Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Why I hate vampires, and why I want to write about them

Buffy the Vampire SlayerI’ve been thinking recently about vampires.

As monsters go, I don’t consider vampires particularly scary. In fact, I tend to think of accepted vampire mythology as ridiculous: vampires are hampered in so many ways that it seems to be almost impossible for them to operate as effective killers – which is what most vampire fiction attempts to depict them as.

Of course, the word ‘vampire’ doesn’t always suggest the supernatural. We use it to mean a number of things: ‘parasitic’, ‘pale’, ‘bad’. It’s a lovely word; it has a richly evil sound, thanks to its Eastern European etymology. However, early vampire myths – particularly from Romania – stem from a fear of deviance from normality: people born with physical abnormalities (such as a caul or tail) or who were conceived out of wedlock were shunned as vampires.

I’ve been watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer again. Despite the fact that it’s a show from my school days, I didn’t see more than a couple of episodes until about two years ago, when I was lent a series at a time by a friend. Since New Year, I’ve been collecting the DVDs, and – more than a decade after it was first aired – the show is still fresh and modern when compared to some of the tat on the box today.

Mostly, it’s the writing. The dialogue is warm and genuinely funny, and the characters – insane and stupid though they often are – are believable despite the fantastical settings and stories. For me, however, the most interesting characters are not Buffy, Willow and Xander. I find the vampires much more interesting.

Spike and Angel are the obvious examples in this. But even discounting these two, you’ve still got the Master, Harmony, Willow’s alternate self, Drucilla and a ton of minor characters. Vampires in Buffy are more real to the audience than half the regular cast of good guys. Just look at Riley Finn.

Vampire fiction – Hollywood in particular – tends to miss the point. Okay, there are a few gems: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Interview With A Vampire and The Lost Boys: films that deliberately humanise the vampire characters. But for every one of these, you have twenty films where the vampires are boringly disposable. Underworld, From Dusk Till Dawn, I Am Legend, Blade. Even when they attempt to give their vampires character, they miss the humanity because they’re so focussed on making the vampires evil.

Vampires are not interesting when they want to eat people. They are interesting when they are different, when they survive and prosper despite their limitations.

Anyway, I’ve started writing some vampire fiction. I’m going for a mix of pop-culture and traditional fare, but the major difference is that my vampires will not be playing second-fiddle to a group of less-interesting ‘good guys’. My vampires, in fact, aren’t even going to be evil. I’m picking out what I feel is most interesting: the idea of vampires as social deviants.

They’ll be fucked-up, depressed, stupid and weak. In other words, they’ll be as human as the rest of us and – hopefully – all the more interesting for it.

3 comments:

Lily said...

I'd love to read some of this when it's done

I love Buffy, it rocked

On a shallow level Faith was the hottest chick EVER, especially when she kicked ass. We all sat around discussing Eliza Dushku the other day with faraway looks in our eyes & dreamy smiles, for oh, at least ten mins :)

You're right about Riley though. I mean jeez. The writers & directors deserve a beating for that one, but I guess it shows they're human too

notwelshman said...

More of a Anya fan, personally.

I could see where they were going with Riley, but that series is pretty much the worst in the entire Buffy run - no thanks to having a bad guy with a floppy disk drive on his chest. Don't know why they bothered fighting him - surely he'd have been taken down by the next Windows update?

Melvin said...

Faith rocked - you should see Tru Calling cuz Eliza's great in that too.
Gotta say the Mayor was always my favourite character from the Buffyverse, but if I had to choose a 'good' guy I'd go Spike.