Immutable Release Party – Shifters

July 8, 2015

Immutable is my first ever shifter story. I’m not going to tell you what kind of shifter is involved, because spoliers! But I’ll tell you that it’s not a werewolf. Not that I have anything against werewolves. I love me a werewolf, be it Sergeant Angua in Pratchett’s Discworld books, or Oz in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, or Scott McCall in Teen Wolf. But there are lots of different shifters besides werewoves around these days. Still lots of the classic wolves of course, but also plenty of big cats, and everything else from sloths to octopi.

Legends of humans that turn into wolves and other creatures are ancient, but continue to appeal today. Like many tropes that originate in horror stories, they are symbolic of our fears. Like vampires are symbolic of fears about sex and sexuality, and zombies are symbols of fears about contamination and disease. Shifters can symbolise the fear of the animal side of human nature and what happens if it is unleashed. They’re good for themes of identity too. Which am I, human or animal, or something else?

Attitudes to them are different though. They used to be scary, but shifters have followed the vampires into the romance genre. Maybe it’s because our attitude to animals has changed. People used to be more afraid of them or consider them dangerous pests. Now we tend to admire animals like wolves and big cats. At least those of us who don’t live near them and don’t have to deal with them eating our livestock or pets. So a shapeshifter can be romantic and sexy, though with that extra frisson of danger. The current, dare I say it, obsession, with Alpha Males in the romance genre may be a factor too. Make a character a wolf part of the time and the whole Alpha Male thing can be taken to literal extremes.

So shifters are fun to read about and maybe I’ll write more in the future. The nearest I’ve come to a shifter before this is a shapeshifting ship’s doctor in my Red Dragon series, who cycles between male, female and alien form. Zhe gets an extra uniform allowance.

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Question – what’s the oddest shapeshifter you’ve seen? Mine would be the sloths, in a story by Charlie Cochrane in the Lashings of Sauce anthology. Being a sloth part of the time might not be as sexy as being a wolf or panther, but there’d be less racing over moonlit hills persued by hunters and more just hanging out and chilling. Sounds good to me!

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