SF/F Genre Glossary

What is the Paranormal Genre?

This is a continuation of the Science Fiction / Fantasy Genre Glossary Project posts. For the complete genre index click here.

Defining Paranormal:

Paranormal is a term used to describe phenomena that science cannot currently explain or measure. Examples of paranormal subjects include  ghosts, the existence of the soul, spiritual entities, extra sensory perception, clairvoyance, communicating with the dead, UFO’s, cryptozoology, vampires, werewolves, shape shifters, angels.

What is Paranormal Romance?

A genre that blends paranormal elements within the frame of a romantic tale. Paranormal romance stories may be set in historical or modern times. It often blurs into urban fantasy.


  • Dirk and Steele series by Marjorie M. Liu
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Further Reading:
What is Paranormal Romance? Paranormal genre writer’s define the genre.

So, let’s say I were to write a story about ghosts, but decide not to include any romance or magic. How would that be categorized?

  • Horror? But what if it’s not scary?
  • Paranormal fantasy or fiction? I haven’t seen this term used.
  • Urban fantasy? But what if there’s no magic and the whole thing takes place on a farm?
  • Magic realism?

Is there a hole in the genres here or is there’s just no market for what I have proposed (and hence, no category)? When I hear the term paranormal I think of the X-Files, The Twilight Zone, or Fringe – but these shows get lumped into general science fiction. What do you think?


    1. I think Twilight Zone was more of a Speculative Fiction variety show. Some episodes were SciFi, but others just couldn’t be. A magical being toys with reality? A man sells his soul for wealth? A dictator sees betrayal in the mirror reflections of his commanders? Sometimes it was Horror, and other times it was unapologetic Modern Fantasy. In that fuzzy zone, I can totally see T.S.’s idea of Paranormal stories. One example (episode title misses my mind) is the old woman who keeps getting phone calls from her beloved but departed husband. That might even be a muted example of Paranormal Romance.

      Oh, now I have to do it.

      “Paranormal. A genre all too common… in the Twilight Zone.”

      1. *Cue creepy twilight zone music.*

        One of the few good things about the so-called “SyFy” channel is its annual New Year’s Twilight Zone marathon. (They still do that, don’t they? I haven’t had cable in a few years.)

        I think the general idea of this “paranormal” is some kind of creepy, slightly-off-from-the-real-world story where sometimes we can explain what’s going on and sometimes we can’t.

      2. I always thought something paranormal should be a bit creepy, and that’s why the current trends in paranormal romance seem a bit odd to me. What were once monsters are no longer treated as such. I’m no expert on this though. Just some random thoughts.

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