The State of Vampires Today

I just got back from a panel on vampires in literature and film that was quite; well… enthusiastic is a good word. I'm pretty sure if some of us had had tomatoes we'd have been chucking them at each other. One gentleman was adamant that all vampires are maniacal psychopathic killers without a shred of decency while others among us believed that they are what you make them, or what the author makes them. They can be or do just about anything and if you look hard enough you can find all sorts of interesting vampires, from the vegetable vampires painted by Remedios Varos to the teetotaler vampires you can find in Terry Pratchett's books to the psychic vampires who appeared in Sailor Moon. There are vampires who have been around for thousands of years and then there are one of my favorite kinds, the brand spanking new, utterly confused vampire who doesn't quite realize what's happened to them.

Falling into that category we have Undead and Unwed, a book by MaryJanice Davidson starring a designer shoe aficionado called Betsy Taylor who is bitten by some crazed, raggedy muggers just a few days before she's laid off from her job. To make matters worse she's hit by a car and killed on her way home, which is irritating, but she really gets steamed when she wakes up in a coffin at the funeral home dressed in an ugly pink suit that does nothing for her complexion, her catty stepmother's Payless shoes and wearing garish makeup. Extremely upset over how cheap and awful she looks she tries to figure out what is going on and why she remembers dying, eventually deciding she's a zombie. Since no self-respecting former model would choose to be a zombie wearing knockoff shoes she sets out to knock herself off, with the goal of this time staying dead.

When her plans fail she decides to pick up her life and go on as though nothing has happened. However a few things get in the way such as the fact that she is officially dead, she is now magnetically attractive to men, her stepmother stole her shoes, the local vampire clans have decided she's their queen and every political party is determined to claim her. With the help of her best friend Jessica and a suicidal doctor she bumbles her way through encounters with a dorky vampire who styles himself "Nostro" and wants her to bow down to him and complete strangers who vow allegiance to her the moment they meet her.

Betsy is a just plain fun character; spunky, hilarious, goofy and with just as many flaws as I have. She's vain, shallow and addicted to fashion but she's also compassionate, tenderhearted, strong and resourceful. She doesn't stand around the funeral home wringing her hands and waiting for rescue, she tries to fix her problems on her own. I picked Undead and Unwed up along with a bunch of other used books and didn't have much in the way of expectations but ended up loving it and laughing through the entire thing. It was far and away my favorite book of the bunch. Interestingly the majority of people at the vampire panel this last weekend had also read Undead and Unwed and were big fans of "Queen Betsy." You can read an excerpt here for free.

The question we were trying to answer at the panel is why are vampires sexy and when did this happen? The gentleman who was moderating said that vampires in film and literature used to all be awful undead monsters and said that the notion of them being seductive was very new, dating from just the last few years. But of course Bram Stoker made Dracula and his female minions into sensual creatures with the scene where Jonathan Harker faints on the couch as he is surrounded by the three women, a scene almost too shocking for the times. Half of Dr. Polidori's story The Vampyre, written in 1819, takes place in the bedroom and even Varney the Vampire or The Feast of Blood was billed as a romance, although I'd be remiss not to mention that the term romance used to mean more than love stories, in fact the word novel came from an expression that meant new romance. Moving forward more than a century we have Anne Rice's vampire books with the vampire Lestat, who brings a strong sensual element to Ms. Rice's works. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's vampire character Saint-Germain is also a romantic figure, an alchemist who is caring, loyal, brilliant and dashing. These series were started in 1976 and 1978 respectively so sexy vampires have been romping through modern literature since well before the current craze. We left the panel after essentially agreeing that you can find just about any type of vampire to suit your fancy, whether it's the crazed soulless killer, the swoony seducer, or the bumbling neophyte.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Shazam, who says the following about Pirates of the Caribbean 3, "It was surprisingly good, and a wealth of tiny, but hilarious, jokes ensures that it will have good replay value in the future. Very, very long, but the time passes quickly." Have you got a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me and I'll run the most interesting ones. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.