The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible - Vladimir Nabokov

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you - Zora Neale Hurston

15 November 2009

Werewolves, Vampires and the Bandwagon

With a certain werewolf/vampire movie coming out this week, based on an incredibly successful book series, you really have to wonder why is it so popular? It's not a new phenomenon. Werewolf and, especially, vampire stories are resurrected (couldn't help myself) every few years. Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Interview with the Vampire, Underworld... So, why won't they die? (sorry, couldn't help myself again)

I've loved monster movies and creepy stories since I was a child. I particularly remember reading a ghost story where a man fell in love with a mysterious woman who wore a red velvet ribbon around her neck. She would never answer his questions about it and made him swear not to touch it. Overwhelmed with curiosity one night, he removed the ribbon while she was sleeping--and her head fell off. Yuck. That's probably why it stuck with me. I also loved Creature from the Black Lagoon, Ghost, The Mummy, Frankenstein... but why aren't any of them as powerful as werewolves and vampires?

Some people think it's the sexiness, and there are a lot of books with vampire lovers (I'm not complaining, I like to read plenty of them), but that's not really it. It's psychology, and they're archetypes. I do not claim to be an expert, but even to this amateur psychologist it's easy to see why the werewolf's bestial nature is appealing. It is a human made animal again, free to unleash his emotions and desires without thought of consequences. Without thought is the part that's appealing. No guilt. Of course, they're usually the monster of the story for this reason--this lack of self control ultimately has deadly consequences.

Vampires are even more complex. They are a mixture of life (passion and sensuality) and death (well, because they're dead). They are the dark animus or anima, seducing us into danger and ultimately to the grave. You think people would want to run the other way rather than fall in love with them. I don't think vampire lovers are suicidal, though. I think the appeal lies in the personification of Death as an immortal creature, preserved outside of time, eternally young. Embracing the vampire is conquering death and our fears of it. Whoa...and I just thought it was because Edward was hot :)

Of course, when something is successful, you (in this case I mean 'I') might feel the urge to hop on the bandwagon. Vampire books are selling to publishers like hotcakes (as in McDonald's hotcakes, which I can't resist either). Others want to predict the next trend and get in on the ground floor. There's been some hilarious discussion on what will be 'the next vampire'. Zombies are growing in popularity (I think it's because they represent the mindless destruction, wars and chaos everywhere in modern life), but I don't think they will endure as well as the toothy creatures. Zombies are a commentary on culture, just as Frankenstein was a commentary on science and humanity's tendency to play God. They are powerful stories, but people really care more about themselves. Sometimes, we are creatures of logic warring with our emotions (werewolves) or adolescents approaching adulthood, faced with the terror of sexuality and ultimately growing older (vampires). Thus, these stories are universal.

Write one if you feel like it (I don't mean 'you' in particular are thinking of it...more if 'one' wanted to) , but it might be better to keep in mind the deeper concepts these creatures represent and somehow put that into your own story (don't ask me how, I'm working on it). Oh, and a cute guy never hurts.


  1. I think you're absolutely right, Lorel. There are some writers that are just going to try to capitalize on the success of "Twilight" and aren't going to bring anything fresh to the table. But there are decades or more of legend to use, and the psychological concepts would be interesting to explore, too!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Very, very well-written post. I have never had any interest in writing about vampires and I couldn't say it any better than you did. But I also don't like to jump on trends, so maybe that is a part of the "older than my time" in me. But that would make me sort of kin to vampires? Or are they younger than their time? Now I'm just confusing myself.

    The main reason I don't think zombies will work is they're not sexy enough! Sadly, vampires are somehow sexy. You nailed it there.

    And I have to say, I very cleary remember the ribbon necklace story. It has stuck with me all these years. I also remember one about a witches house in the woods on chicken feet, but I can't quite get it right. With my current literary knowledge I thinkn it might have been based on Baba Yaga out of the old Russian countryside. I think she ate children!


  3. Elizabeth: I actually cringe at the Twilight knock-offs coming out. Swamping the market has the opposite effect on me. I like something with its own unique flavor too.

    Michele: I remember the Baba Yaga story, but there's something familiar about the chicken feet. Can't place it. I can't remember the name of that ribbon story either.
    Oh, and I'd call you 'outside your times' for not jumping on trends. Also smart. Everything comes and goes and you'd go crazy trying to keep up. I agree, it's better to do your own thing and hope people clue into how great it is.