Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Vampiric Musings

Here, Charlie Stross wonders how vampires became sexy. Vampires are generally portrayed as parasites - non-fatal repeat predators who often prey on the same host over and over again - and parasites as a group are probably the least-sexy animals imaginable.

Charlie and a lot of his commenters make the obvious points about parasitic aristocrats, but aristocrats were on their way out when the original sexy vampires started to appear. And on closer examination, the idea that sexy vampires were a metaphor for aristocrats doesn't really hold up due to one simple fact: When people who lived in aristocratic societies wanted to complain about the aristocrats, they told stories about monster-aristocrats. Cruel nobles who live in castles filled with riches, butcher-knights who come home from the Crusades twisted and vicious, malignant bishops misusing their status to prey on beautiful youth...

Sexy vampires aren't aristocrats, they're disease-vectors. And they started showing up in stories when syphilis had mutated, taming itself, going from a disease that ate bone to a slow insidious killer that took years to do its work. The idea of sex and seduction as a pathway for a slow killer is fairly obvious.

Sexy vampires aren't aristocrats, they're well-preserved corpses. And they started showing up in stories after embalming became a major part of the funeral process. Between the vast size of the British Empire and the long distances between home and battlefield in the US Civil War, there was a huge demand for bringing the dead home in some sort of recognisable condition. He looks so lifelike...

Sexy vampires aren't aristocrats, except in the sense that sex and seduction are supposed to be glamorous and the fallen dead when viewed from a safe distance carry a sort of glamour as well. The easiest way to bring those glamours into one package and make it beautiful is to wrap it in wealth and tie it with the bow of a highborn name.

Sexy vampires aren't aristocrats, they're lazy writing.

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