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Fiction in Flux (or What I Learned from Prime Vampires)

I finally pulled the trigger on writing a vampire novel, officially staking any possible claim to the mainstream Christian market. I’ve been at it for the last few months, conniving characters, niggling plotlines, and immersing myself in the vast pool of vampire mythology. It’s been a lot of fun (as opposed to, um, draining).

If anything, my research has confirmed that “vampire fiction” is an ever-morphing genre, really wide open to exploration. Of course, there are traditionalists who assert that vampires represent something and musn’t be modified. However, the fictional canon does not bear that out. There are evil vampires, conflicted vampires, sympathetic vampires, romantic vampires, heroic vampires, and vampires that, well, are a whole new breed. Some fly and some don’t;  some dread daylight and others don’t; some cringe at crucifixes, others wear them.  Who knew? Vampire fiction blends multiple genres, from sci-fi to social criticism, teenage angst to adult eroticism, comedy to class warfare. In some ways, the “traditional vampire” is a dying breed — at least, it’s in flux.

I was reminded of that as I was perusing F. Paul Wilson’s, Midnight Mass. While the writing is really pedestrian, some of the “vampire concepts” are intriguing. One such concept is that of “prime vampires.” According to lore, someone becomes a vampire after being bitten by one. I know, that’s Vampire 101. But Wilson builds on that and calls them “gets” — in other words, the vampire builds his or her entourage by “getting” sub-vampires. So every vampire can be traced to its Master, a Prime Vampire. Thus, when the Prime is killed, its “children” also die. Anyway, the characters in Mass conjecture that, by tracking and killing Prime Vampires they can exponentially eliminate hosts of Sub-prime Vampires. Now I’m not sure how much of this is considered orthodox to the genre, but the concepts reminded me how much flux there is in fiction — specifically, vampire fiction.

Not long ago, in a post entitled The Good Vampire, I suggested:

If vampires are fictional constructs, then why can’t they be good?

One of my old Penwrights pals, Noel, commented:

My biggest nit with reclaiming vampires is that traditionally, they have stood with witches, black dwarves, orcs, dragons, etc. Vampires as sympathetic figures is a 21st century twist. Its presence in children’s lit (and it’s BIG) means setting common morality on its head–screws knight vs. dragon for knight and dragon BFF. This leaves huge marks on kids’ ever-evolving moral education. Subtly and by implication only, they’re taught that “bad” and “good” have permanent quotation marks.

Besides feeling that Noel just likes disagreeing with me 😉 , her objections are shared by many. (And our brief exchange in the NJ thread is kind of cool.) Nevertheless, after listening to those objections, I still don’t see why vampires can’t be good. They are, after all, make-believe.

In The Blood is the Life: Vampires in Fiction, contributor Martin J. Wood, in a chapter entitled, “New Life for an Old Tradition: Anne Rice and Vampire Literature, writes:

Rice’s vampire fiction succeeds not merely because it is thrilling and well written, but because it translates mythic truth by means of new, powerful codes.

Such reinscription is not without precedent; indeed, the Gothic genre itself can be considered a response to the inadequacy of the code embodied in eighteenth-century fiction.

Similarly, in the late twentieth-century, in a secular, technological culture nearly devoid of spiritualism, Anne Rice has resurrected the vampire from its moldering texts, infusing an obsolete myth with new blood… Like Stoker before her, Rice has changed the code. (pg. 59-60)

This idea of “changing code” seems important to writers of fiction. Unless there’s a “moral code” we are seeking to articulate or enforce — and one that, indeed, governs the real universe — fabricated persons should be able to be whoever their creator makes them.  So sure,I can dig the traditional vampire. But if it’s all fiction, why can’t it be in flux?

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Michelle Pendergrass February 6, 2009, 8:54 AM

    Might I suggest a book? David Naill Wilson’s This is My Blood. The concepts totally blew me away.

  • Heather February 6, 2009, 12:40 PM

    And of course, some vampires are just poor lost boys.

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller February 6, 2009, 3:06 PM

    My first thought? Why don’t you email Anne Rice and ask her why she decided not to write one more vampire novel, redeeming her hero. She had said she was considering it, but in the end decided against it. Might be informative to ask her why.

    Becky

  • Kaci February 10, 2009, 6:22 PM

    I think she actually posted it on the main page of her website. There’s a long section that goes into it.

  • Keanan Brand February 11, 2009, 2:25 AM

    Okay, so this comment has nothing to do with vampires–interesting post, by the way, and I have my own version of a vampire story in the works–but I just wanted to drop by and say that “Father Fayad’s Curious Compatibility Projector” is funny and smart and sideways, an all-around good read.

  • Mike Duran February 12, 2009, 12:30 AM

    Keanan, thanks for commenting on that story and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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