Before I sold VampCon to Greyhart Press, I had already approached a number of literary agents about the novel. A few of them really liked the story, but felt that they could not represent VampCon because the big publishing houses are not interested in buying vampire novels from new authors. This is based on the conventional wisdom that the market for these stories is oversaturated, and readers are getting tired of vampire books.
I have my own theory however which is that, like Monday night football and or secret-agent thrillers, vampire stories are here to stay; people will always be interested in vampires because they are a blank slate onto which we can project all kinds of stories.
The seeds were sewn with Bram Stoker’s Dracula which presented a complicated picture of the famous Count. He was a monster and blood sucker; he had dark designs; he had strange weaknesses; he had three wives and a connection to hell; he could infect others. But he was also not completely alien. He looked like us and followed human customs. Over the years, so many writers followed Stoker’s lead and used vampires to explore many facets of our own lives.
Vampire can represent lust and youth. Because they never age, vampires can literally embody eternal youth. They can be beautiful and forever young. They are also lustful creatures, satisfying themselves by pressing their tongues and lips against the skin of others. There are tons of stories out there examining forbidden love through the use of vampires. In this way, we see vampires as representing forbidden desires.
Vampires can represent addiction. The bottom line is that vamps need blood to survive. They may be powerful, supernatural beings, but they are slaves to their own thirst. They must hunt and prey on others. In this type of story, they can mirror everyday addictions that we might witness in the real world, whether it be drugs, booze, cigarettes or even candy.
They can represent conspiracies and hidden power. In most (but not all!) vampires stories, the vampires are hidden from society; few people know of their existence. They stand behind the scenes, influencing and controlling others. In these types of stories, vampires are a dark conspiracy, and they represent our own superstitious fear of power; our worry that government agencies and shadowy corporations are somehow controlling our lives and exploiting us.
They can represent the hunter and the hunted. One of the simplest themes of a vampires story is the hunter and the hunted. As in the case of Dracula (and so many other stories) there are often multiple layers, with the vampires stalking innocent victims, and vampire hunters (in turn) trying to kill the vampire himself. This perspective on vampires plays into our own fears of victimization, whether it’s our fear of being mugged in a dark alley or or something far more horrible (like serial killers). The vampire as hunter and prey is immediately compelling to most readers because the stakes are clear and obvious.
They’re almost like us! There are so many monsters out there, but you might notice that the most popular ones in stories are the ones, like vampires, who are almost human. They look sort of like us. They have feelings and act like us and talk like us. Vampires- in some ways- are us on a really, really bad day. Interestingly, it’s this immediate connection and empathy that makes them so interesting.
It’s this elasticity of character, this ability to be so many different things: a lover, an addict, an agent of corruption, the hunter and prey, and-sometimes- just a very flawed person, that keeps vampires interesting. I think that this ability to be the blank slate- to take on many roles- will keep vampires fresh and keep people coming back to vampire books for many decades to come.
this post originally appeared on the Creatively Green Blog