Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hi Angela!

I received a comment (Saturday, February 21, 2009 2:06:00 PM) on "So You Wanna Write a Vampire Novel" from paranormal romance author, Angela Cameron.

She wrote:
I'm starting to think that the vampire thing is going to be so overdone before long that I'm going to have to abandon my babies.
I was going to reply to her in comment form, but my response was starting to get so extensive, that I thought I'd reply byway of this blog entry.

So, here goes.

There is a certain amount of ennui attached to the vampire genre, which is probably why a lot of people end up abandoning it.

F. Paul Wilson, author of The Keep (1981) and Midnight Mass (2004) is one example. He was obviously fed up with the genre at one point.

In an interview for Rosemary Ellen Guiley's The Complete Vampire Companion (New York: Macmillan, 1994), he was asked, "How does this fad [that is, the romanticising of vampires in fiction -ed.] affect the writer?", he replied:
The vampire can still hold one of the greatest threats, that of death. To do that the writer must turn to a classical approach. After all, what was Dracula about but good guys versus bad guys. Dracula was more than just a bad guy; he was a force of death, and also represented something worse than death. Dracula also personalized the horror; the vampire set a target. Vampires today drag people into a dark alley, like a victim of random violence. If you make the vampire operate on that level he is nothing more than a mugger. It's less likely that I'd use the vampire again. If Robert McCammon hadn't written me and asked for a story for the anthology Under the Fang, I would never have written Midnight Mass [his contribution was later expanded into the 2004 novel of the same name -ed.]. I think we've gone too far with the vampire, and I can't see how people take it seriously anymore. (p. 99)
The thing about the vampire genre, is that it contains certain motifs which tend to get recycled. Some are happy with that (I know I am), which is how its various subgenres are formed.

Of course, once in a while, something comes along to break the mould, or catches on with the public, and thus we have examples like John Polidori's "The Vampyre" (1819), J. Sheridan LeFanu's "Carmilla" (1872), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), Richard Matheson's I Am Legend (1954), Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire (1976) and, of course, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series (2005-).

I'm sure I have left some out, but you get the drift.

Each one of these stories created a template for successive writings in the genre (Meyer's is yet to be seen, I think). However, so strong are these "archetypes" (especially Dracula), that subsequent writers find it very difficult to break free of them.

These initial works aren't necessarily original, but they have something about them which creates new milestones. Kind've like perfecting a recipe. They just figured it out. Somehow.

Personally, I don't think writers need to aspire to such milestones. After all, I'm sure pretty much all of the above-cited authors didn't deliberately set out to create the pop culture "monsters" they spun off. They just wanted to share the stories in their heads.

As I mentioned, I happen to like certain motifs. It's what draws me to the field. My literary tastes, in terms of vampire fiction, lean more towards the "old school", "retro" stuff. F. Paul Wilson's Midnight Mass (2004) is a classic example of that. Here's a review I wrote for it on Amazon.

I like vampires that "obey the rules" (even if these aren't necessarily founded in folklore). I prefer Count Dracula over Lestat. And the tropes that go with that implication. Curt Purcell, of Groovy Age of Horror fame, covers this literary preference quite well in "Ancient Horrors, Modern Settings, Modern Readers" and "Blood-Drenched Sacred Soil".

However, as a budding vampirologist, my objection is when certain literary motifs are applied to "actual" vampires of history and folklore. This is the flaw inherent in a lot of non-fiction vampire works.

Anyway, point is, you should write what you love. Write for yourself. If you enjoy certain facets of vampire fiction, then there's sure to be others of a similar bent. If you truly are sick of it all, then there are a billion other avenues to pursue.

Either way, I wish you all the best with your endeavors - whatever form they might take!

2 comments:

Angela Cameron said...

Wow! I just came back when I found this on google. I didn't realize you'd written it. Very well done!

I have to agree. And I've had a change of heart since the original comment, too. I wrote a few different stories with different character types since then. This has inspired in me a need to go old school with the vampires in one story, and to invent a new type in another. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out.

Thanks for the response! Feel free to drop by my blog anytime at angelacameron.wordpress.com to talk more.

Angie

Amateur Vampirologist said...

Glad you enjoyed the blog, Angela.

Despite what I said about liking the "old school" vamps, it doesn't mean I don't mind the occasional new take on the genre. I don't mind the rules been messed around with...

...a bit. Heh heh.

Everyone interested in the genre has a different raison d'etre. Many were inspired by reading Dracula.

My interest was roused by a movie called Fright Night, Part 2 (1988).

That film retains the basic "lore" of the old-school vamps...but messes around with it a bit. Puts it in a modern context. Or setting, at least.

I tend to go more for the vampire-as-evil monster, than the vampire-as-romantic hero. That's why I also enjoy films like From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and the Hammer Dracula/vampire movies.

Oh, I've also been reading a book called The Monster Hunter in Popular Culture (2008) by Heather L. Duda, which you might find of interest. Naturally, Van Helsing and co get a look-in.

Lastly, I'll be happy to check out your blog. In fact, I'll add it to my reading list!

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