[reposted from Adventures in SciFi Publishing]
One second, where did I put my Devil’s advocate gloves? Ah, there they are.
The dust jacket on Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight may sparkle in the sunlight but in those pages lie the core of what vampires are about. Maybe not the garlic, sunlight and stake-though-the-heart conventions of the genre but the vampire core element, the fear.
Afraid of Cullen? A Super-soaker full of holy water, a crossbow and a machete to finish him off, what’s to be scared of? That’s the attitude of many genre readers. Forged by so many hours of gaming that they can’t see what monster represents beyond a pile of gold pieces and some experience points. However the Twilight’s XX chromosome audience sees what Edward represents.
There’s been plague of lethal, infectious, blood-sucking ghouls over the centuries. But the Western Vampire myth didn’t gel until it got literary, and sexy, with Dracula. (Fans of Varney the Vampire will cry foul but Varney doesn’t fit my argument and he has a stupid name so for the purposes of this article he never existed.) The Transylvanian Terror was perfectly upsetting for an uptight Victorian Englishman. He came from foreign shores, causing madness and coveting the English womb, transmitting Vampirism according to a new science, germ theory. Like the lethal STD of the day, syphilis.
When penicillin turned syphilis from a long, slow death into an embarrassing inconvenience Dracula lost his edge. Eventually reduced to chasing Abbot and Costello and playing George Hamilton for O negative blood.
Then came the 80s and AIDs, the next big thing in fatal STDs. But we’d had the sexual revolution and we weren’t going to give that up easily. Contamination became sexy again with Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat. He’s bad for you, but you couldn’t help yourself. The taint was everywhere, something you lived with. In the role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade they were part of the system as symbols of political and economic corruption. The nation learned to live with HIV we let the vampires into our homes. From the bad boys of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the softcore shenanigans of True Blood they’ve become less monster and more rockstar.
Twilight is the latest story disinfecting the vampire; from disease to sexual disease to sex. In the uptight, Mormon upbringing of author Stephanie Meyers sex was a fearful sin under the wrong conditions. It’s the loss of virginity, a physical transformation as eternal as death. A challenge facing all girls as sex looms on the horizon, while their moms wax nostalgic for those younger days of innocence and purity. The penetration metaphor remains but the prick of a fang has transformed into just a prick. You can see how 90% of men can’t relate.