Why Vampires? In Defense of a Dark Symbol

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            I wrote the following article for “Robin’s Nest,” my web domain of “Den of Insanity” (later called “Artisan’s Republic”) many years ago. I have made just a few changes to update the progress of the manuscripts in progress. Today the issue it discusses is more pertinent than ever. Picture, if you will, a mob of villagers armed with torches and pitchforks, chasing a “monster” down in the dark of the night. The monster? A writer of fiction.

            The writer takes a stand in front of the old, creaking windmill. This is what she says—or tries to, before they cast her down from her pedestal and burn her to death:

Some of my friends who share my Christian faith don’t seem to understand what I am doing in writing my AVS fiction series. It’s true we say people don’t understand us if they disagree with us, but most of the people who disapprove of my writing about vampires haven’t even heard me explain my story and its purpose, much less read a word of it. All they have to do is hear the word “vampire,” and they think I’m doing something terrible. One of them went so far as to inform me, “Don’t you know God doesn’t want you to write about vampires?” It’s interesting that she knows better than I do what God wants me to do, especially when I have been working on this story for years.

Why do I care what people think? These people are my brothers and sisters in the faith. I need their prayers and encouragement over a work whose main idea, I believe, was inspired by the Lord himself. It’s hard enough that this is a crossover novel that may be hard to place with a publisher. I need all the moral support I can get. And I love talking about my writing because, second to God Himself, it is my greatest passion.

It has been hard having my various subject matters rejected by fellow Christians over the years, anyway. Fantasy? No, it has to be realistic. Romance? That’s naughty. Do any characters cuss? Do any characters have sex? Even think or talk about sex? Then forget it! Some people—not all—are quick to condemn everything they possibly can. They seem to think it is their ministry to discourage people like me.

My AVS series has a few scattered cuss words in the mouths of my characters. Shocked? I cuss myself sometimes, mostly when I’m really angry. God hasn’t hit me with a lightning bolt yet. I know that doesn’t prove He approves, but I just don’t feel it’s such a terrible sin to let each character talk in the way that is natural for him or her. I think it would bring more attention to cussing if I censored them each time by always saying “she cursed.” There is a meaning to their words; it’s not just cussing for no reason. They are not the kinds of people who cuss all the time so that their words lose meaning. These characters do not start as Christians, but the stories do have a Christian message. When a few of my characters get involved sexually, it is not on camera, as it were. By letting them do that, I am also letting them be themselves, not condoning their activities but instead showing some possible consequences. What is wrong with presenting human beings realistically? Because of the existence of vampires in my stories, they are a type of fantasy, but when I write fantasy, I work all the harder to keep all mundane details as mundane as possible, to create the illusion that such an event could really happen and to express the realities of human life.

What is it that bothers many Christians about vampires? I’m not entirely sure. For one thing, I think these people make assumptions. Does my writing glorify evil? No. The Bible speaks of evil, including Satan himself. It doesn’t condone evil but instructs in fighting against it. I’m doing the same thing, and in a similar way—through the lives of imperfect people who struggle with difficult issues. Am I claiming vampires are real? No. There are real people who drink blood but not who grow fangs like dogs and live on blood indefinitely. And there are still some people today who believe the undead exist (like Montegue Summers, who wrote books about vampires), but by writing fiction that uses some of these ideas I am not proclaiming my own belief in vampires any more than Tolkien claimed he believed in the reality of elves. My Christian friends may assume that I am trying to copy Anne Rice or some other vampire writer. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t think it was a fresh approach for a worthy cause. Least of all, I’m not copying any vampire movies.

Disclaimer: It is possible to dwell upon evil too much, and I have sometimes done so while writing about my vampires. It harmed my mental, spiritual, and even physical health. I learned from that and sought out greater balance in my life. But you can’t write a story about the battle between good and evil without some evil in it. And what subject is more worthy than good verses evil?

I didn’t think of vampires as a subject for some of my writing until a certain dream suggested a particular story—the one that started it all. But the more I’ve thought about it, and the more I’ve researched the subject, I’ve found many good reasons to write about vampires. This being represents a lot of things that touch us at a deep level, and it can be used to teach us a good deal about life, death, and ourselves.

In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the Count said, “The blood is the life.” This quote comes from the Bible. God required the Israelites to drain the blood out of all their meat and give it to him as an offering. He did not want them to partake of the blood of animals. This prohibition shows the vampire as particularly evil in a tragic way; he is driven to break this law and cannot find sustenance any other way.

