De-fanged

by M.J. Hearle

I love vampires.

Honestly, I do. Ever since I discovered a certain Transylvanian Count under the section beginning with ‘D’ in my much cherished A-Z Movie Monster Book, I’ve been fascinated with the undead. Keep in mind, I was six at the time so this is a relationship that has spanned decades. Dracula, Blackula, Countess Bathory, Count Yorga, Barlow, Lestat, The Lost Boys, The Near Dark Boys, Jerry Dandrige, Angel, Spike, and even sullen Edward Cullen, have all been dear friends at different times in my life.

Which is what makes this so difficult… you see, I think it’s time we gave vampires a rest. Following the phenomenal success of Twilight, vampires have become ubiquitous in popular culture. Television, movies, video games, and yes, books have been bitten by the vampire virus in a big way. You can’t turn your head without seeing a picture of some handsome fellow smouldering at you with amber coloured eyes and a trickle of blood running from the corner of his pouty lips.

Familiarity breeds contempt, so they say, and there is no monster that has become more familiar than the vampire. While, I don’t think I could ever be contemptuous of my beloved nosferatu (though scanning the depressingly similar covers in the paranormal section of my local bookstore sometimes puts that resolve to the test), I’ve certainly become weary.

There was a time when the idea of an undead monster lurking outside my bedroom window would have chilled me to the core, but if I were to encounter one right now, I’d probably react with nothing more than an eye-roll. Instead of worrying about getting my neck ripped open, I’d be much more concerned with being bored to death while listening to another angst-ridden tale about having to live forever without someone to share eternity with blah, blah, blah.

Some stories – like del Toro and Hogan’s Strain novels, Lindqvist’a sublime Let The Right One, and Cronin’s The Passage – have managed to ring some much needed freshness from vampire lore, but these examples are few and far between. Most of the stuff occupying space on the bookshelf is unimaginative and derivative. Soap operas with a splash of blood. Bodice rippers featuring brooding fanged hunks rather than shirtless pirates. This angers me. I love the vampire too much to see it reduced to such a tawdry fate.

I’m sure there are brilliant novels hidden amidst all the Twilight knockoffs, but I simply can’t muster the energy to search for them. I’m tired of vampires – more to the point I think vampires are tired. If you’re reading this and happen to be an aspiring author with a love for the paranormal genre than I urge you to resist the temptation to write about our undead friends. In fact I’d suggest you steer clear of werewolves and zombies as well. While, I’m offering unsolicited advice lets give angels and fairies a rest too – they were never that compelling to begin with. What does that leave? Um…

Mummies?

Sure, why not? I guess rotting bandages aren’t the sexiest apparel but that doesn’t change the fact our ancient Egyptian friends are woefully under-represented in paranormal fiction. Or, if your nose is wrinkling at the thought of writing a love scene involving a mummy (somehow I don’t think there would be much sexual tension wrung from wondering what’s beneath the bandages) try this suggestion on for size – create something new. A brand new monster to menace/romance your hero/heroine. Something we haven’t read about before. It’s a bit harder than just riffing on a pre-existing mythology but I think ultimately it’s a lot more exciting.

By no means am I saying we should abandon vampires forever – just retire them from our stories for a while. Ten years should do it. Enough time for people to remember their fear of the dark and the creatures that lurk within. Enough time to restore a little mystery to the monster. Don’t worry about our dear vampire during this sabbatical. It’ll be just fine. The one truth you can always count on with the undead is that they don’t ever stay dead for long.

Dracula always returns from the grave.

M. J.

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