Fandom, fangs and several thousand words
Andrew M Boylan
The vampire gazed hard at the cold, unyielding mirror. His eyes implored and yet could not capture the merest glimpse of his visage. The painful truth was that the looking glass refused to hold his image and no amount of scrying, no searching in its cold eye, night after night, through countless centuries would ever change that…
I wrote the previous paragraph as I tried to mentally conjure the words for this guest blog. After being approached and asked to write about my writing, I twisted the request to look at my love of the vampire genre – after all, the majority of the writing I actually do is for my vampire genre blog, Taliesin Meets the Vampires. Once the initial euphoria and ego boost, born of Carole’s request, had worn off I stared at a blank Word sheet, and stared and stared. It was at that point that I wrote the paragraph and discovered that I had found a starting place, a point from which the words could then flow.
At the time of writing this I am a 41 year old, I have a lovely (long suffering) wife and a son. I also write and maintain the blog mentioned above, which necessitates me reading and watching a whole load of genre books and DVDs. That’s not to say I didn’t before, but now I have an excuse to be obsessive.
I’ve always been a touch obsessive, for as long as I can remember. I’ve always like to collect and to hoard. What I cannot remember is the first time I watched a vampire film or even saw a vampire on TV. I know I will have seen the occasional vampire on Scooby Doo and know, as well, that I laughed along with Count Von Count on Sesame Street. In my formative years I certainly watched Isle of the Dead (1945) and I remember loving the film.
The film, staring Boris Karloff, is somewhat of an oddity within the vampire genre as it doesn’t actually have a vampire in it – nor does it directly mention one. The film is concerned with the superstition of the vorvolaka, a Greek variety of vampire that is a hybrid of the vampire and werewolf mythology – being the spirit of a wolf trapped within a human form that drains the life from others, and sometimes feeds upon blood. There is no way that I knew what a vorvolaka was back then and for many years I could only remember a great film in black and white during which the main protagonists ended up praying to the old gods because something bad was going on – which is not the best synopsis but memory is a cruel mistress. It was only as an adult that I discovered that the film I remembered as being great was not only a classic of the horror genre but was a vampire film as well.
I’m sure that I will have seen several vampire movies as a child, especially the Hammer Horror releases, but the first one I really remember, the first that I loved, was the 1979 Dracula staring Frank Langella. I remember my Grandfather hiring it from a video shop – bless him, he used to hire me any film I wanted, age restrictions be damned – and spending a day watching it over and over again, until it had to be returned. As suggested, my obsessive streak was just as strong then.
The film itself is a prime example of one of the aspects of the vampire genre that attracts people. It took the horrific figure of the vampire from folklore, which had filtered through (primarily) the pen of Bram Stoker, and made the vampire a romantic, seductive figure. The film had its moments of horror. Kate Nelligan as Lucy, her dirt encrusted dead face leering out of the dark at Van Helsing (Laurence Olivier) is still a haunting scene now. I was also horrified at the time, and strangely thrilled, that the vampire could function during the day. Remember I was still young and I hadn’t read Stoker (I was probably still re-reading Tolkien over and over at that point).
Yet the most striking thing about the film is the romantic figure of the Count. Of course it is a dark and dangerous romance. This isn’t pink and fluffy romance with hearts and flowers, there is a blackness, there is blood and death. This is romance that a teenage boy (and, of course, his adult counterpart) can watch and not feel embarrassed for doing so. Of course all things can go further and there is also the current trend for pure romance novels/films that feature vampires. These, of course, do not tend to appeal to the teenage boy, but more so the teenage girl (and, of course, her adult counterpart) and they prove that the genre will stretch out and reach into almost any other genre – vampires, I like to say, get everywhere. They appear in comedy films, horror film, romance films, dramas, art-house experiments and more. Most long running TV series will feature a vampire episode at some point, or at least reference the vampire – be it Starsky and Hutch or Gilligan’s Island, CSI or Glee. Regional and international variants ensure that there is always new material appearing and the genre allows one author or scriptwriter or director to build upon the works of another. Causing the figure of the vampire to grow, develop and evolve.
More, the vampire him (or her) self can represent so many, many things. In Isle of the Dead, the vampire represents superstition towering above science and reason, in Dracula (1979) he is dark romance, in some films he is an addict and in others the actual addiction, she can be representative of politics or society or sexuality, repressed or released. They are the pack and they are solitude. They are evil and they are a force of nature, sometimes they are the wrath of God. He can be disease and she can be the cure.
It is because of this versatility that I love the genre so much, and because I love the genre so much I write about it, as writing is what I do. I write my blog and commit literally thousands of words to cataloguing the vampire genre. My fictional prose is also geared towards the genre I love. My novel, Concilium Sanguinarius, is my take on the genre, my attempt to define a small corner of a leviathan of a subject.
The novel does get me into trouble. I have been asked by those who have read it when the next part is due and, indeed, quite a few chapters are written. However it has taken a backseat for some time, real world commitments, the blog and an (almost complete) reference book on vampires have all conspired to delay the completion of the novel.
I think the reason I decided to write about the genre for this guest blog is to say to anyone out there who wants to write, write about something you love and you can’t go wrong because, at the end of the day, whether others like the words or not, whether they are commercially viable or a hidden treasure, the bottom line is the words will be something that you love because they have come from the heart. Of course, any person who likes to write wants to be commercially successful, but if I had to narrow down exactly what I have gained from the words I have written about the genre, it certainly wouldn’t be money! What I have gained, however, are some real and lasting friendships born out of mutual interest and they are what I cherish most.
Taliesin Meets the Vampires: http://taliesinttlg.blogspot.com/
Email: taliesinloki (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) uk
Concilium Sanguinarius is available via Lulu in pdf and print format and through Amazon in print format.
Bio: 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.
Thank you, Andy for that.
Horror author and publisher: Armand Rosamilia
Thank you, Andy for that.
Horror author and publisher: Armand Rosamilia