It might surprise you to know that there is enough Pagan fiction for it to seem sensible to talk in terms of genre. Over the years I’ve done a lot of work as an editor and book reviewer, and as I’m openly Pagan, these tales tend to find me. I think the genre is an interesting reflection of us as a community.
There are a lot of authors who are not Pagans, but who use Paganism as a way of getting the paranormal side of ‘paranormal romance’ sorted. I can’t say I have any great enthusiasm for this, it tends to be fluffy and not like anything that might happen in your actual life. There are a lot of Pagan authors too. Most are writing ebooks, because traditional print is insanely hard to get into. Romance and erotica are reliable sellers, so authors with a desire to get paid once in a while often gravitate there. The majority of Pagan fiction I’ve encountered, falls into the romance genre, with varying degrees of eroticism.
What makes a romance Pagan? Obviously one or more of the participants has to be an active and practicing Pagan for a start. It’s not unusual to make the Paganism central to the romance – lovers meet through social Pagan situations, their relationships are changed and challenged by rituals, spells, contact with the divine and so forth. Look around the Pagan community and you’ll see a lot of Pagan couples. It isn’t easy being in a relationship with someone who isn’t Pagan and doesn’t get your world view. Possible, mind, and plenty of people manage perfectly well.
From an author perspective, the tendency of Pagans to be a little bit outside the mainstream, a bit edgy, unconventional, sometimes marginalised – it’s good material, getting an interesting tale is that bit easier. People who have it too easy are no fun to write about. With the gothic hat on, the tension between magical insight and possible madness is an absolute gift.
Then there’s the reincarnation issue. The most popular theme in Pagan romance fiction, whether the author is Pagan or not, seems to be reincarnation. The couple were together in a former life. They are soul mates. Maybe they struggle to realise that at first. There will be some kind of barrier, it’s not a proper romance if you don’t have to suffer a bit along the way! There may be adversaries from past lives lurking about, eager to harm, or destroy them. The love affair may have some cosmological implications. It makes for a charming sort of story, even more romantic than regular romance, because this stuff is forever.
I got to thinking about this. Why is it that we don’t tell reincarnation stories about other kinds of relationship? If we do reincarnate and there are lessons carried on or people we keep having to engage with, there must be other stories. The person you killed last time around. The lover you feel all maternal about who was perhaps your child in a former life… there are so many ways to create messy, complex and interesting stories out of reincarnation, that I wonder why we’re so hooked on the tale of the eternal soul mates. Possibly because it’s more comfortable and easier to resolve.
From an authoring perspective, and as a reader, I much prefer stories that are complicated, messy, difficult to unravel, and where it’s not always clear what the right outcome would be. That doesn’t rule out romance, of course, it just rules out tidy romances. It led me to writing this – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FJ58GRA (short story, including love, death, paganism and enmity)
What kind of stories do we want to tell about ourselves? Do we want realistic Pagan fiction, or romanticised, fantasised versions? Do we want Paganism in all genres? How do we want people to see us? Would we welcome more realistic depictions from non-Pagans, or are the fantasies that we can shrug off as ‘not us’ actually more comfortable?
If you’d like to try Pagan murder mysteries, historically set, can I recommend you pick up ‘A Dangerous Place’, by Robin Herne, http://www.amazon.com/A-Dangerous-Place-ebook/dp/B00EPQ7Y40/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1381128425&sr=1-1&keywords=dangerous+places+robin+herne which contains a full and rich depiction of human behaviour, and is splendid. It demonstrates that there is much more scope within Pagan fiction than the fantasy and romance end, which currently tends to dominate.