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Making a Case for Vampires

November is almost upon us, friends, and you know what that means.

That’s right. It’s time for National Novel Writing Month (2012, obviously). You know the drill: 30 days. 50,000 words. 300,000 writers.

I am a huge NaNo fan despite my limited participation in the past. I attempted it in 2007 or thereabouts and failed thanks to this thing called college. November is a terrible time to write a novel. But this June I participated in Camp NaNo, the summer session (which is still totally brilliant, in my opinion). I won and was able to complete a novel I’d been sitting on for eight years. Now I’m ready to do it again, this time with something completely new and different.

So, not vampires, right?


(Disclaimer: I have not even come close to reading all the vampire books published since Twilight, nor do I ever plan to read most of them. Feel free to correct any of my generalizations or recommend recent books you feel do vampires justice.)

Here’s the thing.  Fiction these days has done a really good job of humanizing vampires. I trace it back to Anne Rice. Twilight just made it explode a little bit.

Don’t get me wrong. I love me a dark, brooding, mysterious man.  I mean, damn. Louis is just delicious. And I have to be honest when I say that I probably react to Eric from the Sookie Stackhouse novels/True Blood the same way that Twihards react to Edward. Buffy‘s Spike had an emotional journey that made me tear up at times–you know, once he got his soul back.

But Louis was a vampire anomaly. Lestat mocked him for trying to maintain his humanity. Angel and Spike, too, were only separated from the hordes of ravenous monsters by virtue of regaining their human souls. And the “out of the coffin” premise in Charlaine Harris’s novels give her a unique position to explore that line between vampire and human as the two (species? races? organisms?) are forced to interact outside the predator/prey dynamic.

What’s been lost–albeit not completely–is the sense of the vampire as being alien. They’ve lost some of their supernaturalness. Sure, they still have their super strength and their super good looks and their penchant for blood. But they’re no longer unsettling. They’re no longer weird, in the archaic sense. They’re no longer horrifying, except when they do something we don’t expect them to do, like kill people.

But damnit, killing people is what vampires do. Seriously. They are not human. They are corpses that are reanimated by ingesting human blood. Charlaine Harris’s first title, Dead Until Dark, could not have been more apt.

So where am I going with all this? I asked my Facebook friends to help me decide between a subject for my NaNoWriMo project: fairy tales or vampires. The answer was overwhelmingly fairy tales. People think of vampires as the proverbial dead horse. I’m inclined to agree, at least about the type of vampire story that’s been the focus of the last few years.

However, I don’t believe that should preclude authors from writing about vampires if they want to. First of all, you write the stories you damn well want to write. Unless you’re deluded, you don’t write to make a profit. Second of all, writing is not the same as publishing. If I write a vampire novel and I have to sit on it for a few years before an agent picks it up, so be it! Stephanie Meyer and all the others do not have a monopoly on vampires; and even if the public is a little tired of them now, you can bet that before too long they’ll be interested again.

And what I, at least, hope to give them, is a fresh (in other words, old) take on the classic monster. My NaNoWriMo project will be about an unpredictable, unfathomable, instinct-driven creature…and how she goes insane. Because vampirism is not sustainable, especially not when you throw humanity back into a vampire character’s make-up. I’ll also have a human character, and I’ll explore how he projects humanity onto the vampire where there really isn’t any.

A story about humans interacting with a vampire whose strangeness is purely physical is boring. A story about humans interacting with a vampire whose strangeness is complete, all-encompassing, and violent…now that’s interesting.

Take to the comments! What are some of your favorite vampire traits? Who are your favorite vamps, and why? What do you think about vampire stories in this day and age, and where would you like to see them go?

8 thoughts on “Making a Case for Vampires

  1. This is exactly my line of thought when thinking of writing a vampire story for NaNo. I know, I know, there are MILLIONS of vampire stories out there, and people are just getting so sick of it. But that is because they are all the same. Sparkling vampires that stalk young girls and watch them sleep, and that is so adorable. Ugh. (I might be generalizing quite a bit, but you know what I mean. Vampires are too romanticised,)
    Vampires are killers. They don’t go “Oh, no, I can’t sleep with you, I will kill you.” If anything, they go ” You can’t get away from me! Moahaha!” *noms without regrets*
    Because, you know… They are not human, they do not have the same human emotions. They are driven by the lust and need for blood.
    Now, I admit it, I love me some Anne Rice. That’s my kind of vampire. They are really angsty, but at the same time, they are killers. I like the mixture. Sometimes they go a bit too angsty, but I can live with that.
    This turned out much longer than I intended, heh ^^

    1. Haha that’s okay. We are definitely of the same mind. Anne Rice in particular does a really good job of keeping even her most human-like vampires otherworldly, and I do enjoy me a sexy vampire. But I’d also really like to see a vampire who looks at humans as food and acts like a wildcat rather than an elitist snob (I’m looking at you, True Blood!).

  2. There’s a ton of really cool writing about the repeated emergence of vampire stories as a symptom of some underlying cultural paranoia. Ie: Dracula and the fear of the cultural other in imperial Britain, I Am Legend and nuclear war, Interview with the Vampire and the AIDS epidemic…True Blood plays on this really broadly with the “coming out of the coffin” thing, but it can add an interesting dimension to vampire stories.

    Twilight is totally without that kind of cultural awareness (unless there’s a sparkly stalker/Stockholm Sydrome epidemic I’m not in the loop on), which might explain why it rings so false or feels so superficial.

    1. Absolutely! I shall have to find more of it. It’s really too bad that Books-a-Million doesn’t have an academic/lit crit section. But that’s exactly thing I love about vampires: how rooted they are in social superstition. I completely agree that Twilight lacks that background. I haven’t read some of the other more prominent series, like Vampire Academy or Blue Bloods, so I can’t really speak to those books.

      I get that these days there’s not a whole lot of “unknown” for people to be scared of or to base these superstitions on, but it seems to me that that should make vampires all the more terrifying because they’re still so hard to understand. Unlike zombies, vampires have nuance, but it’s on a whole different cognitive plane than the ones humans occupy.

  3. I agree completely with your post ^^ if I may, I suggest you check out ilona andrews’s take on vampires in her Kate Daniel series. By far one of the most interesting to me.

    1. I will add that to my list! Thanks Ashley 🙂

  4. This sounds like a really good idea, getting the vampire back to well, a vampire. Good luck with the writing, and you’re right, even if you do have to sit on it for a couple of years people will be interested in the subject again.
    I’ve only read one vampire book, Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire. I never got to finish it though – I had to return the book to its owner, I need to track down a copy and finish it finally because it was damn good.

    1. Thanks! I am really excited about it, but it definitely is a little weird trying to write it. I’ve become so used to the other kinds of vampires that I have to take a minute to remind myself what I’m going for.

      Definitely get your hands on Interview asap! It’s like…the best vampire book I have ever read. So if that’s the only one you’ve read, it’s a good one to have chosen. 😀

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