Varieties of Vampires

images-1.jpgIt’s possible that the fictional character Dracula as developed by Bram Stoker and epitomized by Bela Lugosi created such an archetypical boogyman that alternate interpretations of the blood-sucking undead tend not to be met with much success. Yet with the recent transformation of the undead from the traditional fiction of the zombie into the current brain-eating rage that is in all the movies and generating cute but boring knock-offs of some of the greatest novels of all time, the vampire now has enough space and time to change himself (herself, itself, theirselves).

Yes, let the zombies go bump in the night, rampage whole towns and shopping malls, but let the vampires be reborn. Many years ago I read Interview with a Vampire: it was good and brought a certain freshness to the subject that Hammer could never provide. But then Anne Rice got too enamored by blood and lace and half-way through the second volume I completely lost interest, never to read another Rice novel … never, ever, ever.

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CarmillaWe’ve all read Bram Stoker’s very commercially successful treatment of the vampire stories in the character of Dracula. Written in 1897 and adapted to the stage and later to the movies, Dracula became the modern archetype of the vampire. But Stoker didn’t in fact introduce the vampire to the English speaking world. The Irish writer, J. Sheridan Le Fanu, provided a wonderfully creepy treatment of the vampire in his 1872 novel Carmilla.

Carmilla reads just like a movie: a strange woman comes to the castle and her daughter stays behind to be a companion to the young lady of the house. But strange things happen and the young lady begins to fall ill. Furthermore, other young women in the area are taken ill and rapidly die. Concern for the guest leads to discovery that she disappears at night, as if through solid walls, and doesn’t join the household until later in the day.

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