Erotica author, aka Elspeth Potter, on Writing from the Inside

Monday, March 30, 2009

Why I Don't Like Vampires

I have never loved vampires.

Rather, I don't like the idea of vampires. This does not stop me from reading vampire novels, of course. I just don't prefer them.

The heart of my dislike is vampires killing humans for their own eternal life; secondarily, the way certain types of vampires treat humans as food only. Most contemporary vampire fiction elides this or, better, creates their own lore so that their hero/heroine is not a murderer. I like that type much better; for instance, it doesn't seem so awful to me if a vampire feeds on their lover in small amounts, giving pleasure or psychic strength or something in return. All of the vampire books I've enjoyed have either mutuality (P.N. Elrod), vampires as a separate species who don't need human blood (J.R. Ward, except I get annoyed that their blood-partner must be of the opposite sex, which isn't logical to me in a biological sense), or vampires who are considered evil because they kill, and the consequences of that (Barbara Hambly). I've also enjoyed vampire stories about humans who fight evil vampires, as in Colleen Gleason's work.

The other thing I dislike about vampires is that, in romance at least, the vampire hero (nearly always a hero, not a heroine) is almost exclusively given an "alpha male" personality. It makes sense for this to be so; instead of the Duke of Manlypants sweeping in and whisking the heroine away to a new, luxurious lifestyle, the Vampire Studly swoops in and whisks the heroine into immortality, or at the least through a whirlwind of supernatural sex. The only difference is in scale. At base, both are the same fantasy: powerful male chooses heroine out of all others and places her above all others, and she is safe and loved forevermore. If one's feminist ideals are bothered by the idea, it's easier to believe in if Mr. Alpha really is more powerful than you because he's eight centuries old, or can fly, or can mesmerize a city with his glowing gaze.

It was interesting to read Joey Hill's The Vampire Queen's Servant, which features a female vampire. I had hopes that I would enjoy it more, but it only reinforced my opinion that what bothered me about vampire books was the power differential. The vampire's gender didn't matter to me. Even in a book like that one, with its complex and subtle issues of dominance and submission, it was the vampire ultimately having the power of life and death over his or her romantic partner that kept me from buying into the fantasy.

If you're looking for an inventive atypical vampire romance, I recommend Marta Acosta's Happy Hour at Casa Dracula. It's really fun, with some interesting variations on both vampire romances and chick lit.

Related Posts:
Normative Heterosexuality and the Alpha Male Fantasy.
Romancing the Beast.

16 comments:

  1. I do like reading about vampires -- but, I'm picky about it, for all the reasons you mentioned. I really dislike books where all vampires are evil killers, though, because I think that's too simplistic. I like to read about a vampire's struggle to retain his decency and humanity in the face of such overwhelming odds, the conflict within him to do what's right and hold true to the human he used to be, despite the hunger in him. (Which is not to say that I think all vampires should be that way. There are bound to be evil vampires, just as there are evil men. But I don't like the cop-out that they're all that way.)

    I actually just sold a vampire novel to LSB a couple weeks ago, and that's one of the things I try to explore. The (vampire) hero is a man who did not choose to be turned, and now he's just trying to get by as best he can, without turning into a carbon copy of the "evil" vampire who turned him. And he's definitely not an alpha, lol. Probably closer to a gamma? And he does have a protective instinct, but the heroine does not react well to it. ;)

    I think what makes the difference for me between great vampire stories and ones that I'm so-so about at best, is whether the author took the time and effort to expand beyond the cliche and make her vampires her own. There are a million and one vampire books out there -- I want to know what makes these vampires different from everyone else's.

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  2. The reluctant vampire is a good one--do you remember the "Forever Knight" tv series? In that one, the vampire's goal was to regain his humanity. Angel in the Buffy series had a similar goal.

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  3. I like vampires. I read a lot of them and am in the process of putting the polishing touches on one.

    I agree they have been given a bad rap and thusly I think this is why the pub houses are looking for unique versions of the vamp storyline. There are way too many of the alpha male vamps out there for me. I chose not to do this with my character. He is not alpha at all. Just a reg. guy who was in the wrong place. He struggles with the virus and looks for a cure. Is there a cure? Hmmm...

