Carnage is usually a requirement, but sometimes sentiment kicks in
One of the best things about vampires is the leeway in mythology. They aren't real, so the author/creator has carte blanche to make the monster as horrific or beautiful as they choose. With so many flavors, how is it possible to choose just one favorite vampire? I thought about it for quite some time, and I could not land on just one. My favorite vampires aren’t necessarily reflective of my favorite books, movies, or television shows; they just happen to be characters that stand out. Here are my top five in no particular order.
There are countless movies that showcase male vampires with lethal talents, but there are very few female vampires depicted with their wits about them. Typically, they are vapid beauties with a screw loose and bats in the belfry. They are just nucking futs (*cough* Drusilla *cough*). Then there’s Selene. Finally a woman who is smart enough to sniff out deceit while kicking ass. Bonus points for looking phenomenal in leather pants.
Pam (The Southern Vampire Mysteries/True Blood)
There are a lot of vampires to love in The Southern Vampire Mysteries, but my favorite has always been Pam. I love her sarcasm, dry delivery, and affection for pastels. True Blood’s Kristin Bauer van Straten did justice to this wonderful character. With the dry delivery, it’s hard to tell whether Pam’s caustic comments are the result of wit or a really twisted take on reality. She consistently sees the writing on the wall first and revels in a little bit of carnage.
Gabriel Bolivar (The Strain)
I can hear people asking, "Who?" as they read this post. Gabriel is a philandering rock star turned vampire. He seemed well suited to The Strain's play on Romanian strigoi mythology from the start with his goth look (did anyone else think of Marilyn Manson?) and live hard attitude. The guttural snarls and declaration of "MINE!" didn't hurt either.
Watching this show made me envision the creator being dragged to a vampire chick flick and emerging with a desperate drive to bring the myth back to its predatory origins. These vampire-meet-alien creatures with their projectile mouth gear take it to a new level, although the biology does remind me of an amped up Jared Nomak from Blade II. If you like your vampires violent, you will love this show. And did we just witness the introduction of the moroi in ninja form?
Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
If you want insights into my fascination with Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Big Bad, check out this post. Otherwise, we’ll just suffice it to say that I like a man with an inflated sense of ego and witty retorts.
Damon Salvatore (The Vampire Diaries)
I've outlined the reasons Damon Salvatore is so enticing, but the simple truth: he’s gorgeous! The series wouldn't have made it off the ground without him. See also my fascination with an inflated ego and witty retorts.
Who are your favorite vampires? Who would you remove from this list?
I Am Legend was a very popular movie, but did you know it started out as a book? It’s a little on the short side for a novella and was written in 1954 by Richard Matheson, one of my favorite authors. In many cases, movies run parallel to the book and take significant liberties either with characters or plot points. In this case, there are limited similarities. There are some spoilers ahead, but few apply to the book . If you have not yet seen the movie and want to, you may want to skip this post.
I mentioned the similarities are limited. Here they are:
In the movie, Robert Neville was an accomplished virologist with the U.S. Army prior to all hell breaking loose. This is extremely convenient considering he is probably the last fully human person on the planet. He has a collection of rats and lab equipment in his basement to help him find a cure. The book Robert Neville worked at a factory and was good with repair projects around the house. He was not a scientist, but he was curious and determined to discover what kind of pathogen caused him to lose so much. He found a microscope and took books from the library.
Both the book and movie spend a lot of time in the character’s head. You are shown the effect of isolation on Neville as he struggles to cope with the loss of everyone he knew. Both Robert Nevilles had a family and lost them, although the method of loss was very different.
I do not care to watch an animal getting hurt, even if it’s clearly fiction. Just ask my husband. I think I ranted about the dog in I Am Legend for two weeks after we left the theater. Now I know to avoid movies with a prominently featured canine. To watch a supposedly cherished family pet and movie Neville's only source of normalcy get infected because its owner was an idiot was tough. The book has a dog, but the poor thing was scraping by in the world on its own before Neville tried to befriend it. Spoiler: Things don’t end well for the book dog, but it isn't a consequence of Neville's neglect.
