So, I’m Reading this Book with a Vampire …

[To be clear: I’m reading a book with a vampire character. I’m not actually sitting on the couch with a vampire, reading.] … and as a person who has never really been part of the vampire-loving culture, I find it intriguing how vampires are treated in the literary world. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a shape-shifter who has no reflection or shadow, is repelled by garlic and can be killed with a stake through the heart. Stephen King’s vampires were instrumental in spreading blood-borne diseases like AIDS. Ann Rice taught us that vampires have no reaction to holy water or garlic, but disintegrate in sunlight and sleep in coffins nonetheless. Edward of Twilight doesn’t disintegrate—he sparkles. In A Discovery of Witches, Matthew Clairmont doesn’t have fangs, but he smells like cloves. In the Vampire Academy series, there are two races of vampires, as well as half-breeds.

This is all well and good (or evil, depending on whose vampires you’re spending time with), but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, the vampires are still marching to the same drum. They’re cold, pale, immortal, good-looking, really-really old, and—of course—blood-thirsty. They don’t drink tea and they don’t eat French fries. The ones who aren’t murderers exist off the blood of animals. (Except the True Blood folk, who drink synthetics. Or so I’m told).

It would be interesting to meet a vampire who is nothing like what you’d expect. Like one who drinks Orangina and plays pick-up basketball. But then again, the aforementioned vampires were intended to be that way. When Edward sparkled, for example, it started all kinds of controversial rumblings in the vampire-loving universe (A vampire that sparkles? For shame!).

Maybe there are some warm-blooded vamps out there and I just don’t know about them yet. Maybe there’s a basketball court somewhere with the undead playing shirts versus skins. Who knows. All I know is, for all the newness of vampires, they aren’t very new. But maybe that’s the point. They’re supposed to be timeless, after all.

0 Replies to “So, I’m Reading this Book with a Vampire …”

  1. Erin, I love reading about vampires, too. Not vampire fiction so much as all the myths and such surrounding them. I recently wrote a spoof of the whole DRACULA book (THE JOURNAL OF MINA HARKER), and my vampire is a near-sighted oak who loves starched shirts, nice curtains in his castle and drinks LOTS of wine. But then again, it’s a spoof, so……LOL.

  2. Katherine Ramsland has done a couple of books on the “living vampire” subculture, one of which is harrowing. I once drafted a novel about that very subject — human beings addicted to blood — but it was a miserable failure of a draft. (I still want to write the book, but I’ll need some serious distance from that awful first draft.) Jonathan Nasaw has a series along a similar line of thought, though I’ve only read the first and it was TERRIBLE. Like, almost Twilight bad. But Ramsland’s nonfiction work is still the gold standard on warm-blooded vampires, in my book.

    Oh, and I once sent off for a beginners kit from the Temple of the Vampire. I wanted a copy of their “Vampire Bible,” because I was curious, but they’re like Goth Scientologists: you have to pay a bunch of money to advance levels toward immortality, and you have to swear yourself to secrecy on pain of death, and I think you have to agree to name your first child either Luciferia or Malachi, depending on the gender. OK, I’m kidding about that last part, but only the last part — they’re some spooky people.

    1. Ha! Very, very interesting, Sam. I really don’t know that much about vampires, but it’s so fascinating how they’ve been depicted over the years. I’m not sure what it is about them that intrigues so many people. The immortality, maybe? The general spookiness? The gross bloodiness?

      1. Hey Erin–I’m not Sam, but I’ve wondered the same thing. What IS it about vampires? I’ve loved vamp movies since I was a kid, and was gaga about Dark Shadows, too. For me, I guess it’s just the spookiness of it, the gothic atmosphere, the suspense. When it came time to write my play, though, I tried to do it as a strict adaptation, but couldn’t. It turned into a comedy. Oh well. LOL.

      2. Most vampirologists agree that it’s a combination of the vampire’s alluring — and illicit — sexuality (everybody loves the dangerous ones) and the promise of bodily immortality. But mostly it’s about the sex. This is why Dracula keeps sneaking into the bedrooms of Victorian women — swoon! even though he’s a decrepit old creep — and it’s why Anne Rice’s homoerotic vampires were so popular. The immortality thing is primarily a kind of spiritual experimentation/rebellion: hence all the crucifixes holy water. I might even argue that vampires have become a new approach to the old religious promise of immortality, and there are certainly people today — living breathing human beings — who practice vampirism as a form of their personal spirituality. (I could get into psy-vamps, but that is a WHOLE other conversation.)

        But I think there are also elements of classic revulsion of the unknown at work, too, which creeps up in Dracula (there’s a whole body of scholarship about how the Irish author’s novel is about British imperialism, or about Great Britain’s fear of the European Other, and so on) but which is strongly evident in stories like King’s Salem’s Lot or the comics series 30 Days of Night. And there’s a lot about lost innocence, too — Mina Murray was just the beginning, and the two best examples I’ve seen are Anne Rice’s Claudia and John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Eli in Let the Right One In.

        Have I mentioned that I love vampires? ;)

    2. That last post was very interesting again. So, you’ve said what you feel are the best examples of lost innocence, etc. Let me ask you this: Of all the twists on modern vampires, which have irritated you the most? Edward’s sparkliness? lol

      1. Yes, absolutely. And that World on Blood book I mentioned, by Jonathan Nasaw. Really terrible. Oh, and some descendant of Bram Stoker — Dacre Stoker, I think, his book called Dracula the Un-dead, an “official” sequel — was so awful I couldn’t get past the second chapter. I gave up. It was that bad.

        True Blood, maybe, for another annoying “update”? I like the concept, and I hear the tv show gets good somewhere in the middle (we don’t have HBO), but I think in execution everyone — author and tv people alike — get off course. Vampires are more than just sadomasochistic light porn, which is the mistake they’re making. Vampires are more than overblown neo-pagan/barely Christian mythology, which is the mistake Anne Rice made as her series wore on into tedium. They are those things, but they are best both when they combine those elements and when they transcend those elements.

        But you know what’s a really cool twist on the genre? Robin McKinley’s (not quite)-YA novel Sunshine. Really cool book! And Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is one of the best updates of the genre ever (ignore all the movie versions — they’re okay, but none of them is anything like the novel). Sci-fi vampires, the both of them, and they’re bloody awesome (if you’ll excuse the pun).

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