“You are but mortal woman. Time is now to be dreaded – since once he put that mark upon your throat.” – Bram Stoker “Dracula”
From Lauren’s Perspective:
My obsession began in 1996, that was the year Buffy the Vampire Slayer started airing on television. Although I never had any interest in the movie, when my best friend told me about this amazing new show, I was immediately hooked. At the time it was nothing more than a love of the strong female characters, the witty banter, and the occasional hot guy in a leather trench coat. At the time, I wasn’t aware just how far my infatuation would take me. I obsessively watched the show to its untimely end, and have since re-watched the series almost yearly.
Today, there is a frenzy over everything to do with vampires and this frenzy is something that has not been seen in literary history, at least not in my life time. An Authors popularity rises and falls, and occasionally a genre takes off. But, in my opinion, literary works and their subsequent popularity generally stand alone. It is the work itself that is celebrated, not the genre to which it is defined, regardless of its quality. The popularity of vampires today unfortunately brings quantity, not greatness.
Obviously, vampires have been a popular subject for years. Bram Stoker made Dracula infamous, Anne Rice brought us Lestat, Armand, and many more. However, never before have vampires been as desirable and admired and friendly as they are today. Now, thanks to Stephanie Meyers and her followers, you can not walk into a bookstore without fangs being thrust into your line of vision.
So why the sudden interest in all things undead? Is it all because of the success of one very sub par writer?? Or is there more to it then Edward and Bella’s love story? These questions have haunted me ever since I first read the Twilight series over four years ago. I was initially hesitant to dive into this series because of my loyalty to Buffy, her soulful vampires will always have my heart. So when Twilight emerged, I didn’t want to ruin my perfect vision of vampires, but eventually was talked into giving them a chance.
And I hate to admit it, but I became a fan, a Twihard as some say. And the conundrum remains that to this day I cannot tell you why. With Buffy the Vampire Slayer I was never ashamed of my passion for the show, with Twilight, I am. I cannot stand Stephanie Meyers writing. She is in desperate need of a thesaurus, I swear she described Edward’s smile as “crooked” more than a dozen times. Then, beyond her writing, the characters she writes are aggravating. Bella is one of the most sniveling, whining, useless females in literature. And don’t even get me started on the movies. They are beyond painful to watch, to the point where I feel actual embarrassment for their abysmal acting (although they do get admittedly better with each movie, though that isn’t saying much). So why the hell was I sucked in???
Here is the only answer I can come up with, for myself and possibly for the millions of fans who are drawn to such trash:
Seriously, it may just be that simple. Everyone fears the elusiveness of death, the frailty of our bodies and their ability to succumb to sickness and pain. The idea of the nice vampire overcomes the pesky notion of death and without the messiness of being a murderous monster.
At this point I have read the Twilight series multiple times. I have read the House of Night novels by P.C. and Kristin Cast. I have read the re-released Buffy volumes as well as the season eight comics. I have branched into anything supernatural and filled with teen angst including The Fallen Series by Lauren Kate,The Sleepy Hollow Trilogy by Jessica Verday,The Otherworld Series and The Darkest Powers Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong. They all deal with the supernatural, and whether vampire, angel, ghost or any other being not of this world, they present the same thing. Eternity. Living forever and loving forever. And not just our definition of forever but the real forever. The one that literally never ends.
Their characters are always girls, and quite frankly they are usually silly little girls with no greater dream in life than finding a lifelong love like no other. And always, in every one of these stories, something takes them beyond this short life and into the forever they desire. The forever we all desire. The love they find is unconditional and like nothing us mere mortals could ever dream of experiencing. And I believe that is why we read them. They offer us forever in a way that can never be possible but that we yearn to exist anyways. At least, I think that’s why I read them.
As I said in an earlier post, I do have a certain amount of respect for these authors. They have worked off of and fed a renewed love of reading into kids and teens that never existed in my youth. And I will always love and appreciate that. However, and I say this having fully acknowledged that these books are my guiltiest of pleasures, I do wish the caliber was slightly higher. Most of these books (Hunger Games is completely excluded) showcase a teenage girl in love. She does have other qualities about her, and in some cases she even demonstrates strength, but overall she is always led by her desire to fall in love. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but I have to believe there is more to life.
