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Mormon-Vampire tale blows up intrawebs

This post is for the non-Mormon readers of this blog who come from (most likely) the genre romance corner of the net.

Backstory: LDS fiction
(aka Mormon fiction)
is analogous to, say,
what Steeple Hill puts
out or any other run-
of-the-mill Christian/
evangelical inspira-
tional romance. No
swearing, no sex, very
clean. No taking the Lord’s name in vain,
no smoking, no drink-
ing, no allusions to any of these things. For all intents and purposes, the term “LDS fiction” has come to be defined informally in the same milieu as inspirational romance category fiction.

The lines get a little muddy when you have people like Orson Scott Card, who is an observant Mormon, who occasionally writes in explicit LDS terms but mostly doesn’t. Does he write LDS fiction or not? I say no. I say he’s an author who is LDS. His work isn’t marketed as LDS fiction and Mormons aren’t his target audience.

Then you’ve got Eugene Woodbury who has single-handedly managed to blow up that minutiae of the intrawebs interested in writing LDS fiction, publishing LDS fiction, reading LDS fiction, loving LDS fiction the way evangelicals love Janette Oke. Poor guy’s taking a beating (but then, he might like that; I don’t know his kink).

Aside: I urge my genre romance readers to go here and read his book, offered online, Angel Falling Softly, about a Mormon bishop’s wife making a deal with a vampire to save her daughter’s life. (It’s also available in Kindle and print.) Except for a teensy bit of Mormon culture that goes unexplained but which I think you can get from context, I think you’ll enjoy it. Unique take and no preaching and oh, a nice love scene (and, er, a little necessary girl-on-girl so the vamp can eat, but you didn’t hear that from me).

Which is why the LDS fiction contingent is blowing up even as we speak. For some reason, there is the perception out there that it was marketed as LDS fiction. It wasn’t. It was offered by an avant garde publisher of fiction that has its basis in Mormon culture. I mean, I expected to see a little of this, but for cryin’ out loud!

Then we get into the inevitable comparisons to Twilight, which is an erotic book. Whether it was intended to be, I don’t know. I don’t think so, though Janine from Dear Author disagreed. Mind, the majority of LDS readers who are online don’t get the heavy sexual subtext and think it’s a nice, clean read for their girls. To compound the problem, the vampire code for blameless sex is completely lost on the LDS culture in general (I don’t know why that surprised me).

Which is another reason everybody’s having hissy fits. Apparently, the back blurb with the word “vampire” in relation to saving a kid’s life wasn’t enough of a tipoff for LDS readers who thought they might be getting a Twilight clone with regard to its “cleanliness.”

So anyway. I’m watching all this going on, the sarcastic worry over the fate of Eugene’s salvation and standing in the church, the hand-wringing over the label “LDS fiction,” who should be writing it, who shouldn’t be writing it, who should use the label, who shouldn’t use the label. It’s all amusing, but sad at the same time.

What’s even sadder is that while they “feel” Eugene mocked the doctrine, mocked God, mocked Job, they don’t say how. (Hint: He didn’t.)

What I see are people who are so unwilling to venture away from the shelves of Deseret Book that they A) don’t know the obvious cues the back blurb is giving them, B) don’t want to acknowledge that moral ambiguity exists within the minds and hearts of good Mormons much less deal with it head-on, and C)
all too willing to condemn one of their own in specificity. For instance,

I think a lot of the problems the church is going to have in these last days are going to come from within. There are some disturbing trends coming to light and this is a prime example.

And:

I am very glad that I don’t have to be there when Mr. Woodbury has his next priesthood interview!… Too bad the rest of us LDS authors may have to spend years making up for the damage this book will do.

Mind, I am not making fun of these people. That’s why I didn’t reference the comments with a link, because I don’t want anyone else to, either. They are my people. I go to church with them, I have friends like them, I am one of them. I’m not sure which of the above bothers me most, but I think it’s the rigidity, the soul-deep certainty that good people are blessed not to suffer pain or doubt or make difficult choices that have no right answer–and that people who have pain and doubt and have to choose between bad and worse somehow deserve it.

Check your pride at the door, folks. Maybe you did feel duped because you assumed it was LDS fiction as it is typically understood–and I am empathetic with that response; I’ve been ambushed, too. However, it was a vampire story. There was no ambush awaiting you. And please, be more careful in the future because when you read a back blurb that contains this:

Milada is Homo lamia. A vampire. Fallen. And possibly the only person in the world who can save Rachel’s daughter. Uncovering Milada’s secrets, Rachel becomes convinced that, as Milton writes, “all this good of evil shall produce.”

As the two women push against every moral boundary in order to protect their families, the price of redemption will prove higher than either of them could have possibly imagined.

you probably ought to think about what that might entail, even if you have no clue that vampire is code for sex and think Twilight was squeaky clean.

PS: Twilight Fangrrls. I have apparently become obliged to disclaim that I liked Twilight. Just…probably not for the same reason you did. Hawt. (Though that could just be my touchy libido.) No literary outrage need be expended on my behalf today, although I thank you for thinking of me.

