(6) Collecting Vampires

July 13th, 2006

 Deep Genre; Introduction; Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5;

Part 6

“Vampires” is a populous subgenre.  Perhaps you would like to create a work featuring a vampire or vampires, but, you wonder, being the professional genre writer that you are, “Will anybody be interested in another novel, another movie, another television program or a non-fiction study dealing with vampires? There have been so many since Stoker’s classic Dracula.“ 

A quick and convenient method for doing the market research exists, nor do you need to spend a penny on it, nor do you need to leave home.  This research has the additional benefit of providing you a quick and dirty survey of available research materials.

I am speaking here of OPACs, Online Public Access Catalogs, that work like the old card catalogs, as an index to a library’s holdings — but they are so much faster and have many convenient features the old dearly lamented card catalogs couldn’t possess.  You can go to your own, local library’s holdings.  However, if your own local public library is small and poor as far too many are in these days of starving all public services to death, you can easily check into one of the larger systems elsewhere in the country – all without paying a penny or leaving your computer chair.

As an example let’s zip through cyberspace to the New York Public Library and LEO, the online catalog for the NYPL’s circulating collections.

Click the TELNET option on this screen.  A log screen will come up asking for a login.  Type in: leo, hit enter, then wait.  Another small box will come up which is captioned, “Welcome to the New York Public Library’s Leo.”  Follow the instructions.  Choose #1 of the options that come up on the next screen, and you can start searching.

For example:  a keyword search on vampire produces 417 item records on 60 screens.  A search on the plural, vampires, brings up 55 screens and 379 records.  There may well be more now, since I did this particular search some weeks ago.

The two largest, discrete groups of item records expectedly are Ann Rice’s works in many languages, and various Buffy-Slayage materials, which are unconfined to video, since for a time Our Slayer in Sunnydale generated a publishing industry all about her.  LEO’s entries for Buffy and Rice reflect how both revitalized the vampire category, as the number of  vampire works derived from the Rice and Whedon visions entered in the late 80′s and the 90′s increase every year.

Performing a subject search in LEO, the vampire materials break down the materials’ formats.

The largest number is for films and video; 107 title records – multiple copies of The Lost Boys –  31 title video recordings, which, to the delight of Buffy aficionadas, lists Scooby-Doo’s Spookiest Tales ( J dvd 791 45 S 2001) with the vampire episodes.

In the subject listings are encyclopedias and studies, significantly, Howard L. Malchow’s  Gothic Images of Race in 19th-Century Britain ( 1996. 823.M.), which  examines the immigration theme and imagery in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

There are 97 fiction entries –14 screens’ worth, entries increasing sharply in the 90′s.  The earliest fiction entry is from 1983, the juvenile, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, by James Howe, followed by a whole slew of other juvenile vampire titles. The earliest is from 1984, The Vampire Takes a Trip, the first of a series, by the German children’s author, Angela Sommer-Bodenberg.  The latest vampire fiction record is 2006, the derivatively titled Even Vampires Get the Blues by Katie MacAlister.

The circulating collections have done what they can to gratify our ever-swelling vampire love. Even so, they lack more than one significant vampire work, such as Darkspawn (2000), by this site’s own Lois Tilton.

A search on Vampire – Subject in CATNYP, the NYPL online catalog for the five non-circulating research libraries in the New York Public Library system, brings up an even larger number of  titles than the branch libraries’ circulating system does.  The research libraries are far from complete collections, nor are the vampire materials in their holdings gathered into a Special Collection.

However, a Special Collection for vampire materials does exist, just not in the NYPL system :

Phyllis A. Roth Vampire Literature Collection 

“This collection is dedicated to Skidmore College Professor Phyllis A. Roth in recognition of her scholarly contributions to the study of vampire literature, her lifelong service to Skidmore College as a teacher and administrator, and the deep affection in which she is held by many grateful students, friends and alumni. The collection is given by J. Christopher Giancarlo (Skidmore Class of 1981) and his wife, Regina Beyel Giancarlo, and generously supplemented by Phyllis Roth and friends. The collection features rare and first editions of many vampire books as well as magazines, playbills, comics, ephemera, and assorted toys and accoutrements relating to the vampire theme. An inventory of the books is available through a database in Special Collections; please contact staff for more information.”

