Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fiction for those who like non-fiction and what is it with vampires?

One of the great things (among others) about being a blogger is receiving advanced copies of books in the mail. Yesterday, Lawrence Kane, the author of such non-fiction books as The Little Black Book of Violence: What Every Young Man Needs to Know About Fighting and Surviving Armed Assaults sent me his new work of fiction, "Blinded by the Night," that comes out soon.

I must admit that I am not much of a fiction reader. As a psychologist, I find truth to be stranger and more interesting than fiction, but I decided to give Kane's book a try. I am still not finished and plan on taking it with me on vacation, but I must say, so far that it reads like non-fiction and held my interest with the intriguing characters. I like the fact that Kane himself is a martial artist, and works in the security field as this insight gives real life to his characters, mainly in the form of officer Richard Hayes who is a Seattle cop.

The book opens with the reader learning about Hayes's life and what is going through the mind of a cop as he works with various predators. This is the stuff I'm interested in. At some point, Hayes goes hunting for a serial killer, and then the book runs more into metaphysical fantasy when he finds out that "the vampire he destroyed was the ruler of an eldritch realm...By some archaic rule, having defeated the monster's sovereign in battle, Richard becomes their king. Now he is responsible for a host of horrors who stalk the night, howl at the moon, and shamble through the darkness."

Now, normally, here is where I would drop out of the book, figuring that the fiction aspects would bore me, but Kane's use of psychological insight and his knowledge of the inner world of cops and martial arts has kept me reading. It's quite insightful and full of information about how this particular cop thinks about violence, which has piqued my interest.

Anyway, I'll stop here and read some more but I do have one question to ask of readers: Why are these darn vampires, like those in the Twilight series so interesting to consumers of fiction?

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22 Comments:

Blogger Doom said...

I have known people like you, who get off the fiction boat at "the ludicrous edge", that point where the unbelievable becomes the point of the story. But what you have found is why I do enjoy some particular brands of the genre. Or have, when I read.

Vampires, werewolves, and the undead, for example, may have started out boldface fictions I enjoyed as a child. Then I realized, they are just as real as sociopaths, pedophiles, and mass murderers. Some might even say that is what the stories are often about. Vampires, for example, remind me very much of pedophiles. Sometimes they kill for their "need", sometimes they create another like them, they are secretive, evil, sometimes this, sometimes that. A parallel.

And, in another sense, while living in a ultra liberal area, I learned to codify words for less controversial discussions. For example, vampires was a code word for gays/lesbians and werewolves for cross-dressers/transsexuals. And, to some extent, was based on the frequent secrecy and nightlife aspect of the one and the shape-shifting of the other. All in good fun, though the conversations often received more attention for the seeming heated debates... about fictitious creatures! Too funny, but maybe you had to have been there.

Anyway, sounds interesting. If I read anymore, I might have to pick that one up. No movies or books, mostly, anymore, if for zombie versus lich reasons.

12:54 PM, July 21, 2010  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

"Why are these darn vampires, like those in the Twilight series so interesting to consumers of fiction?"

I find those repellent in a 'blech' way. Not particularly fear inducing.

Nosferatu? Quite another story.

1:44 PM, July 21, 2010  
Blogger David said...

There was an article in Atlantic (I think it was) asserting that vampire stories are a metaphor for the typical adolescent girl's feelings about sexuality.



Any validity to this, or is the author maybe projecting her own feelings?

3:04 PM, July 21, 2010  
Blogger David said...

Link to the Atlantic article:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/12/what-girls-want/7161/

3:05 PM, July 21, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

If the Atlantic story is titled "What Girls Want" we have to hope it's more enlightening than the recent Megan McArdle series about how "girly" guys are for learning how to interact with the opposite sex.

The simplest (and correct, in my opinion) explanation for the recent vampire obsession is that it's the ultimate bad-boy fantasy.

3:15 PM, July 21, 2010  
Blogger Armed Texan said...

I think it has a rather simple explanation. Vampires, once authors began stripping away the ugly aspects, become super rogues with very few consequences for their actions.

4:22 PM, July 21, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

Nosferatu was a great movie. A real history piece.

