Hungry for Vampires – EW article

…Vampires have risen again — and in astonishing numbers. They haunt bookstores, television, and movies. Why has pop culture thrown open its door and invited them in? ”The traditional vampire story, with monsters and victims, chases and chills, is pure plain fun,” says True Blood’s executive producer Alan Ball. ”But they can often reveal the general state of the cultural psyche.”

The vampire trope is as old as the dirt in a bloodsucker’s coffin. But the modern mold was created by the now-forgotten John William Polidori, whose 1819 gothic novella The Vampyre concerned a supernatural sexual predator — a withering riff (according to literary legend) on Polidori’s friend, the womanizing poet Lord Byron. Then Bram Stoker’s Dracula(1897) laid bare the pride, prejudices, and prudishness of Victorian London. Contemporary vampire stories have been more open-minded, often presenting the ghouls as misunderstood misfits. Beginning in the 1980s, the vampire became the symbol of choice for ”issues” — feminism, drug addiction, and AIDS. ”Vampirism basically came out of the closet as metaphor, not particularly for gay sex, but for an act of love that kills,” says author Neil Gaiman.

Vamps are such versatile symbols now that they can express both conservative and liberal views. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels are steeped in her Mormon values. Conversely, True Blood speaks in part for gays and, as Ball puts it, ”eight years of institutionalized demonization of pretty much any group that wasn’t on the bus with Mr. Bush.” And vampires, of course, have always embodied more timeless themes, such as the fear of death, the veneration of youth, and the conflict between faith and reason. Just as Stoker’s Dracula reflected the tensions of a society being transformed by scientific and industrial revolutions, Chuck Hogan, who coauthored The Strain with Guillermo del Toro, believes that our vampire outbreak is symptomatic of similar anxiety: ”A big part of the vampire myth — and maybe why it’s so popular now — is that it’s a counterbalance to the technological wave we’ve been riding. We’ve made so many advances, but there’s that shadow part of the psyche that wants to pull you back and say, ‘Do we really have control of everything?”’

Before we get too philosophical, we should also note that many new vampires are young, male, and smoking hot. Behold the grand new subject of vampire fiction: The Boyfriend. Vampire stories give everyone a glimpse of what women want — a deep romance of the soul. They have always been written mostly for women and, lately, by women. The abundance of them now speaks to how much current pop culture skews female in general. Quips Chris Moore, author of the comic vampire novel You Suck: ”The ultimate in chick lit would be a vampire who’s a shoe whore. It seems like the logical next step.” If that particular fantasy doesn’t work for you, check out the following pages. Pop culture has given all of us a vampire to sink our teeth into.

Stephanie Meyer
Author of the Twilight series

It may come as a surprise to learn that Meyer — reigning queen of pop culture’s vampire coven — has an uneasy relationship with the toothy buggers. Back in 2003, when she was tapping out the first draft of Twilight, she refused to show it to her husband. ”I was embarrassed,” she said. ”It was about vampires.”

In 2007, as Twilight propelled her from a surprise YA best-seller to a multigenerational superstar, she admitted to EW that she had never read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Reading other people’s vampire stories made her too ”neurotic,” she explained. As a Mormon, Meyer doesn’t watch R-rated movies, so that eliminated a whole other swatch of the canon. (She has seen bits of Interview With the Vampire and The Lost Boys on late-night TV. Her respective reviews: ”Yuck!” and ”Creepy!”)

Before the movie adaptation of Twilight premiered last fall, EW caught up with Meyer on the book tour for her first adult novel, The Host. A well-reviewed sci-fi romance that has been on best-seller lists for nearly 60 weeks, the book offered Meyer a chance to move on from Edward. Her voracious fans weren’t as ready to let go. As they continue to swarm Twilight conventions, and Robert Pattinson is routinely attacked on the street by ponytailed neck nibblers, Meyer has taken a vow of media silence. Last year she told EW that her great wish was to reclaim some time to write something new. ”Look, I’m not just a vampire girl,” she said emphatically. ”I can do other worlds.”

