I’ve recently delved back into the world of the Wamphyri. I picked up a copy of Brian Lumley’s Necroscope: Invaders, which is a series of his I hadn’t read. Something caught my eye as I was putting the book down last night. On the dust cover was a quote from some literary magazine about how Lumley returns vampires to their roots, treating them as the monsters they are instead of like rock stars. That’s very true; wamphyri are truly Lovecraftian monstrosities in Lumley’s work (like we’d expect anything less from one of the most prominent mythos authors). However, it got me thinking about the current glut of “sexy vamps” that have taken over the genre.
As anyone who reads this blog knows, I attended MarCon this year at the Hyatt Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. I happen to live in Columbus, so it was pretty convenient. At the con, one of the panels was specifically for writers, and one of the guests was a lovely woman who happened to be an agent who represented “Supernatural Romance” authors. Huh…supernatural romance…is that a thing now? Later I noticed a shelf at the local used book store labeled “supernatural romance”. Hmm, o.k. That shelf has expanded into a whole case now, and is threatening to squeeze out the regular horror selections. That shelf is filled with Laura K. Hamilton novels, the True Blood novels, and yes, the horrible Twilight novels, among about a hundred knock-offs.
I’ve heard plenty of people who say, “vampires are so over played.” They’re right, at least in party. These “sexy vamps” are over played, and there is only one true culprit behind all of this. That’s right…the reason vampires are sparkly nonsense now is…Joss Whedon.
I am a huge fan of Buffy, and Spike, the bad boy vamp turned hero, is one of my favorite characters. But I realize now, that was the gateway to the Cullens and other pansy-vamps we have today. Never mind that Spike (or his inferior counterpart, Angel) would beat the unliving crap out of any of the sparkle-vamps. The point is, they were the romantic vampires that led to the Harlequin stories we have today.
Damn you Joss Whedon!
The truth is, though, Joss never lost sight of the fact that vampires, as a whole, were an unrepentant evil. Drusilla, as an example, or the Master; these were evil, soulless beings who feasted on human blood. There was even an episode that explored the dangers of humans foolishly worshiping vampires as dark souls in need of companionship. That episode starred a quite evil Spike, in fact, feeding his way through the idiots.
Where did this get lost? Was it simply in the repressed Mormon wet dreams of Stephanie Meyers? It would be easy to blame this shift to romanticize vampires on the influx of female writers in the horror field, but that’s not at all fair. There are plenty of female authors who write about monstrous vampires who rape and pillage their way through the text. It’s also not at all a female thing – see the above Joss Whedon, who has a penis the last time I checked. (O.k., I’ve never checked…but I do assume…it’s the beard, gives it away.)
No, the blame falls in two places. First, the publishers, who like anyone who runs a business, believe that there’s safety in the familiar. People have been buying romance novels for years. Add a vampire and it still sells, only now it sells to the horror fan crowd as well. Second, of course, is us, the consumers. If Twilight had bombed on the book shelves, there wouldn’t be a movie and media blitz campaign for it. But people bought it up by the truckload. The fact that most of the folks who purchased the books happen to be of the ovarian persuasion isn’t a reflection on the gender. Rather, it’s a reflection on how repressed so many women are in feeling they can’t reach out to more legitimate horror tropes.
Monsters are a man’s sport, apparently. No reason they should be, but unless you put the monster into a romantic relationship, women don’t feel comfortable with the story. That, again, is not a gender issue, it’s a society issue. Boys who play with dolls are made fun of. Little girls who read horror stories get the same treatment. But wait, it’s a horror story about a teenage girl in love with a vampire! Oh, NOW it’s o.k., just like giving a little boy a doll in army greens and a plastic machine gun makes it totally cool for him to play with it.
I guess my rambling point here is that vampires, as a genre, aren’t really over played or need to go away. We just need to get back to what they really are: blood sucking monsters who kill people because they can.