Though there have always been vampires among us, the literary vampire didn't begin to flourish until the mid-1880's. Then came The Vampyre, a short story published in 1819 in England whose authorship was for quite some time in question. Written during the famous "Geneva Summer" which produced Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, it was long attributed to George Gordon, Lord Byron, but is now fully believed to have been written by his personal physician, John Poliodori, with Byron as his model. Then, came Varney the Vampire-- a newspaper serial running 220 chapters and written either by James Malcolm Rymer or Thomas Preskett Prest in 1845-47--and the fanged fiend was off and running--with Bram Stoker's Dracula (another vampire supposedly modeled after an employer, actor Henry Irving) becoming the pinnacle. Allowing for individual differences attributed to the creatures by their various creators, novels, stage plays, movies, and TV shows concerning the Undead have flourished ever since, but it was in the 1970's that the literary vision of the vampire began to change. Up until that time, the vampire had been a creature damned and doomed to walk the corridors of time for Eternity, with an immortality which enabled him to laugh at puny humans. Then, something happened. The vampire was still cursed--yes...but immortality is no longer a blessing...occasionally he laments his ability to live forever, hating the fact that he is forced to kill others to continue his own survival, searches the world for someone brave enough to accompany him on his Undead travels. That was the point at which I decided to start collecting vampire novels--to see just how this facet was going to evolve. Before I moved from my home to the Midwest, I had over 500 novels chronicling that event. When most of these were destroyed due to inadequate storage, I started over and now, I have even more, and the theme has continued to change. From cursed creature of the night subsisting on a diet of liquid protein, to sympathetic protagonist who wants nothing more than to be accepted by someone who will love him in spite of his fiendishness, to a man alone, trying to fit in and adjust his different lifestyle to more acceptable patterns, the literary/theatrical/film vampire has done an almost complete about-face. Oh yes, he still avoids sunlight, has to drink blood, and can change from human-appearing to fanged demon in the blink of an eye, but these days sunscreen shields him from the sun, he has a friend at the local bloodbank (or buys synthetic blood). and generally doesn't morph unless he or his colleagues/friends/lover are in danger. He works for a living--as a private eye, on the night shift of a police department, as the owner of a New Orleans restaurant--but he's still looking for something...the key to again becoming human--or at least being accepted as human.

The one thing that has been carried through in all of these stories--other than the search for acceptance--is the ennui and despair that accompanies being immortal. As Christopher Landless explains it in Murder in Old Blood: "Why bother to like someone when you know he'll soon age and die...as will his children, and his grandchildren...and his great-grandchildren...?" Perhaps this can be summed up in the opening sentences of Night Man, as the vampire Damian La Croix introduces himself to his readers, "Time...something a vampire has in abundance...time to enjoy the pleasures of Immortality...time to contemplate his sins...and his mistakes." Sometimes, this inevitablity is accepted, as the vampire in "Well-Met by Moonlight" states, "It may take several millennia for the truth to sink in, but at last, it does. Eventually, I realized that I would never find the woman I was searching for. I had lost her when I chose to become Undead, as I lost my family and all the others I had loved. I purposely made myself this way, placed myself outside the pale of human existence and human love, and for eternity I would pay that price. At last, I bowed my head to the inevitable, and continued my existence alone. As I was meant to be all along...."

Slowly, the vampire is shown as coming to realize that his immortality is a mistake. Even though he's seen history in the making--may have known Beethoven or witnessed Ivan the Terrible's atrocities or stood beside Columbus aboard his ship--it's now all a blur in his mind. Humans, however, are in awe of speaking to someone who could quote one of these historical figures! As the heroine of Murder in Old Blood says:

"...the thought that I'm actually talking to someone who's seen Beethoven, a-and...partied with Mozart...it's eerie!" That made him laugh, a little ruefully. "How do you think I feel?" She smiled. "You ought to write your memoirs. It's be a bestseller!" "Who'd believe it?" "Well, no one could refute it, could they?"

All the "new" vampire wants to do is become human again--or does he? Is this just wistful thinking? In one episode of "Moonlight" Mick St. John does re-obtain his humanity and finds himself so weak he can't fight off his fellow Undead who are attacking his girlfriend. He's just as helpless as she is--a case of "Be careful what you wish for, you may get it!" Eventually, he allows himself to become "re-vampirized" so he can regain his abilities.

The new breed of vampire--the 21st century one--seems to have shaken off his dulled-by-the-millennia boredom and bounced back with enthusiasm...he thrives in all walks of life, more times than not helping Mankind instead of harming it, finding better ways to sublimate the killing urge, and doing something the "old-fashioned" vampires never did--getting the girl...or the boy...in every sense of the word. Today's vampires are not only sexy but extremely capable, and I think that's part of their...dare I use the word charm?...or shall we say--mystique? They've had forever to perfect their techniques, and--whether sadistic or gently seductive--do it very well.

In Shadow Law, when vampire Marek Strigoi dares to ask the woman for whom he has a secret passion why she likes vampire movies, her answer is less than a little satisfying for him:

He set down the chair and dropped into it. "Tell me exactly why women have such a fascination for vampires!"

For just a moment, she stared at him as if she thought he was teasing. "I'm serious," he went on. "I'd really like to know. Why would an intelligent woman like Suzanne Griffin like a tale about a creature who turns into a bat and drinks blood?" Yes, Maggie, tell me--so I'll know if you feel the same way, if you could want such a creature if he said he had fallen in love with you.

"Because..." she stopped, frowning as if thinking it over. "I don't know--it's so romantic."


