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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why Read Vampire Books If They Suck?

The literary vampire first appeared in eighteenth century poetry, before becoming one of the stock figures of Gothic fiction with the publication of Polidori's The Vampyre (1819), which was inspired by the life and legend of Lord Byron. Since then, many books, adult and juvenile, have featured tales about creatures who are sustained by drinking blood. In fact, the vampires in some of today's stories don't even hunt humans for blood. They use the blood bank as a less gory and less romantic alternative

In later years, vampire stories have diversified into areas of crime, fantasy, science fiction, and chick-lit. As well as the typical fanged vampires, newer representations include aliens and even plants with vampiric abilities. Other vampires now even feed on energy rather than on blood.

Twilight, the first of Stephenie Meyer's fantasy novels, was originally released as a hardcover in 2005 to much acclaim. That year, it was the New York Times' Editor's Choice, the Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and a Teen People "Hot List" pick. Readers immediately bought the book--so far Twilight and its sequel, 2006's New Moon, have sold a hefty 1.3 million copies combined. (Gregory Kirschling, Entertainment Weekly. com) So, it would seem that Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" saga can no longer be appropriately deemed a series for young, teenage girls alone.

Meyer's vampire novels are not strictly scarefests. She pitched the first one, Twilight, to publishers as a ''suspense romance horror comedy.'' Its creation sounds almost supernatural.
On June 2, 2003, Meyer had a dream about a human girl meeting a vampire in the woods. "The next morning the English-major grad from Brigham Young University got up, started writing for the first time in her life, and just three months later finished a 500-page book about a regular girl named Bella and her gorgeous vampire boyfriend, Edward," reported Meyer. (Kirschling, Entertainment Weekly) Shades of Mary Shelley creation of Frankenstein abound here.

Renowned horror author Stephen King is reported to have said, "Both Rowling and Meyer (author an creator of Harry Potter), they're speaking directly to young people," he says. "The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn. She's not very good." (, "Stephen King Slams Twilight Author") But, she does sell books-- all the rage today.

King believes Meyer's appeal is to provide a safe way for young girls not yet ready for adult romance to examine these emotions:
1. "People are attracted by the stories, by the pace and in the case of Stephenie Meyer, it's very clear that she's writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books.
2. "It's exciting and it's thrilling and it's not particularly threatening, because they're not overtly sexual. A lot of the physical side of it is conveyed in things like the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that's a shorthand for all the feelings that they're not ready to deal with yet."
Some parents see this examination of romance as healthy. For example in Twilight, Meyer, who is Mormon, has said that she doesn't want Bella and Edward to have sex before marriage. For most romance novels, the "no sex, please," notion would be unheard of. But Meyer's fans have embraced it for its innocent approach.

Some mothers say they've actually used the books as a way to begin that awkward sex talk with their teenage daughters. "I can discuss sex without being preachy because, well, we're just talking about Twilight," says Mary Ann Hill, mother to Tara, 13.

Another mother likes the book for the same reason. The sexual innuendo reinforces the fact that they're actually not "doing" anything, and perhaps, makes purity more appealing to teenage readers. "A lot of people don't wait until they're married," Sara Swiokla says. "But reading it makes you want to save your virginity more because it's a really special thing that you want to share with a really special person."

But, then if romance is so popular with youth, why aren't teen harlequins flying off the shelves?
Perhaps the answer lies in the fantastic, supernatural nature element of romance in vampire books.

Or does the breadth of the story provide clues to its astounding popularity? "Other vampire romance young adult tales were short and brief, while this one allows readers to completely immerse themselves in the world," another avid fan claims.

Still, other authors of adult vampire books like Laurell K. Hamilton, writer of the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, have again shifted the genre boundaries from romance back toward the territory of sexually explicit literature. Some critics believe the popularity of vampire books is all about the lure of this type of morbid erotica.

"The thought of a darkly handsome passionate recluse of a man with a terrible secret seems to send a lustful shiver down the spine of most women - it the lure of the forbidden unknown that keeps books like this popular," claims one satisfied reader. Do the books represent a new form of eternal erotic romance?

As most know,vampires have only one true soulmate with whom their bond can never be broken. And, since they are usually telepathic, speech between lovers is not really required. Many husbands would appreciate that small favor in many situations. Male vamps are truly tall, dark, and handsome silent types. Modern female vampires are often depicted as strikingly beautiful and sensual temptresses, voluptuous and dangerously deceptive.

Perhaps part of the answer to the appeal of vampire literature borders on the dark side of human nature. Readers may be fascinated by the possibility of living an eternal life full of fleshly pleasure even at the cost of their souls. Or maybe the epitome of pure manliness that is depicted by these tortured souls lures people-- seeing as many real males seem to be lacking in this emotional depth and dark sensual fascination.

Could the popularity be due to the desire of a kind of some animalistic release that is offered through these instinctual creatures. Perhaps the need to hunt and kill courses through our veins even if we tend to strongly deny such obsessions. Do humans possess a well-hidden lust for blood and the need for release, a craving for freedom so powerful that we’d do anything to keep this darker side of ourselves hidden? Reading about this aggression may be an outlet of fantasy.

Readers may also be fascinated by the void inside vampires, where nothing they do, say, hear, feel, or touch satisfies them even in a state of immortality. Indeed, rage seems to become more prominent in their state of the living dead. "Separated from love for eternity - left to linger between Heaven and Hell - a dark and twisted embodiment of life and death itself. Thus is the true nature and agony of the vampire," says an avid reader. The vampire's angst-ridden and moody personality certainly appeals to some teenagers as they associate with the same feelings.

Also, the vampire universes in young adult books are more novel and more exciting. Some of the newer twists include vampirism as an STD; vampires arriving in America on the Mayflower; and main characters being the bad guys instead of the hero or heroine.

Just the fantasy of being an immortal being roaming in a mortal universe is a draw for vampire book readers. They, of course, do not age, but remain suspended in appearance. They do not become ill, and if humans who are terminally ill are transformed into vampires, their illness is cured and they live forever.

Another benefit to being a vampire is that they are faster, stronger, no longer need to breath and are beautiful. They can also transition to different places, not needing a vehicle. Imagine the savings on gas and insurance alone.

Cheryl Brodgesell writes that, in modern literature, we are basically looking at domesticated vampires not like those that Bram Stocker wrote about. But then again - many books are directed to teenagers and not those who have a true deep and abiding passion for traditional Gothic novels. She believes much of the fascination with the youth literature stems from more of an "if only it could be real" sort of fantasy rather than an actual belief in vampires. (Associated Content; July 22, 2008)

Whatever the draw to vampire literature, the present reality of its tremendous popularity confirms that it sells. If the audience continues its present demands on fantasy writers, readers will enjoy an ever-increasing output of these books on the market. "Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make!" (Dracula)

Time A Rose

he said softly,
is overrated.

I closed my eyes,
smiled in submission,
and instead,
I listen to his
fingertips upon my
vibrant throat
as he revealed to me
pleasure, it was here,
and now -

and time a rose
as myth became
SFX 2004

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