NO NAILS IN THE COFFIN FOR THE VAMPIRE GENRE
Vampire fiction is one of the main staples of the fantasy genre, but that wasn’t always the case. Nowadays, vampires aren’t really considered scary in the least, but when they first appeared in book form in the 18th century they were immediately seen as terrifying creatures. Vampire fiction has evolved from this dark Gothic era to a new, more modern usage, being used in some of the best-selling books of today – below are just a few of the most dramatic influencers of perceptions of vampires:
Though not the first book to feature vampires; Bram Stoker’s Dracula is certainly one of the most famous. Bram Stoker created the blood thirsty character that everyone thinks of today when imagining a vampire, and this book is definitely steeped in Gothic and sexualized undertones.
One of the most interesting things about Dracula is the portrayal of women in the Victorian era. Women then were supposed to be meek, motherly and pure, but Stoker’s women are modern and feisty at the same time. Dracula is considered a classic in vampire fiction and is a genuine must-read. Told through letters and diary entries, the book reads in an epistolary format, but this doesn’t retract from the genuine horror of the tale. Even in this day and age, Dracula is plain scary.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Jumping forward through almost exactly a century of vampire fiction, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series signalled the start of a new, more modern vampire. This time, the vampire-hunting character of Van Helsing, seen in Dracula, is reworked into Buffy Summers; a typical teenage girl in every way but one – the fact that she and her ‘scooby gang’ slay vampires after dark.
The modern woman seen in Dracula is properly discussed in Buffy, since the main character is actually a strong, powerful woman. Despite that, she’s all-too-often at war with her emotions and is every bit as self-conscious as the next normal girl. The vampires in Buffy are less frightening though, and the main plot revolves around Buffy and the difficulties she experiences as being a slayer, which she doesn’t want to be, as well as simply being a teenager, growing up and getting through school. Whilst the books of the show failed to capture the public attention as much as the television series, this sparked a renewed interest in our fanged foes.
Sookie Stackhouse Novels
Better known by its TV name of True Blood, this series take the concepts in Buffy even further – the books follow Sookie Stackhouse, a girl with the supernatural ability to read minds. In this world, vampires have ‘come out of the coffin’ and are a well-known (if not always accepted) phenomenon.
Possibly even more so than in Buffy; the women in The Sookie Stackhouse Novels are almost all strong-willed, independent and modern, making them good role-models, apart from the whole ‘dating murderous vampires thing’.
You’d be lying if you didn’t say The Sookie Stackhouse Novels puts a heavy focus on sex though. Like in Dracula, the vampires in these books are all over-sexed, and the books definitely aren’t suitable for teenagers. Vampires have always had a predatory, yet seductive method of luring their victims, whether through deception or even hypnotism. The very act of them sucking their blood is achieved directly through one of the major erogenous zones – the neck.
This is interesting though, as it shows just how much vampire fiction has come along since its creation, in that the public are now much more accepting of this kind of storyline – if Bram Stoker had put any more emphasis on the sex in Dracula it’s likely it would have been banned.
The Twilight Saga is the latest best-seller in vampire fiction, and it’s easy to see why. Whereas every other book on this list has shown vampire-fiction to have somewhat explicit scenes of a sexual nature, this saga actually sends an entirely different message. In Twilight, abstaining from sex is rather more the aim of the game, and it makes it the ideal read for romantic teenagers.
Stephenie Meyer has been criticised for making Bella Swan (the main character) too needy dependent on Edward Cullen (the main vampire character) too much, but if you look closely you’ll actually see that the two run alongside each other the entire time. The books are a re-working of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, with vampires thrown in and, just as in the play, Romeo (Edward) and Juliet (Bella) simply cannot live or exist without each other.
Twilight is a definite must-read if you want to get to grips with the latest and greatest in vampire fiction, but don’t count on things staying the same in this genre for too long. All of these books have influenced it to such an extent that a new best-seller is bound to be released any day now.
Stephenie Meyer has created a multi-million series with high-grossing films and a number of copycats, both in literature and film, even continuing with a novella, entitled The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. With a two-part film adaptation of the final novel, Breaking Dawn, released today (and a number of cinemas featuring ‘Twi-thons’ – back-to-back showings of all released films), it seems that this type of vampire is here to stay… until someone comes along and stakes them all, of course.
Guest blogger, Dani Butlerson is a writer for the online team at the Book People, online retailers of adult fiction books, including the Twilight series of book and other vampiric creations.