Too Many Vampires
by Debra Fran Baker
They are everywhere. Not in great numbers, and usually hidden, but they are there. All of a sudden, in some random fic list, the poor, unsuspecting reader opens a story and finds out that her favorite characters have become bloodsucking creatures of the night. Some may be pleased at this. *This* reader looks at it, thinks, "Oh, no, not again" and deletes it unless she knows and trusts the writer to do it well.
Okay. I know why this happens. People love vampires. They are usually portrayed as beautiful, and the vampiric feeding is extremely sexual in nature. I've read enough Anne Rice to make that connection. And they are also dangerous - the human who consorts with them runs the risk of death...or undeath. This makes it even more exciting, more sexually stimulating...and that is certainly one of the reasons people do read slash, or any adult fic.
There's even an extra factor - immortality. That's a dream a lot of people share. It's why Highlander is so popular, and so full of original characters. And that's why so many writers in so many fandoms crossover with Highlander and make their own main characters Immortals. And vampires have an advantage Immortals don't have - they can sire others. If one member of a pairing becomes a vampire, he can make his lover one as well. Immortals can't do that unless they just happen to fall for a pre-Immie. That's amazingly romantic, and therefore slashy.
They also have the extra fillip of angst - can he do this to the person he loves? Can he condemn him to an eternity of nights and hunting - of watching him feed off others in that sexual act? (Hmmm. I haven't actually seen this addressed too often. That, I think, would make a fascinating story, especially if the vamp rules in that universe preclude other sexual outlets.) We identify with our subjects. With vampires, we have it all - exciting, erotic beings who don't die unless they're killed. I can *understand* why there is so much of it, and why people enjoy it. So why am I writing this essay?
Well, among other things, if you get right down to it, vampires are icky. They are *dead.* Or undead. Not living. Whether they are possessed by demons or there is something else that makes them into the afore mentioned blood-sucking dwellers of the night, the point is that they are dead. Now, having one lover convince the other to either kill or be killed can be extremely erotic. I can see that plainly. The fact still remains that they are dead.
But it's more than that. Vampires are predators, and they prey upon humans. That is a powerful image - the sleekly beautiful hunter tracking the helpless boy through the night and finally, orgasmically, drinking his fill. And therefore leaving the boy an empty shell. They either live off the life of humans or they are defanged in some way and that doesn't happen in fanfic. Angel has a curse, Nick has a conscience, Spike is neutered, so they choose or are forced not to kill. And what they gain as heroes they lose in romance. There are a lot of Angelus stories out there and I wonder if the Dark Knight fans have written much in any fanfic genre. While I have seen some stories where the vamp is effectively neutered - only feeds off a human lover, doesn't kill at all, in one case is barely distinguishable from human - those may or may not lack something.
And, of course, they appear in batches, which is not a fault of being vampires but a fact of fandom - either the fannish overmind kicks in and everyone starts writing the same thing at once, or one writer reads a vampfic (or something else cool) and thinks it's a good idea and writes one herself. But the cumulative affect is overwhelming.
Also, and this is more of a personal thing with me, vampires have been popular for a long time and, frankly, I'm a little bored. I'm a Buffy fan, but that's as much for the writing and the acting as for anything else. I've been seeing too many capes and fangs at the conventions I attend.
Perhaps my biggest problem is that seeing Jim or Fraser or Obi-Wan as vampires feels wrong - they are acting out of character. We love these men because they are heroes - cops or Jedi or starship crew members. They are *good* - they save lives. They only take them, if they take them, because they have no other choice. To turn them into vampires turns them into the very things they fight against - the ones who prey on others. And if they are then defanged - they become *less* than they were before. You can't defang a hero. It doesn't work. This puts the writer in a quandary, if she cares at all beyond "Jim's a vampire. Isn't that cool?" How do you make your lawful good hero a vampire and still keep him heroic?
And, having done that, could a *good* man condemn his lover to the same sort of life? Could Jim turn Blair? Would Vampire Ray bring Fraser over, or would he just go away? This makes for good angst, but both the writer and the reader have to believe the decision. Again, this is personal point of view, but I find it hard to see anyone *good* doing that willingly. Notice that Angel hasn't turned Buffy; nor did Nick turn any of his friends.
And that leads me to a further violation. AU’s are common in fanfic. We know that. So why should a vampire AU be any worse than any other? I think it's that the universe otherwise doesn't change. And sometimes the dark stuff in such AU’s don't work with the series and sometimes the fantasy of it doesn't work.
For example, TS has lots of mystical and supernatural elements to it, but its day today world is not far different from ours, and somehow vampires don't fit well. Maybe it's the darkness. TS isn't the sunniest of universes, but it's hardly dark.
The same can be said of DS, which also has a mix of mystical and supernatural elements, but it's even sunnier, happier than TS. It's what made the death of one of the characters so strong and powerful in the episode Juliet is Bleeding. There is a darkness in DS, but it's entirely human in nature, so, to me, to bring in vampires violates the show.
Of course, others have said the same for slash, but while I do believe some series can handle vampire fic - it can be done for Trek by using a different sort of vampirism, and it can be done in X-Files because there are canonical vampires, it doesn't work for the more light hearted series, and it certainly doesn't work for the more reality-based ones. And I have a feeling I'll never see any one write vampire fic for Homicide or Sports Night or Will & Grace. And I am grateful for that.
There *is* one exception to all of this. There always is an exception. I said I could accept XF vampire stories, and that is true, because it's canonical and because the series is so very dark - but I'd still have problems with Mulder or Scully (or Skinner, for that matter) becoming one, since they are heroes.
The exception is Te's "A Love of Dead Things" series, which not only has Krycek as a vampire, which, as he is, at best, an antihero, works fine, but also explores what would happen to Mulder if he made such a choice. It's not pretty, but it is good.
If there is something a writer thinks she can only say in a "turn the heroes into vampire story", then she should, of course, write it. If it will increase the angst factor or show aspects of personality that only a vamp story can do - she should do it. But she should please realize that it is fairly cliché ridden and take care to avoid them or to exploit them differently. And while she's doing it, she must make sure it has a place in that particular universe, and try to make it work with the characters as they are, not as she would have them be.