Photograph byy Pepo13 (Own work)
via Wikimedia Commons
Zombie or Vampire?
The book was explicitly about vampires. In Matheson’s story, the vampires were the result of a pathogen rather than some kind of magical transfer, although they did have an irrational fear of religions symbols. The disease spread like wildfire, the creatures only moved about at night, and there were variations in how the disease manifested. He killed them with stakes and exposure to sunlight. Most were animalistic, but not all. When I watched the movie, the progression of the illness that wiped out the vast majority of the planet was explained as a vaccine gone wrong, mutating into a pathogen. Had I read the book before the movie, I would have wondered if the infected were vampires when it became clear they were sensitive to UV rays. Because a pathogen was in the mix and their intelligence was severely limited, I assumed they were zombies.
I enjoyed the book. The book’s ending was intriguing and completely different than the movie. Despite Will Smith’s impressive acting, I will never watch the movie again. I don’t care to watch what happens to the dog, and Neville’s heroic end in the movie was an illogical waste.
Have you seen the movie and read the book? How did the movie measure up for you? Which version did you prefer?
Have you ever loved a television show that you shouldn’t? I’m talking about the kind of program you watch when the house is empty and you don’t mention to anyone. Except maybe your husband because he caught you shoveling ice cream straight out of the pint container while you were in the fetal position on the couch. And then he makes fun of you for crying over teenage vampire drama and makes barf faces when it’s on and he’s in the same room. Not that I have personal experience with the phenomenon.
It will surprise you to find out that I have a few secret television shows. Some of them are sappy, some are inspirational, and then there is The Vampire Diaries. It started out innocently enough. I was home sick, flipping through the Most Popular section of Netflix when an image popped up with an attractive cast and the word “vampire.” I was a little worried that I would grow bored with the high school drama. Then I was worried that I would grow bored with the brooding and the whining. Those worries died a painless death when a dreamy, strong-jawed hunk uttered the words, “Hello, brother.”
Damon Salvatore wasn’t just a pretty face. He was a vicious psychopath who would kill on a whim with a snappy one-liner. In the middle of all that high school nonsense there was an honest to God vampire and no one was safe. If Damon was in a bad mood, even the family members of the woman he was obviously crushing on weren’t off limits. Necks were snapped, hearts were ripped out, and throats were torn out accompanied by a sexy, lop-sided smile. He offset the droning whine produced by Stelena.
“Embrace your humanity!”
“No.” *sound of heart being dropped on the floor*
Spoilers Ahead! You’ll notice my love for this show was stated in the past tense. The downhill slide started when Damon hooked up with Elena. It was okay for a while because he would slip up and be vengeful. Plus the world got to watch Damon roll around half naked on a semi-regular basis. Unfortunately things got worse. Much worse.
There were many events that led to my enthusiasm draining like the slow leak of a tire, but there were four factors that killed it for me.
1. The unexplained and spontaneous cure for the vampire virus. I was on the edge of my seat cheering. Damon had a free ticket to eat BOTH Stefan and Elena. You could have used this to turn it around, guys!
2. Jeremy stopped dying. It was kind of fun to watch the little bugger come back to life. And he's hot, so more camera time is better, even if it's dead camera time.
3. The loss of an interesting antagonist. I kept picturing Oprah saying “You get a doppelganger, and you get a doppelganger, and you get a doppelganger!!”
4. The loss of Petrova. She was Elena only way better.
At this point I’m ready for them to roll in the Death Star and just blow up the planet. I should have given it up a while ago, but I can’t commit to turning my back altogether. Unlike True Blood and Dexter - they were dead to me before they officially ended. The most surprising thing to me about my fixation: when I finally let it slip that I watched the show, all but one woman at work admitted to watching it and loving it.
Do you have a show you hate to love? Has it pushed you too far or are you still loving it?