Melissa de la Cruz
Author of the Blue Bloods series

Who’s your favorite vampire that’s not your own?
Anne Rice’s Lestat. He’s Socratic and flawed and sexy — and evil, but in a really good way.

What’s unique about your vision of vampires?
I wanted to have a little bit of a creation myth, explain how they came to be, so my big twist is that vampires are fallen angels. They’re cast out of heaven with Lucifer, and that’s how they were cursed to become vampires. And they’ve been trying to gain redemption by being good, so I have good vampires and bad vampires. I also wanted to tie the mythology into American history, so I have vampires come over on the Mayflower.

What are your thoughts on the Twilight phenomenon?
Her book came out a year before mine. I was worried. But it did so well, it lifted all the vampire and paranormal genres. So thank God for Twilight! I finally actually read the book. Her vamps and her mythology are so different from mine that I never should have been worried.

Who’s the scariest vampire in film or literature?
Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot just scared the s— out of me. It was really real. King’s vampires are not sexy or fabulous or attractive; they’re horrible, evil creatures. I don’t write that much horror. People tell me my books are scary, but they’re not really; I don’t go there.

Why do people find vampires so appealing?
They have something we don’t have: immortality. But because they’re immortal, they’re cursed. We all want to live forever, but we don’t want to suck blood to do it, right? I think people like to have these deep moral questions that don’t come up in real life.

Are vampires a metaphor for anything?
I always thought of vampires, especially the young-adult ones, as a metaphor for sex — sucking blood, forbidden, taboo. I think they just ooze sex. Vampires are all the big themes in life in one attractive, bloodsucking package…..

Laurell K. Hamilton
Author of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter books

Who’s your favorite vampire that’s not your own?
J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. It was written [25 years before] Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but Carmilla has a female vampire and a female victim, and it explored lesbian themes at a time when you weren’t even allowed to talk about it.

When and how did you envision your first vampire?
When I was about 7, I was allowed to stay up and watch the Creature Feature Hour, and they had the old Hammer vampire films like Vampire Circus. Those movies really sunk into my psyche. ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King was important, because his vampires were modern-day. And The Natural History of the Vampire by Anthony Masters. It was the first book where they equated serial killers with vampires and werewolves.

What are your thoughts on the Twilight phenomenon?
Stephenie Meyer has come and she’s taken the genre that I sort of pioneered. Her original audience was 11- and 12-year-olds, so she — very rightly — sanitized the genre. She took out a lot of the sex and violence, especially for the first book. My readership is both male and female, but Twilight is very much a girls’ book. I ask people, Why has this really captured you? What I heard from all ages is that it was very romantic that he was willing to wait for her and that there was no sex. They like the idea that [Bella] was like the fairy princess and [Edward]is the handsome prince that rides in and saves her. The fact that women are so attracted to that idea — that they want to wait for Prince Charming rather than taking control of their own life — I find that frightening.

Who’s the scariest vampire?
I’ll be honest: Vampires don’t scare me, never have. I’ve always just been fascinated by werewolves, shape-shifters, and vampires, since I was small. I always liked anything that could eat you.

Why are vampires appealing?
It’s a way to be very scared and sensual and have violent passions and still be safe. You’re sitting in your favorite chair, with hot cocoa, and when you close the book, your world is still there. You’re safe….

SOOKIE STACKHOUSE AND ME by Charlaine Harris

When I began trying to imagine the novel I wanted to write, I knew only two things about this novel: The protagonist would be a woman who was dating a vampire, and the book would be both funny and bloody. In 1998, there were not that many strong women characters in the science-fiction field, and I was constructing my heroine from new material.

Sookie took shape slowly. She’s a very modern woman in many ways. I knew it would never occur to her to marry in order to be supported. I also knew that any sane woman (and Sookie is very sane) would only date a vampire if other dating options were closed. It took me a long time to pick a disability that would preclude conventional dating. My choices ranged from the practical to the absurd. I settled on telepathy because it seemed one of the worst things that could befall anyone.

The next most important figure was her new suitor, a vampire. I thought of many names for him, ranging from Eurotrash to ridiculous. It seemed funniest to me to give him an absolutely prosaic name: Bill. If it made me laugh, it might make other people laugh too.

