Why is the myth of the vampire so fluid and organic in modern literature? In popular culture our ideas and fears change and evolve into the present. Past, present and even future collide in the vampire. As old as mankind, the vampire has travelled the long and winding road from oral tradition, into print and finally onto the big and small screen. In all the world can you think of anything other than a deity that has travel this road and weathered the storms of human existence.
Why has the vampire survived? Because he evolves, changing to adapt to his changing environment. As people celebrate the 150th anniversary of Darwin's On The Origin of Species, we can study the origin of vampires in a similar way. Society in the nineteenth century provided an environment suited to Bram Stoker's Dracula; although still a religious country, the industrial revolution had produced a culture of secular living and an increasingly educated population. Add to this the mass production of books, the most common being the "Penny Dreadful", and the popularity of the Gothic novel in the early part of the nineteenth century and we have the perfect natural habitat of the literary vampire.
Why has the vampire survived into this millennium? The vampire obviously connected with the population in the nineteenth century and for most of the twentieth century, where the vampire survived almost unchanged. In the 1960s, the vampire became synonymous with sex in cinema. From Christopher Lee's fangs were born a decade of sexually aggressive vampires, both male and female, who paraded across the silver screen in a shabby cape of titillation. In the 1970s and 1980s things began to change. The vampire started on the road to bloodsucking hero and has become a phenomenal success, crossing the genre boundaries so many times that it is now almost impossible to categorise a vampire as just a horror or Gothic creature.
The vampire started life as a mythological, undead creature found throughout history and across the whole world. When the secular nature of modern life threatened the vampire's existence, he evolved into vampiric super villain personified by the actors Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee. In an age of social flux, our vampire metamorphosed into a complex, misunderstood character who agonised over his need to feed. The vampire mirrored the changes in western social structure, his social status lowered and, god forbid, he became a new man. From Lestat to Spike, vampires have become sensitive, suffering from a modern malaise of guilt and depression. Post 1980s, the vampire has adapted again and again until the vampire novels we read and the vampire films we watch now are as far removed from the mythical vampire as it is possible to go.
What next for the vampire? Well he's already stormed the
bastions of teen movie and jumped up and down in excitement with
each new romantic comedy vampire novel or film that's released.
Vampires have been in space already, so is there something new
for the vampire? My guess is there is, because, even taking into
consideration the saturation of the market by the vampire, I
don't think we have seen the vampire's final evolution. Can you
imagine the vampire's next step on the evolutionary ladder? If
you can you'd better write the novel quickly before the vampire
environment changes and the monster must evolve again.