Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Werewolves, Vampires & Witches...Oh My!

I blame Anne Rice. Vampires have become quite popular. From Lestat to Angel we've seen quite a progression of the genre. And now it seems like books are popping up everywhere that feature vampires and other beasties like werewolves and even demons. Once upon a time supernatural fiction seemed to be the purview of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Though you'd probably run into aliens or genetically enhanced nightmares in their novels rather than vampires. And the Anne Rice came into the picture and reminded us why we liked Dracula so much. But why the explosion in this particular genre now? Paranormal romances are big right now; really big. But you can look in the sci-fi/fantasy section of the bookstore and see just as many that don't focus on the romance aspect. In fact, I'm reading Blood Bound right now by Patricia Briggs and it doesn't have any more romance in it than your typical fantasy book; lots of blood and guts though. And maybe I'm weird, but I really like it. But I do wonder, are we going through a phase? Is it doomed to fade away like the hair metal bands of the 80's? If this was only a romance genre, maybe I could see people losing interest; though that might be a bit prejudiced of me. But I believe not that long ago people were certain that sci-fi was a phase that would soon be forgotten. And really, I do want to know why there has been such a strong surge in this particular genre? If you go to the bookstore there are tons of authors that specialize in this kind of fiction now. If I go to my used bookstore they now have a section all to themselves. Kelley Armstrong, Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris (lots of women authors for some reason) all pretty much specialize in this type of book now; and they're not all romances. Are we no longer satisfied by Stephen King and Dean Koontz? Or are we just looking for more ways to scare ourselves? Or do you think it's just going to burn out and fade away........

8 comments:

mist1 said...

As long as vampires remain sexy, they will never go out of style.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Vampires represent numerous things at a subconscious level. They are sexual, they are powerful, they are antihero. I think in our society, where violence has become so overwhelming an influence, vampires have made an impact as a both a safer threat and also a symbol of antiestablishmentary power.

As a safer threat, consider:

If a person is blown apart by a gun, killed by a suicide bomber, or suffers other horrible indignities...then death is final. If a person is killed by a vampire, sucked dry with a kiss, then death is temporary, and as a bonus, you come back with all manner of new power.

As an antiestablishmentary symbol the vampire stays up all night, he is the epitome of the antireligious, he either flies in the face of the mundane or seeks to overturn one norm to institute his own.

Finally, as a sexual symbol, which obviously made its strength felt in the repressed atmosphere of Victorian England, in the modern world the sexual symbol of the vampire is flipped, and where once the vampire was sexuality freed, now it is a romantic symbol in a time when sexuality runs wild and the accepted societal standards of romance are challenged daily.

So the vampire, in my humble opinion, while once a horrifying creature of the night, has been turned by the Gen Xer's into a black caped teddy bear.

Thanks a lot.

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

well i always thought mist was a vampire cause she's up at such odd hours and all.

sqt are vampries real? or just in the movies. all i know is they scare the crap out of me real or not. i could not read a book about them in broad daylight surrounded by a choir of angles!

smiles, bee

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

and sqt? that's the first time i ever saw someone use antiestablishmentary in a sentence. i used to be proud that i could spell antidisestablishmenterranism. but i forget what it means. i used to know though. it's those brain cells dying away and all.

smiles, bee

SQT said...

Bee

Vampires are scary enough that I hope they're pure fiction.

Stewart

I think you're right about the desire for personal power. Whether we talk about a vampire or a werewolf they have tremendous strength, power and the whole anti-establishment thing going for them.

And it think it caters to a desire for immortality. Vampires are immortal and most of the modern books about werewolves also suggest a longer lifespan, health and youthfullness. I'm vain enough to admit these appeal to me.

SQT said...

Mist

Vampires are definitely bringing sexy back.

Avery said...

I agree with Sqt's comment on the allure of immortality. As readers age and the specter of death looms, it's always nice to hear of a promise (however transient and hollow it may be) that just maybe we can avoid having our existence snuffed out the minute our hearts decide enough is enough.

I think more of the draw to vampires is feelings of worthiness. The thought that a creature stands in the shadows, gazing at us, deciding if we're to be food or something more is fairly powerful. It magnifies that moment we've all had at a club; we're standing in the strobe lights, gazing at the people around us while they gaze back, deciding if we're the one they'll be going home with, and if it will then be only sex, or if we'll be allowed to linger in their life for a while. The vampires give that hunter/hunted relationship the ultimate prize at the end. Instead of an invite to dinner and a movie, the chosen gets eternal life. Everyone likes to think he'd be that one, the one the vampire deems worthy of that next date -- eternal life.

Stewart, I like your theory. As an antiestablismentary symbol, it's natural for Gen-Xers be drawn to them, wanting to write them new tales that are even more reflective of their values. As for your grumbly thanks, don't you know the more you scowl at us Gen-Xers, the more we love it?

weenie said...

It's funny you mentioned about the growth in popularity of this genre. I was in the local library recently and was loitering as usual around the three bookshelves dedicated to 'Sci-fi/Fantasy'. That day, I noticed a new bookshelf, dedicated solely to vampires, Dracula and werewolves. Cool! I picked up a Kim Harrison book and enjoyed it. Sure, there is something sexual about vampires, something tantalising and teasing that perhaps appeals to females (hence all those successful women authors!!). As for romance, well, are people just getting mixed up with sex and romance? :)