Why is fantasy moving towards hereditary werewolves?

paranoid marvin

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#21
Teenwolf did the hereditary thing a while back, but often it has been a bite (or even scratch) that caused the lyncanthropy. Either way, there are interesting places to go with the story; and in some ways making it hereditary helps distinguish it from vampirism.
 
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#22
Personally, I get why so many folks are fascinated with the bite from a werewolf or vampire thing. That way they can easily fantasize about possibility of being turned themselves. Heredity kills that possibility. That said, as people in general have become better educated as to the workings of disease, genetics and biology in general, you're now asking for a tremendous detachment from what people now know... wherein years past they simply didn't know better (the average person).

If enough people begin to question to even scorn a concept as implausible, then the story dies. In the end it likely boils down to 'which route makes the fantasy more of a possibility.'

My guess being, swappin' spit ain't it.

K2
 

anno

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#23
In terms of popularity my explanation is that the other monsters all had very little control over their actions and no regard for consequences,my wolf brethren had a bestial draw and a period of complete savagery that left the inner human element shocked and appalled when waking up on the forest floor (or even London Zoo) in a self denial mess.
“Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright."
 

Teresa Edgerton

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#24
Werewolf movies used to be more popular than they are now, but werewolf books (or any kind of shapeshifter, but especially wolves) are hugely more popular than they were before, crossing the genres of SFF, horror, and romance.

Why might that be? Why are books full of werewolves and movies and TV are not? Maybe because zombie and vampire movies can be made on a small budget, but werewolves take a certain amount of special effects. Not a lot of special effects, but you need some, and vampires and zombies just need costumes.

Folklorically (is that a word—if not, it is now, I just invented it) speaking there were lots of ways to become a werewolf: bite or scratch of course. Spell (voluntary), or curse (involuntary). Die with some great sin like fratricide unredeemed. Or not even explained. Sometimes the werewolves in folklore or old literary tales just are, a mystery to the other characters in the story. From those stories, perhaps comes the idea of lycanthropy being hereditary. If no one knows how they became werewolves maybe they were born that way, and the author speculates from there.

Plus current fantasy readers like their supernaturals in groups. In the old days, vampires were solitary, but now they get put into covens like witches. Werewolves used to come in groups if they were witches or sorcerers using black magic spells, but such stories were rare. Most of the time werewolves were solitary, but now increasingly we see stories where they appear in packs. I think as someone said up above its the group dynamics that appeal to so many readers. Sure, a few people wrote popular books about hereditary werewolves living in packs, and other writers copied them because they were inspired by them or because they wanted to get on the bandwagon, but there was something there that readers really liked about the pack idea or those earlier books would not have been so popular and the books that followed after them would not have attracted readers and there wouldn't have been a bandwagon.

So what is the appeal of the pack that strikes such a chord now, and what was it about the lone supernatural that struck a similar chord before? Could it have something to do with how society is changing? Or is it simply writers sticking with what they know works (and when I say what works, that could be what works for them personally as readers as well as writers, just as much as what works for the market, and when I say them, I also mean us, because we are the market, even during those times when we are not that part of the market whose tastes are being most often served.
 

Vladd67

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#25
I suppose it could be argued that as a disease being a Werewolf could be passed by a bite etc. infected bodily fluids tainting the victim’s blood, and then the unborn child being infected by the mother leading to it becoming hereditary.
 

Joshua Jones

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#26
I am not huge into this genre, but I see potential pitfalls with both the bite and the hereditary options. On the former, as has been noted above, one will either follow one of a handful of pretty standard plot scripts, or run the risk of the werewolf change being for no real plot reason. The latter, however, runs the risk of the characters' werewolf nature being a setting rather than characterization. What I mean by that is the story may not be an actual werewolf story, but an action story or romance or (insert genre here) which happens to have werewolves. If the werewolves could be reasonably swapped for another creature without significant plot changes, then is it really a werewolf story?

I think that is the tension I feel with stories like this. No matter how you do it, there are structural challenges which must be overcome before one can address the standard challenges of writing interesting characters and stories in interesting ways. Then again, all stories of every genre have this challege to some degree, but werewolf stories seem to have it worse than some due to the integral limits and abilities of the character type.
 

The Big Peat

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#27
Just a thought: bite vs heredity is sort of parallel to horror vs sf/fantasy.

The bite story is about the singular struggle of one person to contain or come to terms with her/his lycanthropy and the psychological toll it takes (The Werewolf of Paris; The Nightwalker). The story of hereditary lycanthropy concerns a society of werewolves and the filling out of how that society works (Sharp Teeth) unless the focus is on humans learning about such a society (The Wolfen, sort of).

Randy M.
(strikes me those are imperfect examples, but they're what I have to work with :) )
And if you want to combine the two, you end up with something like World of Darkness where being a werewolf is hereditary, but many don't know they are one until it strikes during puberty and they wake up in a big old fashioned circle of entrails and viscera.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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#28
I suppose it could be argued that as a disease being a Werewolf could be passed by a bite etc. infected bodily fluids tainting the victim’s blood, and then the unborn child being infected by the mother leading to it becoming hereditary.
If it's in the blood, it could only be passed on from mother to child, inherited only through the maternal line. If, however, the disease alters the mother's chromosomes, then I suppose she could pass it on through her sons as well as her daughters.

werewolf stories seem to have it worse than some due to the integral limits and abilities of the character type.
I don't see why werewolves, in their human personalities, need be any more limited in character or abilities than anybody else. Not unless the writer chooses to have a character's human nature altered by their animal side.

