An infestation of vampires! That’s what it was. They occupied every empty space, chortled with glee that they’d enchanted another wide-eyed human, and made me wonder exactly what I was doing and why. These unruly undead creatures littered my carpeted floors, roamed the halls, and stood frighteningly close to me wherever I went in the house. There was no escaping the children of the night until I finished my work with them. But is work with the undead ever finished?
Even now, I keep track of their movements because they’re everywhere. Think about it, vampires are all over the place: in libraries, in movie theaters, on TV. Look at all the new flicks and TV shows, the books and magazines, the fans clubs and more. It’s difficult to turn around without seeing a vampire (unless, of course, you’re looking into a mirror).
Because of Twilight, True Blood, the Vampire Diaries and other things, some are fond of saying that vampires have made a comeback or that they’re popular again. Neither statement is quite true because vampires never left the scene and are as popular as they’ve ever been. What’s happened is that the people in Hollywood and in the media have rediscovered vampires after ignoring the obvious signs of popularity for so long. After taking a peek outside the bounds of their compounds, the folks in entertainment and news noticed that kids and adults are still in love with their fanged friends, have never really fallen out of love with the undead.
The screaming audiences for the Twilight movies were and still are female teens and tweens (and some adults, you know who you are) who’ve been gulping down the Twilight quartet for a while now, as well as other vampiric literature.
Television, after the loss of Buffy a few years ago, has filled the undead void with True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, and Being Human. Two of the three would never have come about had it not been for their past lives as books.
With the advent of the current wave of vamps, I decided to return to a project I’d laid aside for one reason or another a while back. So, I’ve been plowing through lots of material to flesh out said project for an in-depth piece on young adults and vampire literature which I hope to submit to Echelon Shorts.
Vampires have been among my favorite reading and writing subjects for a long time. I’m not sure when I first became fascinated with vampire lore but I do remember reading Dracula as a kid and watching a number of films about him and his kin. My interest in these creatures waxed and waned over the years but never disappeared completely. I paid attention to the literature, watched the movies, even went to a vampiric play or two. I decided that I’d eventually add my own works of fiction to the large and growing canon. But I never thought about the implications of this literature beyond vampires providing great entertainment and maybe a few chills.
When I worked as a school librarian (posh school, cutting edge library, privileged kids), I delved into the relationships I’d noticed going on between vampires and the young adults who read about them. The school is an all boy establishment with all that entails, including the struggle to get guys to read recreationally.
I strongly encouraged outside reading, of course (all librarians take an oath to do that in a secret ceremony before we are given our librarian garments). I talked up books all the time in a variety of ways and some of my students actually found time to pick up a book (other than for assignments) and do some reading. One type of book that flew off the shelves on noisy bat wings most often was vampire literature. The guys loved vampires so much that they overcame their reading reticence and lost themselves in the cuddly arms of Dracula or one of his progeny.
As the person in charge, and as the one-who-was-supposed-to-notice-such-things, I duly noted the fact that vampires were frequently coming and going through the doors of my library (without ever setting off the alarms, unlike some of the faculty who regularly ‘forgot’ to check out their books). I wondered why this was happening and needed to get to the bottom of it all. That’s just me. I need to know why some things occur and I’ll go the extra mile to do that.
When you see your vampire books seducing your readers on a regular basis, you get curious. I knew there was something more than the thrill of horror going on and I was determined to find out what it was. My students were too sophisticated to read these books just to make their hair stand on end. Heck, they could get that effect looking at the cafeteria offerings. And truthfully, much of the vampire literature out there is more ewwww-producing than shiver-producing.
I concluded the literature was being read for other reasons – which I know lots more about now. (Of course, in the case of books like the Twilight series, there’s a romance factor which swamps other aspects of the vampire tale and is what makes it so popular with a certain set. But even in that series, some of the factors I discovered are still operating even if it’s under the radar and through a pink and gauzy romantic haze.)
I’d been reading YA material for years before I became a librarian (I’ve always been interested in writing in the field) and vampire literature had a prominent place on my reading lists. Some of the literature was downright terrible. Some made me deliciously uncomfortable. Other works were so well conceived and written that I found myself lost in the work and ignoring the quest I was on.
When I saw how popular this literature was in my library, my efforts to read and absorb and learn about the undead were redoubled.
That’s how I came to be surrounded by vampires in my own home. Piles of vampire novels occupied every space. I couldn’t turn around without seeing another vampire chronicle. Friends looked at me askance, relatives thought I was weird (which was what they’d always thought anyway, this was just one more proof), and neighbors must’ve wondered when they saw those undead eyes peeking through the blinds on my windows.
I ignored the stares and pressed on. I became bloated with vampire stories and plots. I knew I was close to understanding their appeal but something eluded me and I couldn’t put a finger on it.
Until… until I happened onto a nonfiction book about vampires. Nonfiction? Vampires in a nonfiction work? They’re not real or anything, right? Only there seems to be an awful lot of nonfiction ink spent on vampires and the lives of vampires and those who love them.
It was in one of those books that I saw some information that allowed me to put things into a new perspective and to spin theories of my own which eventually led me to a better understanding of why teens love vampires. In one of those books, an anthropologist made some casual observations about people who loved vampires and vamp literature. Her remarks started me on the path to doing the research that is the basis for my project back then and now for the article I’ll be bundling off to Echelon Shorts soon.
I learned some interesting things about the undead and the teens who read them, who love, emulate, and admire them. My article explores this undying admiration society and what it means. My research certainly explained more than a few things to me and even opened up other mysteries. I hope to share it with you and maybe get this vampire infestation under control.
My story “Scars” has nothing to do with vampires, who’d obviously be in danger from the fire in the story. But you can buy it anyway at Echelon.