The recent trend of the undead (or living dead) has left the market saturated. We all know it. And although I enjoyed the Twilight books and half of the True Blood show, they rather ruined it for lukewarm vampire fans.
In graduate school, I submitted my vampire novel as my thesis project and got vague notes about its resemblance to the two. *Sigh.*
I know from the outside, from a different genre’s perspective, that the tropes likely seem clunky and lacking in finesse. But from the inside, each minute twist plays with the genre to build on itself. Like how Twilight reversed the age-requirement for power, how the vampires sparkled so brightly that they seemed on fire, and references to Dracula, Interview with a Vampire, and Mormonism (Eddie and Bells are essentially Mormon angels—I’m not kidding you).
More than the little, and sometimes big, pokes at the niche, writing about vampires means writing about the unsavory aspects of humanity. When we use monsters as the main focus of our stories, we reflect that which makes us monsters—spilling blood, extreme violence, the craving for immortality and power, and an overabundance of lust. (Guilty on all fronts).
Doing so allows us to criticize without shouting in each other’s faces that we’re all flawed. We already know this, right?
Before modern culture, the world used vampirism and its forms to justify what they couldn’t explain—sudden sickness and death, especially when infants and young children were involved. Like my favorite vampire-creature, a version of the Malaysian penanggalan, a creature who crawls through windows to steal babies from their cradles to consume. Due to her lack of lower limbs, her entrails drag behind her; thus, many planted thorny bushes outside windows to keep her from entering their homes and killing their babies. This created the trope or myth about thorny rose repelling vampires.
THIS is why vampires are relevant. They teach us about past and current cultures
through our interpretations of them, and a great number of them are religious. I find this fascinating. Before Christianity, the vampire manifested, in part, due to our fear of death and the afterlife, and they often were seen as supernatural demons. With the introduction of Christianity, old beliefs were transformed to include Christian symbols and lend historical validity to the vampire in this process, hence making vampires the opposite of good. There are some other deeper connections, like consuming the blood for eternal life after death, but I’ll save that for another time.
Now, the current folklore about vampires originated from early eighteenth century Southeastern Europe, like the mullo amongst the Romani, the Romanian moroi, the Jewish Aluka, the Icelandic Graugur, the Greek vrykolakas, or the Albanian shtriga and dhampir. I don’t know about you, but I’m already seeing some overlay with popular, modern vampire novels. (Looking at you, Vampire Academy).
I could seriously go on about this for pages. (I have in fact, academia eat your heart out). But my point is clear. All monsters, in any way we imagine them, are a reflection of ourselves and an interpretation of our views of society.
Or maybe I read too much into things.
Got an opinion? Maybe you want to share your favorite monster novel. Or you might have a question. If you do, share them with me in the comments below.
Alisha Costanzo is from a Syracuse suburb. She earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Central Oklahoma, where she currently teaches English. She’s the author of the Broken World series and an editor at Transmundane Press. She’s currently editing their new 2017 fire-themed anthology, writing about Ria’s father, and crafting her new YA novel for its 2018 release. In the meantime, she will continue to corrupt young minds, rant about the government, and daydream about her all around nasty creatures.
Check out her debut vampire novel, on sale until her new release, Blood Phoenix: Imprinted, goes on sale May 9th.