Saturday, October 17, 2009

Vampire Apocalypse!

In the previous entry, I recounted a discussion on which supernatural entity poses a greater risk to the human race: vampires or zombies.

It touches on both the contagious nature of vampires and zombies in film, and a common zombie movie/literature trope: the zombie apocalypse.

Wikipedia defines "zombie apocalypse" thusly:
a particular scenario of apocalyptic fiction that customarily has a science fiction/horror rationale. In a zombie apocalypse, a widespread (usually global) rise of zombies hostile to human life engages in a general assault on civilization. Victims of zombies may become zombies themselves. This causes the outbreak to become an exponentially growing crisis: the spreading "zombie plague" swamps normal military and law enforcement organizations, leading to the panicked collapse of civilian society until only isolated pockets of survivors remain, scavenging for food and supplies in a world reduced to a pre-industrial hostile wilderness.
You might be wondering that if the vampire and zombie are both capable of infecting others in their kind, why haven't there been more works on vampire apocalypses? After all, Wikipedia doesn't have a corresponding article for vampires.

That's a good question, and one I might attempt to answer in another entry (cop-out, I know).

In the meantime, I'll give some coverage to a little-explored subgenre of vampire fiction/film - the Vampire Apocalypse. But first, a definition of this term. Let's go with this: 1) fictional scenarios by which vampires have either orchestrated the end of the world or subjugated humanity. An offshoot of these scenarios, are 2) apocalyptic works in which vampires prominently feature, but aren't responsible for civilisation's demise.

We begin with this premise on a microcosmic level.

The prototype - and close parallel - of the Vampire Apocalypse is the vampire-infested village, town or city. Usually, this trope involves depicting the progression of a gradual vampire epidemic, which the protagonists slowly become aware of, and fight against. The best example of this is Stephen King's
seminal 'Salem's Lot (1975), set in the fictional town of Jerusalem's Lot, Cumberland County, Maine.

Tony Randel's 1991 comedy-horror movie, Children of the Night, focuses on a vampire plague that sweeps through the nondescript town of Allburg. Steve Niles' 30 Days of Night (2002 - ), began life as a story about a vampiric invasion of Barrow, Alaska, where the sun stays down for 67 days during winter. It was later made into a movie.

The 700-year-old Hungarian vampire prince of
Robert R. McCammon's They Thirst (1981) is far more ambitious: the novel chronicles the takeover of Los Angeles.

Ideal contributions to the Vampire Apocalypse genre, however, deal with global infestations of vampirism. Interestingly, when this avenue is pursued, it tends to align itself with the science fiction realm. Thus, Alan Hyder's Vampires Overhead (1935) details the invasion of a horde of giant, bloodsucking vampire bats from outer space, while Richard Matheson's highly-influential
I Am Legend (1954) has most of the world's population turned into vampires byway of biological warfare and Colin Wilson's The Space Vampires (1976) has astronauts inadvertently transporting energy-sucking extraterrestrials back to Earth.

On a different, more traditionalist tack, F. Paul Wilson's novella, "Midnight Mass" (1990) heavily relied on Christian symbology and re-introduced the supernatural back into the Vampire Apocalypse world. The story was expanded and published as a novel of a the same name, in 2004.

Derek Gunn's "Vampire Apocalypse" series (A World Torn Asunder, 2006; Descent into Chaos, 2008; Fallout, 2009) posists that vampires have emerged from the shadows of human greed and corruption, to take over the world. But, are also in a supernatural mould in that they, too, fear crosses and holy water and can shapeshift into bats.

Robert R. McCammon edited a 1991 anthology titled Under the Fang, which is composed of a batch of Vampire Apocalypse stories by members of Horror Writers of America.

The last strain in the Vampire Apocalypse genre are works in alternate history; fictional history or real. Or both. Kim Newman's "Anno Dracula" series (Anno Dracula, 1992; The Bloody Red Baron, 1995; Dracula Cha Cha Cha, 1998), presents a situation in which Van Helsing and his band of vampire hunters were unable to stop Dracula's invasion of Britain, incorporating a volume of references and characterisations from fiction and real life. Brian Stableford's The Empire of Fear (1988) preceded Newman's work, but had Richard the Lionheart as supreme vampire overlord, rather than the Count.

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