Well, it seems like Romancelandia is on a bit of a monster love bender, and we at The Smut Report want to join the fun. Is this our usual reading jam? Not really. Are we going to have fun with it? Absolutely.
For the month of October, we’ve decided to read not one, not two, but eight books together. Can we do it? We shall see. Every Friday, we’ll post a group review discussing two books selected based on a theme.
We proudly present: Monster Mash Smashdown!
Week One: Aliens of the non-humanoid variety
Week Two: C.M. Nascosta has written two books and we couldn’t decide, so we’re reading both
Week Three: Beauty and the Beast retellings with Beasts that stay beasts
Week Four: Tentacles
Are we ready for this?!
How excited are you to read a bunch of monster romances this month?
Erin: OMG I am SOOOOOOO excited.
Ingrid: I feel like I was born for this.
Holly: I think we’re all excited to delve into unknown smut territory, and our excitement is rubbing off on each other. But also: talking about bonkers romance is my love language.
Erin: This is 100% true. She’s done it with me for years.
Have you ever read a monster romance before?
Erin: Of the three of us, I’m the one who’s most leaned into the weird aliens and the shifters and the paranormal, but before this October extravaganza, I really haven’t read any monsters. A little tame angel and demon action here or there. Some interesting aliens for sure. Tails, yes. Tentacles, no.
Holly: I take umbrage at the fact that Erin thinks that she’s the one who has most leaned into weird aliens. Paranormals? Sure. Shifters are not really my thing. But aliens? Come on. Remember that time I read the book where the alien heroine had three clitorises? Or that time I read the book where the alien hero definitely had tentacles? (Ok, fine, it was erogenous, prehensile hair.) To be fair, with the exception of Strange Love, all of the aliens I’ve read have still been mostly humanoid. Maybe Strange Love counts as a monster romance? The hero is a giant cockroach alien.
Ingrid: The EGOS on these guys, amiright? Who’s the one who ended up causing a full two day delay on their last movie because they just HAD to binge K.F. Breene’s Demigods of San Francisco Series? And perhaps they recall which one of us read all of Ruby Dixon during winter break? I’ve read ‘em. I’ve read ‘em, and I liked ‘em.
What are your expectations, if any?
Erin: When I get into sci-fi alien romance in particular (though it does bleed into speculative romance in general), I expect a lot of gender essentialism and a focus on the protagonists’ ability to biologically reproduce. I also expect that any story that involves learning about another creature’s culture will involve the human figuring out the social stuff and the monster figuring out how to have sex human style. Like, why is kissing always the one thing writers focus on as being alien to non-humans? Why don’t humans ever have to learn to, like, rub ears together as a sign of intimacy and connection and realize they really like it?
Anyway, I’m expecting monster romance to reflect a lot of what I’ve seen in alien romance because the aliens usually look different whereas vampires and shifters have a human form. But I am also a little bit expecting to be surprised because I think monster love authors also want to bend our expectations a little bit.
Holly: I am hoping for bonkers, frankly. I’m not sure if I’m expecting it, but I really hope that the authors we read fully lean in.
Ingrid: I sincerely hope I end up with some kind of risque venn diagram of monster dongles
What makes a monster romance different from an alien romance or a vampire romance or a shifter romance?
Erin: The primary difference is that shifters and vampires have human forms, so their beauty is still centered on human ideas of beauty. Yeah, shifters also have an animal form, but they’re also usually non-verbal in that form, so the whole relationship and attraction is centered on the human form, like the animal form is just for funsies.
As for aliens…alien romance is similar to monster romance because we often see aliens that have interesting features (hello prehensile tails), though often they are largely humanoid with, like, blue skin (naming no Barbarians). That said, it is my impression that alien romance deals with a cultural conflict stemming from a lack of inter-species knowledge, typically with the human being in a situation that’s unfamiliar. I expect that monster romance will focus more on how the monster is “other” such that the human will have to come to terms with attraction and/or internal biases in a different way than simply being thrust onto an alien planet/ship in the middle of a new culture.
Holly: Thinking about the monstrous is a way for us to work out our anxieties in a fantasy sphere, right? I don’t know why monster romance is having such a moment (at least among readers who are Very Much Online)—that’s something we can talk about after we’ve read some books maybe. Anyways, so historically, vampires as monsters are tapping into anxieties about sexuality, and as a culture, we’ve already played with vampires as monstrous but still sexy in a lot of ways, so they’ve kind of become safe and familiar. So we need to up the ante. And shifter romances are not usually about werewolves, who are out of control, but rather wolf shifters, who determine what form they’re in—so again, we’ve processed this monster, and made it safe and consumable. Wolf-man romances have become about family (or pack) and power and gender essentialism rather than fear and a lack of control. So if you want to explore the edges of your id and really get into spaces where you’re playing with sex and fear and control, vampires and wolves aren’t available any more, because they’ve been poked and prodded so much that they’ve become safe. These creatures that were once monstrous have become constrained by genre conventions and have therefore become commonplace in their familiarity.
Ingrid: Yep, that pretty much covers it.
Some other notes about this month
We won’t be posting any reviews on Sundays this month (except for a Halloween special), and the rest of the month will be standard posts, albeit leaning into the paranormal.