PPS: I won’t be tagging my book LDS fiction, either, nor seeking shelf space at Deseret Book, so you are safe.

20 thoughts on “Mormon-Vampire tale blows up intrawebs

  1. I’ll be. Somehow I managed to read the book and miss that it was written by Eugene Woodbury, who I like from what I’ve read on his website.

    But then I read right past and missed the sex.

    Honestly, I’m a little tired of various rewrites of vampires as (alternate explanation for what vampires really are) who are really lovable Mary Sues in one way or another, though I recognize the erotic roots ever since Dracula.

    The teaser for the book translated to me as “mother doubts salvation is possible and that there is any afterlife, so seeks to have her child transformed into a soulless undead monster rather than risk her “death.””

    Of course the actual novel isn’t anything like that, more of a “person/vampire caught by terrible circumstances attempts to find a life and make a positive way in the world, in spite of her roots” sort of story.

    The biggest weakness, to me, was the failure to explain and explore the LDS context more. Made it seem like it was limiting its reach, though I’m glad you didn’t feel that way.

    All in all, well executed, though a bit light on the words (I would have thought another fifty pages of writing would have helped the book).

  2. Well, I commend Eugene for his restraint. As a writer, I would have chosen a different path for Milada and Rachel in order for Milada to get the genome she needed to save Jennifer (and at this point, I’m betting he struggled over that choice).

    All in all, well executed, though a bit light on the words (I would have thought another fifty pages of writing would have helped the book).

    I do have to agree with this. I wanted more and as I said in my review, I would have liked to see how the husband dealt with it once everything was laid out for him.

    I think what I’m scratching my head over, though, is what everyone sees as mocking God. I see Rachel doesn’t have a complete and perfect faith. Okay. Do any of us?

  3. .

    Where in the world did you find the idiot who made that priesthood interview comment? The odds of him getting in trouble (?) for this are so close to zero I would have spit chocolate in their face had they said it while I was eating a cookie…..

  4. Lucky for Orson Scott Card, nobody but a few science fiction and fantasy geeks have read Hart’s Hope or Maps in a Mirror. I recall him mentioning he’s caught flack for making the women in his (published by Shadow Mountain, nee Deseret Book) “Women of Genesis” series human.

    So I shouldn’t be surprised, except that somebody who would be offended by books like that should turn away at the sight of the front cover alone.

    But what springs foremost to mind is the same flabbergasted reaction I had when I first came to Utah from the “mission field” and encountered at BYU the thin scriptural and doctrinal comprehension of kids who had attended time-release seminary for the past three or four years.

    I could imagine Evangelicals taking me to task for stressing Rachel’s maniacally works-centered concept of grace (it’s their number one beef, after all), but Mormons?

    The weirdest accusation is that this was some sort of nefarious plan to undermine the morals of the Youth of Zion. Okay, that was the plan, but it didn’t fit into the fifty-dollar advertising budget (I kid, I kid, though not about the budget).

  5. Eugene said: “I could imagine Evangelicals taking me to task for stressing Rachel’s maniacally works-centered concept of grace (it’s their number one beef, after all), but Mormons?”

    Hear, hear! The real issue I see for the book, which I’m still wrapping up BTW, is finding its target audience. U of U students should enjoy it. Fringe Mormons would like it, but probably not mainstreamers. There is an insider feel that makes the humor more self-deprecating than anything. But many Mormons would rather crawl under a rock that be out in the public eye, mostly because of the beating everyone has taken consistently in the media due to Romney’s campaign and the FLDS raid. (Which the book alludes to). Overall, I think it’s pretty interesting.

  6. The only thing embarrassing about Romney’s campaign, IMO (besides the fact that he’s not actually a conservative), was that he didn’t just buck up and say, “None of your business” when journalists started poking and prodding into his personal particulars. I mean really. Is it that scandalous the man’s only been with one woman?

  7. Hi, I’m the publisher of the book in question. Heavy-weight Mormon author Orson Scott Card has been reaming me out this weekend for making a mockery of the faith by publishing such a Mormon-meets-vampire book, which I do not believe Card has read. He equates it to being as absurd and disrespectful as writing a story wherein Joseph Smith meets the Easter Bunny.

    So, especially for you Mormons who may be reading, is it somehow unethical or heretical to write a speculative novel that looks at how fantasy-horror might intersect with Mormon theology?

  8. Wow, Orson Scott Card, the windbag author of a really bad series of books cribbed from the Book of Mormon is criticizing someone for mocking Mormonism? Will wonders never cease?

  9. You know – I love 90% of OSC’s books but I lost some respect for his LDS viewpoints when I subscribed to the newsletter he used to put out (the name of which escapes me – it was many years ago). IMO, the guy who wrote a fantasy tale like Alvin Maker with its obvious overtones of Joseph Smith-in-fantasyland, not to mention the “Return to Earth” series, obviously based on the BofM, doesn’t have any room to criticize anyone for how they represent the religion in fiction. The only difference is that perhaps the correlation to LDS religion and history aren’t as obvious in his books because, with the exception of some short stories, he never names them as such.

