Monday, June 25, 2012

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

No, not that kind of sucker. I'm talking about bloodsuckers. I'm talking about vampires! They're everywhere: all over the bookstore shelves, in the movies, on TV. You'd think the world would get tired of them, and yet their presence in fiction seems to be unstoppable. Just this week, my vampire novel, 100,000 Midnights was released, so now I've added to the abundance of vampire fiction out there.

What is it that makes vampires so appealing to the readers and viewers of the world? I can't say I'm exactly sure. Maybe it's the horror of it all, the fear of physical violation, of which the idea of someone piercing your flesh and drinking the fluid that keeps you alive is certainly part. Or maybe it's the idea of living forever, wielding great power, the fact that a vampire is a dark, morbid sort of superbeing. There's also a definite sensual, if not always completely sexual, aspect to it too. 

Okay, so I'm not really sure what makes the audience want more and more vampires and the creators want to keep writing about them, but I do know that the seed of my interest in vampires was planted when I was very young and has stuck with me all my life, like a stake that became a persistent splinter in my imagination and has made the idea of writing about the undead irresistable.

Where did it start? That I first encountered the idea of vampires at a very young age is certain, though I don't remember exactly when I first became familiar with the concept.

I think my grandmother might have started it. She used to tell me bedtime stories about Dracula when I was about five. She really did. I think Jack the Ripper was mentioned in there too, but that's another subject. That's one way to wake up a kid's imagination, by scaring him. I'm grateful for that. Maybe I wouldn't have become a writer if not for that jumpstart!

And there were other early childhood vampire moments too. In a town near where I grew up, there's a World War I memorial monument. It's a large rectangular block of stone with a carved eagle perched on top. But if you drive past it at dusk, it looks an awful lot like a gravestone with a bat about to take flight. I saw it when I was small and made up my mind that it was Dracula's grave, right there in New Jersey!

Then there was Gene Colan, one of my all-time favorite comic book artists. One of the first comic books I ever read, drawn by Colan, was an issue of Batman where the hero is bitten by a vampire. That one scared me good! And, if anyone reading this remembers the late 70s Buck Rodgers TV series with Gil Gerard, you might recall the episode about the space vampires. That show left a mark on my imagination too.

As I grew older, I encountered more and more vampire fiction. Bram Stoker's Dracula is certainly on the short list of books that might be my favorite novel. Marvel Comics' Tomb of Dracula is probably the best comics depiction of vampires and was drawn, for all 70 issues, by the aforementioned Gene Colan. I loved Stephen King's Salem's Lot, I enjoyed the vampire fiction of Poppy Z. Brite and some of Anne Rice's work. I've lost track of how many vampire movies I've seen. Bela Lugosi was great as Dracula, as was Christopher Lee. Max Schreck as Nosferatu is perhaps the eeriest of all cinematic vampires and is best watched at midnight with the lights off and in total silence (turn the soundtrack off and the experience gets even more surreal!).

I think my favorite film adaptation of Dracula is the 1977 BBC version (entitled Count Dracula)with Louis Jourdan as Dracula and Frank Finley as Van Helsing. That one comes closest to being fatihful to Stoker's novel, although a few minor changes were made. I highly recommend it.

Of current vampire fiction, I've been enjoying the TV series True Blood although I haven't read the books on which it's based. Christopher Farnsworth's novels are great too. They're about a vampire secret agent working for the president of the United States (Blood Oath and The President's Vampire) and I look forward to the next installment.

And, in case anyone's wondering, no, I have not read Twilight!

So, after all those years of being interested, to varying extents, in vampires, I've now joined the list of those who have contributed to the body of bloodsucking fiction! I suppose it was inevitable. I hope my work is a worthy addition to the legend of vampires and I'm pretty sure I won't be stopping with one book. While I can't quite define why, for me at least, vampires are so interesting, I predict that they will continue to attract audiences for as long as there are books and movies and scary stories told when people sit together surrounded by shadows.   

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