They Used To Be Killers
Guest Post by Lydia Peever
They were killers. Feared. Stalking townsfolk and women in the night. Hunting blood, they slaughtered animals and gripped the countryside with panic. They transformed into smoke, or wild beasts. With horrific features, they carried with them the scent of death.
They used to be frightening.
Emotionless and with only a hint of simmering sexuality, they were violent creatures of the night. Recently this has watered down to them looking like you or I. They seek love and acceptance. They smell good. They blend in and might not even try to hurt you. Death used to spread through their infections. Vampiric creatures are supposed to cast spells on your cattle and haunt their former families. Now they cast spells on schoolgirls and haunt the vegan cafés.
I am against it. Personally, I would like to see the death of vamporn and a stake driven deep into the bleeding heart of every teen vamp romance. A few stories have reclaimed this in the last decade (The Strain trilogy and The Historian, let’s say) but are stifled under the mass of socially acceptable fangless fobs. Sometimes, I worry that no one has cracked a textbook to remind themselves what a traditional vampire is. I worry that the first vampire stories are threatened with extinction.
Now, you may note that in my vampire evolution novel, Nightface, the vampires are fairly cleaned up. They wear contemporary street clothes. Fangs threaten to make an appearance. A girl nearly winks at one of them. Sure, perhaps I am part of the problem in some respects. Yet, when it comes down to it, they are cold-blooded killers. Gunnar delights in the chance to tear a throat out. The thought of blood swirling in his mouth shuts down most human parts of his mind. With the promise of a feast, he does lose control.
Balance is struck in The Radleys. There, vampires get cleaned up and have disarmingly average human lives – but the terrible animal emerges once blood lust takes hold. It’s wonderful. It’s what we came for. The charming characters, rise and fall of an interesting storyline, archetypes and tropes all mingling like a well planned party – then we get the horrific death we want. Isn’t that the point of having fangs?
Luckily, the surge in vampire interest has lead to another bump in vampire research. Historically, most dark corners have been explored, yet the fascination of turning through a well-written text will not cease. Every fan of vampire fiction should know the contours of Vlad Tepes’ famed woodcut like the lines of their own hand. There is no point in chasing the lore found in fiction without dipping into the dark red pool of academia that already exists. Authors may use fiction in part during research, but well researched vampire documentation may enlighten and entertain beyond these genre-mashed fang-bang thrill-rides. I’d rather fall for a textbook that bites than a love story, any night.
Just in case your personal library is lacking, try a few of these on for size. A short list, as there are many older and far more narrow texts, but this is a good mix from myth origin research, history in literature, and the modern day sanguine vampire lifestyle. A boon to any author and a fun fix for any fan. If you wish to remain in the realm of fiction, pick up a copy of Nightface. It’s not a love story, but underneath you will find an ode to the traditional vampire and those digging through dusty libraries and ancient graves.
Vampires: Encounters with the Undead – Edited by David J. Skal
The Vampire Encyclopedia – by Matthew Bunson
Vampire: The Complete Guide to the World of the Undead – by Manuela Dunn Mascetti
Vampire Taxonomy: Identifying and Interacting with the Modern-day Bloodsucker – by Meredith Woerner
Vampire Nation – by Arlene Russo
Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend – by Mark Collins Jenkins
The Vampire: His Kith and Kin – by Montague Summers
About the Author:
Lydia Peever is a journalist and horror author living in Ottawa. Her non-fiction has been published in the Ottawa Citizen, Xalt Magazine, and several weekly papers and online. With many hobbies and diverse interests, you may find her researching genealogy in a dusty library, profiling artists for ottawahorror.com, or taking photos at a punk show. By day, she haunts trendy cafés, tends poison flowerbeds, and photographs roadkill. She is online at typicallydia.com, nightface.ca, talkhorror.com and ottawahorror.com. Nightface is her first novel, and the sequel is her next project. “Thicker Than,” a new short story, is included in a horror anthology published by West Pigeon Press. Find more at typicallydia.com.