I have a paranoia of violating copyright laws, so I
Buffy the Vampire'd myself.
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series shouldn’t need an introduction. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. It’s available on Netflix and Amazon Prime. I would wonder if its appeal is something that stems from growing up on the series, but Joss Whedon’s involvement makes me suspect that those of you younguns who missed its heyday would still appreciate the wit and weird that makes the show. At the very least, you can laugh at the special effects. Visual expectations have changed over the years.
Choosing a favorite character from the series is difficult. This may be due in part to the shifts that took place over the years. We go from a very long high school experience full of monsters, witty one-liners, and angsty slayer-on-vampire love to an average length college experience full of witty one-liners, monsters, and angsty man problems. Despite my sarcasm, there was enough consistency in the series to placate those of us who are resistant to change while developing character arc. The cast stays consistent although there were major tweaks to their personalities.
Buffy vacillates between ditzy pint-sized hero to confident badass. There is something about a tiny woman with super strength batting giant bad guys through the air. Her love interests consistently manifest as sensitive guys with an evil streak, and over time her intelligence and complexity are revealed. Xander is the wit machine, master of self-deprecating humor. Now that I think about it, he didn’t change much. Both Willow and Giles take on the role of brainy worriers. Willow broke out of the background with a werewolf boyfriend, a hit and miss talent for witchcraft, and, eventually, a change in sexual preferences. Giles had a somewhat regrettable stint as a cafe musician (very soulful and strange), a history in dark magic, and lots of conflict with the Watchers.
The main characters provide a likable foundation, but as the series evolved, I found myself enjoying peripheral characters more than the main cast. My fascination with Angel was likely a symptom of my age - teenage hormones and all that - but he was the bad boy trying to do right. This appeals to me. Or it did until I got bored with it. Next was Oz, Willow’s clever love interest. That interest was short lived as he went from clever and sweet to snarky. I rooted for Cordelia, and secretly loved her thin, shallow exterior and righteously bitchy commentary. She was voted off the island to spin-off land with Angel. Riley Flynn was interesting when he was a covert agent. Then he became extremely insecure and I cheered when he was sent away on a mission.
With my fascination of bad boys, it shouldn’t be surprising that the one character who consistently entertained and drew me in was a jerk. A big plus were the self-appointed nicknames. Spike is the man I loved to watch as he bumbled around Buffy crowing about his prowess as the Big Bad. His attraction to the broken and deadly Drusilla was sweet. His dysfunctional fixation with Buffy hedged on stalkerish. As someone who feels stalkers should be taken very seriously, I became a hypocrite and giggled when a Big Bad was caught sniffing Buffy’s sweater. The episode Fool for Love almost broke me, introducing Spike’s origins as a sensitive poet lacking in game and talent. His ascension from outcast to misfit tag-along to a slayer killer was loaded into a single episode character that almost backfired. Somehow the edgy exterior and strange love brought me back.
As I re-watch the episodes and work my way through season 5, my favorites will probably change. Who was your favorite character? Did your favorites change as the seasons progressed, or did you always have a preference?
With Halloween and my book launch approaching (more to come later), this blog is going to change its focus. The trend? Vampires! Plus some other stuff for good measure because there really can be too much of a good thing.
In the spirit of kicking off my Vampire Fest the right way, I decided to begin with the earliest vampire movie I could get my hands on: Nosferatu.
Nosferatu was based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic Horror novel, Dracula. More accurately, there are aspects of the story that were followed very closely and there are elements pulled out of left field because the production company was unable to gain rights from Stoker’s heirs. Spoiler Alert! The main differences between the novel and movie were Van Helsing’s complete lack of involvement and the resolution. Instead of a violent confrontation, the heroine of the movie sacrifices herself to save the townspeople. By simply willingly offering her blood throughout an entire night, the vampire perishes with the rising sun. This is critical to point out because it was truly a sacrifice for the young woman. Count Orlok was a hideous monster with a deformed head, giant ears, pointy teeth, crazy eyes, and giant hands.