Jesus said, “He who has the son has life; he who has not the son has not life.” What was he referring to? He spoke of people who did not believe in him as being “dead in their sins.” He said that to enter the kingdom of God, one had to be “born again,” or “born from above.” If, as he said, the road to life is narrow and the road to destruction wide, most of the human race is spiritually dead. That is not an idea that most people choose to believe. Why, then, are undead creatures such a popular fiction, and why do many act as if vampires are real? Could it be related to some innate sense of not being fully alive?

Traditionally, the vampire is undead. He is a corpse animated either by some altered form of the original soul or by a demon. This is a gruesome counterfeit of the Resurrection. Christ is the first example of what the resurrected righteous will be like in the end. Most people today are probably not aware that God promises a physical existence beyond the grave. But I think we all have a craving for immortality. In a world devoid of belief in an end-time Resurrection, the lure of immortality attracts people to the vampire. Why not let them learn that it is those who are born again spiritually, not those fictional beings who are re-animated supernaturally, who will live forever?

The vampire represents a neediness that takes and never gives. He is appetite run amok… guilt, addiction of any kind, seduction, rape, violence, and murder. He is the bitterness that lingers in the victims of such crimes and urges them to be too much like their abusers. He is the darker side of all of us, something so bad that we sometimes cannot face him except in nightmare or horror story. In the largest application of the idea, vampirism is sin. In a sense, we are all vampires.

If God doesn’t want anyone to write about sin, then why did he inspire the Bible?

If all I wrote about was the dark side, from its own point of view, there would be reason to question it. Yet even the noted Christian writer C.S. Lewis’ famous novel The Screwtape Letters used a demon’s point of view to cleverly communicate Christian truths. My book doesn’t even dwell on the darkness as much as his does. Question if you will, but don’t come to conclusions based on nothing but the word “vampire.” That would be as shallow as a vampire who shies away from a cross without any knowledge of what the Cross means.

For you readers of “Den of Insanity, Robin’s Nest,” I write this. For my Christian friends, I have fallen into a more comfortable tactic. Now if they ask what my story is about, I tell them it’s about a teenager who has prophetic dreams. I get glowing encouragement for that. And really, Mary Lodge needs more attention than her enemy, anyway. A commentator on the “Blade” series complained that in other vampire stories the vampire is the most interesting character but always ends up with a stake in the heart. I want my main character to be at least as interesting as her nemesis. People do like Carletta already. Whether she ends up with a stake in her heart is more than I will reveal here. The novels will also reveal more spiritual truths than I have in this article. Hope you will read the books when they’re finished and published! And if these books are not your cup of tea… at least pray for the many people who will develop a relationship with the living God through them. The world is a large and varied place, and God is much bigger. There is no room for fighting against those who serve Him in a little different way from you.

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The Vampire’s Lure of Youthful Beauty

“Come and join us!” the vampire beckons. “Won’t cost much to be young and beautiful. Just your soul.”

Carletta, the femme fatale of the first two AVS novels-in-progress, epitomizes a standard of youth and beauty. Few can see her fangs. Few know the snares she hides. Are the benefits she offers worth the heartache, and more?

When people learn I’m writing vampire fiction, many say, “Good for you, that’s a very popular subject right now.” And they’re right. Vampire books abound, you can take your pick of vampire shows and movies, rock artists sing about them, and the web abounds with them. Some agents and editors even discourage writers from the subject because the market is flooded. They want something new—no more vampires, or at least a really fresh angle on them. I trudge on with my project, not so much because of the craze but because I have something to say that I believe is fresh as well as important.

Why are people so interested in vampires today, anyway?

The reasons are myriad. One is that the vampire holds time still, freezing youth in its place. The fountain of youth has such an appeal that some people, fictional or real, will pay any price for it—even blood. Even their souls.

It’s not a new phenomenon. High up in the “real vampire” hall of fame, Elizabeth Bathory bathed in the blood of her virgin maids, convinced that the blood of these poor slaughtered young women gave her youthful beauty.

Barbarism from a previous century, to be sure. But is the present any kinder or more enlightened? What about our own society’s views on beauty? When women who all but give up eating to be walking skeletons are unknowns, we call them anorexics—victims of a disease. But if they are famous—supermodels. Is this not vampirism turned inward? And who drives these poor women to think this way about themselves?

The destruction of the self is an evil close to the destruction of others. I think we need to ask where the anorexia epidemic comes from. Our society’s worship of thin, youthful beauty and its impossible image of “perfection” pay a key role. Who is preying on whom?

