“As we move on year by year in this life, we learn that telling doesn’t necessarily purge; telling something is merely a reliving, and it’s a torment.”
– Anne Rice, Blood Canticle
When I was thirteen years old I picked up my first Anne Rice book, Interview with the Vampire. And I knew then, as clearly as know now that the sun will rise each day, I wanted to be like her. I wanted to write vampire novels, and I wanted to write vampire novels where the vampire is so near to human that they suffer from human weaknesses, driven by human emotions, both vast and petty. But also, I wanted to write vampire novels that made others feel the way hers made me feel, like the supernatural could exist. Like vampires are not just restricted to myth and hype, intended to tantalize and unnerve us.
I read that first novel in the Vampire Chronicles series nearly twelve years ago. I was a typical teenager – angst-ridden, and certain that I was alone in the world. Her descriptions mesmerised me, I felt certain that what she wrote could not have simply been pulled from the air, from the annals of imagination. It must have been a product of experience. The characters she moulded could only have been drawn from reality, from something palpable. This sensation stayed with me through each and every one of her vampire chronicles, right through to Blood Canticle. When I outline a character, it is to the words of Anne Rice that I turn for inspiration, not to compare and recreate, but to garner inspiration.
It has been asked of many people, including this famed author, what the intrigue is surrounding vampires in society at present. And the answers seem varied. But one thing does seem clear; vampires are an excellent means to explore taboos that one would normally steer as far from as possible. The vampire, it has been theorised, is a symbol of the outsider that every individual senses inside of themselves at some point in their lives. As such, readers can sympathise with the plight of the vampire, but is the vampire not a monster? Not quite. It is apparent, when we explore vampire literature, that the vampire has become almost human in its portrayals. And, intriguingly, this is what makes such a figure more terrifying than most.
It is the thought that the vampire can manipulate, seduce, and then destroy that piques the interest of readers. Well, it certainly piques my interest, and has done so for over twelve years of my life.
After I read Interview with the Vampire, I virtually devoured the following eleven books, constantly using the words I lapped off the page as a means to carry me through my days. I was always in love with at least one of her many enigmatic characters, never certain which one I found to be the most perfectly crafted. I switched frequently between the breath-taking madness of Armand and Louis’s sweet sadness. Sometimes, I even found Marius’s constant nature to be more of a lure than any of the others. But I always returned to Lestat.
“It was as if the empty nights were made for thinking of him. And sometimes I found myself so vividly aware of him it was as if he had only just left the room and the ring of his voice were still there. And somehow, there was a disturbing comfort in that, and, despite myself, I’d envision his face.”
– Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire
Lestat de Lioncourt. Who has to be the most complete of literary creations. From the desperate recitation of his personal history in The Vampire Lestat, trying to repair the damage done to his name by his beloved Louis, attempting to draw out his old compatriots, to the self-assured lord (still carrying his childish, naughty streak) in Blood Canticle, Anne Rice imagined a daring character. With each new book told in Lestat’s own words, the reader felt as though they were falling into a much-loved rhythm, embracing an old friend after months apart.
But, back to the topic of taboos. One element that I have always found both enticing and freeing about The Vampire Chronicles is the security of intimacy. The fact that affection is not limited to gender. That the vampires which are her creations are not restricted by sex and deviancy. I loved then, and still do, the idea that vampires are not bound by sexual attraction as they have ascended past such physical constraints.
But I do believe that many people (those that have read the books but fail to truly comprehend them) still cannot come to terms with the notion. To this day, homophobes and individuals bent simply on bashing Anne Rice’s genius accuse her of rampant sexual deviancy in her novels, as well as labelling all her characters under the flag of ‘homosexual,’ as though it were some dirty word.
Firstly, how can a creature be homosexual if it is no longer bound by sexual drives? And secondly, so what? Characters in the novels deliberate often over the virtues of men and women. Occasionally the conclusion is in favour of one or the other sex, but it still stands that preference over a single one does not make them. They adhere to beauty. And, as the author describes it, for her vampires, beauty is a fluid thing. For a creature that can see the tiniest of imperfections and is lost in the most miniscule of adequacies, beauty can be found in everything.
“If I am an angel, paint me with black wings.”
– Anne Rice, The Vampire Armand
In short, Anne Rice’s vampires revolutionised the monstrosity of these creatures, illustrating how their nightmarish qualities could also be considered their most poignant charms. If I can evoke even a fraction of the emotion in my readers as what her novels drew from me, I will be thrilled and ecstatic.
This has been bugging me… How exactly does a vampire drink blood? Yes, yes, I know… fangs pierce skin and arteries, arteries expel blood into vampire’s mouth, vampire is fed and content… Fine. But how?
