Until a few years ago, I never really understood the appeal of vampires. I certainly wouldn’t want to be one. I would miss breathing and having a heartbeat, and though I’m already paler than your average ghost, I like at least having the option of the sun. Besides, in this digital age, you’d have to be constantly switching identities and moving around. Sure, you live forever, but think of how much of “forever” you’d have to spend trying to trick the IRS. It just sounds exhausting.
I definitely didn’t understand the humans who hang out with vampires, donating blood and doing their bidding. I get that vampires are sexy and hypnotic and all (even Dracula, and that guy had serious issues with the ladies), but it would just be so easy for a vampire to lose control and accidentally kill you, and then what are you gonna do? Look stupid, that’s what. Bottom line: we all want our significant other to like us for who we are inside, but you can’t trust someone who only wants you for your insides.
And yet…for all my protestations, I found myself reading Anita Blake and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a devotion that bordered on extreme. I rolled my eyes at the number of vampire flicks hitting theaters, but I still shelled out for everything from Dracula: 2000 to Blade: Trinity. My friends were puzzled: if I claimed that I didn’t like vampires, then why did I keep showing up for vampire stories?
I didn’t actually figure it out until I became a writer, and started pulling vampire tales apart to see how they worked. Turns out, a vampire story is pretty much the literary equivalent of a coloring book page: it’s a neat, simple sketch that the artist is able to fill in any way he or she wants to: adding sections, coloring over, scribbling out, turning into any kind of realistic or wildly impressionistic image possible. Vampires hold incredible potential for having fun, making sharp political statements, getting carried away romantically, and so on. The possibilities are as endless as they are entertaining.
A couple of decades ago a literary theorist named Michele Foucault wrote that we never just judge a work freely with no prejudices; we automatically apply some kind of restrictions or limits. Without this kind of filter, there are simply too many interpretive possibilities to process, so the human mind will find a framework. Creating a story around vampires gives us a great, immediately recognizable filter in order to understand the story that the author has to tell, and gives the author the room he or she needs to tell it. And just as you choose colors when coloring in a picture, authors get to make choices about their vampires, from what happens to them during the day to how sharp their teeth get to how much blood (or sometimes other things) they need to survive.
When I started writing my own urban fantasy series, I got pretty interested in one of these details: the question of what, exactly, vampires want. It’s a question that we humans struggle with all the time, so if you really do get to live forever, it seems like a pretty important one. You can accomplish everything on the proverbial bucket list in, say, two or three lifetimes. And then what’s your plan? Collect money and power, maybe- but even if you do that, what are you going to do with your money and power? Brood? I love the ways that authors answer this question – or ignore it to make a larger statement about the nature of hunger and monsters.
So here’s my question, blog commentators: you’re 300 years old, everyone you ever loved is dead, and most of your clothes have been popular at least twice. What do you want? Besides, you know…blood. (One person will be chosen to win a copy of Blood Calls by Caridad Pineiro and a cute vampires Pez. U.S mailing addresses only.)
Web Site: Melissa Olson