The feminist in me wants more Hermione Granger’s and Katniss Everdeen’s. Girls who find love, sure, but only after they have done what is needed of them. Only after they have found themselves. For me, I can see past the stupidity of the girls in these other novels and appreciate the usually interesting and creative story line, for a younger more impressionable mind, I’m not so sure.
So in conclusion: Vampires are awesome. I highly recommend you read Christopher Moore’s Vampire Love Story Trilogy, and Anne Rice’s numerous vampire novels. Definitely read Dracula, and the one thought to have started it all, John Polidori’s The Vampyre. Then, if you want easy reads, by all means enjoy the unique story of the House of Night novels or even the ever captivating love story of Edward and Bella. But try to read the latter with an understanding that the writing is mostly atrocious and the females could use a serious ass-kicking from Buffy herself.
I will always love the power of immortality, but I feel the need to differentiate between amazing writing and fluff read for nothing more than entertainment.
From Krista’s Perspective:
I shall do my best to not simply echo the words Lauren has already shared with you but I am inclined to agree with most of what she said. Vampires have been a popular topic for years; ranging from the epics like Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Stephanie Meyer’sTwilight series. I also have to agree with Lauren that people become obsessed with any type of vampire story because immortality appeals to us. A never-ending life is much more intriguing than our daily lives which become monotonous as we slowly progress towards old age and death, but here we have authors who present these amazing stories of powerful vampires who cheat death and have unending quantities of strength, power, and agility. The choice seems fairly obvious when we weigh mortal life against immortals. And I do not fault people for their obsession with vampires because I also share this oddly obsessive and unexplainable interest with these bloodsucking creatures.
But here lies the root of the problem. As Lauren already said, “The popularity of vampires today unfortunately brings quantity, not greatness”. This is the point we have reached. The market has become inundated with poor quality material. We have all become so intrigued by tales of the underworld that we have become willing to read anything that touches on the subject. Books are being purchased faster than they can be printed, movies are being made based on book sales without any thought put into the quality of the text, authors are churning out garbage which is being bought by the truckload. And we continue to read, to read, to read.
I feel inclined to pause for a sidenote: my love of reading is only outdone by my love of writing. I have been writing since I was a kid; stories, poems, plays…. anything. I don’t claim to be good. I just claim to love doing it. I claim to have a passion for it and for being willing to put words down on paper because I love it. But I don’t claim to be good. I feel it is important to say that before I continue on my thought of the previous paragraph. Because I say all that to say this…. it is beyond frustrating to know that a nightmare can make a weak author unbelievably famous.
It is not my intention to slander the work of another author especially since I absolutely have read every single book and seen all movies so far produced but that doesn’t mean I am not frustrated. Stephanie Meyers has produced a worldwide trend and reached a massive global market through her books and films which is an incredible feat. But for a woman who had a nightmare and wrote it down just for the sake of getting it out onto paper she has become a national icon. Am I jealous? Of course! I have been writing for years and have not been able to accomplish what she has. Am I confused? ABSOLUTELY!!! The books are poorly written, contain brutal overuse of specific adjectives, and the characters (some more than others) are excruciatingly irritating and pitiful. I am now re-reading everything I just wrote and it seems I am trying to absolutely slander Meyer’s name and that is not my intention. My intention is to acknowledge the frustration felt for someone who has been writing their entire life without this same success and also because what has become a massive blockbuster is, in actuality, of extremely poor quality.
What can I conclude with here to fully grasp the vampire appeal? Only that I hope books keep coming, movies keep being produced because I am a fan. I fully enjoy losing myself in these plots of the undead and anticipate more coming in the future to entertain me. But I do sincerely hope that the quality will begin to outweigh the quantity. Its time for a truly good vampire tale that can parallel Bram Stoker’s 1897 version ofDracula.