    I haven’t read the book in question, but the tempest in a teapot is typical of all discussions among conservative Mormons.

    Where’s the outrage over the eroticism in “Twilight” series? I had a relative and her friends from Utah here a week or so ago, all young adults (19-22) who are crazy about the Twilight series. We talked about the “squeaky clean” aspect of it. Ummmm…. Anais Nin, anyone? Some of the most erotic things I’ve read never mentioned genitalia or sex. I’m guessing not many steadfast members have read erotica; otherwise, they might be better equipped to recognize it when they see it disguised as a “squeaky clean” story about teen vampires.

    Sheesh.

  10. Where’s the outrage over the eroticism in “Twilight” series?

    Doesn’t exist. I cull these 2 choice comments from another of the blogs that is in the hub of this brouhaha:

    I must be out of the loop because I have never equated vampires with sex. So I would not have made that jump for this book.

    and

    Re: the vampire lore–for millions and millions of people (and thousands of LDS readers), the ONLY vampire story they’ve ever read to this point is Twilight, so they’ll take along assumptions they got from that and apply them other LDS authors. These readers are going to be unfamiliar with all the sexual nuances that go with Dracula et al.

    I am not going to link those comments, again, because I am not making fun and I don’t want anyone else to make fun, either.

    I don’t believe the claim is true for millions and millions. I am disgusted with the fact that the alarm bells in the back blurb and the warning on the publisher’s website were missed and then blamed on the publisher and, further, that some feel the need to stone the man.

  11. Wow, just how dense do you have to be to not equate vampires with sex of some kind. Hickey anyone?

  12. I’m guessing not many steadfast members have read erotica; otherwise, they might be better equipped to recognize it when they see it disguised as a “squeaky clean” story about teen vampires.

    I was talking to my visiting teacher today and she said she read the books before she let her daughter read them. She understood the subtext completely and she explained the in-your-face dominant- submissive overtones, explained it to her daughter, and they had a nice chat. Way to be!

    Put a collar on Bella and make it official. Pauline Reage would be proud.

  13. I just posted a response to this issue on Eugene’s blog. Since Twilight was mentioned here, I’d thought I’d pipe in on that topic.

    First: My friend Carole, who is familiar with some vampire literature but doesn’t get into erotica, immediately responded (negatively) to the domination/submission issues in the Twilight books: you can read her in-depth analysis on my blog :).

    Second: Our LDS book club read Twilight (I never finished), and my mother, who reads NO vampire literature or erotica, immediately reacted, with distaste, to the “petting” scenes. This is not a hypersensitive woman, but she is a very moral one (read Eugene’s first post about AFS’s controversy). She thought the petting scenes were, to put it mildly, disingenuous.

    Last comment: I had a BYU Creative Writing professor who said, “Well, sex and vampirism is kind of an automatic link” although he thought it was overused. Still, absent any background in vampirism, I think readers who don’t see it coming are being willfully blind, looking for trees instead of forest and, in the case of AFS, completely missing the point.

  14. *clunk*

    Oy vey.

    And here I was up reading in bed, thinking about how my story was going to bring me backlash. But of course, that’s half the attraction… Yes, I am a troubled child.

    Something I’ve been thinking tho. Light belongs in the darkness. I’m not writing my story to appeal to Christians who won’t read anything BUT Steeple Hill. They don’t need it-they have their …whatever it is they have. I’m going to cozy myself up to everything those good and righteous people are afraid of and light a Bic.

    “Put a collar on Bella and make it official. Pauline Reage would be proud.” *snerk* that one was great.

  15. Eva! Welcome to my little niche of one (me): Erotic Mormons. ;)

    I’m not writing my story to appeal to Christians who won’t read anything BUT Steeple Hill. They don’t need it-they have their …whatever it is they have. I’m going to cozy myself up to everything those good and righteous people are afraid of and light a Bic.

    How does that manifest for you? Are you really trying to force the same poles of two magnets together, like I am? (That’s what I understood you to mean in your Romancing the Blog comment.)

    Man, I can’t wait to read that.

  16. Yes. I think I am. Don’t ask me how. ;-) Well, I will say the one thing that I know of it-it’s a story of redemption.

    I guess becuase we clean things up so much? Faith based fiction can be soooo clean, but when you do that, you lose the power of the transformation. You take the magnificence out of the miracle. You– :-) you get it.

    And anyway, I’ve made up my mind that God doesn’t despise vibrator manufacturers. ;-)

  17. Emma Bull (War for the Oaks)
    Megan Lindholm a.k.a. Robin Hobb (Wizard of the Pigeons)

    Two wonderful books, thanks for reminding me of them in your link to Urban Fantasy.

    Right now, aside from DeLint, too much of it is just erotic fiction with a different background, which is not my cup of tea.

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