Your Dark Side may be a Vampire; so may Your Light Side

By DuncanRhys C. Liancourt

––What is a Vampire? If you think you know, even if you think there is an answer, you are likely guilty of absurd reductionism. Shall we instead try to derive a general principle from the particular examples, ignore Sherlock Holmes and apply induction? When we look at specific vampires we find detectives, heartthrobs, killers, thieves; lovers, rockstars, monsters, and chiefs; there are strangers, neighbors, lesbians, librarians, and septuagenarians, as well as students, teachers, nobles, and vagrants; some are heroes, villains, adventurers, and cowards, while others are parasites, lawyers, CEOs or political lobbyists (have I been redundant?).

Some vampires are threatening-physically, morally, or both (see redundancy above). Some vampires are objects of desire. Sometimes we desire what we know to be bad for us. There are vampires with reflections, but many more are reflection challenged, perhaps because they are already reflections of us.

This list is, alas, not from my imagination. It is rather from my observations, from my reading and viewing. It is a sort of taxonomy of vampire species observed on an anthropological mission into the imaginative realms of artists. If you think there is not a vampire for you among these myriad types then you are likely prone to hyperbolic outbursts such as, “I could never be attracted to a brunette,” or, “I don’t like desserts.” face it, there is a brunette in the world hot enough to shake your strudel, there is a sweet rich enough to stir your blood, and there is a vampire–whether you read mysteries, romances, fantasies, dystopian realism, or whatever–that can capture and feed your imagination.

“In terms of literary genre,” asks Harvard Professor Sue Weaver-Schopf, “how do we classify these increasingly diverse works?” She will search for answers to this an many other questions this fall in her Wednesday evening course “The Vampire in Literature and Film,” a course whose reading list includes many of the vampire species named above.

But what of our initial question, what is a vampire? Perhaps the fact that we still cannot answer this question, that vampires cannot be pinned down, explains their popularity, for writers and for readers. You may have genre prejudices–you may think romances are silly, historical fiction boring, or crime procedurals gross–but when an artist has vision and talent a story is good, and when a story is good it’s good no matter the classification we give it. The vampire, however, is not a genre, and the fact that we can’t nail down what it is, well that’s a good thing. That means that an artist with vision can tell you a vampire story, any kind of vampire story with any kind of vampire. If you have genre prejudices, I feel a little bad for you, but I understand too, because I have some of my own. But if you have a vampire prejudice–well that just sucks for you.

2 Responses to “Your Dark Side may be a Vampire; so may Your Light Side”
  1. Nique says:

    Being a Wiccan who was raised under a strict Christian dogma, I find the sudden fascination in subjects such as Vampires, Witches, and other Supernatural beings over the past decade quite amusing. Mankind has always believed in these things, and for 2000+ years the ruling religion of the time has deemed it all ‘evil’ and tried to eradicate all evidence. So what is a Witch other than someone who listens to their intuition, believes in astrology and celebrates the natural rhythms and resources of the planet? What is a Vampire? They are described as someone who is a “parasite” who sucks your blood. Someone who is undead, and goes around killing for their own survival and/or amusement. Well, if you paid attention in science you would realize that not all parasites are bad, some are actually useful to have around. Sharks have Remas which actually eat fungi off their scales. Who is to say that the ‘bloodsucker’ you just hooked up with isn’t the perfect mate for you? And are they truly undead? Or is that just a parable to describe someone who is living outside of the ruling religions “box” that they keep everyone in? Excommunicated, shunned, or considered dead to them?

    We all have the capability of extreme good and extreme bad, as well as every degree in between. That is why, in my opinion, we are so enthralled with Vampires and the like. They break ‘the rules’ that we have always wanted to. Maybe that is why in the stories, once you are bitten you want more and more until you too are like them. Free – free to think with your own mind and live your life as you wish…..until someone holds up a cross…

  2. Tho says:

    Vampires are indeed a prolific subject and seem to have been for as long as I can remember. From the Count Chocula on my breakfast table as a kid,to the Bram Stoker’s classic in high school English, to the current popular representations in the Twilight and True Blood series, I have been exposed to a myriad of different versions of vampire all my life. While I do acknowledge the potential, the space, and the existence of different interpretations or ‘species’ of this particular fictional creature, aren’t there certain consistent, defining markers that alert us to the fact that we are, first and foremost, dealing with a vampire and not some other entity? Traits such as their undead state, the fact that they drink blood for sustenance and their pointy incisors? I know that I am guilty of reductionism here, but how else will we be able to distinguish the vampire detective or the vampire librarian from the ordinary ones? I understand that vampires can have nuance and individuality just as humans, but there has to be some uniformity for the unique aspects of each vampire to be contrasted to. The fact that compared to most fictional creatures the list of characteristics that define vampires and separate them from humans are so minimal make them so accessible to us. Perhaps this is what makes there appeal so everlasting.

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