Vampires have held our fascination for hundreds of years. They have gone from something people believed were real, to a fictional creature to fear in the night, to lost souls, to lovers.
To celebrate the opening of submissions for Triskaidekaphilia 2: Ravenous, Pen and Kink Publishing is hosting a series on vampires to get you in the mood.
This week, Christina Fritts looks at how vampires have changed over the years.
The earliest origin of vampire mythology can be traced back to the superstitions and folklore of 18th century Europe. What once was an all too real and malevolent creature is now mostly accepted (though if you dig deep into the bowels of the internet you’ll find otherwise) as a fictional being, one that permeates mainstream media across the board. Our modern vampires, immortal by definition, but also through our timeless fascination with them, are an intrinsic part of today’s creatures in literature, movies, and TV shows. They just suck in all the right ways.
Though they sometimes find themselves back in the proverbial coffin as media trends change, they always seem to dig themselves back out of the grave. They are the “undead,” after all.
But with this constant recurrence and on-and-off trending comes the need to reinvent vampires for younger and older generations alike. You see small variations in their abilities or their weaknesses, but now we’re starting to see a change in their mythology and origins.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula, published in 1897, was hardly the first case of the literary vampire (see Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla and Polidori’s poem, The Vampyre), but it’s arguably the most famous and what really started our fascination (and sometimes our obsession) with vampires. It was certainly the reference point and inspiration for many vampiric tales, and perhaps acted as the foundation on which much of modern vampire mythology was based upon.
But Stoker’s enthralling gothic horror, wherein vampires were cold and merciless predators, started to change with Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, which shifted towards a more sympathetic creature, one whose life was a lament over eternity and the need to kill others to survive. With Rice, began a more modern trend to place vampires within a contemporary setting and in a more benevolent light (though not always; BURN THOSE PARISIAN BASTARDS TO THE GROUND. Ahem…).
It’s a trend we still see much more commonly today, especially as paranormal romance and erotica took root and flourished with Sookie Stackhouse’s vampire lovers and Bella Swan’s sparkly, golden-eyed bloodsuckers, which have all served as a sort of sex symbol that are still built upon Stoker’s vampire mythology: origins in supernatural magic.
Regardless of the setting, or scewability, of vampires in stories to come, Stoker set the standard for their mythos. Their bloodthirsty afflictions are most commonly the result of some supernatural curse, ancient evil, or magic, radioactive bat bite.
It’s only recently that we’ve started to see a change in the origins of our fictional vampires.
While mythologies rooted in magic or curses usually leads to the sexier, more romance-worthy vampires, science-based origins—which take vampires from paranormal fantasy to Sci-Fi—often exist at the opposite end of the spectrum.
A virus or disease based mythology often morphs vampires from alluring, sparkly dreamboats to ravenous, primal monstrosities. Novels like Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, the TV series The Strain, and even horror-flop Daybreakers, mark this relatively new departure from the supernatural to science fiction. In the Underworld movie-verse, transgenics are responsible for vampirism. In I Am Legend, it’s a bacterial pandemic. In my own story, vampirism is rooted in evolution as an environmental transmutation.
But no matter where the mythos lies, with magic or science, vampires are likely to stay with us for all of eternity. The mythology surrounding them and the origins of their affliction will continue to change in new and exciting ways, especially as we eagerly await their resurrection in the current publishing market.
It’s likely we’ll soon see vampires as we’ve never seen them before, as they claw their way back to the forefront of our imaginations.
Whether you’ll be arming yourself with stakes, unlocking your windows for the more sparkly varieties, or eyeing the bat that seems to be circling your home, vampires will continue to haunt and infatuate us for generations.
Christina Fritts is a freelance editor and writer from the hot and humid sunshine state. A graduate of Bath Spa University’s MA in Creative Writing, she writes SFF for both middle-grade and young adults and regularly publishes writing tips and advice on her blog, Margins & Muses, and in the city of Bath’s local arts magazine, milk.