Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Please, No More New Vampire Stories For At Least Two Days


What is it with our cultural obsession with vampires? For real. Every other book, movie, or TV show I come across is offering us a new take on the story of the vampire.

Please stop. It's been done to death, no pun intended. It's even risen from the dead several times, pun intended. It's even...you get the idea.

As one of my favorite professors, Dr. Daniel Robinson of Widener University, pointed out in class, there is something undeniably sexual about the vampire story. Bram Stoker's seminal work Dracula was written in an age where sex was not openly discussed, thus many writers tackled the subject indirectly, i.e. a vampire wantonly sticks its fangs in damsels in distress, penetrating them, and thus infecting them. Dracula is also interesting for its social commentary - the Old World of Europe is being destroyed by one of its own nobles, the eponymous count, and can't save itself (via Van Helsing) without the assistance of the New World/America (represented by the character Quincy Morris).

But aside from Stoker's novel, as a creature of fantasy, the vampire has enjoyed a great run. Anne Rice has apparently sold over 100 million books (yes, I know not all of them are about vampires). Some argue that the vampire even gave birth to the zombie, via Richard Matheson's excellent story, I Am Legend, which in turn informed George A. Romero when he was making Night of the Living Dead.

According to wiki, "Dracula is a major character in more movies than any other but Sherlock Holmes." Maybe one day someone will wise up and reveal that Holmes is actually a vampire. That would explain the pale complexion, odd hours he keeps, and strange mannerisms.

I'm not saying all this vampire material is bad, just that after awhile it gets to be too much. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff Angel...Blades 1, 2, and 3...Underworld...then the TV shows Blood Ties, and True Blood...not to mention any one of numerous fiction titles that have gone on sale in the last few years, including the wildly popular Twilight series.

As the wiki page postulates, the vampire intrigues us because we are fascinated by sex and our own mortality.

Seriously, it's time to think up a new creature, people. After all, writers are supposed to be creative - surely it can't be that hard to concoct something. Anything other than just another blood sucking creature that sleeps by day and preys at night.

____

As an aside, Dr. Robinson is the front man/lead singer for the great indie rock band Milton and the Devils Party out of Philadelphia. MATDP combines pop riffs with literary lyrics. Check them out if you get a chance.

19 comments:

Nathanael Green said...

There does seem to be a glut of vampirism at the moment.

Though I do think there's something inherently fascinating about them. It's such a primordial fear - the silent, undying thing that literally drinks our lifeblood. I can see the draw, along with the sexual overtones you mentioned.

A rampaging yeti just doesn't inspire quite the same reaction.

Rita Vetere said...

I remember reading Bram Stoker's Dracula when I was 13 and being profoundly affected by it. And in the hands of an author like Anne Rice, the vampire myth had me spellbound again as an adult. The only other vampire tale that came across as fresh since the Anne Rice series was Let the Right One In, which I thought was a gem of a story. Something tells me we've not seen the last of these creatures of the night just yet.

I agree that a rampaging yeti wouldn't cut it, Nate. I vote for a werechicken series next...

marco said...

Werewolves get no love. Apart maybe from the late Warren Zevon. Must be the hair.

Did you read Carmilla ?

It preceded Dracula by 25 years and definitely has a sexual subtext.
Since both the vampire and her victims are women, I bet Adrian would be interested.

V-word: glect, which I suppose is the opposite of neglect.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Nate,

The hell with that. The rampaging yeti sounds awesome - it's like an evil Wookiee.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Rita -

Now that I'm thinking back, your monthly chats generated a lot of good monster story ideas, didn't they? :)

I've heard good things about Let the Right One In, so maybe that's one to add to the list.

Dracula has somewhat of a mixed reputation in academic circles, at least it did when I was an undergrad. I can't remember why exactly, but I personally think it's a great book.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Marco,

Never read that one, but remember hearing about it during our classroom discussions of Dracula. I don't think Adrian would mind that story too much...

Did you ever hear about Byron's, the Shelleys', and Polidori's trip to Lake Geneva in 1816 (known as the year without a summer)? It was there that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein and Polidori wrote The Vampyre. Pretty good trip, literarily speaking.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Of course I'm one to talk, considering the first book I wrote is a not-so-cleverly disguised haunted house story.

