So there I was, sitting in my first ever creative writing fiction class, roll call was done and the instructor says “we’re going to go around the room, introduce ourselves and share our favourite authors and/or books.” Bloody hell…quick on the spot, do you go English lit major and say Austen or Woolf or do you go for the weird, counter-culture Hunter S. Thompson, William Burroughts, Kafka or do you go for honesty and say Scott Sigler, Stephen King, Poppy Z. Brite & Anne Rice. Pondering the dilemma of looking a certain way to 20 strangers, an 18-year-old pipes up and says that following the latest trends, she likes Anne Rice. Uh-huh…trends…Anne Rice…naturally the mind leaps to what trends she is really referring to… Twilight. Now if I say Anne Rice I might get pigeon holed into that group of shallow, swooning teenagers who think vampires are all about being pretty, tortured and romantic. I say it anyway, Anne Rice with a quick follow-up of Byron for good measure to show my poetic and Gothic interests. I don’t say it but these two writers are my biggest influences and them, along with Stephen King and Poppy Z. Brite, have inspired me to write. I may not be a good writer but thanks to writers like them, I continue on, getting my demons and voices in my head out in the world. Back to the Vamps.
Vampires….not so long ago the word probably would have brought images of Anne Rice’s Lestat or Bram Stoker’s Dracula to mind but today what do we have – Twilight. What the happy hell is so great about this teen targeted bodice ripper of a story? Could you make vampires anymore cliché and mainstream by putting them in high school of all places and what the hell is this I hear about them glittering in the sun?! Even Corey Haim circa “The Lost Boys” could have kicked a glittering, lovesick vamp’s ass. I watched Twilight for free on Movie Central and I still think it’s lame. High school and immortality? Defiantly a horror theme. But I decided to give it a try, to make a judgement based on what I saw not just what I had heard. It was just not good and puts shame on the vampire genre. I can’t get over vampires choosing to blend in by going to high school and being surrounded by their food, falling in love with their food and trying to be normal but still hiding their true nature. Sun and sparkles…makes me want to cry or scream out in angry disbelief.
Maybe I’m just old school and don’t think that a vampire should be a teenager of model proportions in high school. That being said, the vampire genre is ripe with swooning, romance and explicit sex (think about being intimate with a corpse for a moment….gross!!! Would you f**k a zombie?) making these once feared, mythical creatures idolized and adored because of their sex appeal, not because they are fierce and powerful. I do have to contradict myself because Dracula is a love story in its own way but the story is beautiful and tragic and doesn’t put the vampire as the boy who saves the lonely sad girl from her teenage angst. One of my personal favourites for the literary vampire comes from the duo John Skipp & Craig Spector who put out a handful of graphic, brutal and raw horror novels in the ’80’s with their vampire contributions being Fright Night, yes like the great movie (I haven’t read the book because I can’t find a copy) and The Light At The End. Violent, bloody, spats of sexual deviance (not for the faint of heart) and descriptions of good old fashion ’80’s clothes and culture-radical. The truly grand marvel of vampire fiction that didn’t hit the mainstream like Anne Rice’s novels, would have to be Tom Holland’s “The Vampyre” or “Lord Of The Dead”. What if Lord Byron, the rock star of the Romantic Poets, was a vampire? The novel is intriguing and exceptionally well written, even though I am bias when it comes to all things Lord Byron, this is a very well written and articulated vampire novel.
The category of vampires is massive and spreads across so many different sub genres and media types, it would take a lot of time to fully explore this cultural phenomenon. It ranges from primal, gritty and ugly to the pretty, sexy and romantic. There is a little bit of something for everyone when it comes to the fang gang.
As someone who has loved the genre for over 20 years, read numerous books and stories of fiction and non-fiction, seen so many good and many more bad movies and would like to write my own magnum opus vamp filled novel, I feel that trends like Twilight take away the credibility of truly interesting and scary tales of vampires. The popularity of Twilight adds an extra challenge to some of those writing a vampire novel to overcome the hurdle of teen romance which the genre is becoming more and more associated with; that and paranormal romance. I cringe at those two words being coupled. The real tragedy is that other books and films that deal with vampires might be overlooked by a cynical old bat like myself because of the assumption that it is just another Twilight. If you want to see a good vampire movie with two young people, one human and one not connecting, see the Swedish flick “Let The Right One In”. It is quiet and slower moving then most vamp flicks; there are no models in it but it is shot beautifully in the snowy Swedish landscape with 2 young and wonderfully talented actors. Truly a unique and lovely movie. The original Swedish movie is wonderful but I would avoid the American remake. It was unnecessary and not even close to being on par with the original. The book that spawned the film is very dark and very disturbing and again a novel not really for the faint of heart.
That’s my rant….ashes to ashes and dust to dust…