I suggest you check the online catalogs of your local public library collections and your local academic and specialty libraries and see what you might be able to find next door.

All of this to show that if you are interested in creating works of the imagination that are populated entirely, or in part, by vampires, the mojo is still workin’.

You can do this with any subject.  It’s fast, it’s convenient, it’s free.  It’s your right as a tax paying U.S. citizen.  Do it!

24 Responses to “(6) Collecting Vampires”

  1. DeepGenre » (3) Virgin’s Diary: Lucyon 13 Jul 2006 at 5:31 pm

    [...] Deep Genre; Introduction; Part 1; Part 2; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; [...]

  2. Lois Tiltonon 13 Jul 2006 at 8:29 pm

    Acquiring the data is one thing, using it is another. Markets all seem to be governed by the same general laws, and my favorite is Gresham’s – Bad X drives out good. Bad vampires drive out good.

    In the last 1980s, when I was trying to sell Vampire Winter, the book got rejected because “your vampire is more sympathetic than your human villains.” Duh.

    But by the time I saw the romance publishers actively looking for vampire fiction [but no icky blood, please] I knew the gig was up. By now, the Buffypire has become the default model, and Gresham wins again.

    The wise investor doesn’t chase a rising market and isn’t wiped out when it crashes.

  3. Constance Ashon 13 Jul 2006 at 10:03 pm

    But if a writer is wanting to continue writing within the parameters that have been interpreted through the buffyverse, this is the kind of information she would want to have, yes?

    Again, I’m not speaking to what is good or bad or should be or should not be — I’m looking at the tools that give us the information that we need.

    Love, C.

  4. Lois Tiltonon 13 Jul 2006 at 10:20 pm

    Yes, just so.

    Whatever the writer is wanting to do, having the data is valuable.

  5. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 13 Jul 2006 at 11:42 pm

    I honestly don’t think the vampire romances will kill the vampire genre anymore than the time travel romances have killed time travel fiction–different markets, generally speaking.

    However, there are certain readers who want their vampire fix and will accept nothing else, but are imparticular to what vamp fiction they get. I know this from signings from my first novel ten years ago, which was a vampire novel for White Wolf. Does it have vampires? Then they buy it. That market is something the vampire romances have tapped into.

    Of course, there are likely folk who were decrying the rise of vampire gaming fiction as well.

    I’ve also had an editor for a different vampire story anthology specifically tell me “More blood! More teeth!”

  6. Lois Tiltonon 14 Jul 2006 at 12:24 am

    Kill as in eliminate the market? I think it could have that effect if they promote a general distaste for the subject.

    But I meant kill as in ruin the quality, which is what Gresham’s Law is saying: when the demand for inferior stuff drives the better stuff off the market, when editors reject a vampire stinking of the grave because everyone knows vampires have to be sexy and cool.

  7. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 14 Jul 2006 at 12:41 am

    Well, as much as we might malign the Buffy vampires, Joss Whedon did a lot to bring back vampires as soulless remorseless killers. Of course everyone fixated on Angel and Spike, the only two vampires to actually get their souls back, but at least there were vamps with ugly faces who weren’t tortured about being undead.

    And then there was Harmony, but she was entertaining because she was too clueless to do a proper job of being evil.

    As for smelly vampires…well, smelly vampires haven’t ever been that popular. Dracula wasn’t smelly, and neither was Carmilla, and those are a good hundred years before Buffy.

  8. Erin Underwoodon 14 Jul 2006 at 9:44 am

    Truly, the smelly vampires originated as folklore and local legends in Europe. The original writings on vampires were primarily found in medical texts and written accounts that were believed to be factual/actual sightings of vampires. Some of these sightings were real, but later medical science was able to prove that people formerly thought to be dead were actually near dead from a particular disease of the time (the name escapes me now) and some of the people actually recovered….. and voila! The dead walk again!

    The first true literary appearance of a vampire in western literature was Geraldine in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Christabel”. Geraldine was portrayed as an exceedingly lovely noblewoman that Christabel finds wandering in the forest at midnight. Coleridge has an amazing talent for taking pure things, twisting them with a few nightmarish traits, and creating truly horrific tales like “Christabel”, “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”, “Kubla Khan”, etc.

