Thursday, September 13, 2018

VAMPIRES AND EROTICA


      A few years ago I accosted a young woman customer in Barnes & Noble.
“You look to be about the same age as my granddaughters, recent college graduates,” I said. “I want to buy them books for their birthday. What are you guys reading these days?”
She brightened immediately and with a laugh said, “Twillight by Stephanie Meyer.”
“What is it about?” I asked her.
“It’s a fantasy romance about a girl who falls in love with a vampire. It’s a trilogy. It’s a popular book among young women right now.”
I thanked her and bought two of the books. My granddaughters loved them.
This brief encounter piqued my curiosity. I remember seeing the Dracula movie based on Bram Stoker’s book. The Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi played the vampire, Count Dracula.
I assumed that vampire stories were just an offshoot of the horror tales by H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King I used to read in pulp mags, but I was wrong. Vampires first appeared in 18th century poetry before becoming a stock figure in Gothic fiction.  The first vampire story in English, The Vampire by John Polidori, appeared in 1819.  Many short stories and novels about vampires followed, leading to the Twilight books my granddaughters enjoyed.
What is it about vampires that attract young girls and even mature women? Vampires are usually depicted as grisly creatures who spend their days in coffins, emerging at night to kill their victims by drinking their blood. Vampire lore usually includes descriptions of them as powerful, pale men who don’t reflect in a mirror and are repelled by crucifixes and garlic.
Author Anne Rice wrote a series of novels whose vampires ranged from gentle and shy to vicious and savage.  Her novels are often erotic, stimulating sexual feelings without the need for pornography. Psychologists suggest that women are drawn to vampires because they are super beings, powerful and often wealthy.  Go figure.
  So vampire stories are just another form of fantasy that adults and children enjoy. They range from Superman, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Sci-fi movies like Star Wars and Star Trek.  I feel a debt of gratitude to those authors whose imagination and skill have provided us with escapes from the monotony of every day life.