Unlike today’s glamorous images, the vampire of ancient folklore was ugly and strange-looking, befitting of a demonically animated corpse. Even Stoker’s Dracula had pointed ears and extra hair, including on the palms of his hands. But today’s vampire fiction abounds with the promise that people who turn into vampires will have perfect, youthful beauty. In Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat, said vampire finds a huge collection of slim, blond young men that his maker, Magnus, discarded and locked up to die in attempt to make the perfect pretty boy (page 93-94, Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 2004). It’s completely a matter of looks. In Christopher Moore’s You Suck, a Love Story, the newly-turned Tommy is returned to a state of infancy in that his acne disappears and his toes straighten as if he has never worn shoes. Jody, who changed him, exclaims, “You’re perfect!” (emphasis mine). Jody says her split ends went away but she’s uncomfortable that she’s stuck needing to lose five pounds (page 7, William Morrow–NY, 2007). In the Twilight saga, Stephenie Meyer continually describes its perpetually teenage vampire hero’s features as perfect and even angelic. All the vampires are so angel-like in appearance, in fact, that they sparkle like diamonds in sunlight. To obtain this beauty for herself, the heroine gladly risks her soul.

The vampire’s lure is bigger than fiction and bigger than actual killers like Bathory. It lurks in the eyes of the supermodel’s audience and our own eyes as we look in the mirror. Do we fear aging and death so much that we would be willing to destroy our own lives and others’ to preserve our own? Is looking beautiful worth more than life itself to us? If so, perhaps vampires are real.

Check out the added content on the “About the AVS” page!

Here is the new content:

It starts with a teaser to the first novel-in-progress for the AVS series.

Next, I corrected the link to my Goodreads blog, “From the Red, Read Robin,” and added descriptive teasers for the short stories on my Goodreads profile that relate to the AVS vampire series.

Last, I mentioned my special services and provided the link to my website about them, which also contains more samples of my writing.

 

More material coming to this blog and to the other one, as time allows. On this blog–possibly on the Goodreads one as well–I plan to post about the agonizing dilemma of having a first novel too long and the need to decide to cut about half of it out or re-form the book into two separate ones. For once I partly identify with Dr. Frankenstein: Creating a monster can really be more than you bargained for! Yes, definitely more on that later. And, eventually, I intend on following up on my promise to write about Carletta interviewing Luke–if they both cooperate, that is. You can never tell about the whims of vampires… especially ones that hate each other. We can only hope they don’t step outside and run beyond my ability to track them, in their own showdown to the death. I can’t run as fast as either of them by a long shot, and I daren’t step between them, in any case.

 

The Genesis of the AVS

 

Twenty years ago I never would have guessed I would be writing about vampires. I have never considered myself a vampire lover as such (never wanted to be a vampire, never thought vampires were creatures to look up to or envy, never thought drinking blood was cool, etc.). And I didn’t pick up the subject because it was popular. In fact, vampires were not much the rage when I was first inspired to write about the AVS. I don’t write anything because it is popular. (I tried that once after meeting an agent who told me fantasy was out and “sweet romance” was the rage. I set aside my fantasies and tried writing a Harlequin Romance. I fell flat on my face with that one; it was the biggest waste of time and effort I ever made, and it was crap. I decided to write what I really wanted to write, popularity be damned, and if people liked it, that would be great.)

What got me on the vampire kick was a dream I had one night. I take my dreams seriously. I often have dreams deep in symbolism, or even dreams that come true. I see many of my dreams as messages from God. I’ve had several that have been ideas for stories, but none so obviously so as the one about the girl vampire with short red hair.

I didn’t record when I had the dream—somewhere around 2000, maybe. I dreamed I was a jilted teenage girl seeing an event that amazed and terrified her. The dream continued with one scene after another, laying out key inciting incidents of a story with me as the main character, acting on the terrible reality of suddenly facing a vampire in her life and experiencing all the girl’s emotions. A confrontation led to a different approach to the subject than I had ever heard of, and ended with a question that demanded an answer.

Next, I was myself, in a wooden locker room, telling a teenage friend that I had had this dream and it was a good idea for a story.

When I woke up and thought over the question the girl in the dream asked, I decided it was a story that needed to be told.

This was back before the publication of Twilight and the craze that made vampires so appealing that readers and viewers practically filed the fangs off the monsters without any expectation of retaliation. I hadn’t even watched “Interview with a Vampire” yet. When I did, I was so spooked I could barely get myself to watch it again. Maybe it’s a bad thing I got used to the movie. But yeah. Vampires, for me, are not the kinds of creatures I want to meet in a dark alley (or anywhere else), and they certainly wouldn’t light up that alley by sparkling. I’m writing about people (whether they be considered human or not) that you love to hate . . . or hate to love.