So, if you’ll excuse a moment of self-promotion, last week my new novel Dark Dates was published. It’s an urban fantasy book – so, yes, that means there are vampires in it. “Vampires?” I hear you sigh. “What were you thinking? Aren’t they so over?” Trust me, I heard that a lot. But I wrote it anyway – partly because I still love vampires, partly because I know a lot of people still do, too. Because no matter how “wearily au courant” they become (to quote a Metro article published last week), vampires are still cool. They are an infinitely adaptable idea – they can be romantic heroes or scary monsters; a metaphor for Aids, disease, sexuality or capitalism, a way of exploring mortality or loneliness or death. We might be tired of the current trend for emo bloodsuckers (this site’s Steve Kidd recently argued that Twilight’s vampires weren’t actually proper vamps at all) but they remain a fertile idea; just as we get bored of them, someone else will come along and do something interesting again. So in honour of the eternal appeal of the vampire, here are some of my favourite vampire stories.
Lost Boys/Near Dark: I’m putting these together because they came out at roughly the same time and between them successfully updated and reinvented the vampire mythology, taking vamps away from English drawing rooms and European castles and landing them smack bang in contemporary America. These vampires were vicious and nasty and utterly modern; being a vampire here wasn’t about being a stuffy lord in some godforsaken village, it was being in a gang and strutting about like a rock star. Suddenly, being a vampire was cool, and it would never be the same again.
Lost Souls, Poppy Z Brite: What the Lost Boys and Near Dark did for vampire cinema, Brite did for novels, and she certainly tapped into the Near Dark vibe. She took Anne Rice’s idea of Southern Gothic gentleman vampire and gave it a gory, brutal update, setting up vampires as a completely separate species rather than ‘turned’ or infected humans, and though some of the vampires-as-Goth-rock-stars references can seem overdone, it remains an essential part of the modern vampire canon.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: more wildly influential than its audience figures would suggest, this pop culture phenomenon managed the tricky tightrope of mocking the romanticism around vampires (the show took great pains to establish just how horrible and murderous they actually were) while wholeheartedly buying into it with the creation of Angel and, later, Spike. Plus Buffy really did kick ass.
Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt novels: Raymond Chandler meets Bram Stoker in these vampire noir books, which imagined modern New York as divided between vampire ‘clans’, with all of the racial and economic tensions the real city has. Bleak and compelling (if a little heavy on the hard boiled) these also played with the myth of vampire origin – here it is a Vyrus, and several of the clans are working towards a cure.
Daybreakers: This 2009 film made barely a splash, but is a worthy addition to vampire lore. Here the idea of vampirism as rampant capitalism is played to the max, and the film is full of clever touches about how a world run by vampires would actually work. Don’t let the fact that Ethan Hawke is in it put you off: it’s actually well worth seeing.
30 Days of Night: Steve Niles’ graphic novel rather than the slightly disappointing film. An ingenius premise taken to a brutal conclusion, this came down firmly on the side of vampires as horrific monsters, and was an original and often terrifying take on the myth.
Carpe Jugulum, Terry Pratchett: like many species in the Discworld stories, vampires started off as comedy tropes before developing into fully fledged characters (there’s even one in the Watch, now!). Carpe Jugulum manages to both take the mickey out of all the vampire myths while adhering to the fierce humanism of the Discworld books, where the ultimate crime – the one which the vampires are guilty of – is treating people as ‘things’. It also proves that in the fight against vampires, tea, biscuits and little old ladies could well be the ultimate weapons.
So, did I miss any of your favourites off the list? (I recognise that the biggest omission on this list is Let The Right One In, but that’s because it is still, shamefully, sitting on my ‘to watch’ pile of DVDs…) I’m always looking for good vampire books and movies so let me know! Or do you think the vampire craze is over and we should stick a stake in it and move on?
I’ll be back in a fortnight with another Fangirl Unleashed column, and of course feel free to pop over to my blog Body of a Geek Goddess to say hi. You can also check out my book on Amazon here (in the UK) or here (in the US). I’d love to know what you think…