It started with Laurell K. Hamilton–she was writing a series of books that a friend told me was totally like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and at that point in my life, I had just finally succumbed to the one million people who had told me I would love Buffy more than anything else in the entire world, and it was true. I fell head-over-heels for that show, became a maniac, inhaled all the seasons that had already been produced (five, in total), and waited impatiently for the sixth. I was a wreck and wanted more. So I should say that really, it started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this absolute craving for kickass supernatural ladies who do kickass supernatural things in a supernatural kind of way, and Hamilton seemed to fit the bill like you wouldn’t believe.
It was a relatively new genre, the kickass supernatural lady genre, when I started reading her Anita Blake series. There was a lady named Anita Blake, who might as well have been named Maurell J. Kamilton, whose voice had no nuance and whose personality was supposed to be tough-as-nails but whose frequency was pretty much nails-on-a-chalkboard, but the books were fun and fast-paced and Anita kicked vampire butt and there were guns and knives and zombies and she was a necromancer and it was kind of cool. They were throwaway paperbacks. They were a gateway drug.
I tore through the series, and started to look for others. The concept hadn’t
quite caught on yet, so I kept buying the Anita Blake books, even as
they started to go…horribly awry, is the only way really to put it. Suddenly, Anita Blake was not just a federal- marshal-slash-vampire-executioner. Suddenly she was a psycho hose-beast who was doing it in
the butt with 83 werewolves and a goat and adding superpowers
to her brand-new superpower arsenal at an alarming and improbable rate
(…more improbable, I mean. You know what I mean!) and every single male
in her books was madly in love with her even though she was really
nothing more than a horrible, wretched, unpleasant, whining, shrieking
harpy asshole. And I kept reading them because–I don’t know why,
exactly! On the bonus side–I stopped paying for them, when I learned to
love my library.
Then there was a renaissance, and the books started coming fast and
furiously, most of them far better-written than the ones by Ms. Hamilton (whom I
kept reading as she doubled her output with books about violent fairies
who had a lot of sex). I picked up and discarded a lot of series, but I
found I loved Rachel Caine (a bad-ass chick who can control the
weather) and Kelley Armstrong (lots of bad-ass chicks who could do many
bad-ass things) and I was happy, am happy every time a new one comes
out, am surrounded by an embarrassment of riches in the bad-ass chick
genre, am terribly embarrassed to be reading these things.
I always thought that I was a reasonably smart person who read smart
books and could have good conversations about them, but that is
probably, if I am going to go ahead and be honest with you, a total
lie. I’ve already confessed the fact that I used to read romance novels; now I am going on about how I read what boil down, pretty much,
to paranormal romances. It used to be that trashy books were a brain
break every once in awhile, but now, now I devour trashy books, and
those smart books have become the exception to the rule, an antidote to
all the candy. My reading habits have become as bad as my eating
habits, and I bet you my mind is pretty flabby. Quick. Send Dostoevsky
and a crossword puzzle.