The infamous CW series Supernatural is about to wrap up after 15 seasons on air, but the legacy of this fantastical giant is eternal. S. A. Hunt, author of the Malus Domestica series, joined us to talk about falling in love with the show, the impact the series had on her work, and more. Check it out here!
By S. A. Hunt
Y’all, I love Supernatural.
I came to the fandom incredibly late—I didn’t watch the series until well after I’d already written most of what would become Burn the Dark, I Come With Knives, and The Hellion. But between the first draft and the final round of edits and additions—last summer, I think it was—I sat down with my friend Kate and binged every single episode to date.
Wish I’d gotten into this show back in the day. By that, I mean 2005, the year I enlisted.
For eight excruciating years of the Army life, Supernatural went on without me, marching forward into the darkness, where it would be waiting to be picked up and loved . . . and still, for some strange reason, I still didn’t answer the call. I think the first episode I tried to watch during that period was the Bloody Mary episode, and I had convinced myself it was a rip-off of The Ring/Ringu, which left a sour taste in my mouth. And to be fair, even now it seems heavily inspired by The Ring—but I should have given the show’s writers a lot more credit.
After I went to Afghanistan in 2011, I went another nine years without watching.
By then, Supernatural had reached this place in my mind where I had seen this overwhelming fandom deluge, of Tumblr gifs and Wattpad fanfics and hashtags, and I sort of became desensitized to it. From the outside, it was like seeing a too-long trailer for a movie. I felt like I’d already watched it—and from the boil-over I saw, it didn’t seem like something I would be interested in.
But then in 2019, I was going out with Kate, and we were sitting at their place one night looking for something to watch when Kate suggested Supernatural.
“Cool, sure,” I said, non-committally. “I’ve been meaning to get into it for a long time.”
What ensued was a journey of epic proportions, like they say, as we industriously bulldozed our way through the entire run of the show.
The first thing that struck me was how intimate the show’s scope was—how “homespun” and human the writing was. This wasn’t some slick, overproduced vehicle for a pair of pretty faces and a series of cheesy, romantic trysts, like other CW shows, or like fanfics made me believe. The Winchester brothers felt like two real, actual brothers that had real, actual fights, and loved each other in a real, actual way. I will admit that sometimes their enemies felt a bit like cardboard cutouts—but the brothers. It always came back to the brothers. Their dynamic felt real, and it felt complex, and that element was always the compelling force throughout the seasons, even when it wasn’t the focus of the written plot. I credit that wholly to the acting chops of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. They took it to the next level, and their natural complexity and charisma were the driving force behind the show’s popularity. They made the viewer feel like they were the third Winchester brother.
But if we’re to be honest here, if there is a real third lead character of Supernatural right behind Dean and Sam, it’s the rock n’ roll.
Supernatural may have been the first time I’d ever seen—or heard, rather—dark urban fantasy with a classic rock soundtrack. Something about soundtracking all that monster-killing with songs like “Carry On Wayward Son” gives the series heft, gives it real flavor and personality, and brought urban fantasy into the real world in a way it just hadn’t been done before. It made urban fantasy accessible to everybody, not just bookstore nerds.
Up until then, all the urban fantasy I’d seen or read lacked that certain gravity; it all took place in big cities and either had a doomful, stately, gothic tone, or it bordered on self-parody, or it had a certain storybook-noir feel. Detective fiction with fairies and centaurs.
Ironically, I had been a devotee of the show True Blood during the show’s initial run, which definitely hewed closer to that mold than Supernatural ever did. And really, True Blood had a thread of good music running through it—that opening is a legend visually and acoustically, and the closing credits always ambushed you with something amazing—but TB’s music wasn’t something that gave itself to who the show was the way Supernatural did.
And somehow without even having watched the show, I followed in Supernatural’s footsteps—music became a part of Malus Domestica as well.
But where the Winchesters hunted monsters to classic rock, my witch-hunter girl and her merry monster squad were inspired by modern women-fronted bands—namely, Halestorm, which I listened to on repeat for months and months. Burn The Dark and I Come With Knives were heavily inspired by The Pretty Reckless, In This Moment, Kidneythieves, Warpaint, Phantogram, Nova Rockafeller, Thundermother, Battle Beast, and other bands that provided the right kind of feminine rage and revolution I wanted to channel into my work.
I feel like I was in a unique place when it came to being a Supernatural fan toward the end of the series, and getting caught up on it between writing the Malus books on my own and editing them for Tor. Most viewers experienced the show in a slow simmer, like cooking a lobster, over the course of a decade and a half, where it’s harder to “see the forest for the trees,” so to speak. But I was able to mainline it over the course of a couple of months—which gave me a much stronger, more concentrated sense of what made Supernatural tick, and how it made me feel.
This afforded me the opportunity to enter the genre without cannibalizing Supernatural for parts, but after watching the show, I was able to go back after the fact and tailor my books around the edges to push the style and quality closer to what I loved so much about Supernatural.
My protagonist Robin’s relationship to Joel became more sibling-like, and they got more banter dialogue; Robin’s relationship to Kenway became less of an awkward meet-cute and more of a mutual support between two survivors of terrible trauma; music became more of a presence in the narrative, especially in the tune-packed Hellion, whose structure was made to resemble an album with music tracks for chapters; Gendreau the magician took on more of a Castiel role, as a liaison between Robin and the secretive Dogs of Odysseus.
Most importantly, I gained a better understanding and feel for the life of a monster-hunter on the run.
Supernatural ends this year, and I consider it the end of an era. I hope to see a lot more of Ackles and Padalecki in new projects. We’ll probably never see them together again, but we were lucky enough to get almost 20 years.
As for me, I don’t delude myself that the Malus Domestica series could ever blow up to be the spiritual successor to a show as widely beloved as Supernatural—especially if we get that coveted TV show adaptation—but a girl can dream. Supernatural was the ultimate UF adventure, and we were lucky to have it.
Keep on kickin’ it in the ass, all you hunters out there.
S. A. HUNT (she/her) is the author of the Malus Domestica horror-action series from Tor Books, which begins with Burn the Dark. In 2014, she won Reddit’s /r/Fantasy “Independent Novel of the Year” Stabby Award for her Outlaw King fantasy gunslinger series. She is an Afghanistan veteran (OEF 2010), a coffee enthusiast, a fervent bicyclist, and she currently lives in Petoskey, Michigan.
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