Apologies for the thread hijack; on a totally different topic of interest to the blog.

I've been noodling around for something helpful to do for the overall misandry situation. One things I've noticed in my reading is that it is absolutely, unforgivably essential to have a competent, proactive attorney represent you when going up against the divorce or DV system. Incompetent counsel has been a major factor in a lot of miscarriages of justice.

Moreover, it's always best to build long-term relationships with attorneys to speed along their service and get low-level legal advice to head off problems.

Has any group made the effort to put together a nationwide index of good, anti-misandrist attorneys who have been successful in fighting the system on behalf of fathers, husbands, boyfriends and/or male college students? Do enough of these lawyers exist? Would they dare advertise themselves as such and incur the wrath of the activists?

That would be a very useful resource for us to stop a lot of these problems before they start...not to mention have people to call who can handle politics and legal publicity when we need to expose an injustice. Anybody have any input?

4:42 PM, July 21, 2010  
Blogger Kevin M said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:03 PM, July 21, 2010  
Blogger Vader said...

"I must admit that I am not much of a fiction reader. As a psychologist, I find truth to be stranger and more interesting than fiction, but I decided to give Kane's book a try."

Precisely my feelings, as a (very amateur) historian.

6:48 PM, July 21, 2010  
Blogger BlogDog said...

The vampire is the essential "other." A being of more power than a human is capable of yet something that a human can *become* given the right bite. It seems to me a reflection of the desire of people to be more than they are.

7:18 PM, July 21, 2010  
Blogger Trust said...

@Topher said...The simplest (and correct, in my opinion) explanation for the recent vampire obsession is that it's the ultimate bad-boy fantasy.
@Armed Texan said... I think it has a rather simple explanation. Vampires, once authors began stripping away the ugly aspects, become super rogues with very few consequences for their actions.
@BlogDog said...The vampire is the essential "other." A being of more power than a human is capable of yet something that a human can *become* given the right bite. It seems to me a reflection of the desire of people to be more than they are.
_________________

Edward "it takes all my strength not to drink your blood" Cullen is the flavor of the month in this regard.

I think the above posts are all true.

I also think Edward gives many women both what they want and the excuse they want to keep their image.

I know more of the Twilight books that I wish I did, because, tragically, my wife is obsessed with them and i've seen all the movies. There is dark little Edward. Throwing cars off her with super strength. Giving her 50 mph piggy back rides. Carrying her to the tree tops to watch the sunset. Fighting and killing other vampires that want her blood (that Edward calls a heroine he must resist). Sneaking into her room stalking her (oh, i mean so sweetly watching her sleep). So on and so on. Yet women say, with a straight face that it isn't his super vampire bad boy side, it is the fact that he's from the 20s and chivalrous. I dont beleive that...i doubt a woman's fantasy is one of their great grandpa's buddies. I think they'd be more attracted to Edward as a killer than the 20's man that isn't a vampire and genuinely kind.

In any case, in soap operas, they ride in on motorcycles and beat people up the melt, in movies they are otherwise cruel or detached then change, and in print they are now vampires (or werewolves) resisting the urge to kill you (cuz they really are so kind natured). It's just another play on the bad boy is best fantasy that has destroyed many women's (and children's) lives.

9:54 PM, July 21, 2010  
Blogger Johnny1A said...

The Twilight stories, and their ilk, make perfect sense when you realize that they aren't vampire stories at all. They're actually pretty formulaic romance novels/movies, and follow most of the familiar tropes of such.

Thus, the question should be, instead of 'Why are vampires so appealing?', why does the 'leading man' character in romantic fiction have the traits he does, and what makes them appealing as a fantasy image?

Often, the 'leading mam' in a romantic fictin is both the alpha player and the beta reliable guy in one.

Often he was a player (in some way) up until his met the leading female, but he'll give that up and be with her because she's so special and loving and she reached him. Often, the male lead also has some convenient inner wound she can soothe.

He's also usually a tough guy who can be counted on to protect the heroine from all harm, too, but though he might bluster and threaten, he'll never REALLY harm her.

It's the mirror-image of certain tropes in male-oriented porn stories, and works for mirror-image reasons.