    At one time these creatures of fiction were human, so the choice to either turn and turn badly was inevitably theirs. I'm glad to see others want more depth.

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  4. That's exactly my issue with the "All Vampires Are Evil" trope, Pixydust. Do they just lose all comprehension of who they were before they were turned? Yurg. There's no drama in that. ;) I want to read about angst and torment and people struggling to come to grips with this sudden, massive change that's been forced upon them, fighting to reconcile what they've become with who they are/were.

    And, I keep coming back to themes that I deal with in CK. *grin* One of the important characters gets turned about halfway through the book, and much of the latter half revolves around her struggle with exactly that. She never once thinks, "Woe, I have become a terrible monster", but she does struggle with her identity, and when people keep telling her, "This is who you are now", she fights back ferociously, refusing to sacrifice who she is and what she wants to accomplish just because some jerk did this terrible thing to her, refusing to let it define her.

    Those are really the stories that move me. I don't want to read about someone succumbing -- I want to read about them overcoming.

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  5. As a side note, the Kitty books by Carrie Vaughn are about a woman who was turned into a werewolf against her will.

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  6. I used to read vampire stories in the fantasy genre before it became popular to have them as heroes in romance, (fantasy authors like Storm Constantine, Freda Warrington, Kim Newman, and of course Stoker himself,) and then it seemed like it was everywhere and I haven’t read a lot of it, I confess. Have you read Kresley Cole? I seem to recall you have :) She pulls off some interesting twists on the mythologies. Just read A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER. The heroine is a reluctant vampire and the hero is a werewolf who is disgusted by her vampirism, but she is his designated mate. Great set up! Insta-conflict, she’s so good at that. I did enjoy it.

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  7. Kresley Cole is great! She undercuts a lot of tropes with her characterizations. She does a combination of the soulless, people-eating vampires and the reluctant non-killing sort as the heroes.

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  8. With the influx of vampire novels recently, I'm almost to the point where I'll run screaming from them if I see the hero is a vampire (and I'm getting close to that as far as werewolves go, too). I think it's the uber-alpha male thing you mentioned. Give more vampire hunters. And if you can make one go after Edward Cullen... ;)

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  9. I really enjoy reading about vampire hunters, even though I admit there's more dramatic conflict if the vampires they hunt aren't 100% bad.

    I should blog about my take on werewolves soon!

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  10. I've never really been big on vampires, even hated the whole Buffy craze, and actually prefered werewolves, esp Rebecca York's. Then I got hooked on three series last year: Twilight (I liked how Meyer made them different from the usual vamps), Davidson's Undead series (love Queen Betsy and Sinclair!), and Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series. Laurel K. Hamilton was also recommended to me by a number of people, but after reading a sampling of the series, I've decided you either love it or hate it, nad I hate it.

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  11. I've only read the first couple of Stackhouse books--is there more of a focus on vampires later?

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  12. I love reading vampire books, movies and shows! I would love to write one but I'm so afraid I couldn't do it justice. There are so many out right now that I'm afriad it would be average and get lost in the crowd.

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  13. I had a lot of similar concerns about vampires as heroes, Victoria, and so to challenge myself I wrote a novella about one I'd find sexy. The result was a very down to earth vampire.

    One of my favorite reviews was from a woman who hated vampire stories in general but who really like my story as a character study. So I think I accomplished my goal. But that's what it comes down to at this point--really twisting the genre to suit your needs, because it is a super-saturated market.

    Once a story might have sold well just because it was a vampire story, now it almost has to sell despite that fact.

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  14. now it almost has to sell despite that fact.

    Interesting point--I don't think readers will ever tire of vampires, but I do think trends in types of vampires will come and go.

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  15. Victoria- Re: the Sookie Stackhouse series... The vampires do play into the series more, especially in book six, in which Sookie visits the queen of Louisiana, and book seven, much of which takes place at a vampire conference. Book eight just came out in PB, so I do not have that one yet (I refuse to pay $25 for one HC when I can get 3-5 PB for that price).

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