Appreciation: Public discourse in the first two Kitty Norville books

Carrie Vaughn’s first two Kitty Norville books are pure pulp fun, but what makes them worthy of appreciation in this space is her use of public discourse, which adds a layer of meta-narrative that deepens and frames the action.

In Kitty and the Midnight Hour, this takes the form of Kitty’s talk radio show, which pries open the public discourse on vampires, werewolves and other “monsters”, unleashing a flood of pent up interest in public discourse around the issues in the existence of and existance as supernatural beings. As the narrative progresses Kitty’s free-wheeling, frank approach to her show brings out callers who raise the stakes, both personally for Kitty and socio-politically for supernatural humans. Just as important, by writing live radio, Vaughn adds tension and spontaneity and drama to the story. That it all culminates in a live, on-air showdown that puts Kitty’s life in danger (and then adds an important and fascinating twist) is genre genius.

In Kitty Goes to Washington, the public discourse takes the form of public testimony before a Congressional committe and mainstream and tabloid media coverage related to that testimony. This both raises the stakes of the public discourse around supernatural humans and makes political the discussions launched by the success of Kitty’s radio show. What that means is that, where in the first book, the voices are those of everday (or poser) supernatural humans, in the second book we get the voices of experts and activists and people in power, all of whom have agendas, and all of whom are trying to leverage or play against Kitty’s fame and crediblity for their own aims. That it all culiminates in a deeply personal, raw moment that then gets fed into the media machines is genre genius.

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