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Why Vampires?

This week, Red Room (or is it Redrum?) has suggested that we blog about vampires. When I read the invitation, I was conflicted. I have written and collaborated on hundreds of thousands of words about vampires: 11 novels based on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off series Angel (including a Buffy/Angel crossover trilogy), a Buffy novel, thirteen Angel comic books, four 30 Days of Night novels, a few CVO (Covert Vampiric Operatives) comics and probably more that I’m blocking from memory at the moment. As editor, I’ve worked on many more, including 30 Days of Night and CVO tales by other writers. At first blush, one would think that I had said everything I needed to about the bloodsucking undead. Looking at the ranks of horror and urban fantasy books published in the last three decades, one would think that the topic of vampires has long since been exhausted—drained, if you will, of every last bit of unlife they had in them. And yet, people keep writing about them. More astonishingly, perhaps, people keep reading about them. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, and Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire should have driven a stake through the genre’s heart. If not those, then add in The Vampire Tapestry by Suzi McKee Charnas and Children of the Night by Dan Simmons and the Peter Octavian books by Christopher Golden and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's St. Germain books and Yvonne Navarro’s AfterAge and a few more, and yeah. Done. Said it all. Been there, etc. But still. People write. People buy. People read. Why? Theories abound. Every vampire story is really about sex—all that penetration and sharing of bodily fluids. That’s one of the sounder theories, you ask me. Vampires are romantic figures, hypnotically seducing members of the opposite sex and taking them with an ever-so-intimate kiss on the neck. These days, characters like Buffy and Sookie are making out with vampires, and then some. The realist in me thinks, c’mon, any being that survives on a diet of blood is going to have the worst breath ever. Kiss one? Not in a dozen lifetimes. For some of these stories— the Twilight books, for example—vampires have been essentially defanged. They’re strange, undead love objects, but they don’t seem too concerned with living up to the true nature of vampires. They are, by definition, predators. They hunt and kill human beings. Forming romantic relationships with humans would be somewhat akin to human hunters getting cuddly with cattle or poultry. In the 30 Days of Night universe, created first as a comic book by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, and continued in a couple of movies and several novels, of which Steve and I together wrote three and I wrote one solo, vampires have been reduced to their essential selves. I describe them as “sharks with legs.” A couple of them do form attachments to human beings, but for the most part they live to feed and feed to live. Humans are, to these bloodsuckers, literally livestock—they even pen humans and breed them for harvesting. Bella would not get a crush on one of these vampires. And even if she did, she wouldn’t live long enough to whisper sweet nothings in his ear. I think sex has something to do with the enduring popularity of the species, even in the case of the 30 Days of Night books. The penetration and fluid-sharing elements are there, after all. As is another element that might also contribute to the appeal—the fact that (with few exceptions) against vampires, we are all powerless. They are the ultimate Alphas, calling the shots, and we go along with their will because they’re strong and we’re not. That’s just a guess, of course. Whole books have probably been written to try to explain the appeal, and I’m not going to make much progress in a single blog post. What I can say is that, despite the aforementioned hundreds of thousands of words, I’m not giving up on the breed either. A work-in-progress has vampires in it (among other beasties). Without going into detail here, I’ll just say that while these bloodsuckers have much in common with ones we’ve seen before, there are also a number of differences—what I hope will be new twists on a very old trope. Of course, with all the vampire books published every year, not to mention movies and TV shows and webisodes and stage plays, it’s possible that there really is nothing new to say about them. That won’t stop me from trying. And it doesn’t seem to sate the hunger of readers for more. In that sense, readers are every bit as hungry as the vampires they crave.

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What a stream of consious

What a stream of consious piece!  I enjoyed your analysis--and your turn around by the end.  I wrote a novel with vampires and have been told that it's a different take.  That's one thing I really enjoy about this genre, there are so many possibilities.  Funny, though, I thought about the blood and bad breath thing too :)