There is an ongoing trend in the fictional world of vampires. Some elements stay the same: the thirst for blood, eternal life, and inhuman strength. What has changed are the degrees of humanity and physical desirability. Today’s vampires are broody, gorgeous, and capable of complex emotions, particularly love. Many are even able to abstain or minimize their human consumption for the good of those around them. At times it goes too far (Sparkles? Really?), but I understand the impulse to soften the monster. It’s like finally being able to date the bad boy who really does have a sensitive side just for you.
Vampires branched out of the horror genre in film dating back to at least the 1960’s. Now it is rare to watch a film or read a book with vampires who are truly bloodthirsty and lacking all humanity. Emotional vulnerability gives us the opportunity to cheer for the bad guy and hope he can overpower his demons and not eat his girlfriend, but sometimes it gets a little boring. (For those of you who have watched The Vampire Diaries, it’s like watching Damon go from moody psychopath to pining and lovestruck. He’s still gorgeous, but lacking the edge that had me binge watching the series in the first place.)
The beautiful vampire was not at all how the legend began. Whether you look to the Norse draugr, Western European revenants, wendigo/wechuge of North America, or the vampires of Romani/Romanian/Slavic origin, the creature was a terrifying fiend who consumed the blood and/or flesh of its family and neighbors. Superstition fed into mass hysteria that led to executions and strange burial measures. Infants were murdered because they were unlucky enough to be born with a defect or a red caul. Nosferatu captures the traditional image of the vampire and reminds us of where it all began.
What do you think of today’s vampires?
Author’s Note: The decision to watch Nosferatu should be accompanied by adjusted expectations. Switching over to a black and white film with written blocks of dialogue was a challenge for the first five to ten minutes. The dramatic character makeup and exaggerated pantomimes kept me suitably entertained until it dawned on me that the movie was very advanced for 1922 technology. Shadows appeared from nowhere and Count Orlok faded in and out of scenes.
At each writing conference, there is always at least one "Aha!" moment that makes the expense or travel well worth the effort. This conference was no exception, and I am very pleased that my husband and I made the trek to Wenatchee.
The authors and subject matter experts chosen to present at the conference did a fantastic job. Friday evening, Jess Walter was the keynote speaker. I was immediately captivated by his wit, but I appreciated his honesty as an author. A lot of writers shy away from baldly stating how difficult it is to write a story that is marketable, let alone captivating to a broad audience of readers. Jess Walter managed to do that magnificently with Beautiful Ruins, but it took him 15 years. Part of me sat there thinking, "Thank God," while the other part thought, "Oh s@#$." While it's a bit of a relief to hear that everyone can struggle (and this is a man who produced best sellers in the interim), it made me realize that it's time to put a couple of my concepts in a drawer for safe keeping and walk away for a while. Maybe a year. Maybe eight. As my grandmother would say, straining is a great way to get hemorrhoids - might as well not force it.
The honesty continued with Larry Brooks. He had some fantastic guidance around fiction writing. I wasn't able to stay for his presentation on Sunday, and I was extremely sad after sitting in his classes on Saturday. I was so impressed that I purchased one of his books, Story Engineering, and plan on devouring it, taking notes, and immediately applying the logic to a few of my active projects. His no nonsense approach could be heavy handed for some, but I personally value a straight shooter. Critique is an integral part of improving my craft: it's the only way to know what's broken.
Write On The River also offered the opportunity to meet with an editor and an agent. I originally signed up a couple months ago thinking, "We'll see." I decided to go through with pitching on Monday and threw myself into researching what is expected of the author. This research opened up a world I wasn't expecting and wish I had the foresight to delve into sooner. But more on that later.
My only critique is of the brown bag on Social Media. While the gentlemen presenting had some really valid points around branding and Social Media, I wish they had emphasized the importance of establishing an online presence and brand prior to submitting for publication.
My key takeaways from Write On The River:
It really was river adjacent! And yes, I do normally sparkle in sunlight.
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.