{Guest} Andrew Boylan

Hello Fangers and Fiends, today I am thrilled to welcome vamp afficionado and author Andrew (Andy) M Boylan to my humble piece of cyberspace.

Andy’s knowledge of vampires in books, movies and well…every medium out there is staggering. He is a walking encyclopaedia of all things vampire.  I was determined this extremely talented and well-read man should hide his light under a bushel no longer, neither should he greedily hoard all that knowledge.  For your reading pleasure, please allow me to present…Andy M Boylan. (cue the spotlight and applause)

There’s Little New Under the Sun

I was approached by Bek to write a guest blog and I was honoured, to say the least, but did ask if she had a general subject that she wanted me to write about. She suggested the changing face of the vampire through the centuries. To caveat, we are talking about the vampire in media and not the traditional/folkloric vampire and I am looking specifically at the European/US standard vampire.

However, as I pondered the assignment I started to think that it was all well and good but, in honesty, there is little new under the sun (including vampires going out in sunny weather, as being destroyed by the sun only appeared in the genre over a century after Polidori). The genre does evolve, aspects become mainstream and also become fashionable but these are often tropes that have been explored deliberately or accidentally before.

Let us take the beautiful vampire and the horrific vampire. Both crop up over and again. The first English language vampire story was John W Polidori’s The Vampyre: A Tale, published in 1819. This story captured the imagination of the world and we had the first surge of vampire genre popularity. The story spawned unofficial sequels, plays and operas. It featured the vampire Lord Ruthven (pronounced Riven), a thinly veiled parody of Lord Byron and so, when Byronesque vampires became all the rage they were nothing new.

Lord Ruthven certainly had a presence “Those who felt this sensation of awe, could not explain whence it arose: some attributed it to the dead grey eye, which, fixing upon the object’s face, did not seem to penetrate, and at one glance to pierce through to the inward workings of the heart; but fell upon the cheek with a leaden ray that weighed upon the skin it could not pass.” (1) Indeed his face was handsome, “In spite of the deadly hue of his face, which never gained a warmer tint, either from the blush of modesty, or from the strong emotion of passion, though its form and outline were beautiful”. (1)

On the contrary the anti-hero of the Penny Dreadful Varney the Vampire, or, the Feast of Blood by James Michael Rymer, which was published between 1845 and 1847, Varney is described in terms that make it clear he is very ugly (when he gets the girl, for matrimony, it is more often because they or their mother is a gold digger). So, already, we have polar opposites and Dracula does not help us – indeed the first two films of the book polarise the genre. The Dracula of the book is not a pretty picture but he is not as hideous as portrayed in Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens. However a decade later Bela Lugosi would create the archetypal Dracula image in his suave portrayal of the Count in Universal’s Dracula.

1931 Movie: Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi

I have seen it argued that the complex vampire character was developed by Anne Rice in the 1976 novel Interview with the Vampire but she was over a century too late. Whilst she popularised it (and more so popularised the vampire at war with his/her nature), Varney got there first. The three volumes worth of Varney sees a complex and contradictory character – some of which was accidental, due to the writing process of Penny Dreadfuls that saw the first mass production of crowd pleasing pulp. Varney was at war with himself, sometimes revelling in his nature and at others trying to end his undead existence (not that it was termed undead, Stoker hadn’t invented the word yet).

To some degree – concept wise, rather than story – one could almost recast Interview with the Vampire, replacing Lestat with Lord Ruthven and Louis with Varney. Move on to the re-popularisation of vampires through the TV series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and perhaps we could see Spike as Lestat and Angel as Louis.

Of course, one might argue, the Twilight saga did new things. After all, in those books/films the vampires sparkle… Yes they do, but the whole being at war with their own nature is a trope in the genre that goes back centuries. A truly romantic love between a mortal and a vampire can be traced as far back as 1797 and the love that exists between the female vampire and her mortal lover in Von Goethe’s The Bride of Corinth.

It has been suggested to me that the entire sparkling aspect of Twilight indicates that Stephenie Meyer was, subconsciously, writing about angels rather than vampires (which would make the bad vampires fallen angels, I guess). In recent history this is nothing new for vampires at odds with their nature, for instance Mick St John from Moonlight is associated by name to a saint and Buffy’s Angel has an obvious correlation.

