CPR for the Undead: Can We Save the Vampires?

I love vampires. Ever since I got my paws on Christopher Pike‘s book The Last Vampire, they caught my attention. It was a series, and I first read it back when the cover looked like this:

Such charming imagery. Yes, I know this is the second book. I loved this book.

It enthralled me, thinking of a 5,000-year-old vampire who had walked the earth with Krishna. I think I was 9. I guess that makes me precocious. Anyway, the next vampire book to snag me was Daughters of Darknessfollowed by Secret Vampire — by L.J. Smith. That did it. I was hooked. I wanted Rowan’s sinewy feet and her raw strength. I wanted to see the glow of nebulae with my naked eye.

I’ll admit I’ve still never read Anne Rice‘s Chronicles, but I devoured The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. This book captured me both because of the elusive vampire that haunts just outside the protagonist’s periphery through the entire book and because of her sweeping and single-minded mastery of the detail of Eastern Europe. I found out this weekend (thanks Chuck) that she spent an entire decade in Romania and Hungary learning and studying and recording. That book shines.

Back in the 90s following the advent of Buffy and the explosion of vampires into mass media, people began to think that vampires were a bit passé. They relegated him to the shadows and told him not to catch his swirling cape in the door on the way out.

But then someone dunked him in glitter, and he burst onto the scene once more.

Don't look at me. I'm hideous. Hideous like a unicorn and rainbows. *Runs away* (image from twilightsaga.wikia.com)

In the aftermath of Twilight, many other vampires joined the party. Enough that I’ve heard some groans — and as I pitched my book to agents, I wasn’t oblivious to the flinches I saw at the mention of the v-word.

My question is — can vampires be resuscitated? Can they still be salable?

You might call me blind or tell me I’m sailing Denial as its queen, but I believe people will always have a bit of bloodthirst for the fangy fiends. Here are my reasons and my caveat in frank, easy-to-follow bullet points! Just follow the bouncing ball!

  • Blood is high-concept. Everyone has it. We all know that bad blood and leeches are stuff of the dark ages, but when we feel the pulse of blood, we know we live. Vampires threaten our very reassurance of life.(After writing that and searching for pictures, I discovered that people still use leeches. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about that — or just bleleeeurrrrgh.)

    Blame it on Stand By Me, but I will never let one of these critters near me.

  • Vampires are sensual. Our necks are erogenous zones. Even when the vampires are well and truly monstrous, they evoke an allure.
  • The “vampire genre” is mutable, always evolving. From the broody self-flagellators like Edward and Angel to Nosferatu and the vampires that plagued Barrow in 30 Days of Night, there are as many interpretations of vampires as there are minds to think them up.

Here is my caveat, without which all of the above becomes pointless drivel:

As Donald Maass put it, 21st century readers crave a blend of elements . They want gripping, engaging plots full of complex, fully-realized characters.

How many thrillers hit the shelves each year? Specifically how many “crime thrillers” or “legal thrillers?” Category romance? Mystery? No one thinks readers are sick of those because readers still devour them.

I believe that the Twihards will grow up still loving vampires. As they grow and mature, I believe they will seek out worlds that reflect their own evolution.

That is why I believe there will still be a market for my books in two years.

Vampires in my world are not omnipresent or gimmicky, nor are they an unnecessary focal point. They exist. They are predators, and they each have their own moral spectrum. The rule — as always — for standing out in a crowded room is to say something interesting. To paraphrase Hemingway (I think it was Hemingway — if you know and can find the exact quote, I’d love you forever), say what’s been said a thousand times over, but for fang’s sake, say it a different way.

Vampires aren’t dead — they just need a little CPR.

What do you think, gentle viewers? Do you think they’ll go the way of the dodo or stage a comeback like the African Elephant? Are fresh voices enough to revive them?

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About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on January 28, 2012, in Salacious Saturday and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I took a class in undergrad about vampires. (Yes, they teach those. The prof’s name was Dragan Kujundzic and he wore all black and spoke with a Bulgarian accent. He also brought a “candy cauldron” to class and looked like a big teddy bear.) You would be amazed by all the metaphorical universality contained in vampires. They appeal to us on so many levels. I think that vampires will absolutely make a comeback, even though it may be a couple years from now in a completely unexpected way.

  2. I read an article Ananya Mukherje (here’s a link: http://pcasacas.org/SiPC/33.2/Mukherjea.pdf) where she basically argues that the reason vampires are persistently popular is that so much is demanded of women these days that it takes a supernatural being to keep up with them. Like, we’re supposed to have jobs and raise kids and keep the house Martha-Stewart-ready while keeping our pedicured toes strapped in slut shoes. As a character, the vampire usually has old-world manners, power, and deep pockets. It’s a pretty cool fantasy and I agree with you that it’s not going to go away any time soon.
    Peace,
    Liv

    • Thanks for the comment and the RT!

      I agree with you — I don’t think they’re going anywhere. I just think the challenge falls to the authors to keep it fresh, keep it bloody, and keep it engaging.

  3. I think people just love great characters — vampires, werewolves, rakes & rogues, bad guys with a twisted past and the girl next door. If they have something lovable, something worth redeeming, something that we can identify with … we want to know more. We want to read the story. I’m not a big Vampire fan, but I love the inner battle within Edward in the Twilight series. He’s a great character.

  4. Engaging story and characters — those are the key. With those, it doesn’t matter if you write about vampires, elves, aliens, or the family next door. People will want to read more.

  5. “Don’t look at me. I’m hideous. Hideous like a unicorn and rainbows. *Runs away*” made me giggle so much! This is a great write Emmie, I really enjoyed reading it! 🙂

    • Haha…in all seriousness, the scene where he shows Bella his skin in sunlight for the first time snapped me out of the world. Really, Edward? You are covered in sparkles and you want her to think it is monstrous?

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