This week’s Entertainment Weekly delivers the ultimate guide to vampires. You’ll find interviews with the authors behind Twilight and True Blood, our list of the 20 greatest bloodsuckers ever, and Anne Rice’s pick for the best new vampire — as well as a talk with her about how she revolutionized the vampire legend decades ago with Interview with a Vampire.
With Twilight a phenomenon, True Blood attracting converts by the millions, and hordes of new vampire projects looming in the shadows, bloodsuckers are haunting every corner of our lives: bookstores, television, movies, and more. Why has pop culture thrown open its door and invited them in? “The traditional vampire story, with monsters and victims, chases and chills, is more plain fun,” says True Blood’s executive producer Alan Ball. “But they can often reveal the general state of the cultural psyche.”
Vampires are such versatile symbols now that they can express both conservative and liberal views. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels are steeped in her Mormon values. But True Blood speaks in part for gays and, as Ball puts it, “eight years of institutionalized demonization of pretty much any group that wasn’t on the bus with Mr. Bush.”
It may come as a surprise to learn that Meyer – reigning queen of pop culture’s vampire coven – has an uneasy relationship with them. Back in 2003, when she was writing the first draft of Twilight, she refused to show it to her husband. “I was embarrassed,” she said. “It was about vampires.” In fact, last year, she told EW that her great wish was to reclaim some time to write something new. “Look, I’m not just a vampire girl,” she said emphatically. “I can do other worlds.”
Laurell K. Hamilton, author of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter books, has her own thoughts on the Twilight phenomenon. “Stephenie Meyer has come and she’s taken the genre that I sort of pioneered. Her original audience was 11- and 12-year-olds, so she – very rightly – sanitized the genre. She took out a lot of the sex and violence, especially for the first book…I ask people, Why has this really captured you? What I heard from all ages is that it was very romantic that he was willing to wait for her and that there was no sex. They like the idea that [Bella] was like the fairy princess and [Edward] is the handsome prince that rides in and saves her. The fact that women are so attracted to that idea – that they want to wait for Prince Charming rather than taking control of their own life – I find that frightening.”
When asked why people find vampires so appealing, Anne Rice (author of the series The Vampire Chronicles) says, “I think people are intrigued by what they would do if they were offered the opportunity to be a vampire. Would they be willing to drink human blood in order to be immortal? Maybe they would.”