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I’m not immune to the wiles of Nosferatu. I’ve loved vampire stories for as long as I can remember. I have a vivid recollection of being very young, I’m guessing about eight years old, this was in the late ‘70’s, – I’m really taxing my mind here. A brother of a friend of mine packed the two of us into his wickedly cool Barracuda, popped a eight track of Seals & Crofts into a player the size of a friggin’ Wurlitzer and hauled us off to our local library to watch a Friday night screening of Dracula, like, the original one with Bela Lugosi. That was a vampire! Scared the hell out of us. In fact, that night at my friend’s house I puked just to get a pass on the sleepover so I could go home and sleep with mom.
Let’s see, Dracula couldn’t go out in the dark, hated garlic and crucifixes and could only be killed with a stake through the heart. Purism, baby. They were fond of black and red velvet, had VERY pointy incisors and absolutely had to survive by sucking the blood of their victims. Well, what the hell happened? A century and a half later, we’ve got a bunch of ripped, half naked Romeos and seductresses infiltrating our high schools, colleges and holding jobs from baristas to rock stars. Vampire porn, that’s what it is. The only difference between it being actual porn and figurative porn is that it exists in the mainstream.
I believe in evolution and maybe my disdain for the current status of Vampire-dom is because I really am getting old, but I just think it’s gone too far. A few years after my Dracula experience at the library I read and watched Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and although I loved it (still do), it seemed to go off script. Now that seems completely ridiculous if you look what’s out there today. I’m not going to mention any specific authors or titles – that’s just hacky and bitter, but compared to what the public is exposed to today, Salem’s Lot was damn close to the original vampire script. It was the writing that made it so great. There’s the challenge I think, writing around the original vampire structure. A little tinkering is fine, but stay as close to script as possible. It’s a great framework – like the Constitution! Try and make it better, but keep the structure.
So, if Salem’s Lot threw me off a bit imagine what it was like when I started reading Anne Rice. To me, Anne is the second and my favorite generation of vampire lore. I won’t belabor what an amazing genius Mrs. Rice is, but her work does two very important things; she stays very close to the original framework of the vampire as created by Bram Stoker and the progenitor of it all John Polidori, and then adds in all the human elements to her characters which are relatable and thus, believable. She works from the vampire out, discreetly and erotically including all the human emotions we love to read and fantasize about. If Dracula reigned as the standard from the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th centuries, then Lestat is the vampire ruler from then on.
The vampire world of Anne Rice is exactly as it should be – perfection. If it took almost a hundred years to aptly change the world of Dracula, it certainly will take another hundred to de-throne Lestat and crew. In my opinion what has been going on in the last decade is drivel. Don’t get me wrong, if this is what the readers’ want and someone is willing to serve them – more power to all. I may be intellectualizing Vampire-dom a little too much, but I like quality and I’m not seeing a lot of that in the writing these days – the production values of television and the big screen are stupendous, however. But, it’s the ol’ lipstick on a pig thing. Those big budget screen ventures are pretty, but the substance lying underneath is flimsy and insulting as hell.
Maybe I am just getting old and let’s face it, I won’t be here when the next great vampire story surfaces, but I’m ok with that.