to mention we'd definitely have an easier time transitioning to the new world order if there's ever a zombie apocalypse. :smileytongue:



by Sarah3973 on ‎06-15-2011 09:06 PM

FANTASTIC BLOG!!!  I'm forwarding the link to all the genre snobs I know!  You ROCK!!

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎06-23-2011 09:27 AM

Paul, I think that was the best article I've ever read by you, it's a shame that I don't see the blogs at first sight when I log into the forums because I miss so much now that they're collapsed.


You are an inspiration to all fantasy and non-fantasy alike readers by not only inspiring us to think outside our comfort zone or box but that we'll actually gain something if we choose to do so.


I am a big fan of both Fantasy and Paranormal fiction and you are so right about it not being dumbed down fiction although invariably you will find that in some titles but that is not exclusive to this genre. It also is very educational and I have learned also so much about the different legends, myths and beliefs. In addition to the ones you mentioned above I also enjoy the Mayan end of days theory I've learned by reading Jessica Andersen's novels about that subject.


Thanks so much for being there to direct and educate all of us in the ways of woo-woo, where would we be without you. :smileyhappy:




by deebargee on ‎06-26-2011 06:22 AM



I enjoy your blog and really have to agree with you. I am not quite 50 (yet) and have enjoyed reading paranormal and sci-fi fantasy all of my adult life. I guess I passed it onto my boys as well because one of our favorite outings is to go to barnes & noble and browse the bookshelves, and we always end up in the same section, sci-fi, fantasy, etc. To this day, one son is 26 and the other 17, when we are together we eventually end up at B&N. The Nook has made all of this easier since we have the same taste, we each buy books and share them, but we still end up in the stacks when we are together.


Keep the faith, and keep your shotgun ready for the zombie attacks. (aim for the head).


Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.