On Writing: Fangs vs. Tails

So if you were dropped in as the protagonist in a paranormal romance isekai, which would you rather deal with? Vampires or fox spirits?

…Some may suspect this is a trick question. Anyone who’s poked folklore a bit knows it’s at least an open-ended one. There are lots of different kinds of vampires, worldwide, and probably half as many different kinds of shapeshifty foxes. (Who may or may not be fox spirits/fox demons. Foxes are tricky that way.)

Even if the isekai is a takeoff on medieval Europe, you could still have a fox spirit/vampire faceoff. Just do a search on Reynardine.

Granted, the smart answer would probably be, “none of the above, I’m running off to Tahiti, bye!” Nice idea, but given Tahiti’s inhabitants include both French and Chinese, the foxes and vampires probably beat you there centuries ago, and are on the beach sipping midnight mai tais.

Your next best option might be the dark and brooding demon/vampire hunter, but they have a habit of pulling It’s Not You It’s My Enemies, and leaving you high and dry. Or worse, it actually is their enemies, and you end up in a Damsel in Distress or James Bondage situation. If you’re not horribly killed, turned, or otherwise suffer a Fate Worse Than Death, so they can get their proper story motivation for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.

Right. Door number three, please.

Here’s where it gets situational, and highly dependent on which folklore, and even which era, you’re dealing with. These days the Korean gumiho is usually portrayed as a liver-eating fox monster that can become human – if it can refrain from eating human flesh for 100 days. (So no pressure, right? Right?) Yet up to and at least partway through the Joseon Dynasty, there were tales of helpful gumiho, or easily-tricked trickster ones, who weren’t out to eat anybody. Likewise in some areas of Eastern Europe vampires might be mostly harmless outside flattening crops with hail and scaring the horses. They might be nearly indistinguishable from human beings, to the point of siring several children on their widows. (Or at least that’s how the widows explained having more kids. I’m not going to judge.)

Personally I think the question of, is this a living being, would be one of my first considerations. Even if the relationship were purely platonic and chaste, it’s not healthy to be with the dead too long. (Yes, this can include fox spirits – some are fox ghost spirits.)

Second consideration, are they going to eat me? I like all my bits where they are, thanks.

Third, are they a good and moral person? This one specifically can be tricky, because even the best and wisest of benevolent foxes serving Inari still loves a good prank. Also, a vampire doesn’t really qualify as a vampire if it’s not feeding on life-force from something. Maybe they hunt animals. Okay, so do we. But if they start draining plants so the crops die in the fields… that may not hurt people directly, but it still puts human lives in peril.

I suppose the best option would be to get your hands on enough anti-supernatural weaponry so you can tell all those paranormally romantic types to get the heck off your lawn. And definitely out of your bed. And don’t come back without an invitation!

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23 thoughts on “On Writing: Fangs vs. Tails

  1. paranormal romance isekai

    Eeep.

    I know that there are a lot of romance plots, or subplots, in Isekai.

    Being transported would be hugely disorienting.

    I can maybe square the intensity of some types of Romance plot with that level of disorientation.

    The stuff that PNR throws into the mix? With Romance plot intensity and concern about consequences?

    My instinct is saying ‘Nope’. As a reader.

    but, let’s be clear

    I’ve missed sleep.

    And, I’ve enjoyed a bunch of stuff that my instinct had concluded would be bad after doing a preliminary analysis of the thoery. So, I’ve been surprised before, and will probably be surprised many more times by great stories.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. To be fair, a lot of the “should be horrible, turns out great” type of stories turn out great because while they have a superficial resemblance to something that should be horrible, the story is written in such a way that the details are different despite the superficial resemblance. And, of course, they only really work if they actually prove the difference in fact and deed, rather than just in the author’s word (which is where many that wouldn’t normally be horrible become horrible, when they fail this part).

      Liked by 5 people

      1. And even when the setting rules are tweaked to allow “good” outcomes, they’re still often dependent on the specific entity in question being a particularly “good” person.

        That way you can have the Good Vampires defending you from the Evil Vampires.

        The problem for the isekai protag arises when they have to make that character judgement, since the Good Entity is keeping secrets and not explaining anything, and might be an Evil Entity pretending to be good.

        So not only is the protag stuck with myths and folktales saying “all of these are evil” but even an optimistic interpretation has the possibility of going horribly wrong.

        …and they jump in feet first anyway because the author needs the plot to move and they want to keep the “glamour and mystery” going.

        Liked by 4 people

    2. There’s an entire sub-genera of “time travel romance.” (I found this out because of a theology discussion.*)

      Short form, the good ones, like any other “act of desperation” type story– “well, I shouldn’t trust him, it might get me killed. That said, if I don’t trust him, I am going to die, so nothing to lose!”

      With optional Helping points in there, too.

      A whole lot of Romance depends on doing something that is Obviously A Bad Idea. Good romance encourages doing so for good reasons.

      * because I can’t just leave that there– it was on marriage. Specifically, married gal was hauled back in time, long story short, married a guy there. Was it licit. Answer, yes, because her spouse in each time and place was not alive at the time of the marriage. Thus, morally, it’s the same as a widow remarrying.
      …morally. Emotionally, that sounds like a mess, which was also pointed out. 😀

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I don’t read the ‘Smartphone’ LN when I am at all in the mood for something that will stand up to serious thought. So, it is not something I read in a deep ‘akshully, polygamy would suck’ mood.

