I for one, am delighted that Black Gate purposefully eschews what has somehow become one of the dominant themes in fantasy. Nevertheless, this Smart Pop essay by the Original Cyberpunk and his wife is both intelligent and amusing, even for those who regard vampire fiction as being little more than tedious teen necrophilia. Note, however, that it does contain spoilers concerning the first season of the HBO series:
I will break the guild’s Code of Silence now and let you in on a little sci-fi writer’s secret: in fantastic fiction, all monsters are really either lions, bears, wolves, or snakes. It doesn’t matter how the critter is packaged. It may come from Mars, sport six arms, and have ice-cold hydrofluoric acid for blood, but if it’s silent, strikes from hiding without warning, and causes a lingering and painful death, it’s a snake. If it hunts humans by surprise in the dark and tears them to pieces, it’s a lion. If it’s an unstoppable behemoth, it’s a bear, and if it stalks humans openly and inexorably in the broad daylight, it’s a wolf.
And then there are vampires. Vampires are different from all other monsters; their strongest roots lead back not into the ancient tribal folklore of hunting stories, but into the dark twisted tangles of medieval religion and spirituality. Vampires are revenants: unclean spirits, vengeful ghosts who feed on the living and bring terrible sickness and slow, wasting death. Vampires are the dead who don’t have the decency to stay in their graves, and as such, their stories pack an emotional wallop entirely different from that of your more common monsters.
With a beast-type monster, your choices are simple: escape from it, kill it, or be killed by it. But vampires are human, or at least may remember being human. They can have human emotions and motivations, however befouled and twisted. They can have voices and speech, which make them worse. As an object of horror, they cut much closer to the quick than any inhuman beast, as there is nothing at once more horrible and more piteous than a human who has been transformed into some wily and treacherous monster—especially if “monsterness” is a communicable disease. With a vampire, it’s even possible to empathize with and feel pity for the monster, and at the end of the story to regret having had to destroy it, assuming—
My Co-Author, As Usual, Is Completely Missing the Point
Okay, Karen here, and I have to jump in and take over right now because Bruce has completely missed so many really important and obvious points.