Have Vampires Lost Their Mojo?


Vampire stories have been around a long time, especially if you count folklore in addition to stories like Dracula.  Recently, we’ve had a vampire-palooza in fiction, movies and TV, where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a bloodsucker. If a crowd of vampires is a scourge (personally, I like “murder” as in crows), then have vampires become the scourge of fiction, and have they worn out their welcome?

Personally, I don’t think the undead are going to ride off into the sunrise any time soon. The vampire mythos is just too compelling, too primal, too tragically human. But I do think that how we portray vampires will continue to shift, and we’ll cycle through various popular depictions with new twists.

I’ve loved vampires since I was a kid, watching the old Dark Shadows TV show before I was old enough to go to school. The very first story I made up, when I was five years old, was about a vampire. Vampires, witches and ghosts were my preferred story elements in anything I read all the time I was growing up–and if I could get all three in one, that was a happy day.

Vampires appear in all of my fiction, but I’ve tried to put my own mark on them, reinterpreting them for the setting and culture of the story. In my Chronicles of the Necromancer books, the vayash moru are not hidden–everyone knows they exist, although they are welcome in some places and persecuted in others. Most want to stay on with their families after they are turned, so that gramp the vamp keeps working on the family farm, just doing his chores at night, watching over generations of descendants.  When a few ambitious vampires try to change the balance of power, it adds another destabilizing element to kingdoms already on the brink of descending into dynastic war.

For my Ascendant Kingdoms books, including Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and the new War of Shadows, the talishte are content to be silent partners in the power structure, kept in line by an oligarchy of their elders, working behind the thrones under long-established rules. For them, reading the blood of a human servant imparts that person’s memories, and creates a two-way bond, the kruvgaldur, between the talishte and either the mortal servant or the fledgling. When war destroys the ability to control magic and plunges the kingdoms into anarchy, the talishte decide that they cannot afford to remain behind the scenes any longer.

Modern-day Charleston, SC is the setting for Deadly Curiosities, my urban fantasy series, and Sorren is a nearly 600 year-old vampire who works with his mortal partners to get dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands. Once again, I’ve drawn on the idea of vampires as oligarchs, many of whom have amassed power and wealth over their long lifetimes, choosing to act from the shadows to direct the fate of history.

The vampire-as-oligarch theme is also part of my world-building in the new Jack Desmet Adventures steampunk novels with Iron & Blood. Our alternative-history Pittsburgh just has too many old cemeteries and forgotten tunnels to not be thick with vampires. Wealth, power and control remain seductive, even for–or especially for–the undead.

I’m much more interested in the tragedy of the vampire myth than the romance. I’ve heard that the vampire-as-dark-lover may be a trope that’s due for a rest, but I suspect that good examples will continue to be written, since the shadow lover appeal is long established.  But I do think we are seeing more of the vampire-as-monster story, and more stories that focus more on vampire’s supernatural abilities than their come-hither seductive power.

The storytelling pendulum had to swing back toward the monster side of things eventually.  I won’t say that vampires had lost credibility, per se, but there have been so many undead Lotharios of late that to my thinking, vampires had begun to lose their edginess, their danger, their predator status–their otherness.  It’s fun to be reminded, even shocked, into seeing that vampires aren’t just the bad boys your mother warned you about. And for humans used to believing themselves to be the top of the food chain and the apex predator, vampires are and should be a good reason to worry about things that go bump in the night.


5 comments to Have Vampires Lost Their Mojo?

  • sagablessed

    While I agree that vampires have lost one edge, it returns with another: a childish hope of spending eternity with another; the idea that you CAN turn the bad boy around. Personally, I like my vamps a bit more risque, more dangerous, more sinister.
    However, overall, I think the market is getting a bit inundated with vampire stories.

  • I also like my vampires mysterious and dangerous. I’m kind of tired of reading about them though. I would like to see more stories where they aren’t possible love interests–like pre-Angel Buffy.

  • I just started a series about vampires. It is at its base a love story but I dont like too much sappy sappy so they’re will be kicks and punches and my favorite, swords. I’m taking my heroine and placing her into his world, literally, full of dangerous destructive monsters and foliage. I have been wanting to write this series since I’ve dreamed it up a few years ago. But instead I finished the novel I was working on but I plotted out every scene and plot for all four books before I went back to my other novel. And now that that one’s done. I’m excited.
    My vampire is a king and of course no one likes him. They all prefer his dad who was a bit of a tyrant and ran the kingdom with a iron fist and though Brandolyn is not soft by any means, he is not his father and they want to overthrow him. And here comes the human. I just love this story.

  • Razziecat

    I won’t lie – my initial response to the title of this post was, “Oh, god, I hope so!” Vampires seem to have gotten into everything and they’re just not that interesting to me. And I say this even though I wrote a vampire short story once myself (for an online writing workshop). It was a one-off and I have no intention of doing it again. People seem to fall back on vampires automatically – oh, they’re scary and dangerous! The mythology of the world is full of many other supernatural creatures, and I’d like to see something different.

    That said, I’ll read any story that strikes my fancy and is well-written, with three-dimensional, fully-developed characters, so please, no one take my comments as criticism of what YOU are writing. Whatever floats your boat – go for it! 😉

  • Hi everyone! Traveling again! Sorry to be late. My life should be slowing down a little soon–I hope–and leave me time for more timely commenting!

    Sagablessed–good point. And I think there’s always room for an innovative take on a subject. But agree that there are already way too many vampire high school and vampire Twilight knock-offs.

    Melissa–Totally agree. Which is why I’ve been writing them as comrades in arms but not the seducible hunk. Talk about cold feet under the covers!

    WordsCanSingToo–Write what you love. Just be aware of what’s been done and done too much, and look for ways to make your work different. Good luck!

    Razziecat–Heavens knows there are enough books out there with kings, princesses, and magic swords, and they seem done to death until someone does something new and original with it. But I agree that the vampire love interest doesn’t pack the same impact as it did before it was everywhere.