Will Vampires Never Die?

Another recovered, but still relevant, article.  This one from August 2010. -t.


Will vampires ever die?  Technically, no they won’t, depending on who you’re reading—unless they get staked, or decapitated.  Sometimes even that’s not enough to kill them.  And that appears to be part of their charm.

Something draws us to them, that’s for sure.  Vampires in popular fiction are like weeds in my backyard.  An unstoppable force that has nothing to do with nature.  It came together due to a magical number of coincidences and now look at it!

Vampires weren’t always so sexy and hard to look away from.  As little as fifteen years ago, they were the ugly bad guys of horror and fantasy fiction, and had nothing to do with romance, except in a few rare cases.  Bella Lugosi was the clichéd, overweight, pasty Dracula, and there was nothing remotely sexy about him at all.  The idea of Lugosi licking your neck and sharing your blood, a la Sookie Stackhouse, is nauseating.

But that was the function of vampires back then.  They were creatures of fear.  The blood drinking was supposed to incite disgust.  Any sexual overtones about their habits was supposed to send women reeling in horror at the very idea.

What changed?

Well, Anne Rice came along with her vampires with a conscience, and that was the first pebble to begin to fall.

And in 1992, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was turned into a movie that concentrated on the sexy, hip aspects of the old myth.  In that same year a silly little movie called Buffy the Vampire Slayer was made and pretty much promptly ignored.

Two years later, Anne Rice’s wonderful book, Interview with the Vampire, was turned into a movie with sexy actors, and the trickle become a flood.  Suddenly everyone was looking at vampires in a new way.

Three years latter, Buffy rose to prominence again.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer started life as a television series in 1997 and would become one of the most popular series ever, lasting until 2003.  No matter what you say about the series’ shortcomings, it popularized vampires in a way that turned the flood into a thundering Niagara torrent.  Vampires were no longer just popular.  They were now sexy romantic lovers with a dark side that romance readers couldn’t get enough of.

But Buffy was just the beginning.  Suddenly, vampires were everywhere.  Charlaine Harris’ first Sookie Stackhouse book, Dead Until Dark, was released in 2001.  Ellora’s Cave opened its doors in 2000 and published erotic vampire romances from day one.

JR Ward’s Dark Lover came out in 2005.  I’m not going to begin to try and list even the most popular vampire romances in print.  It isn’t possible.  There’s far too many, and there are review sites devoted purely to vampire romances, which proves how popular they are.

At the Romance Writers of America national conference in 2010, a poll was taken amongst acquisition editors of the major New York publishing houses.  All but one of them were still keen to acquire paranormal romances, including vampire tales.  As they were buying manuscripts for release dates anywhere up to two years ahead, it’s fair to say that vampire romances aren’t going to dematerialize any time soon.

Then there’s the TV shows that feature vampires, including Angel, the spin off from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which ran from 1999 to 2004.  Blade, that was based on the original movie.  Blood Ties, with the gorgeous Henry Fitzroy.  Forever Knight, Kindred: The Embraced, Moonlight, and True Blood.

Why are vampires so hot and sexy and so damned popular?

So what makes vampires so hot and sexy?  Why are they so popular?  Why won’t they die?

I thought I had a good idea about that, as I write books featuring vampires.  But I did some research into it anyway, and came up with some really interesting answers to supplement my own.

Suite 101 attempted to answer the question in an article that cited a lot of sources, that basically came down to the theory that love these days is too free and easy, and doesn’t have any conflict any more.  Vampires, on the other hand, provide a type of conflict that makes them attractive to readers – they’re a “no you shouldn’t!” source of romantic hero.

Well, I suppose…  But are women really that naive anymore?  I’d like to think we’ve all collectively learned to process our thought patterns a bit better than that.

A group of romance readers tried to nut it out for themselves on Yahoo Canada Answers, and their collective conclusions were that vampires were so attractive as romantic mates because of their innate sexuality and because you got to live forever when you fell in love with one.