However a relationship with the divine is nothing new. The vampire Bettina is not an angel, in the 1820 The Vampire Lord Ruthwen, an unofficial sequel to Polidori’s The Vampyre: A Tale, by Cyprien Bérard, however she is an instrument of divine wrath. She is raised by God and given instruction by an angel, as she tells us: “A celestial angel appeared to me. I saw him. He was suspended in mid-air, an azure cloud sustaining his deployed wings, and his dazzling aureole announced the messenger of a powerful God. ‘Young woman of the Lido,’ he said, ‘prayer has moved the Eternal. By virtue of a favour that can only emanate from divine grandeur, your soul, pure in its early days, will conserve its bounty in the new life that will open up before you. You shall not be the terror of mortals, like those monsters, the detested scourge of haven and humankind.” (2)

And so you can see, there is little new under the sun. But that does not matter, it is in this shifting and turning, this evolving and, ultimately, the malleability that the genre possesses that ultimately makes the genre such a pleasure.

(1)  Polidori, J. W. (1819). The Vampyre: a Tale. In D. J. Skal (Ed.), Vampires: Encounters with the Undead (pp. 37-52). New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2001.

(2)  Bérard, C. (1820). the Vampire Lord Ruthwen. (B. Stableford, Trans.) United States of America: Blackcoat Press, 2011 edition.

Andy Boylan

About the Author: Less mad, bad and dangerous to know and more slightly cuckoo and mildly naughty, Andrew M. Boylan runs the blog Taliesin Meets the Vampires and likes to write fiction every once in a while. He also has a loving wife, a son with teenage sensibilities and two large pooches — one of whom looks suspiciously wolf like. His first reference book, The Media Vampire:  A study of vampires in fictional media, is tentatively slated for a late 2011 publication.

His current release Concilium Sanguinarius is currently available for purchae on Amazon and at most good book retailers.

The Concilium Sanguinarius, the Council of Blood who rule the vampires with an iron fist and manipulate the mortal world from the shadows, with a deftness born of the countless centuries.

 In New York, as the millennium moves and the twenty first Century dawns, a female vampire, Danaan, feels pangs of loneliness and begins to search the night for a companion.
Also in the city is Ymochel, outcast and distrusted, and eager for revenge on the Concilium and, more specifically, Danaan.

Theirs is a history that crosses boundless centuries and a myriad taboos, but now their histories converge in the most violent of ways. But do they act alone, or is a more sinister power at work? What occurs between them threatens the entire stability of vampire society.

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About Bek Harrington

Writer, author, vampire fan and historical enthusiast. You'll often find me crusing the internet under the guise of my alter ego, 3000 year old vampire "Bektamun"

Posted on 23/09/2011, in Guests and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Can’t say I entirely agree with you. Certainly there are no new ideas under the sun, but there ARE ebbs and flows in popularity of ideas, and the one that appears to be on the rise, (perhaps in response to the overwhelming saturation of the market with the image of the vampire as romantice figure) is the growth of the vampire genre as plague-like epidemic. This seems to be the direction of the future for this genre, with the popularity of The Passage and Stake Land being key indicators of this. While this is not entirely new (indeed, I Am Legend was written in 1954, and is an early precursor to this) it is not one that has been explored with much depth thus far. This area has lots of possibility for growth and “new” ideas.

  2. Very cool, very concise and very cogent. The three Cs!

  3. Margaret, true there are ebbs and flows but the plague vampire itself is (to a degree) an older trope than I am Legend. Nosferatu, for instance, brought plague with him when he landed and, in real life, the exhumation of Mercy Brown (as an example) would seem to be due to a tuberculosis outbreak.

    I am Legend, of course, brought us the idea of an entire population succumbing to a vampiric plague. It has been mightly examined however in the zombie genre, as Romero was inspired by I am Legend.Stake Land, Daybreakers, the Strain and the Passage all reclaim the idea and it certainly has flowed rather than ebbed at the moment. That said, I agree that there is still plenty of room for growth, evolutiona and exploration of thiws particular trope.

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