Nathanael Green said...

So the moral of the story is - let's all take a trip to Lake Geneva and see if we can start a yeti revolution.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Nate,

Win-win if you ask me.

seanag said...

There's a Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, and as it happens, I'm going to be very near it this weekend. Perhaps I'll strike literary gold. Shall report back if I do.

I do think that vampires are just a myth for our time--it goes beyond the sexual to something about where we are in human history. What I find interesting about our era of vampires is that we have a certain amount of sympathy for them, even without watering them down at all. It's like the vampire's predicament is in some way our predicament.

You didn't mention Stephanie Meyers by name, but those books are huge. What's interesting is that her audience, after devouring those, is left with a 'hunger' for more. P.C. Cast seems to be the series choice. So perhaps we should all stop decrying the glut and start figuring out how we ourselves can cash in.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Seana,

I'm too late to this vampire party, I think. Which is about par for the course. Back in 2002, I thought about writing a story where a man traveled back in time and killed his younger self purposely to stop a major catastrophe from happening. Then I saw the film (SPOILER ALERT) Donnie Darko.

And up until this morning when I read Adrian's latest post, I was thinking about writing a story involving a cop charged with patrolling the multiverse. No joke. I even had created some lingo for the story. The cop would have been responsible for making sure no one "traded up," i.e. killed their alternate self in an alternate universe and then took that person's place to live what would presumably be a better existence.

If no one believes me, they can ask Nick Hughes. Or maybe I'll just post the email I sent to Nick about the story idea.

adrian mckinty said...

I have to agree with this. I find vampires so campy and boring. I thought they were played with the end of Buffy. I'm surprised that they're still around. And zombies too actually.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Adrian,

Yeah, vampires are just overdone at this point. Zombies aren't far behind, either, but at least there have been some good zombie flicks that came out in the last few years - Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later.

marco said...

I find vampires so campy and boring.

Adrian, even Carmilla with its beautiful vampiress and languorous victim?

Brian,
I'm sorry but all kinds of ideas about alternate universes have already been explored*

* Including those which explore the following question: if you have sex with another you, would it be incest or masturbation? **

** Heinlein even went a couple of steps further. I won't even try to summarize it, here's the link to the wikipedia article.

marco said...

Hmmm... my word is submhan. Seems the word-verificator is a bit of a prude.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Marco,

To answer your question: I say it's both incest AND masturbation. How often does one get to say that?

I hear you re: alternate universes, but I did think the cop angle was a nice touch. Ah well.

Dad was a big fan of Heinlein, and I'm afraid to admit I haven't read any of his stuff aside from Starship Troopers, which I didn't like, probably because I tried to read it at too young an age.

Though, I do like the song "All You Zombies" by The Hooters.

Nathanael Green said...

I've only read two by Heinlein, but I enjoyed them both immensely.

He's got such a great voice and ideas in both "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Glory Road." Though, honestly, the endings in both left me a little unsatisfied.

Interestingly, someone once told me that of the choices in his catalog, those are the two least Heinleinesque.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Nate,

He seems like he was an interesting guy, all over the place politically-speaking. Starship Troopers is often labeled "fascist," whereas Stranger in a Strange Land was adopted by the 60s counterculture, according to wiki.

So that means you're a hippie.

marco said...

Heinlein was an individualist libertarian. His protagonists are generally strong-willed individuals who create their fortune from nothing. States are weak and corrupt, taxes are bad, and social services spoil people who should be tempered through struggle and adversity in order to become real men. The military is often the only good institution ,and even war may not be that bad for a young man.
These are the aspects that may justify the "fascist" tag.
On the flip side, he was fervently anti-authoritarian and an advocate of sexual liberation and free love -though his men often look like self-projections and his women wish-fulfillment fantasies.

When most people think of Heinlein they think of the Future History/Militaristic SF and his juvenile space exploration series. The fantasy world of Glory Road or the exploration of sexual freedom and anti-institutional thinking of Stranger may be seen as a departure from these novels, but they appear much less odd when compared with his later (70s-80s) works.