The last point is actually open to debate.  Although I suspect the vast majority of human partners are “turned” by their vampire mates in paranormals, just because the vampire doesn’t want to be left alone, why does it always have to be that way?  ~Spoiler Alert~ The Sookie Stackhouse series certainly hasn’t so far concluded with Sookie being converted to a vampire.  In fact, she has vehemently argued against it.  In fact, it would make a different and rather delicious romance if the couple argued for the “death together” option.  ~End Spoiler~

One of the more thoughtful and in-depth articles I came across, at Associated Content, provided these suggestions for reasons why we just can’t get enough of the fanged heroes:  Their immortality, their strength and speed, their beauty, the fact that they bonded to their soulmates forever, and their very useful telepathy.

I have to argue with at least a few of those points, because not every fictional version of vampire has those traits.  Some vampires are bloody ugly — being turned isn’t an automatic pass into the halls of godlike beauty.  Bonding with soulmates isn’t always a trait, and neither is telepathy.  It changes from author to author and fictional universe to fictional universe, although so far nearly every universe and vampire I’ve met has extraordinary strength and speed.

But one of the most interesting points that Brodgesell made in the article was that today’s vampires are generally domesticated.  No more human bloodfeasts.  Harris’s vamps drink True Blood; in Underworld, the vampires developed their own synthetic blood.  JW Ward’s Brotherhood fed off each other.  This is one trait that would make romance audiences recoil, and it has been tamped down and minimized.

Blake Thompson pointed out on his blog that every culture has a vampire myth of some sort, and that it was probably the allure of the forbidden, the immortal and the bloodlust that drew people to this myth.  That, and the sex and seduction.

He went on to observe that today’s goths have adopted the vampire myth for themselves, along with the sex-and-seduction mythology that imbibes it.  The 1960’s had a direct parallel:  the hippies, and their free love philosophy.  Goths are today’s version of hippies.

Which is interesting, but doesn’t exactly answer the question.

I think the New York Daily News got closer when they said of the vampire that “He’s got a terrible reputation, he’s gorgeous, he’s dangerous and most importantly, he’s vulnerable. He lives on the fringe of society.”  Their theory is that vampires need to be close to other humans.  Their allure to human lovers is their danger:  They could lose control and bite…and that could either be fatal, or could turn you, or have other unpleasant outcomes.

All in all, that makes vampires lonely, mildly dangerous outcasts, and somewhat pathetic, which doesn’t jibe with the obsessive popularity they have with romance readers.  If that was all there was to them, readers would soon get sick of them.  You can put up with so much of a stray dog’s company before it starts to wear.

I think the best answer I came across was on Harlequin’s paranormal romance blog. They proposed that vampires are so sexy because

a) they’re the ultimate bad boy — after all, they’re actually soulless, and they drink blood.

b)  They’re frightening, yet vulnerable (see the New York Daily News article for more on that one),

c) they’re usually immortal and

d) they can usually be reformed.

The last one, (d), was one I haven’t seen anywhere else in my research, yet it’s so blindingly obvious in hindsight, I wanted to smack my forehead.

This is one of the key ingredients of a damn good romance.  A bad boy hero that is reformed by love is what makes those romances work so well.

In the case of vampires, name any of the vampire romances you’ve read that you love and adore, and I guarantee that somewhere along the line the heroine has managed to bring the hero to heel in some way.  It doesn’t have to be a complete reformation, but in some way she will have changed him.

In Summary

There were a lot of suggestions out there for what makes a vampire a great romantic hero, and for why they’re so sexy.  I had to discard those reasons that were author-specific — for example, telepathy, which doesn’t apply to every vampire in every authors’ novel.

So here are all the reasons that make vampires sexy and popular in romance novels, and why they’ll be around for a good while yet.

— They’re frightening, yet vulnerable

— Their blood-drinking habits are sexually oriented.

— They’re usually immortal

— They usually have extraordinary strength and speed

— They can usually be reformed

– They’re the Ultimate Bad Boy


July 2019 Update:

Nothing stated above has really dated much at all.  Vampires have waned just a little, lately, but in romance books they’re still going very strong indeed.

What do you think?  Should vampires go away?

Or is there room for still more iterations of one of our favourite hero-types?

What are your favourite vampires at the moment?

Cheers,

.

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