Monday, May 11, 2009

From Horror to Romance: Vampires Transformed

So, I can now share with you more about the book I’m currently writing for early 2010 release by Sellers Publishing. It’s called How to Catch and Keep a Vampire and will be a step-by-step guide to finding, selecting, wooing and being in a relationship with a vampire. Surely everyone will want a copy, right?

I’m about halfway through drafting the book and so far I’m having a wonderful time addressing issues like what traits are most attractive to vampires, how to relate to these undead charmers, etc. As I research the matter online I have been finding out just how many people out there have burning questions on this subject. I’m glad to do my part to provide answers and clarification. And yes, this book is supposed to be funny. But also helpful. You’ll just have to read it to see how this all shakes down.

Needless to say, this project has brought to my mind just what a huge volume of vampire literature, lore, and pop culture has accumulated from the time these creatures first appeared in our world. Particularly interesting to me is to watch the slow but sure evolution of the blood-drinker from horror icon to sex symbol.

If you want to go back to the earliest vampire movies, check out 1922’s German horror film “Nosferatu.” I share for you here a photo of Max Schreck in the starring role of Count Orloc, based upon Dracula from Bram Stoker’s novel. He is quite thoroughly unattractive and terrifying. And really, when you think about it, shouldn’t a creature that feeds on human blood be terrifying?

Nevertheless, from their earliest origins, vampires have always possessed a certain sexual allure, however shrouded in creepiness. The original movie Dracula, Bela Lugosi, certainly did. Everyone picked up immediately on the parallels between vampire victimization and erotic seduction. It wasn’t simply because the neck is an erogenous zone, although it is. There was also the eternal struggle of dominance and submission that we are often ashamed to associate with sex and therefore shroud in metaphor, like the vampire myth.

For most of my lifetime, the vampire genre has been a mixed bag of horror and eroticism. Both elements were always present—in different proportions, true, but always both. Only in recent years have we seen the erotic—and even, can you believe it, romantic—side rise to the fore. A lot of people will credit Stephenie Meyer and Twilight for this development, but in fact, it was brewing before her books became bestsellers. Romance readers have for years had an insatiable appetite for vampire romance. More and more authors (myself included with my novellas “
Pints” and “The Verity of the Vampyre” and my novel Bloodchained) were finding ways before Twilight to provide romantic vampire heroes to our readers.

A century ago vampires were served up as horror characters with a dash of sexiness. Now it is all the rage to make vampires into sex symbols with a dash of the sinister, like Spike here from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

I think the change is reflective of a larger societal transformation. And I think it’s a good one. We have become more accepting of our own “dark urges,” if you will. More and more people are discovering it’s possible to explore that side of the psyche and keep your moral compass. In fact, playing on the dark side can be refreshing and invigorating, and actually help a person keep to “the straight and narrow” in real life.

A similar phenomenon can be seen in the popularity of Harry Potter. Witches and warlocks were once nearly universally feared and loathed. But at Hogwarts, in spite of the mystery and intermittent scariness, we find the world of witchcraft turned into a wholesome environment in which kids can grow up.

How to Catch and Keep a Vampire would not have worked a hundred years ago unless it was about trapping and extermination. But happily, in today’s world there are a whole lot of people who love vampires and simply want to understand why they do, and what to do with that affection.

It’s going to be really fun for me to give them some ideas.

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