Have you noticed them? Of course you have. They are sparkly, trendy, they keep diaries, they have slayers, and they suck. I’m Vampired out. I’m over Vampires.
So when it was suggested that I check out this show Being Human (the American version of an original British made show by the same name), I groaned upon suggestion. I’m vamped out. The show is about a Vampire, Werewolf and Ghost living together (sounds like the set-up of a bad joke), all trying to be normal…human if you will. I didn’t want to watch the show, but then my husband went and made me watch a few episodes. It’s not half bad. Actually, against my better judgment, I like the show. Which made me wonder: why do I like this if I’m over the popularity of Vampires right now?
The answer was simple enough, the Vampires in Being Human reminded me of Anne Rice’s Vampires.
Anne Rice. (Sigh and insert quick montage of my teenage years, obsessively reading Anne Rice and Stephen King, writing my own awkward teenage dribble and ending with Brad Pitt as a loveable Vampire.) I grew up with her versions of Vampire folklore: tortured non-humans who turned the aching of life’s blood into something literary and riveting.
Well, all the Vampire-ness got me thinking about my childhood; the one where I read a lot of Stephen King, and my friends and I scared the ever-loving shit out of ourselves watching horror films. I thought about my introduction to Vampires: Rice Vampires. All of this, in turn, led me to think about this generation growing up with Stephenie Meyer’s Vampires.
I have been thinking for a while that, just as there are different schools of thought when it comes to psychology (Jung and Freud had psychoanalysis; Pavlov had Behaviorism) there just might be Schools of Vampire-ism.
I’ve narrowed it down to three for the sake of argument and time: The School of Stoker; The School of Rice; and The School of Meyer. Of course each school has an entire gaggle of authors who fit into each category, but these three seem to define a new culture of Vampires.
Let’s start at the beginning:
Tales of Vampire-like creatures, creatures that suck the life blood out of humans, have been found across many different cultures and across many generations. They all have different names, but the idea is the same: “One of the earliest accounts of vampires is found in an ancient Sumerian and Babylonian myth dating to 4,000 B.C. which describes….a spirit or demon who was not buried properly and has returned as a vengeful spirit to suck the life out of the living.”a
The folklore has twisted and turned its way throughout all of history. However, it seems that vampires took root in our literature with some very popular English publications. There were the vampires of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s poem “The Bride of Corinth” published in 1797. It is said that with the publication of John Polidori’s “The Vampyre” in 1819, the “story successfully fuse(d) the disparate elements of vampirism into a coherent literary genre.” b
If these two men ignited the fire for Vampires, it was Bram Stoker who fueled it. Using Eastern European folklore and tales, Bram Stoker invented Dracula: the most definitive Vampire in popular fiction in the last century. The book, Dracula, has never gone out of print since it was published in 1897. It became the archetypal Vampire book.
Vampire-like creatures varied across cultures and folklore; some were the undead, some were raised from the dead, some roamed among us during the day, some were killed by stuffing garlic in the mouths, others by cutting off the head. Stoker was the first to define exactly what a vampire was, its weaknesses, how to defeat it, and what its powers truly were.
This was the beginning of the School of Stoker. Stoker hit a chord with Victorian society and helped further the gothic genre, placing a defining light on horror fiction. Madness, shadows, religion, immortality, with a hint of sex and submission…these devices used by Stoker cast a wide net over Vampire literature and movies that were to come.
Vampire books and movies have come in waves since Bram Stoker’s invention. There is always a rise and fall of Vampire popularity. These days it seems like we are at the top of the swell.
If Stoker is the King, I would have to say Anne Rice is the Queen of Vampires. She brought a new element to the Vampire. He was no longer a demon. Now, Vampires were poetic lost souls. But she didn’t stop there to change the way the world was warming to Vampires once again. By having multi-volume sagas, readers could devour the lust for vampire fiction in multiple installments. “Rice’s work also saw the beginning of the convergence of traditional Gothic ideas with the modern Gothic subculture and a more explicit exploration of the transgressive sexualities which had always been implicit in vampire fiction.”c
Under the School of Rice I would be so bold as to put Buffy The Vampire Slayer that quirky TV show, arguably Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, The Lost Boys (a Corey and Corey movie…remember those guys?) and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova under the umbrella.
Today we find ourselves with a new addition to the folklore: sparkling Vampires who after 400 years of life have chosen to hang out in high schools. Enter the new School, Stephenie Meyer’s School. Her Twilight series follows Rice in the multi-volume saga realm. However, there is no trace of Stoker in her books. According to an interview in Entertainment Weekly.com with Stephenie Meyer, she has never read a vampire book, she has never seen a vampire movie, she does not like horror films and does not watch R-rated movies. It is an interesting addition to this ever-evolving folklore.
This most recent Vampire Revolution, started by Stephenie Meyer, has ignited another swell. Popular TV shows: The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Being Human and The Gates. Books have erupted as well with many copycats jumping on the Vampire train to make a few bucks: The Vampire Academy, Circ du Freak, and, my favorite, Vampirates (Vampire Pirates).
I think we all belong to a school of Vampires that we hold true to our hearts. But why so many different Vampires? One explanation I liked said that each new generation of Vampires are each new generation’s metaphors, representing what we need them to represent at the time and space they exist. What is the metaphor we’re working on now? I’m not quite sure. My opinion, as quaint and small as it might be, is that some of these new sparkly vampires…well…they suck.
A quick P.S. I just found out that the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith, came out with a Vampire book released in 2010 called Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. I’ll have to look into that one.
a Bartlett, Wayne and Flavia Idriceanu. 2006. Legends of Blood: The Vampire in History and Myth. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
b Frayling, Christopher (1992), Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula, London: Faber & Faber, ISBN 0-571-16792-6.
c Wikipedia contributors. “Vampire literature.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 16 Mar. 2012.
EW.com. “Stephenie Meyer’s ‘Twilight’ Zone.” Entertainment Weekly. Accessed: March 15, 2012.
Goss, Theodora. “Folkroots: Vampires in Folklore and Literature.” Realms of Fantasy. Accessed: February 28, 2012.
Online-literature.com. “Dracula.” The Literature Network. Accessed: February 28, 2012.
Randomhistory.com. “40 Interesting Facts About…Vampires.” May 2, 2009. Accessed: February 28, 2012.
Usaweekend.com. “Exclusive: Stephen King on J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer.” USA Weekend: Who’s News. February 2, 2009. Accessed: February 28, 2012.
Wikipedia contributors. “Vampire literature.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 Feb. 2012. Web. 29 Feb. 2012.