The Vampire In Literature
Or What Every Writer Must Know Before Attempting to Write a Vampire Novel
Margaret L. Carter
Around 1991, I was asked to write an article for the journal Niekas on "the ten greatest vampire novels of all time." Quickly determining that "ten" weren't enough, I decided to choose a "gravedigger's dozen" -- thirteen. I also decided that any attempt to single out the thirteen best vampire novels "of all time" would mean reserving four slots for the great 19th-century classics, The Vampyre, by John Polidori, Varney the Vampyre; or, The Feast of Blood, Carmilla, and Dracula. My essay, after citing these four definitive works, pointed out four mid-20th-century novels that I consider significant: I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson; Doctors Wear Scarlet, by Simon Raven; Some of Your Blood, by Theodore Sturgeon; and Progeny of the Adder, by Leslie Whitten. The main body of the article discussed thirteen groundbreaking novels published after 1970 (Those of My Blood among them).
1970 was not an arbitrarily chosen date. The early 1970s saw an explosion of interest in vampires, in both fiction and nonfiction. Although short stories on this theme have appeared by the hundreds, fairly evenly distributed from the late 19th century on, few memorable book-length treatments were published before 1970. The 70s produced Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot, Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, Fred Saberhagen's The Dracula Tape, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Hotel Transylvania, along with many lesser-known but excellent novels. In nonfiction, Leonard Wolf's Annotated Dracula and McNally and Florescu's In Search of Dracula appeared in that decade. Vampirism became a legitimate topic for academic study, and from that point, both vampire fiction and scholarship flourished to an unprecedented degree.
Having decided on thirteen distinguished post-1970 novels for the framework of my essay, I also, however, had to add a long paragraph of "honorable mentions." As a further complication, this issue of Niekas was delayed until the end of 1998, so that by the time it was published, my list was sadly outdated. There are several more noteworthy vampire tales and series I would have to add to the list if I were writing it now. This problem illustrates how the vampire "explosion" of the 1970s has continued and expanded up to the present.
My interest in this subgenre began with the reading of Dracula at the age of twelve. At twenty-two (in 1970) I edited a vampire story anthology, Curse of the Undead, which I got published by sheer luck, knowing nothing about the book industry. Shortly thereafter, I started working on Shadow of a Shade: A Survey of Vampirism in Literature, an overview of the entire history of vampire fiction, published in 1975. This book was quite amateurish, but I'm still proud that it was the first attempt to do anything of that kind. So I can claim to have some part in the seminal vampire-lit "resurrection" of the 1970s.
Over the years I built on the information I had gathered while writing Shadow, compiling a bibliography of vampire fiction and nonfiction, finally published in 1989 as The Vampire in Literature: A Critical Bibliography. It incorporates most of the worthwhile elements of Shadow of a Shade. To combat the universal bibliographer's problem, instant obsolescence, I have prepared an annual update for the novel and short story section of the bibliography every year from 1990 on, with the help of Catherine B. Krusberg, book review columnist for my fanzine, The Vampire's Crypt. (For information, see: http://members.aol.com/MLCVamp/vampcrpt.htm)
My latest nonfiction project focuses on my favorite type of vampire, a nonsupernatural, naturally evolved species coexisting with humanity. The book, Different Blood: The Vampire as Alien, examines this theme in fiction from the mid-19th-century to the present (including a discussion of Those of My Blood and references to the Sime~Gen series, as well as Jacqueline's essay "Vampire with Muddy Boots"). Necronomicon Press will publish it, probably within the next year.
My involvement in vampire fiction began with attempts to write my own, beginning at age thirteen. Academic interest in the theme grew out of my love for the kinds of stories I was trying to write. Though I've had a number of vampire tales published in fanzines, and a couple in professional anthologies, my first professional vampire novel, Dark Changeling, has just recently been accepted for publication. It falls into the "vampire as alien" category, along with Those of My Blood, Suzy McKee Charnas' The Vampire Tapestry, and George R. R. Martin's Fevre Dream. A sequel to this novel and two others in the same universe await future publication. Dark Changeling will be available around the end of May, 1999, from the Hard Shell Word Factory (http://www.hardshell.com).
-- Margaret L. Carter, February, 1999
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