Count Chocula goes rogue

Without ever meeting one in person, I can honestly say that vampires have sucked the life out of me. 

Vampires are a staple creature for fantasy and horror writers and have been for a very long time.  Drawn from the mists of antiquity, stories about the legends from our ancestors have a certain appeal to the little kid in all of us:  fear of that which lurks in the dark, just beyond the campfire’s light.  In an academic sense, I don’t mind the stories at all.  But now, it’s out of control.  Everywhere I turn in the spec fiction world, this is all I see.  Vampires, vampires, vampires ….  The whole concept is mildly maddening.  How did this craze ever start, anyway?  What made them "cool?"

I, for one, place the blame squarely on the book Interview with a Vampire – or more precisely, on the movie version.  That movie did two things:  one, it set the off the vampire craze, and two, convinced a lot of gullible people that Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt had acting talent.

Since then, things are out of control.  Vampires are everywhere.  On the shelves (Twilight series and pretty much everything by Laurel Hamilton), on the small screen (Buffy, Angel, Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Forever Knight) and the big screen (Twilight (again), Vampire’s Assistant, Blade, Let the Right One In, Daybreakers).  Those are just the ones I thought of right away; I am certain there are many other popular versions I overlooked.  And more are coming out all the time.  This, of course, does not include those whose ideas have not surfaced.  I know at least three writers working on their own vampire-centric series.

So what is the appeal?  I guess the longevity and immortality of the characters, the mystique, and some sense of animal magnetism at work in their sex appeal.  In most of these cases, the vampires are presented as the heroes and protagonists – or at the very least, simply another viewpoint in the myriad mesh of our world.  So what if they prey on people, right?  They’re just misunderstood.

Personally, I don’t get it.  Vampires and other fiends of humanity’s dreams are supposed to be just that: the fiends and demons, the representation of the darkness within us all.  When we start downgrading those monsters to the level of confused and lovable scamps, do we lose sight of what evil is?  In my own Sheyla stories, I have one character that is a werewolf.  I try very hard to make it clear that the character considers the wolf within a curse, something only to be unleashed in extreme situations – and that his companions understand there is a risk every time that he will lose control and succumb to his bloodlust.  I never want them to think he’s a good guy for being a monster.

I’ve had some people tell me that evil is a simplistic concept.  My response to them is to look in the eyes of a veteran who walked into Dachau – or one of the few survivors of Tuel Sleng in Cambodia – and tell them evil does not exist.  It’s out there and all the wishing otherwise doesn’t change the fact.  John J. Miller said (and I am paraphrasing), "A society that is unable to identify the monsters in its literature will be unable to identify the terrorists in its airport."  I think there is a lot of truth in that.

So I am somewhat annoyed and worn out on the vampire rush.  Yeah, in a few cases (30 Days of Night, From Dusk til Dawn), they are pretty much portrayed as unrelenting evil.  But those are lost in the torrent of the "cool vampire" stories clogging every medium.  It’s tired.  Move on, people, and work on something else.  And not zombies.  This is the next sub-genre that is doomed to be screwed by overexposure, though few are portraying them as the good guys.

And just an FYI, to my mind, the single best vampire movie out there from the last fifteen years was John Carpenter’s Vampires.  Bad guys were bad, good guys were – well, not good, but they were definitely on the right side of things.  They did the bad, dirty work to protect people from the real bad guys.  Besides, James Woods summed it up with this quote about their quarry:

Ever seen a vampire?  No?  Well first of all, they’re not romatic. Its not like they’re a bunch of fuckin’ fags hoppin’ around in rented formal wear and seducing everybody in sight with cheesy Euro-trash accents, all right? Forget whatever you’ve seen in the movies: they don’t turn into bats, crosses don’t work. Garlic? You wanna try garlic? You could stand there with garlic around your neck and one of these buggers will bend you fucking over and take a walk up your strada-chocolata WHILE he’s suckin’ the blood outta your neck, all right? And they don’t sleep in coffins lined in taffata. You wanna kill one, you drive a wooden stake right through his fuckin’ heart. Sunlight turns ’em into crispy critters.

I wish the same applied to the vampire literature out there  Maybe if they stop now, it’ll be worth approaching in twenty years.  As it is, enough is enough.

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