Friday, September 24, 2010

Vampires Don't Sparkle.

(l to r) Authors Monica J. O'Rourke, Janet Ginsburg, Joe Garden  & J.F. Gonzales
Vampires Don’t Sparkle - 
A panel from Horrorfind Weekend.

In this lively discussion the authors talked about vampires in popular culture, with a focus on books.  I tried to take copious notes but wasn’t able to write quickly enough as to who said what.  I just have human speed, not vampire-like reflexes.
  • Today’s kids’ first exposure to vampires may likely be characters from Twilight and The Vampire Diaries while previous generations likely met their first vampire as the “…gothic, iconic, bad guy.”  The classic Count Dracula complete with long black cape or Barnabus Collins from the 1960's TV series Dark Shadows.  Twilight, as one of the authors pointed out, “…is about a man, as opposed to a vampire.”  I think this is the crux of the whole vampire trend: transforming evil creatures into sexy, vulnerable beings that you want to date as opposed to stake.
  • One author felt that no one is following a mythology and he wanted there to be some consistency.   I can see his point.  In my opinion sometimes if a story goes against the grain of what we as a society have been raised to believe, readers may protest.  There is only so far you can ask people to suspend their disbelief.   On the other hand, a myth is just that.  A myth.   It is not based on facts as we know it.  When writing a story the author may want to come up with a fresh take on vampires, their own world.  I don’t see anything wrong with that.  And readers are always looking for a fresh take on a familiar story.   Instead of skulking around in dark crypts, vampires can now saunter in the daylight because it's overcast, or they have a magic ring (even Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer found one).  They eat food and drink alcohol (not just blood) and get drunk.  They can party forever as a vampire!
  • Another area that was explored was the existence of more than one supernatural creature in the same world.  Vampires and werewolves?  “Are you surprised?”  asked a character on HBO’s True Blood TV series (based on Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books). If I met a vampire, yeah, I might start to question the existence of other supernatural creatures, but I also think it would depend on what the vampire could exactly do or not do.   How he or she came into existence, etc.  Some people believe in ghosts but that doesn’t mean they believe in vampires and werewolves.  Overall, the panel felt that the more creatures and characters you have in your book, the more possibilities, but I think it depends on the skill of the writer and how believable he/she painted the picture.  For me, the show Supernatural works (a different bad, scary creature to fight every week) but The Gates didn’t (the show lost me when the female love interest happened to be a succubus.)  
  • What about vampirism’s scientific explanation.   More scary?  Less?  Just different?  One author felt that when you have a logical reason that vampirism exists it dilutes the sense of wonder.  “…the element of unknown is fun as opposed to science.  This fear is born out of mystery.  A scientific experiment takes the fear out.”  I prefer the mystical to the scientific.   When you are able to explain something it takes the fear out of it and the fear is part of the fun.  
  • Your own preferences may be all about your first vampire.  You know the saying, “You never forget your first love.”  The same could be said about vampires.  Who was the first one you read about or saw in a movie or TV show?  Was it the classic Dracula or Barlow from Salem’s Lot? Did Louis, the sympathetic soul born of Anne Rice’s imagination, make you cry? Or did you line up to see dreamy David (Kiefer Sutherland) from the Lost Boys make being a bloodsucker look like a party for the cool kids?   Through the years and the different media now available to us, vampires have evolved and morphed from demonic evil beings into the most desired lovers.  They started out as evil, horrifying, undead creatures (although even Dracula had his allure) until authors and filmmakers turned the tables on a stereotype to reinvent these monsters as sexy, vulnerable, and even sympathetic. 
  • The panel authors felt that “…to tailor a book to teens may be doing them [the teens] a disservice.”  What did you read when you were a teen?  VC Andrews’ shocking tale of children hidden in an attic.  Stephen King’s violent stories of horror.  How would you feel if these were "dumbed down" for your perceived age group, limited vocabulary and themes?  One of the authors stated that reading these types of books felt like doing something illicit.  Why did we sneak them?  Because we were searching for something that perhaps we shouldn’t be exposed to?  Just for the thrill?  Because our friends were reading these books and we didn’t want to be left out? Today’s parents often read their children’s selected book before allowing them to read it. Would your parents have let you read your favorite scary books if they had read them first?  

It's obvious that many factors influence our vampire and supernatural preferences.  Did your favorite scary reading choices influence your taste or is it the other way around?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  


Angelique said...

Damn Pam, awesome post!!! I think my first vampire was Barnabus...I remember having nightmares about vampires as a kid so when it comes down to it, I prefer my vamps scary. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy some romantic vampire stories but in all honesty they don't really FEEL like vampire stories.

I agree with you about Supernatural and The Gates. AND I LOVED Flowers in the Attic and Stephen King when I was a teen. Kids today really have no idea what a scary book is lol, but least they're reading. But what you're saying also brings up something that has been bugging me a lot lately. I enjoy paranormal books and the majority of them seem to be in the YA category, but you hit the nail on the head when you said "dumbed down." Some have been downright painful to read...

Midnyte Reader said...

Angie, I totally get what your saying about the YA books. There is a supernatural element, but then no follow through

I also think that horror has been superseded by paranormal romance, but I also think it's cyclical. I'm pretty sure my first vamp was Dracula, but wow I fell hard for those Lost Boys. They seemed like, "evolving" vamps.

Bonnie said...

Altho I remember Bela Lagosi's vampire, I first became aware of them thru Barnabus Collins. I remember feeling so sorry for him.

I did read VC Andrews, and loved Salem's Lot (book and movie), Fright Night, The Lost Boys, Interview With a Vampire, Blade, and the Underworld series espc. Underworld, Rise of the Lycans.

I agree with you and the more recent supernatural beings have begun to play to our sympathetic and empathetic nature. Vamps have become the ultimate bad boy!


PS - I love Twilight but have a hard time believing vampires sparkle!

Midnyte Reader said...

Bonnie the authors noted that Barnabus appeared on the cover of 16 magazine, being in effect a sex symbol. They also said he was complicated, yet still evil. So maybe his character was a pre-cursor to this trend.

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