I had to put Sookie in a position to meet a lot of new people, so I made her a barmaid in a small-town bar. That way, people/werewolves/vampires could wander in and out. That also meant children wouldn’t be in danger when trouble came into Merlotte’s, as it was sure to do. Since everyone in a series has to have secrets, Sookie’s boss had to have a secret too, and that was the easiest part of the setup. If Bill was going to be a vampire, Sam Merlotte would be a shape-shifter. Since Sookie had a boss, I thought Bill should have one too; no free-range vampires in my world! I decided Bill’s boss would be Bill’s opposite in most ways. Blond, tall, imperious, and in some ways surprisingly liberated, Eric almost leaped into the story.

These characters grew to populate the world of Sookie Stackhouse, telepath and barmaid. Though she has no superpowers, and she’s terrifyingly human, Sookie has become my very own heroine, in every sense of the word….

Anne Rice
Author of the series The Vampire Chronicles

When and how did you envision your first vampire?
It’s such a mystery, what makes you write about something. I thought, What would it be like to interview a vampire? To get him to tell you what it’s like to be who he is? What’s interested me throughout my career is the first-person voice of the mysterious one. I never dreamed Lestat would be the hero, or in a series of books.

What was the first vampire book or movie that influenced you?
A black-and-white film called Dracula’s Daughter, with Gloria Holden. I saw it when I was a little girl at the neighborhood theater. I think it influenced everything I subsequently wrote. I never really read any vampire literature, but in our family, we had a collection of short stories from the library, and we read one called ”Dress of White Silk.” It was a first-person vampire story from the point of view of a little-girl vampire. It had quite an influence on me.

Who’s your favorite vampire that’s not your own?
I would say Bill Compton on True Blood. I think Bill is terrific. I haven’t read Miss Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books, but I really am loving the HBO series. Bill is a very romantic vampire. I love his suffering, his self-loathing, and his struggle to be good. And I think Stephen Moyer plays it beautifully.

What vampire cliché should be retired?
The vampire bullying helpless humans. It’s always the same: The vampires gleefully descend on some bikers and smash them to pieces. I think a self-respecting immortal isn’t going to bully humans endlessly.

Why do people find vampires so appealing?
I think people are intrigued by what they would do if they were offered the opportunity to be a vampire. Would they be willing to drink human blood in order to be immortal? Maybe they would.

What’s unique about your vision of vampires?
Their glamour. What I thought to do with Louis and Lestat was make them very beautiful and very seductive and very appealing. I thought to myself, Why should this supernatural being be repulsive? Why should he be feral like Dracula? What if he was more like a dark angel? It was kind of a radical idea. And now, 30 years later, no one would even question vampires being beautiful and magnetic.

P.C. CAST
Cast and her daughter, Kristin, write the House of Night series

Who’s your favorite vampire that’s not your own?
Oh, my God, Spike [from Buffy the Vampire Slayer]. Please. Spike is my boyfriend. In my heart, Spike is my boyfriend.

And why is that?
Because he is that perfect mix of really bad boy and sex appeal.

What’s unique about your vision of vampires?
I think my vampire world is the only one that is matriarchal.

When and how did you envision your first vampire?
In 2005, my agent said, ”Hey, I’d like you to write a series set in a vampire finishing school.” I was intrigued by the idea, especially because I was teaching high school. My dad is a biologist, so I sat down with him, and he and I brainstormed an idea for a physiological basis of vampires.

What was the first vampire book that influenced you?
Interview With the Vampire. 1976. I was 16. It scared the bejesus out of me.

What vampire cliché do you think needs to be retired?
The males being in charge. It’s a cliché that’s died off almost completely in the romance world. Let’s kill it off in the vampire world, too.

Who’s the scariest vampire in film or literature?
Lestat, for sure. Anne Rice developed him so fully.

Link to complete article

Why do people find vampires so appealing?
It’s the allure of being immortal and beautiful. I mean, look at the True Blood vampires! Thank you, Charlaine Harris.

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