Monday, October 17, 2011

So Bite Me - by Laura Resnick

Everything you think you know about vampires is wrong...

...Which is precisely what Esther Diamond, the protagonist of my urban fantasy series, learns in her latest misadventure, Vamparazzi, when she is marauded by vampire groupies, paparazzi, real vampires, fake vampires, and homicide cops, all while doing eight performances per week of The Vampyre, an off-Broadway play in which Esther (a struggling actress) has a supporting role. She also wrestles with the unwise desire to rekindle her erratic romance with a skeptical cop who's trying to prevent her from becoming a mysterious vampire's next murder victim.

To be candid, I initially didn't want to write a vampire novel. It was more a case of feeling I "should" write one, because I'm writing an urban fantasy series in an era when another hundred vampires swoop off the bandwagon every five minutes or so. I went from thinking, "No, yet another vampire novel would just get lost in the shuffle, so I won't bother," to thinking, "Crap, if I don't write one, then I will die forgotten, alone, poor, and unloved."

Or I would at least die without getting to write what I think about vampires—which is: Eeeuw!

Also: Yawn.
Apart from the fact that vampires have become so ubiquitous that the thrill is gone, gone, gone... I never actually understood what the thrill was in the first place.

Yes, of course, I recognize the less-than-subtle sexual metaphors of vampirism—piercing, sucking, biting, predation, dominance, darkness, feeding on one's partner, draining one's lover, and so on. And, sure, I swooned over Frank Langella as Dracula when I was a teenager, and I had the hots for the black-clad vampire anti-heroes of the Buffyverse. I would also not kick True Blood's tormented vampire Bill (based on the novels of Charlene Harris) out of bed for eating crackers...

Though I would kick him out for gnawing on my neck until he pierced a blood vessel.

Speaking from not-inconsiderable experience with members of the animal kingdom, when sharp fangs break my skin and draw blood, the pain is mind-numbing rather than erotic. And if you think about it logistically (as Vamparazzi's Esther Diamond does), lustily piercing a lover's jugular vein is far more likely to lead to a 911 call than to an orgasm. As Esther points out to vampire groupies in the novel, piercing a major artery would also involve throwing out the gory bed sheets, replacing the ruined mattress, and scrubbing down the bedroom. Seriously, how often does anyone want to do that? On top of which, wouldn't an undead lover have, you know... cold genitals? Gack.

As you may have guessed by now, no, Esther doesn't wind up swooning in the arms of a sultry vampire suitor in Vamparazzi. She does meet vampires in the book, as well as vampire poseurs, anti-vampire obsessives, and an ancient cult of ruthless vampire hunters. She also learns that there's a little more sex appeal in certain aspects of vampirism than she realized.

But a writer—even one who's got bills to pay—has to be true to her vision... and there was no way my vision could come up with a scenario in which Esther would enjoy someone sinking his fangs into her neck to draw blood (though someone in the book certainly gives it the old college try). Undead may be the new black, but it just doesn't suit me. And although I've written many characters whose tastes and views are wholly unlike my own... I felt if I was going to write a book about vampires, then I should go with my iconoclastic inclinations. Lots of writers who find vampires sexy have already presented that view of them—and, by virtue of actually feeling that way about the subject, have done it much better than I could, certainly.
On the other hand, once I started researching my subject, I was pleased to discover that vampires are much more interesting than I had supposed. For example, did you know that there were vampire epidemics in the Balkans in the 18th century? These outbreaks were so severe that the Austrian Empire (which then governed the region) sent in government investigators who wrote detailed official reports (still available) about what they encountered there. Lest you think such things are merely the eccentricities of the Old World, I should add that there was a well-documented vampire scare in New England in the late 19th century. Are you aware (I certainly wasn't) that the first-ever portrayal of a vampire as sophisticated, aristocratic, and seductive was in a popular story written by a doctor in 1819? His work influenced writers for generations—including Bram Stoker, author of the most influential vampire novel of all time, Dracula.
And speaking of writers, they (as well as film-makers) are the source of much of what you think you know about vampires. For example, folkloric vampires don't have fangs; vampires' conveniently sharp incisors are an invention of Western fiction and film, not of Slavic legend. Nor does vampire folklore claim that you can dispatch one by driving a wooden stake through its heart. This popular trope, which appears in Dracula, is an invention of Stoker's—probably extrapolated from a real Eastern European practice (Stoker was a dedicated researcher): It was customary in some regions to drive a wooden stake into the torso of a suspected vampire in order to pin the undead corpse into its grave and thus prevent it from rising to prey on the living.

Nonetheless, despite having learned a lot of interesting things about vampirism (some of which became part of the fabric of Vamparazzi), my attitude about this highly popular iconic creature remains pretty much what it always was. That is to say: Considering his diet (so to speak), there are no circumstances under which I will be willing to kiss him.

Laura Resnick is the author of the popular Esther Diamond series, whose releases include Vamparazzi, Unsympathetic Magic, and Doppelgangster. She has also written traditional fantasy novels such as In Legend Born, The Destroyer Goddess, and The White Dragon, which made the "Year's Best" lists of Publishers Weekly  and Voya. An opinion columnist, award-winning former romance novelist, frequent public speaker, and the Campbell Award-winning author of many short stories, she is on the Web at


marybelle said...

I'm certain that much of the vampire lore we are familiar with is the stuff of Hollywood. Not that I believe in vampires of course.

S.P. Laws said...

Love that first book cover!

Anne McAllister said...

Totally on your side, Laura!

Laura said...

The cover is by Daniel Dos Santos, who's illustrating the whole series. I love his work!

Pat Cochran said...

I'm with you, Laura! It's best to avoid
lips when you have no idea where they
have been!! LOL

Pat C.