Vampire Trends: the more things change, the more they stay the same

by Gail Z. Martin

Ok, this will probably come as a big surprise, but I love vampires.  Yeah, I know, you already guessed.  If you’ve been following my recently read books on @GailZMartin or Shelfari, you know I’ve just read through all 9 of MaryJanice Davidson’s Queen Betsy books (the Undead and Unwed series).  They’re fun and sassy and light, and quite a hoot.  Just to give myself whiplash, I then started to read Hotel Transylvania by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, with her oh, so sexy and mysterious Count Saint-Germain.  Completely different in tone and setting, but very engrossing.  And just to round it out, my husband and I started watching the 1991 remake of Dark Shadows on Netflix, with Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins.

Which got me thinking—my how our vampires have changed.  The original Dark Shadows was a product of the 1960s, and the remake stayed pretty faithful to the plot arc of the original.  It had a vampire yearning to be human again long before Anne Rice’s Louis, and it’s interesting to me to see that even in 1991, the idea that Barnabas and Victoria could be together without him needing to end his existence as a vampire was completely beyond thought.  Of course, in many of today’s urban fantasy books, mortals mix with many supernaturals and taking a lover among the undead is no big deal.  The subtitle of Hotel Transylvania is “a novel of forbidden love” so in the 1970s, when it was published, there was still a bigger taboo against mortal/vampire love than there is today.

Then there’s the whole vampire gravitas thing.  Saint-Germain has it—he’s a serious kind of guy.  Sinclair in the Queen Betsy series also has it—it takes Betsy to lighten him up.  Lestat had macabre humor, but he wasn’t really a lot of laughs.  Barnabas would like to have some fun, but there’s the whole undead thing stopping him. (Speaking of which, in the remake series, why do they shoot scenes in broad daylight with blue sky and pretend it’s nighttime?)

So what’s the point?  Maybe only that some things have to remain the same for us to recognize vampires as vampires.  Daylight doesn’t bother Queen Betsy, but it’s still lethal for everyone else and she can drink anything but can’t eat real food.  Saint-Germain never eats food in public.  Barnabas grieves over having no reflection in a mirror.  Although authors toy with changes around the edges of the vampire mythos, the more things change, the more they do seem to stay the same.

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