Where Does Vampire Love Start?
Clay and Susan Griffith
Dracula. Hands down. He is so far ahead that any other vampire is closer to last than second. I love the cape and the stare and the castle and the bat transformation and the haughty sexiness and the pure power. I love Draculas portrayed by Bela and Christopher Lee and Jack Palance and Louis Jordan and Frank Langella and Gary Oldman. I love the version of Dracula created by writer Marv Wolfman (yes, that’s his real name) and artists Gene Colan and Tom Palmer in their unprecedented run on Marvel Comic’s Tomb of Dracula. Love them all.
But, above all that, I love the Dracula from Bram Stoker’s book. I read that novel when I was 13 and was never the same. I consumed all the Dracula material I could after that, but none of the other versions are the same as the horrifying creature from Stoker’s novel. The movie versions bear resemblance the book, but they’re different in so many ways. Stoker’s Dracula is not a cape-wearing bon vivant who makes women swoon, nor a vigorous superman in evening clothes who throws men across castle great rooms.
In the book, Dracula isn’t really that sexy himself, although he does tap into the repressed sexuality of his female victims. But he doesn’t woo any of them with his suave charm. He has to hypnotize poor Mina and physically forces her to drink his blood (a pretty weird scene for a 13-year old to understand).
In addition, while he has a sinister supervillain attitude, he doesn’t rely on supernatural strength to scatter his enemies. Dracula is portrayed more as a creepy old man who is pathetic at times. There’s a scene early in the book when Jonathan Harker is being hypnotically assaulted by Dracula’s “brides” when the aged white-haired Count shows up, furious at the females for bothering his real estate agent before he has finalized the deal for his new British home, Carfax Abbey, so he tosses the females aside. Are the brides afraid of him? No, they actually taunt old Count for being impotent. Dracula placates his sulky brides by tossing them a bag with a baby inside for them to feed. What? The invulnerable lord of the undead stealing babies? Yes. Count Dracula is out skulking around in the night snatching helpless infants from local peasants. That is so disturbing, and not a scene that typically finds its way into Dracula movies where the Count is usually portrayed as a crackling sexpot fiend.
Now, it’s not that I have a particular enjoyment of old baby-stealing Transylvanian weirdos. Count Dracula is a fascinating character, truly strange and disturbing. He is not likeable; he is not some sad, wronged villain. He is disgusting and vile, but he has enough sophistication to mix with human society without being detected. He looks like a human, but he is a monster. That is why Dracula means “vampire”.
I’ll admit my penchant for vampires didn’t come from the dark inhuman ones that Clay loves, at least not until much later. Originally, mine came from later works of fiction and television, and portrayed a different side of the bloodsuckers. I like the quirkier bad boys. Yes, I mean Spike from Buffy.
Personally, I liked Spike even before Spike was considered “good”. He was a vampire that didn’t hold back punches, was straightforward, and didn’t get all weepy at the drop of a hat, except that one time Drusilla left him. Actually, not even then. He just decided to tie her up and torture her till she loved him again. The man was damn dark and witty to boot. A snarky attitude is like a magnet to me. He wore that long black leather duster that he took from a slayer he killed and he was proud of it. He loved his mother; he even tried turned her before he had to kill her. That’s true devotion to parents. And he wrote poetry, using words like “effulgent”. I’m not sure Angel would even know what that word means.
But bottom line he was a character with delicious depth and a rare complexity. Unlike Angel who had his soul thrust upon him by gypsies, Spike went in search of it for the woman he loved, a true hero’s journey, sacrificing everything for her. That type of hero’s journey is very intoxicating to me.
Another great vampire is Henry Fitzroy from Tanya Huff’s Blood series. The character in the books is fascinating. He is the illegitimate heir of Henry VIII and leads a quiet life in Toronto working on his day job as a romance novelist. After all who better to write such things than someone who has lived it. Huff gives us flashes into Henry’s past that define him in the present. We see him get turned and his lost loves, all of which play a part in his ongoing relationship with the heroine, Vicki Nelson. Forget the television show and read the books for a truly great vampire that read very realistically for a contemporary vampire story.
We hope that the vampires from our Vampire Empire series will be the origins of many people’s vampire love in the future. You won’t have to look hard to see elements – heroic, admirable, troubled, inhuman, vile – of all of the above characters in the vampires who inhabit our trilogy, whether Prince Gareth, or Cesare, or Flay.
So, is there a particular trait that your vampire HAS to have for you to love it? Or are you open to anything that says “vampire” on it?
Clay and Susan Griffith are writers who have also been married for over 15 years. They are the co-authors of The Greyfriar and The Rift Walker, (Pyr Books), the first two novels in the Vampire Empire trilogy. The books are a rousing combination of pulp adventure, steampunk fantasy, and romance. Paul Goat Allen, the sci-fi/fantasy moderator of B&N.com, referred to Vampire Empire as “the future of genre fiction.” The third book of the series will be published in 2012.
Clay and Susan have written many comic books over the years including The Tick, The Man-Eating Cow and, more recently, Allan Quatermain and the Lord of Locusts. They also script and contribute to the tv/web show Monster Creature Feature (www.mcftv.com).
Oh, and James Marsters (Spike himself!) is narrating the audio version of Vampire Empire. Check out this link for a sample of The Greyfriar.