1. Are a vampire’s fangs curved?
The simple physiology of a vampire is already difficult enough to wrap a rational mind around. If a vampire, with curved fangs, were to bite into a victim’s throat, would the fangs not cause a large deal of damage AND most likely be in the way of any blood? If the vampire’s fangs are not curved, one still has to consider that the fangs would hinder any decent flow of blood.
2. Do the vampire’s fangs distend?
Are they always out or do they need to be forced out? The latter sounds painful. I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be, such action would have to alter the jaw structure to accommodate the regrowth of fangs on a regular basis. And if they do distend rather than being pre-existing, how does this occur? Like a snake’s which folds out? If so, what happens to the teeth that are replaced? If the fangs are an oddity, then surely so would be two weird, hillbilly gaps where one’s eyeteeth should be…
3. Are a vampire’s fangs hollow?
I have asked this question before and people offered this as a solution – A vampire’s fangs could be hollow like the proboscis of a mosquito. Eeuw. Just eeuw. Although it does make sense, but if they are hollow, where do the hollows open up to? Into a gland? Then we’re back to changing the jaw structure of the vampire. And besides, vampires are always described as appreciating the taste of blood. If the blood is carried straight from a tube in the fangs to a gland in the palette and then into the system, when do they ever get an opportunity to savour the taste?
4. Do vampires simply bite and release?
Hmm. If this were the case, vampires would be supremely messy, spilling blood all over the victim from an open wound. Can you imagine?
She smells like violets and heat, blended together in an aroma of perfumed hunger. My fangs slip into her throat and in my haste to sample the ambrosia coursing through her, I retreat minutely, desperate to extract my fangs for the taste of her on my tongue. As I release her, the force pulsing through her veins bursts forth and… Oh God! My eye!
5. Do vampires have fangs at all?
None of these options sounds particularly appealing or logical to me. I am a traditionalist at heart. Vampires must have fangs. Vampires DO NOT use a proboscis or teeth that vaguely resemble a proboscis.
I suppose vampire fangs could distend… They do in True Blood, don’t they? With that eerie, audible click like a snake? But then again the vampires in True Blood also growl and hiss on occasion… I will never understand that. Vampires don’t hiss. Why would they? If anyone can explain this strange ‘hissing vampire’ phenomenon to me I would appreciate it.
Vampires are not cats.
Sometimes I miss reading vampire novels as an amateur vampire enthusiast. It never seemed to matter what the logistics were back then. Vampire bites human. Human bleeds. Happy vampire. I miss that. Anne Rice’s vampires were that simple to understand and I appreciated it. What was inexplicable for whatever reason was left down to mysticism or possible science which has not yet been investigated as no vampire would be stupid enough to allow it to occur. Personally, I don’t put much stock in mysticism. I don’t even like the word. I prefer things that can be explained (to an extent) with some semblance of rationale and the scientific method.
But I do have a theory. Perhaps vampires do have curved fangs? And the curvature is there with a purpose, not because it looks awesome. Perhaps the curvature is intended to manipulate flesh and create a pocket where blood will collect and ooze out at a more sedate pace? Thus the vampire is not forced to remove his fangs and can still drink with little to no difficulty, no spillage to sully the meal. The fangs do not need to retract in the same manner in which a cat’s canines do not need to retract… Uh oh… Don’t get any funny ideas…. Vampires are still not cats.
Although, I have been wrong before And according to this guy, I am now: http://thatotherperv.livejournal.com/145992.html
With the explosion of vampire fiction bombarding us from every direction, going from Meyeristic sparkle to Burtonesque camp, from Coppolidian veritas to Ricean evolution, what is it about vampires that pulls in our imagination? What is it that makes a great vampire in modern mainstream media?
The list of fictive vampires that would encompass this criteria can be exhaustive, so a measure of measuring criteria would need to be established before any meaningful result can be ascertained. In short, we would need to define the meaning of ‘great’ in this context. Could it be the popularity of the character? If so, then dear Edward Cullen might have what it takes to be great, even with that unfortunate skin condition. Is it a closeness to the founding myths of our favourite nightstalkers that needs key consideration? Then perhaps Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula could have a seat at this table, hairy palms and all.
As that line of reasoning is not really getting us anywhere, could we propose an alternative measure in this conflict? Reading the recently stumbled upon great article by psychologist Dr. Belisa Vranich in the Huffinton post (the fact that the article has been there since 2010 is moderately irrelevant) that documents her 10 reasons why we love vampires, we can have a clear benchmark for our late great fictive escape.
These 10 reasons breathe understanding into the phenomenon hitherto-unseen to date to my mind, and should form the basis for our exploration into vampire fiction.
After reading that article, how many vampires un-live up to your expectations now?