Vampirism

I recently wrote a vampire version of Pride and Prejudice. As my book was set in Regency England (1800-1820), even the legend of Dracula could not serve as a basis because Bram Stoker’s classic came out in 1897. Therefore, it took me some time to sort out how I wanted to handle the “vampirism” in the book. I was influenced by several other vampire stories over the years.
In Dracula, Stoker really is using Count Dracula as a combined symbol of old world superstitions and modern economic improvements. It was the Victorian era, and the people had many fears, among them the fear of sexuality and the British fear of being conquered by an “outsider.” Both are evident in the book. Dracula is a member of the noble class who must mingle with those of a lower class to survive. As far as feminism is concerned, please recall that in Dracula, all vampires are female (except Count Dracula). Vampirism gives them the male trait of being the perpetrator. However, Stoker’s vampires bear little resemblance to humans. Dracula, for example, has an insatiable thirst for blood. When he kills, he does so purely to sustain his own existence. He has no guilt or moral qualms about killing. Dracula’s immortality imprisons him; he has no companions except those he captures and entraps in his home. A stake or a crucifix or clove garlic are the weapons of choice to be rid of the count, where fire does not affect him.
At one time, I read Anne Rice regularly. We all remember Lestat De Lioncourt, Rice’s main character in her Vampire Chronicles. With Lestat, the reader had a different type of vampire. Lestat possessed the human qualities of having a mind and a spirit. We found in him a vampire who did not kill just to kill. The “hunt” was part of the experience. One might find Lestat discussing philosophy or politics. In fact, he has an unusual collection of talents, and we find him to be very passionate. He makes his “lovers” people we might never associate with vampirism (a nun, for example). He seeks friendship from the mortals he turns. Lestat has an eternal soul. Unlike Dracula, Lestat cannot be killed by a stake or a crucifix. Lestat even slept in a church in one of the books. Rice has her vampires killed by fire or by being placed in sunlight, where they ignite into flames.
Vampire legends say that the vampire must be an animated corpse, who claws out of his grave to feed upon human blood. He is dirty and foul-smelling. Yet, the modern vampire is an immortal creature, who retains his youth and lives forever, something very appealing to our youth and sex obsessed culture. He is the eternal bad boy, forever able to indulge in dark desires and sexual urges. The vampire who exhibits self-control is a new phenomenon. Add a bit of compassion, and one has “Twilight.” The post 9/11 world does not look favorably on people or beings who hide in plain sight, yet, have the ability to kill us. Therefore, our recent vampires are less likely to be portrayed as monsters. I, seriously, believe that the paranormal literature we are currently experiencing is an aftermath of our youth growing up reading the Harry Potter series. Paranormal books are a more sophisticated fantasy.

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