Call it research. Call it boredom. Whatever you want to call it – I choose to call it ‘getting to know my genre’ – I’ve been reading a lot of vampire books lately. I’ve picked up with some of my older work (To Be A Teenage Vampire, Mathias, Gaea) and then looked more into what other authors are doing or have already done. I was told once that it is important to know your audience, your contemporaries and your competition. Its very true, though I don’t know if I consider these people my ‘competition’ exactly. Silk Over Razor Blades particularly, feels like a very different book to any of those that I’m going to discuss here. That could be my own blinkered sight, or my bias, but I don’t think so.
Anyways, I’m going to spend a while doing this, so this may even spread across two posts. As it is, I’ve decided to split my mini-rant into deciding whether or not vampires in film are still cool, followed by whether vampires in books are still cool. You’ll like this… I really think you will.
I’ll start with Anne Rice and Interview With A Vampire.
Forget for a second that I was probably something like 16 when I first encountered the likes of Louis and Lestat and I did so in the form of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise respectively.
Oh and Antonio Banderas. Oh dear god that man is phiiiine!!! With those creepy, long nails and that lovely dark hair. All fake, yes, yes, I know, but he made a bloody good Armand. I soooo wanted him to kiss Louis, they were so close!
Ahem, anyway, yes, Interview, was probably one of the first vampire films I ever saw and then I made a point of reading the book several years later. The book, written in a peculiar sort of first person narrative style made me love Louis all the more. The book’s voice, which of course was his, was so very sad and yet hard because underneath all of his suffering and pain, there was a hard, solid core of vampire who had to kill to survive.
Unfortunately, I can’t remember the book as well as I remember the film, but the traditional aspects of vampires, like blood drinking, aversion to daylight and sleeping in coffins, were all things that I enjoyed. Early on in my ‘life with vampires’ I understood that these were the norms.
I can’t consider Anne Rice and her Vampire Chronicles a competition to the SORB series simply because vampires in 2011 aren’t like that any more.
Good freakin’ god! I try not to swear in these entries – and often fail – but Blade just pissed me off something rotten, even when I first saw it at about 17 years old? Something like that. I’ve not read the comics, so let’s get that out of the way right now, I’m talking about the films. Considering the fact that I consider Wesley Snipes to be a total douche, those films were just wrong. So very, very wrong! Vampires are born? The hell?! Vampires are hunted by one of their own?! Yikes! I know Blade (stupid name, by the way) is half vamp, but waaaaaaat? And he only has to deal with the ‘bad’ parts of being a vampire. The blood drinking, the aversion to sunlight. What about the awesome stuff he gets on top of that like rapid healing, speed, increased agility and a funky sword (that last one isn’t really to do with being a vampire, but just stay with me on this, okay.)? All he does is whine about it and do his damnedest to be as human as possible.
I think that’s the part I hate most; even in the real world I’m a great advocate of ‘you are what you are; deal with it!’ Not so much fate, or the ‘Grand Master Plan’ or anything religious or daft like that, but mainly that you can’t change what you are deep inside. Maybe you can change your outward appearance, or what people think of you, but if you really are a total dork who collects stamps and patriotic paraphernalia (look out, here comes the royal wedding!), than that’s what you are. Likewise, if you’re a raving sports nut who adores David Beckham and yet hasn’t got a clue who Thesus or Hippolyta are, then burying your face in an upside down copy of Pride And Prejudice isn’t going to fool anybody (particularly anybody who reads Shakespeare or Jane Austin :p).
So why should this film teach that trying to deny who you are is the right way to go about your business? It would have been less of an issue for me if Blade eventually just came to accept what he was, but from what I could see, he seemed to get worse and worse and more whiny as the film went on. I’m not sure about the other two films – its a trilogy, right? – but I really don’t have it in me to give them a chance. Ho hum.
There are lots of version of this bad boy and he’s been around for years (Bram’s Stoker’s novel was published in 1897 I believe?). I think my absolute favourite version has got to be that portrayed by Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Now this definitely does smack of a bit of bias, but Gary Oldman is a god (have you seen Fifth Element? Batman? Air Force One?!) and he plays this character beautifully.
