In my email notifications of bargain and free books available on Amazon, is the offer of H.T. Night’s 8-Book Vampire Box Set for only $.99. I’m not much of a vampire storyline fan, although I can understand the appeal — I think. So this generous offer of 8 vampire-themed books for less than a buck got me thinking about the genre in general and what about it calls us to write it and read it.
The idea of creatures who exist by feeding on others, that is, the idea of drinking the victim’s blood, is an old one, and Wiki tells us that this persistent mythology may even go back as far as prehistoric times. The evolution of the belief that the blood drinker was somehow magical, the blood giving them eternal or almost eternal life, was probably based on the reality of a number of creatures who do attack other creatures for their blood – vampire bats, and this nifty collection http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/photos/13-vampire-animals/vampire-squid of creatures, most of which are insects.
The vampires were originally thought to be demons. It is only since the 18th century that the vampire has moved out of demonhood into personhood. Well, maybe ‘personhood’ is not quite right, but ‘personalityhood’ might describe it. Today’s vampires are suave, charismatic and dare I say it, charming. But in the past, they were always frightening, disgusting and revolting. Today’s literary vampires often are trying to not give in to their baser instincts, and to buy cow’s blood and store it in their refrigerator, have night jobs, and sleep all day so as to avoid the sun, and often have pretty mundane occupations, having non-vampire love interests some of whom do know about the blood, and some of whom don’t.
Wiki has a looooooong piece on vampires, if the subject interests you enough at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampire, but the academics of the subject are not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about why this genre is so popular. What about vampirism strikes a chord with us?
I read one vampire story, the beginning of a series, about a vampire in a sort of alternate world NYC who works for a covert government agency whose job is to eliminate werewolves (and zombies if I am remembering correctly, maybe not.) Another is about a female P.I. in our current normal world who got infected somehow and now tries to carry on her business without anyone else knowing.
So many stories, starting with Bram Stoker have begun to demarginalize the vampire, cleaning him (and now her) up to be presentable in decent society. These creatures have evolved, literarally-speaking, from terrifying, unexplainable beasts, to characters that have a psychology that needs examining. (See the Anne Rice vampire books.) Vampires have moved out of the forest into the drawing room.
But we still have that nagging question of why? What is it about this whole vampire idea that has caused us to move this animal-like figure out of the dark forests and into our cities as a hard-working citizen who takes out his trash and pays his taxes? What does having this myth fully functioning in our literature today do for us? Is it working as some kind of metaphor for avarice and domination, that of governments, or corporations or cartels, not to mention that whole living forever trope which is always a crowd-pleaser?
We can say that it is just entertainment, but I think the entertainment answer is just a veneer for what is really going on. Why would we be entertained by this idea of vampires?
Here’s an additional issue to throw into the mix: the apocalypse and post apocalyptic literature. Vampires are often part and parcel of these stories, as well. Food for pondering.
Vampire stories are considered to be in the categories of paranormal, post-apocalyptic, horror, thriller, and who knows what other tags I am missing. Vampires are a BIG subcategory of our literature. We have to ask ourselves why. Don’t we?