Rhett Butler is probably the 'classic' male lead for the formula romance (though Gone With The Wind is now famous precisely because it deviates from the standard formula at the end, ditto Casablanca).

The current-day 'vampire' version is just that 'romantic outsider tough guy' in a slightly more extreme form. (It also throws in the trope of 'young and sexy forever' and 'no grownup relationship responsibilities' as a side order.)

11:19 PM, July 21, 2010  
Blogger Francis W. Porretto said...

"Why are these darn vampires, like those in the Twilight series so interesting to consumers of fiction?"

Ever since Bram Stoker, the allure of the vampire has comprised two powerful components: sex and scariness. Consider the PBS production of Dracula, which starred Louis Jourdan, and Frank Langella's movie Dracula, with Kate Nelligan and Laurence Olivier.

Male sexuality embeds a generous helping of the desire to conquer, and female sexuality a matching dollop of yearning to submit. The male vampire embodies sex-as-conquest to an extent impossible for a normal male hero. Indeed, he's the archetype of the conqueror, who takes the ultimate token of submission from the vanquished: blood.

Sadly, we live in an age where such obvious facts must be downplayed for fear of offending NOW and the homosexuals who write for Sex and the City. But denying a fact doesn't make it untrue.

5:31 AM, July 22, 2010  
Blogger Bill said...

A recurring theme in my blog posts: I don't get vampirephilia. To vampires, YOU ARE CATTLE. They are monsters that EAT PEOPLE.

I just don't see the attraction.

9:35 AM, July 22, 2010  
Blogger alexamenos said...

Dr. H:Why are these darn vampires, like those in the Twilight series so interesting to consumers of fiction?
-----------------
Twilight = Softcore porn for girls

10:17 AM, July 22, 2010  
Blogger Edgehopper said...

Bill-

Take a look at the Harry Dresden series, where the vampires despite often being clearly sex-based are very clear about seeing people as cattle. They aren't necessarily villains (the entire series is written in pulp detective novel style, and few if any of the factions are actually "good"), but they're a lot more interesting.

(In general: The Harry Dresden series is urban fantasy set in modern Chicago; Harry is a wizard with a phone book listing who acts like an old fashioned private eye...except the criminals are supernatural--necromancers, vampires, werewolves, demons, faeries, and similar. It's very well written.)

12:21 PM, July 22, 2010  
Blogger 楊儀卉 said...

加油-不論如何都支持你..................................................

2:11 AM, July 23, 2010  
Blogger 士凱士凱 said...

缺少智慧,就是缺少一切..................................................

5:32 AM, July 23, 2010  
Blogger Eric Blair said...

The whole "vampire psychosexual" thing may have some truth to it; Stephen King wrote about this many years ago in his analysis of supernatural fiction.

But I'm with Bill. Vampires are animated corpses with mind control powers and a communicable disease. Not very sexy to me.

As far as "Twilight," this says it all:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lu_PY405f40

6:47 PM, July 24, 2010  
Blogger Marlon M. said...

Over the centuries vampires have...evolved?...from ravenous beasts to nosferatu to erudite nobility to today's sparkly emos and metrosexuals.

I think it's all part of how much easier civilization has made life. We've got so much, and are so jaded, there's Survivor and amusement parks and extreme sports and so on.

Vampire and werewolf tales lose their "romance" when friends and neighbors still get eaten by wild beasts.

1:45 AM, July 26, 2010  
Blogger Johnny1A said...

Re: Harry Dresden.

Excellent point by Edgehopper, Butcher even addresses the 'romantic vampire' concept in his Dresden Files story Turn Coat, using the most human, least innately monstrous of the different kinds of vampires in the story, the White Court. It's still pretty unsexy when they really cut loose.

9:03 PM, July 27, 2010  
Blogger Johnny1A said...

Bill said: [i]A recurring theme in my blog posts: I don't get vampirephilia. To vampires, YOU ARE CATTLE. They are monsters that EAT PEOPLE.[/i]

Murderers on death row have female groupies in real life, too. Hannibal Lecter turned into a sort of romantic anti-hero, too.

9:15 PM, July 27, 2010  

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