The literary fascination with vampires is as old as it is complex. They appear as potent metaphors for the shadowy, repressed zones of society and human nature; deviant sex, death, occultism are their domains. It’s a good thing to remind people of the fact, especially when they start salivating over Eric Northman’s towering, Scandinavian stature (“True Blood”) or Stephen Salvatore’s perfectly exfoliated face (“The Vampire Diaries”).
In recent years, fiction loving mortals have witnessed a massive resurgence of interest in fangs — to such a degree that vampires have now earned their own genre. More specifically, Stephenie Meyer, mother to the effervescent Twilight Saga, created a pop-culture niche for vamps — metamorphosing them into glittering, teenage disco balls a la Edward Cullen. An influx of high grossing movies and TV shows soon followed the success of Meyers’ books; our bloodsuckers have never had so many adoring throats to bite. They are the new wave, the Generation Y of vampires.
Yet there those in the shadows who oppose and look out with menacing eyes, their ancient fangs dripping with vitriolic comments. One such shade happens to be the previously reigning Queen of Vampires, Anne Rice. Rice is better known for dominating the early eighties and nineties with her Vampire Chronicles, some of which include the widely read Interview With A Vampire (1976), The Vampire Lestat (1985), The Queen of the Damned (1988) to name a few. She recently sank her fangs into Meyers’ teeny bopper fantasy, where vampires glimmer harmlessly in the light (instead of burning, incinerating) and go to high school. The Guardian reports that Rice said her vampires “feel sorry for vampires that sparkle in the sun”.
Rice fans know that her creations are anything but shiny. These are non-kosher, sexually charged vampires; they are not vegans (it’s human blood, through and through) and are rendered in a historically credible manner, grounded in their own personal narratives — the best of sex, drugs and rock and roll. In the face of these iconic vamps, Ed Cullen comes off as a de-motivated, sexless Ken doll, a vampiric Tinkerbell.
Bram Stoker may have immortalised his wicked Dracula within the Gothic canon — creating a monster with a formidable sexuality — but the diabolical eroticism commonly associated with vamps evolved a good two hundred years prior (See “Der Vampir”, Heinrich August Ossenfelder, 1748) and Rice uses this to devastating effect.
Regarding Meyers’ writing, Rice makes another strong point: it is exceedingly difficult to fear, respect or even desire (traditionally, vamps elicit some combination of the three) undead beings who go to high school and adjust their jock straps in locker-rooms or take Spanish class like any other mortal. On Facebook, Rice comments that her vampires “would never hurt immortals who choose to spend eternity going to high-school over and over again in a small town”, adding, “My vampires possess gravitas. They can afford to be merciful.”
The Queen has spoken; Meyer better watch her neck.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2011.
Correction: Due to a typographical error, an earlier version of this post carried the incorrect spelling of ‘elicit’. The error is regretted.