Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Vampire Fiction

Think of the classic vampire. Fangs, of course. Drinks human blood for sustenance. Pale-skinned. Some kind of eastern European accent. He - because he's certainly a he - wears a suit and maybe a cape, something in black and/or red. Sleeps in a coffin, can turn into a bat. Has no reflection in the mirror, can only be killed by a silver bullet or a wooden stake through the heart.

You know; this guy.
This was the typical portrayal of a vampire around the time of Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). Making vampirism a disease that centered around blood, sex, and death was something Victorian Britain could understand, as they were plagued with tuberculosis and syphilis at the time.

The next major work in the world of vampire fiction was Richard Matheson's I Am Legend (1954). If you've only seen the movie, I very highly recommend reading the book. It's an entirely different story. Seriously. They're barely even related. I tend to think of I Am Legend as more of infection fiction than vampire fiction, but this is - I think - where the line got blurred a little more. Infection fiction mostly sprung from the idea of vampire fiction, then branched out into non-vampirism infections that started to meld with zombie fiction. It gets kind of complicated at that point.

After I Am Legend, vampire-themed serials got popular. Marilyn Ross published a series from 1963-1971 on Barnabus Collins (which you probably know better from the television show Dark Shadows, which you might know better as the movie adaptation that served as Johnny Depp's latest foray into wearing lots of white face makeup and dark eye shadow).

Hey look, he still looks a lot like that other photo, the portrayal from 1897.

Then Anne Rice stepped in with The Vampire Chronicles from 1976-2003. Her vampires looked more like... Well, this:

I kept it in black and white for comparion's sake, but trust me... that mess is colorful.
So now we have hugely popular vampires who are blond. With fashion sense. They're charming. (I assume they're charming. I admit to not having read Anne Rice, either. But this guy looks pretty charming. Has Tom Cruise ever played a non-charming character? Don't answer that.)

Then came Twilight (2005-2008)*. This series is the reason I asked for what you think of when I say CLASSIC vampire instead of just "vampire." Because now, we think of this:

I think I have to apologize to Cassy for putting this on our blog.
But if it's a comfort, I now have "sparkling Edward animated gif"
in my Google Image Search history.
But seriously, this is the new vampire: perpetual teenager, still pale but also "marble" with smoldering eyes (go count how many times his eyes are referred to, we can wait) and coiffed brown hair, and sparkles. Don't forget the sparkles. Plus he's super-rich, and infatuated with this tasty-smelling chick.

Lucky for everyone, we have a new wave of vampire fiction trends washing over us as I type: the mashup. You've heard of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I trust? Well, vampires are also popular mashup fodder. They're easy to drop into classics, because they can take the place of regular humans. They can speak as eloquently as you need them to (unlike zombies); they're corporeal (unlike ghosts); they're immortal (unlike most versions of werewolves); and they can exist in any time period (unlike robots... unless those robots can time travel). So soon, we might be able to replace the Edward model with stuff like this:

Is this any better? Don't answer that.
But what of Peeps, this week's book-to-review? Well, it also treats vampirism as an infection, though it's more of a parasite than it is a disease. The vampires (or "peeps") get cannibalistic and are repelled by anything they formerly loved. They also get night vision, super-strength, and increased senses. There is also the possibility of being a carrier, which is someone who contracts the parasite but does not have all the symptoms. This is nothing particularly unusual (it has been done with immunity from zombie infections, unaffected or barely affected werewolves, and daywalker vampires) but it is done in an interesting way. But more on Peeps on Friday...

*I will neither hate on nor glorify Twilight. I've read them, I thought they were okay, and they had no great impact on my life for the better or the worse. When I make Twilight jokes, it is all in good fun because it is such an easy target, so please don't get mad at me. I can't handle the wrath of the internet.


  1. I read Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It was actually a really good book. And the movie was funny. I saw the movie I am Legend and liked it, although I know the book is different. I accidently read a spoiler filled plot synopsis of the book, so I know how it ended. I am all about re-vamping (pun intended) vampire fiction, but Twilight went to far for me. However, when I think of vampires I think of a cross between Ann Rice's stuff and Bram Stoker's stuff. Interview with a Vampire was the first vampire film I saw, and it freaked me out a bit, since I was young. I also saw Bram Stoker's Dracula film which was very disturbing. I'm sure you guys know this, but Bram Stoker modeled Dracula on Vlad the Impaler, who was a really messed up guy. So I think of him also, when I think of vampires. Also, if you want a more modern take on vampires that is better than Twilight, I would check out the BBC America show "Being Human" (the original, NOT the American version). Its a pretty good show and I think it approached the subject creatively without flying in the face of all the previous lore (cough**Twilight**cough).

  2. I will definitely look into "Being Human" (I think I remember wanting to see it, vaguely, but never really pursuing it).

    I had the reverse of your I Am Legend experience... I knew all the spoilers for the movie before I saw it (and the book was a total surprise to me).