As mentioned in a previous post, my novel pitch was rejected by one agent because “vampires have permeated the literary world.” I was stunned and pissed, but their assessment was justified.
Or was it?
Derek Gunn’s Vampire Apocalypse series, E. E. Knight’s Vampire Earth series, even Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter–There were some decent vampire novels out there, but the horror genre didn’t seem chock-full.
What was the agent seeing that I wasn’t?
Well, I’m not usually one to jump on a bandwagon without extensive research. In fact, my fieldwork once required countless hours of eyestrain and two boxes of Kleenex.
So rather than take that agent’s word at face-value, I took to the greedy-yet-essential machine known as Amazon to scope out vampires in modern literature.
First, I started my search with classic generic terms: vampire, vampires, vampire books. Appalled by the results, I then resorted to specific keywords (evil, bad, badass; gory, violent, blood and gore; apocalypse, horror) and–finally!–got some hits of gritty novels featuring vampires as the sole undead creature.
Even then, oily, muscular vampire pictures cropped up all over the page.
I expanded my search to include other notable search engines and sites, and the results were similar.
Maybe the agent was right. With Twilight, YA, and romance/erotica leading the genre, who would want more pasty, dead motherfuckers clogging up the already-convoluted market?
Well, I do, and (I hope) there are many like-minded writers (and readers) who want vampires to reclaim their rightful throne as kings and queens of monsters.
Thankfully, we can still revive the Undead.
Take It Back
Though vampires have existed in lore for millennia, the vampire craze in modern literature has plunged these fanged creatures into the paranormal romance realm. Once depicted as mischievous, shrouded, bloated creatures of darker countenance, their modern counterparts are now often romantic, muscled, pale dudes with long hair (or women with big tits and skimpy outfits).
Sexual fantasies aside, what the hell happened? How did we turn dark creatures of the night into emotional teens, death stories into love stories?
Why would we do that?
Vampires were created to induce fear in common folk. When one breathes on your neck, you shouldn’t find yourself wanting to cup its wrinkled blue balls and allow it to give you an angry dragon.
And I’m sorry if I don’t shit my pants when I see this:
So how can we go about rescuing the Undead from being crushed at the bottom of the romance/erotica dog-pile?
Oh, The Horror!
If you’re genuinely invested in resuscitating a genre chock-full of sissified vampires, you gotta be just as ruthless and unsympathetic as these fanged wonders should be.
- Evil brutes, not gentle beauts.
Look, I get fetishes and whatnot, and eye candy is appealing in any medium. But why give these creatures such splendid allure and confine them to romance and erotica?
You could make them physically repulsive, twisted creatures from your nightmares. Scarred, wart-covered; gaunt, pale, bloated; bat-like, wolf-like. But they don’t even have to be monsters. You can still have humanoid vampires, muscular and well-endowed, handsome and pretty.
Just stop making them all fuckable. Fuckable vampires aren’t scary, and fans looking for a gorier, grittier read want you to make their heart pump with more than orgasmic pleasure.
Conjure the scent of rotting flesh wafting off their naked bodies. Make them ugly; make them cold-hearted, vile creatures.
Make humans and other vampires shiver from fear, not lust, when in their presence.
- Fucking motions.
No, not “fucking motions.”
- “Fuck emotions.”
There we go.
Vampire novels may be moody across the board, but those that dwell on love and sexual pleasure suck the horror right out of the genre. Too many modern vampires mope around, wallowing in self-pity because of their long string of failed romances.
That “woe-is-me” shit doesn’t make them scary.
To return vampires to their badass days, illuminate darker emotions and urges. Morph that lame, romantic angst into gloomy hatred and festering anger, glee at the sight of death, violent and bloody betrayal.
Dampen the mood instead of the panties, you evil, violent, murdering, pessimistic asshole, you.
- Make it a bloody, good time.
Dark creatures like vampires generally lack compassion for human life. Not all, but most.
Tap into that.
Use those big muscles you put on them to rip arms from sockets and gut cowering opponents. Have blood spray from sliced throats. Turn after-shower sopping wet hair into blood-drenched locks and skin.
If vampires are allowed to revel in their blood-lust, humans may once again piss themselves in fear.
- Give ’em a power trip.
Jaw-dropping powers are another primary allure of vampires. The classics–super-strength and speed, heightened senses, shape-changing and mind-reading abilities, wall-crawling–still work well enough. To keep the genre fresh and enticing, though, you may have to take it to a whole new level.
So what kinds of powers should you give them to bring the horror back? Slimy, penis-like tentacles that inseminate humans with a parasitic vampire alien? Sounds pretty fucked up, and it’s been done. Maybe you want your teenaged vampires to sparkle in sunlight instead?
The key to rejuvenating the promiscuous vampire literary world is to avoid the cutesy-wutesy bullshit. You need something with a brutal, grotesque impact. It doesn’t have to be a violent power, just shiver-worthy. A simple mind-fuck. A moment of “Ew.”
Let vampires use their powers to wreak havoc, not make love.
(Just remember the powers must work within the realm and rules of your story.)
- Mix it up, weakling.
In the same vein of freshness, you can deviate from the norm when it comes to weaknesses. Maybe vampires in your world aren’t harmed by holy relics or fire. Maybe nukes just make them giggle. Maybe a stake through the heart makes them completely and truly immortal.
Redefine their weaknesses so humans (or any other opponents) appear more powerless to stop them.
- Bring back the elements of horror, you scaredy-cat.
It’s okay to include a small element of romance in your vampire novels, but if you want to revive the genre, you’ve got to make that romance and sexual tension a bit player. Don’t let it take center stage.
Love is scary, but fear is more fun.
Rather than focusing on those puny, ugly little butterflies in the center of the stomach, allow fear to permeate the story, even in small doses. Add an aura of horror. Spice it up with some mystery, maybe even some psychological thriller. Use dialogue and setting—harsh words, lies; cobwebs, spiders, shadows—to create an edgy mood. Make your readers uncomfortable.
Dare to bare your darkest fears to the world, and watch others tremble with you.
Well, We Really Haven’t Learned Shit, Have We?
Even with the sissified vampire stories soaking up all the sunlight (horrible vampire pun intended), my stance remains firm: We can revive the Undead.
We’ve just got to be willing to shed our morals and dig into the dark pit of our souls to unleash the fear.
And for fuck’s sake, stop trying to portray them as harmless sex machines, you sick fucking necrophiliac.