It also depends on what kind of werewolf they are—literature offers so many different models. If they are the mindlessly violent carnivore at the full of the moon type, then needing to be locked up tight once a month can cause all kinds of limitations on their lives and careers. If they shift at will and retain some control of what they do (and real wolves aren't mindless killing machines after all), then it is less of a limitation and perhaps sometimes a secret advantage.
 

Joshua Jones

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#29
I don't see why werewolves, in their human personalities, need be any more limited in character or abilities than anybody else. Not unless the writer chooses to have a character's human nature altered by their animal side.

It also depends on what kind of werewolf they are—literature offers so many different models. If they are the mindlessly violent carnivore at the full of the moon type, then needing to be locked up tight once a month can cause all kinds of limitations on their lives and careers. If they shift at will and retain some control of what they do (and real wolves aren't mindless killing machines after all), then it is less of a limitation and perhaps sometimes a secret advantage.
They aren't necessarily limited in their human (or even werewolf) personalities, but they are pretty well defined in their skill set and basic nature. What I was intending to communicate with my typical mud-like clarity is that due to the well established character abilities and limitations, the author doesn't have as much flexibility in story types as some other genres may enjoy. At some level, their changing into werewolves must be explored, and that leads to the dichotomy of transmission the OP is discussing. With bite transmission, the plot just doesn't have much flexibility, and with hereditary transmission, there is a very significant chance that their werewolf nature will be ultimately irrelevant to the story.

You are absolutely right that characterization needn't be limited in these stories. My point was that, due to the nature of what it means to be a werewolf, there are some limits on story which can make it more challenging.
 

KGeo777

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#30
Beyond technical issues with presenting a good werewolf, the werewolf is generally presented as a tragic figure (unlike most classic vampires and even the Frankenstein "monster" was no saint in the novel). The Howling is an exception. 'Humans are our *prey*. We should feed on them, like we've always done. Screw all this "channel your energies" crap.'

Zombies are a mixed bag--either automatons or slightly sympathetic.
But even the classic Voodoo zombie is just a personality-absent magic slave. Usually scary but mostly due to the magic control (since they didn't eat you). Romero combined it with the ghoul.


Vampires have undergone about as significant a change as zombies/ghouls. Originally bad, but these days its hard to find a true evil vampire--especially if its Dracula. A conquering mastermind with very bad intentions in the novel---turned into a romantic figure quite often (even Lugosi's first Dracula outing was more sinister Valentino than demon--not by the time of Abbott and Costello Meets F).
All these characters were originally dangerous "others" (even if tragic). These days they go to your high school (TeenWolf, sparkling vampires).


I have never been satisfied with the look of werewolves.
I do not find wolves particularly scary (I understand European wolves are more nasty than their North American counterparts).
I like the Larry Talbot Wolfman but he's just a fuzzface really.
Teenage Werewolf was ok too.
The Hammer Curse werewolf was an intriguing design.
The Howling werewolves were superficially creepy but I can't be spooked by the final dog face they had.
 

Randy M.

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#32
I agree about both, Al. The Reed movie was a loose adaptation of The Werewolf of Paris.

Plague... came out a couple of years before Night of the Living Dead and has no where near the visceral impact.
But we'll always have White Zombie, one of Lugosi's better efforts.

Randy M.
 

Karn's Return

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#33
To be perfectly honest, the changes across all sorts of literary genres and themes ebb and flow with the mindset of society, and today's society seems to be going in a far more scientific-minded, belief-driven track, and as a result, transformation curses such as lycanthropy would be seen as hereditary rather than transmitted, like zombification. Personally, I don't put lycanthropes in any of my work, same with zombies and vampires, but that is simply due to my own preferences and how I feel that such themes are far too overused, often in a very lackluster, non-impressive manner.
 
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#34
Werewolf movies used to be more popular than they are now, but werewolf books (or any kind of shapeshifter, but especially wolves) are hugely more popular than they were before
Partly as you said it is because good zombie special effects are so easy, while convincing shape changing requires good CGI. I also think it is because zombies represent death (which we are still afraid of) while werewolves have to come to represent nature (which modern man feels confident we can beet the %^&* out of). Thus evil zombies tend to be popular in horror, while werewolves who are good guys or morally ambiguous tend to be in fantasy which may treat the supernatural as a beseiged metaphor for nature. Fantasy is MUCH less common in movies then books because Hollywood is always nervous about trying to explain the backstory of new fantasy world to moviegoers.

I can think of no hereditary werewolves in UF out currently; naturally I haven't read them all either. Care to share the books that got you thinking on this?
Of course now that you sau it I have trouble thinking of any you'd have heard of. Twilight of course made werwolves heriditary. Most of the obscure writers and writers of supernatural romance, Sharon Green, Kian Roads, the whole weird "Omegaverse" thing. Most of the big name authors other then Stephanie Mayers hedge their bets by doing it both ways...Kelly Armstrong and Patricia Briggs have universes were lycanthropy *CAN* be spread by a bite but most of the major charecters come from shifter families.

If the werewolves could be reasonably swapped for another creature without significant plot changes, then is it really a werewolf story?
Oddly, there are a number of Supernatural Romances I've read where you could swap out the werewolves with the Amish and not change much...the point was they were a society outside modern society with it's own old fashioned rules.
 

dwndrgn

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#35
Twilight does have werewolf families, but in all of Patricia Briggs' werewolf books lycanthropy is only spread by bite - only one character (Charles Cornick) is born a werewolf and that is because of magic. I haven't read any Kelly Armstrong and haven't heard of the others. Actually, now that I think about it, Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels books all have hereditery shifters but they are all animals, not just wolves and they aren't considered to be werewolves, just wolf shifters.
 

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