I’m also thrilled that the script was almost lifted word for word (well, at least in the beginning) from the book, with the letters than Jon Harker wrote well as those ones that Mina wrote on her typewriter. The less said about the ended and about Keanu Reeves as an actor the better (I’ve never heard an Englishman talk like that!) but Anthony Hopkins was a pleasure to watch (as always) as was Cary Elwes.
However it is all about Gary Oldman and how he manages to switch from wizened old man – with silly hair, hehee! – to tall, striking, smooth-talking seducer. Its just fabulous! And this incarnation of the character Dracula, pulled off something that, previous to this, I’d not seen enough to satisfy me. The seduction. The power hidden in a human’s lust and how a vampire can use that to find a meal.
All teenagers are obsessed with sex – yes, even girls – and again I was quite young when I watched this, but I think that scene where Lucy left her room in the middle of the night, wandering out into the garden in her nightdress was just beautiful. I mean Dracula, at that point, was a beast; a big, hairy, ugly thing and yet she was still drawn to him. She went to him willingly and offered up her throat for him to take… I absolutely loved that about the film. Its just such a delicious thought… vampires can lure you in! FUCK yeeeeeeeah!
So… at this point, I think I’ve decided that vampires in film are still cool. But this, I’m afraid, doesn’t touch on much of the more modern stuff – post 2001 – simply because I’ve not watched a lot of it. I, personally, think I’m slipping, but things like Daybreakers and Blade Trinity (-_-) just don’t seem to do it. I was interested in Daybreakers and, if I get the chance, will watch it in the near future. But it really does seem to be the older stuff that has kept me the most interested.
Oh. That is of course, until I mention the inevitable.
I know, I know! Every time I have a rant or a long blowout about vampires, these ones come up, but really… sparkling vampires?! Whoever heard of such bollocks? And the fact that my mother claims that ‘the book explains it all as you read it, and it really does make a lot of sense’ is not going to change my mind. It doesn’t make sense. None at all!
Vampires don’t sparkle. Vampires aren’t angsty teenagers who, according to the film, because they are so young, go out of their way to go to school and be ‘normal’ and yet form those horrible, disgusting, pretensious, snotty cliques, that every geek, dork, nerd and outcast fears worse than sports day. Vampires certainly have their fun playing baseball games in the middle of nowhere just so they can ‘play it properly.’ They may have a problem with werewolves (thanks Underworld ) but then, who doesn’t?
Then again, its not the vampires that bother me most in these films (or the books). Its Bella. With her annoying innocence and freakishly stalker-like tendencies. She ain’t so innocent. Lordy and her incurable fascination with the mundane; she went to school, she ate some lunch, this hot boy looked at her; oh fuck I’d better run home and hide in my room! GUH!
Well. Okay. That’s enough about vampire films.
I need to wrap this up by pulling my thoughts together. This isn’t all of the vampire films (or TV shows) I’ve seen, not by a long shot (Vampire In Brooklyn, Dracula Dead And Loving It, Buffy, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Dracula, From Dusk Til Dawn, Blackula, Queen Of The Damned, Van Hellsing etc), but these are the ones that stick in my mind. They stick because they have spoken to me and help shape what the vampires of Silk Over Razor Blades are like.
Not to say that my vampires are the true vampires, but I’ve thought long and hard about what makes sense in the vampire mythos and what doesn’t. About how they can hide themselves from humans (Buffy and most other vampire flicks) or, if the tale spins that way, how they have come to be known and accepted/hunted (Sookie Stackhouse books – True Blood TV Series, Daybreakers). How they live day by day (or night by night), since this is a feature that varies across my novels. Silk Over Razor Blade vampires are very different to Gaea’s vampires who are in turn very different to the vampires of Mathias.
Anyway, the point is, if I compare what I’m doing to screen adaptations of vampires then I’ve got very little to worry about in terms of keeping myself fresh and original. Its in other novels where the real competition begins. o.O I’ll cover that next time.