"Being bitten in the throat is romantic? Having a reanimated corpse make love to you is romantic?" he scowled. "Perhaps I'd better revise my definition of the word!"


"Perhaps I'd better give you mine," she answered, studying her fingers a moment. "The way they portray a vampire is romantic...tall, dark, handsome, with an air of mystery and danger--" Briefly, the ultramarine eyes met his. "--sort of like you, Mark."
He affected a disbelieving laugh.

"No mystery here, I assure you, and as for danger--I hope there are no more muggers lurking in the bushes."


"--and that accent...." she shivered slightly. Marek wondered if he should have lost his own so easily. "I mean, any woman would be swept off her feet by a rich, handsome man who acted as if she were the only woman in the world."

"Rich." He snapped up that one word. "According to Hollywood, every vampire in the world is rich...and noble. Have you ever noticed how none of them ever have to work for a living?" His mouth twisted ironically. "But then I guess a vampire who's a shoe salesman or was a street sweeper wouldn't be quite as romantic, would he?"

"I suppose when you're immortal, you've time to amass a fortune." She was laughing now, though still seriously plowing along with her explanation.

"There's that," he agreed. "But what about the rest?" She looked at him questioningly. "The bloodsucking, I mean. From what I understand, that's portrayed pretty graphically nowadays. Not just--" Here he affected a Bela Lugosian accent, "--I vant to drink your blood--and cut to the next scene!"

"I guess." She looked unconvinced. "But it's all so sexy beforehand."

"Sexy?" The word was almost whispered.


"Yes! That's the whole thing right there." She looked excited as if she'd just discovered the answer to a very difficult riddle. "You see--a vampire might bite, but that's all." She leaned forward, totally serious, dropping her voice slightly. "They can't have real sex, you know...."

"No?" Marek appeared fascinated. God, if only she knew how much sex a real vampire could have!


"No. They're impotent....so all they can do is kiss...and bite..." she gestured as if offering him the solution. He didn't bother reminding her of her cousin's novels--and hundreds of others like them--which contained vampires who spent half the story shagging one female or another, sometimes at the same time! "It's the ultimate way to have sex without losing your virginity...and gaining immortality in the bargain!"


"I see." So that was it--spelled out very plainly...a woman wanted to get laid without actually getting laid, with everlasting life as a dividend. Hmmm.

Little Maggie is in for a big surprise when she gets to know Marek better!

So there we have it:

Vampires are mysterious, exude sex, as well as make love very passionately. They've actually seen history happen, been an eyewitness to things we mortals can only read about or see in newsreels. But most importantly of all, they want--and desire--companionship and the love of someone who will want them in spite of what they are--and, in the end, isn't that what we all wish? And if the one with whom we find that companionship and love also offers us the bonus of immortality--of being with him/her forever--that would be the icing on the cake. That, in my opinion, is the vampire's lure...and appeal.

(The image above is The Self-Portrait of Ivan Leone, courtesy of www.fotolia.com. I think it well represents the moody, shadowed subject of this essay.)

8 comments

  1. Susan Macatee // November 2, 2008 at 2:47 PM  

    Great post!
    I've loved vampire stories ever since I got hooked on the daytime soap Dark Shadows back when I was still in grade school.

  2. Mary Ricksen // November 2, 2008 at 3:09 PM  

    Who wouldn't want a sexy, bad boy. And who doesn't love a good vampire story. Combined that with romance and you have a great novel. Just like yours Toni.

  3. Skhye // November 2, 2008 at 5:02 PM  

    Hi, Toni! You've just described what I've been watching in the trend of most paranormal themes over the past century--the affect of rugged individualism in how it allows for whatever floats one's boat, i.e. the path of liberalism. Ah, what a lovely term to hear in the final days of the election!

    Rugged individualism is an extreme form of individualism found in the US and coined by a Chinese anthropologist. It notes a different kind of individualism not found in the rest of the West, an extreme individualism that results in a person who wants to be completely self-sufficient. Of course, this is impossible if you look at what culture truly is. But with rugged individualism we're looking at aspirations and mindsets, not the reality of the situation.

    Is it fantasizing to watch an immortal or the undead become invincible and then turn around and need companionshipt? Heck no! We're talking about stories for humans. And check out that sweet list of vampire lore you just posted. I'm talking about the evolution of the idea of the vampire. (I'm a big fan of cultural evolution which lends to the evolution of anything.) We're watching the shift from a person being part of the group to being an outcast (undead) that essentially equates to a self-sufficient individual (one who isn't supposed to need anyone else). But then that individual decides he/she's lonely. Time for romance!

    Look at courting patterns over the past century. I'm not going to bore folks with those details here. It's a very cool thing to ponder! ;) Thanks for getting me all contemplative. :) !Skhye

  4. Skhye // November 2, 2008 at 5:03 PM  

    Oh, I apologize for boring folks! Skhye

  5. Mary Marvella // November 2, 2008 at 6:49 PM  

    We're glad you shared with us Skhye. Like our Toni you express yourself well. Vampires could always mesmerize women who would then do things they wouldn't have done otherwise. They could give into their dark wishes and fantasies.

  6. Nightingale // November 2, 2008 at 8:19 PM  

    Toni and Skhye entertaining and informative! Enjoyed both. Nice photo of the guy, Toni.

  7. Arkansas Cyndi // November 2, 2008 at 9:52 PM  

    Thanks Toni for an interesting blog (with a terrific assist by Skhye).

  8. Debra St. John // November 2, 2008 at 9:53 PM  

    Vampires ARE sexy! I will admit, tho, that I like the romantic, mysterious stories over the more gory variety.