Paranormal. Supernatural. They’re the same thing, right?
I don’t want to say a flat-out no but…no, not really. Often times these terms are used interchangeably, but they are different.
Paranormal refers to things that are beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding, like telekinesis or telepathy. The word paranormal means, essentially, “something that exists outside of what we consider to be normal.” Talk about a broad subgenre.
The thing that grounds paranormal fiction are the subjects and creatures — werewolves, vampires, ghosts, aliens, time travelers, etc. Anything out of the ordinary that can’t be explained by science and doesn’t fit the conventional expectations of nature. Especially hot right now are paranormal romances. Girl loves vampire. Werewolf loves girl. Boy loves angel. Alien loves human. You get the picture.
Basically, paranormal involves creatures or skills that cannot be examined or explained through science. (X-men, anyone?)Some examples of paranormal books are:
- Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer
- Shiver, by Maggie Steifvater
- The Sixth Sense (movie)
- The Mortal Instruments series, by Cassandra Clare
Now here’s an interesting tidbit…the literary world often considers supernatural to be a subgenre of paranormal, but the word supernatural was first used int he 15th century whereas the term paranormal came out in the 1920s! And it grew out of the concept of supernatural. No matter what, these subgenres are going to overlap. Hopefully that stirs up the muddy waters for you. 😉
Supernatural is similar to paranormal in that the supernatural things are beyond scientific understanding. However it focuses on the supernatural elements that we consider commonplace in our world, like God, Satan, angels, demons, human souls, etc.
Obviously supernatural is a more common subgenre when dealing with religion and Christianity. Topics like resurrection, grace, afterlife, spiritual warfare, etc. are common concepts we ponder as believers in Christ — concepts that are considered supernatural. It only makes sense that it works its way into our fiction.
Some examples of supernatural fiction are:
- This Present Darkness, by Frank Peretti
- The Well Spring Trilogy, by James L. Rubart
- Haflings, by Heather Burch
- The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis
Both the paranormal and supernatural genres fall more into the horror genre than any other speculative fiction genre. They can be dark and intense, but what do you expect when you’re entering worlds of demons and vampires? Or, to make it feel a little lighter — of angels and aliens?
I had a hard time finding Christian paranormal books. Any recommendations?
Any other favorites in either of these genres we should know about?