As far back as I can remember, Vampires have always been creatures that I identified with raw, untamed power. They had their vulnerabilities depending on what variety of vampire you were talking about. The classic Boris Karlov Dracula could be killed with a wooden stake through the heart. Some vampires are vulnerable to garlic, holy water, or sunlight. Some less popular versions of the vampire will even let you decapitate them to kill them or burn them to ash.
We, as fans of fantasy and science fiction, were completely willing to accept these weaknesses within the vampire because the capacity for feats of raw awesome far outweighed their weaknesses. Do people complain that Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite? Of course not – the man of steel would simply be too powerful without some kind of built-in “off switch”. Vampires would quickly subdue the entire planet without some form of weakness that prevented them from doing so.
Their physical weaknesses have also led to the mystery and appeal that surrounds the vampire. They must live in the shadows to survive. This wraps them in a cloak of mystery and gothic suspense that true vampire fans crave. That darkness, that aspect of never truly walking in the daylight to reveal all of their secrets, that is part of the romance and true appeal of vampires.
I have always seen vampires as these dark, troubled creatures. Their immortality ends up being more of a curse than a blessing. They are extremely complex characters that are difficult to write without making them cliché. The reader never truly knows if there isn’t some hidden motive for their actions. Their thoughts and motivations are as shrouded in shadows as the vampires themselves.
Now, of course, this has begun to change. Vampires have become weak, angst-ridden, predominantly teenage whiners obsessed with finding true love and forsaking the bloodsucking life of the vampire to use their powers for good and high box office gross. Everyone who is part of an elite club mourns the loss of “elitism” when everyone joins the club and makes it popular rather than elite. What’s happening to the vampire is more than this; more than just the simple loss of the elitism that used to be inherent in the club of vampire fans.
Don’t get me wrong – a main character vampire needs to have enough humanity so that the reader can identify with them. That doesn’t mean they should be weakened to the point where they need regular visits to the psychiatrist and the support of a vapid, archetypal love interest in order to survive.
Putting vampires in your story or, heaven forbid, having a vampire main character has become taboo. Publishers have even started telling people to not even bother submitting vampire stories. Unless you plan on going completely mainstream and writing a “Twilight killer” or, you are the current author of the Twilight series, submitting a vampire story will trigger an endless barrage of derisive laughter from whoever hears your ridiculous idea. No one even cares if your vampire is by far the most amazing ever written. All they care about is that vampires are now a joke.
The definition of vampire has been diluted. No longer is vampirism the need to survive on human blood, which endows the sufferer (yes, I said sufferer) with superhuman strength and abilities. Now, vampires can do things that allow them to walk in the daylight, drink non-human blood, levitate, fly, move at nearly the speed of light, and deliver campy dialogue in a setting that might as well have been an episode of the original “90210”.
Variations on vampire powers have existed since the first vampire story, but never before have they all existed in the same characters. Authors know (well, we’re supposed to know) that you cannot make your main characters too powerful because they become their own cliché. This has apparently not stopped the modern vampire author. If you are a modern vampire author and are making hojillions of dollars doing it then kudos to you but I mourn the loss of the classic vampire.
Popularization of things that used to be “cult” is not a new phenomenon. However, with the Tolkien stories, Peter Jackson did it without completely watering down the original concepts of the author. The movie characters had better senses of humor and probably looked a lot better than Tolkien ever envisioned, but we are not standing around the coffeepot mourning the loss of the original concept of a Dwarf nor are authors being told that they shouldn’t bother submitting stories with Elves in them.
So you folks who enjoy the “nouveau vamp” – you can keep on enjoying, I won’t begrudge you that. However, I will stay comfortably in the shadows, clinging desperately to childhood memories of reading about vampires who hung the skulls of their victims on pikes along the bloodstained road to their isolated fortress to let all who passed know that they were on the road to encountering pure, raw, unfiltered badass.