Vampires and Werewolves! Oh my!
meant to write on something else this week. I have the book sitting out with a bookmark stuck into page 3 or something pathetic like that. Instead I got sidetracked by the delivery of my special edition of the Ginger Snaps trilogy and werewolves led directly to vampires and it was all over from there.
Werewolves are a more recent interest of mine that came about with movies. I didn’t see An American Werewolf In London until I got older and became interested in werewolves as a result of watching Dog Soldiers and later Ginger Snaps, movies that take werewolves in completely different directions. Werewolves seem to fare better in movies than in prose. There are plenty of werewolf novels (Guy Endore’s The Werewolf of Paris is the classic, but Jack Williamson’s Darker Than You Think is also a good choice) but they don’t seem to hit popular culture the way vampire books do. I think it’s because werewolves just are not as sexy when they kill. Vampires kill with a kiss. They let their lips linger on intimate and sensitive places. Werewolves rip you to shreds, more akin to rape than to seduction. Not to mention a pale, sophisticated human is going to be more of a turn on than a big dog.
What appeals about werewolves then is the dilemma. The innocence of the werewolf. Dr. Jekyll at least caused his own transformation. Werewolves, through no fault of their own, change and destroy, and in a lot of stories, hate what they become.
If they know what they’ve become. This concept is changing, but
even that is in relation to this original idea of the wolfman.
Sometimes they take charge and embrace the beast. But in the end, the
story is about the beast, and it rarely ends well.
Vampires are sexy. In fact there is a whole industry of vampire romances with fun titles like Tall, Dark, and Hungry and Sex and the Single Vampire. On a darker edge are the Poppy Z. Brite anthologies Love In Vein and its sequel. They’ve done well on screens big and small, I doubt I need to mention Buffy.
And I’m betting anyone awake and reading horror has heard of Anne Rice
and Poppy Z. Brite and Laurell K. Hamilton and Kim Harrison, if not all
of them, at least half of those names. Truth be told, I’m pretty
vampired out, at least in movies and novels where they seem to be demon
lovers, handsome, pale, and rich but a bit chill to the touch who tend
to suck more face than blood.
Where I prefer to get my vampire fix now is in short stories where
authors are more willing to explore what it really means to live off of
the lives, blood, or energies of other humans. Maybe it is the short
form that gives authors the chance to explore an idea. Or maybe it is
that short stories are faster and the expectation for money from them
is lower so an author can risk a vampire idea whose time has not come.
These stories are more bold if less sexy (though not all of them. It
isn’t the sex I object to, but the defanging the vampires have to go
through to turn them into love interests). If you go to Amazon.com and
type in "vampire anthology" the first one to come up is The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women
edited by Stephen Jones. It’s as good a place to start changing views
of vampires as any. Jones is a good editor and he isn’t afraid to pick
some risky things. Or if you want a look at how the fictional vampire
came to be through the ages, pick up The Penguin Book of Vampire Stories which includes Byron’s fragment (written during the same contest that inspire Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein
and sometimes credited with being the beginning of turning a folklore
demon into our current tall, pale, blood lover), Polidori’s "The
Vampyre", Le Fanu’s "Carmilla" (with its obvious Victorian fear of any
sort of unconventional sex, or any sex at all) and many others up to
contemporary writers Ramsey Campbell and Tanith Lee. Those two should
get you going in a whole new bloody direction.