They‘ve been a popular subject of fiction for a long time now. They never seem to go out of style, although the style of them often changes. Why is that?
In my mind, to understand that we need to understand monsters.
Many years ago I read a newspaper column that said you can understand what a society is afraid of by its literary monsters. The first such monster was Frankenstein. People at that time were unsettled by science and the implications of what it could do. So Frankenstein’s monster was created by science.
The next set of literary monsters were Mr. Hyde and Dracula. The Victorians were a buttoned down people who tried to keep their emotions under control at all times, and they were very uptight about sex. Mr.Hyde was the epitome of out of emotional control, and Dracula was a sexual monster. As Stephen King noted in Danse Macabre when Lucy is being fed upon by Dracula you can tell that “she’s coming her brains out.”
Today we are unsettled by death, and our monsters reflect that. Freddy, Jason and Saw are all incarnations of death. In the Final Destination series death itself is the monster.
In many ways vampires are still monsters. Undead, night dwelling and feeding on blood they haunt our fictional worlds.
There have been a few changes since the days when Dracula spread fear though.
First, in a society like ours, vampires appeal to us rather than frighten us. Our is, I’m sorry to say, one that tends to push people to the outside. Many of us become or feel like ‘the other.’ So we identify with vampires who are always ‘outside.’ They don’t dare get too close to people for they are still monsters to most.
In contrast, unlike most outsiders, vampires are powerful. Their physical strength and speed is far superior to mere humans. They have other powers as well, such as the ability to change shape or mesmerize their victims. These traits mean that vampires are highly appealing to us.
So as outsiders, we identify with them and at the same time, with their powers, they uplift us.
They have not lost their sexual aspect though. They are still seductive creatures who can raise the most exquisite lust in their victims. A lust that causes mere humans to cast off their morals, their control, freeing them from the constraints of everyday life.
Which is why vampires make such wonderful characters for romance. For romance is about the happy ending. In the end a vampire finds a real love. Some one becomes more than food or an enemy to them. They, finally, despite their monstrous nature, become part of something. More importantly, they become part of something forever. A thing that will last longer than the ages and will never die.
No wonder I like writing vampires so much.