        Like, I don’t watch Looney Toons when I am in a frame of mind that will only tolerate the hardest of hard science fiction, and realistic physics only.

        When I read a story where the romance sub plot is ‘polygamy’, I’m not really expecting the choices to have a realistic amount of weight, or actual consequences. But, western Romance plots generally are built around the idea that the choice matters, and does have consequences. In particular, the HEA.

        I can believe that an isekai LN can have a Romance main plot, I’m pretty sure that I have seen them.

        It is the combination of PNR with Isekai, together, that threw/throws me. PNR may have a secret world, within the main one of the setting, and major cast typically has varying degrees of information about this secret world with a cosmopolitan range of monster flavored people. When I put the ‘with secret world’ PNR into an Isekai, I am left with questions about how the heroine is supposed to be badass enough to follow the typical PNR heroine profile, and how the heroine is supposed to be judging between one or more guys who are /used to/ deceiving the general public about who they really are.

        I can find answers to these questions, and I do have more of them than I did early this morning.

        Like

      2. Given how… Bad Idea Without Justification… a lot of paranormal romance is? (See also, “Urban Fantasy”, breaking STurgeon’s law…the wrong way….)
        Typical is to be subverted, if not flatly dodged.

        and how the heroine is supposed to be judging between one or more guys who are /used to/ deceiving the general public about who they really are.

        Oooh, this could actually be the FUN part.

        To quote the Russian philosopher Zangief, just because you are bad-guy, does not mean you are bad guy.

        Which is, at its heart, the tension-appeal of paranormal romance.
        The difference between appearance and the surface, as opposed to essence and the truth.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Which is where several things go to the point Jesus said, that some things were allowed by Moses because of the hardness of our hearts, not because it was what God actually wanted. Divorce specifically, in that example, but other things like polygamy probably fit in that too (not strictly prohibited, unlike many other sexual/relationship things… but pretty much every example given shows “but it’s a really stupid idea anyway”). As you say, it was technically licit, but still a mess anyway.

        Liked by 3 people

      4. If I remember the very snarky summary of how by Jesus’ time there was effectively no Jewish polygamy, it was summarized as requiring absolute equality. You get your new wife this thing, you must get *exactly the same* for your old wife; your old wife gets this thing, so does your new wife.
        Guy doing the pop-culture level history lesson: “And so by about year one there was no longer polygamy….”
        Because favoring someone is part of making them feel desired, sooooo…..

        (Just struck me as such a … HUMAN way to fix things.)

        Liked by 3 people

      5. Also to be considered in the “is it licit” question (which you probably did, I’m guessing) is, does she stand any chance of getting back to her time, or not? If it’s a one-way trip, and she knows it, then she is effectively a widow, as her husband is not now alive and she will definitely be dead before he is ever born. But if it’s something reversible, then her situation is more akin to taking a trip to a foreign country, and she should be spending all her effort trying to get back to him. From your conclusion, I’m guessing the time-travel in this story was one way, with no way of getting back to the future\* except “the long way”.

        \* What an interesting phrase. Might make a good movie title. 😀

        Liked by 2 people

      6. :laughs:

        From my memory– having not read it, it was one of the Jimmy Akins podcast “Weird questions”, if I remember right– it was like getting stuck by lightning.

        She ended up bouncing back and forth a few times, but it was *not* under any kind of control.

        Liked by 3 people

      7. Oy vey. That would leave her an emotional mess. Not knowing which life to commit to because she couldn’t know which one she would end up sticking with? Yikes.

        Liked by 3 people

      8. Definitely way high up there on the “torturing your characters” scale.

        At least when your husband is lost at sea, you don’t have it happen three or four times and then he comes back!

        Liked by 3 people

      9. So — SPOILER WARNING!!!!

        She not only goes back and forth, the first time she goes back to her first husband, she’s pregnant with the other husband’s child. The only grace in it is that she wasn’t gone long then, and her pregnancy advanced impossibly far for him to not believe that something happened.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. …Some may suspect this is a trick question. Anyone who’s poked folklore a bit knows it’s at least an open-ended one.

    Someone who’s properly paranoid is running, screaming, with visions of the ax-crazy type foxes in her head, and literal-demon vampires…

    OK, maybe that’s just me. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My first question would be tofu or liver. If liver, then politely decline the fox. I would not pick the vampire, unless they were a living Dhampire, solely due to the Angel/Buffy catastrophe.(Note: not a fan of either, but that was a train wreck from minute one imo.)

    The fox spirit, I would carry homemade grated onion in a vial, mixed with chili peppers for an impromptu pepper spray. Figure if it can cause a human, with our dull senses to break out crying, imagine what it would do. Also before hand research common tales, and include everything in grated form in the spray. Have a physical description and location in an email set to go to the police, nearest Shinto shrine to Inari, and the Vatican to cover all the bases. Also ordered Oni last night.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Considering the number of isekai that involves quests I would sat busy while playing oblivious!human!friend! Until such time as either I could convince them to get together with each other OR find them more power level appriote partners. Not saying I wouldn’t enjoy the scenery in the meantime-vamps and foxes are usually pretty ppl- but even in the kindest of all worlds saddling yourself to an immortal is a bad idea.

    Liked by 2 people

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