    In fact, it was from Lord Byron’s retelling of “Christabel” during a ghost story session (which inspired a writing contest) that Dr. Polidori conceived of The Vampyre. Incidentally, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was also inspired by the same event. I also believe that Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady in the Lake was inspired by “Christabel”, but during a separate reading of the poem as read by … who else… but Lord Byron. (I can’t place where I read this last bit about Scott, so let’s mark that one as a maybe.) Who knew that the ripple of one poem could have such a wide reaching and long lasting effect. Le Fanu, Stoker, Rice, King, Weedon…….. and so on, and so on, and so on……..

    If you want more historical info on the birth of the literary vampire, you can check out The Road to Tryermaine: A Study of the History, Background, and Purposes of Coleridge’s “Christabel” by Arthur Hobart Nethercot, The Diary of Dr. John William Polidori by John Polidori, and if you have access to the Widner Library at Harvard University you can literally dive into those early bits of vampire (facts) lore that Coleridge read, which inspired the character Geraldine.

  9. Lois Tiltonon 14 Jul 2006 at 11:47 am

    It’s not that smelly vampires have or haven’t been done in the past, but what the current expectations of the reading public are – or rather, the editorial assumptions of these expectations.

  10. Erin Underwoodon 14 Jul 2006 at 1:06 pm

    Hi Lois,

    I love vampire literature, but I admit that I’ve been growing tired of the character types and story set-ups that have been getting published recently. Do you think part of the problem is that vampires, as we know them today, have been done, done, and done again?

    If a writer changes vampire related character types and story lines, will she get too far away from the genre to be publishable? How can a writer with a unique idea avoid the type of publishing problem that you ran into with Vampire in Winter?

  11. Muneravenon 14 Jul 2006 at 1:50 pm

    I try to not think too much about markets or chasing them. That may hurt me when I try to sell my books, but it just seems to me that to chase a market is to set out to be derivative. If I’m going to end up being derivative, I at least want it to happen despite my best efforts, so I can legitimately say “Oops.” This may mean that I will always be broke and asking my “derivative” author friends for a loan . . .

    Also, when I think about many of the big hits in genre fiction it seems to me that they were mostly really unpredictable in terms of their projected success.

    1. Horror was not really a big genre, then came Stephen King
    2. There were lots of midlisted books for young readers about young witches and wizards, then came Harry Potter.
    3. We all know that nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition (sorry), but it is also true that nobody expected “Jonathon Livingston Seagull,” “The Bridges of Madison County,” or “Interview With a Vampire.” And I am still baffled by the number of people who have bought “The Da Vinci Code.” I’m not saying “Code” is bad, I’m just saying the number of copies sold is astounding. Who’d have thunk it?

    I was at a panel discussion on vampire novels at a Con last weekend and I asked the panel if they thought something in our society might explain the HUGE uptick in various sorts of vampire lore. I couldn’t get an answer, and the discussion went back to a particular author’s love life and how it made her last book bad, lol. But I still wonder. I think horror more than any other genre reflects culture, and I do wonder why vampires so fascinate us right now more than ever before. I don’t think it’s all because of Whedon and Rice; I just think they were at the forefront of a big trend.

  12. Lois Tiltonon 14 Jul 2006 at 1:53 pm

    I definitely think publishers chase trends, which leads to writers chasing after them, though often in vain.

  13. Constance Ashon 14 Jul 2006 at 2:41 pm

    Munraven said:

    I asked the panel if they thought something in our society might explain the HUGE uptick in various sorts of vampire lore.

    In this country, our denial of death, certainly plays a role.

    Also with alternative sexual lifestyles coming out of the closet, vampires, beings all about sexual anxiety and such, are the perfect projection for exploring those.

    If there are any who don’t think this nation is deeply anxious about death and sex, they;re probably not paying attention much.

    Love, C.

  14. Lois Tiltonon 14 Jul 2006 at 3:23 pm

    Me, I think it’s part of the general descent of fantasy into porn.

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  20. ashlynon 07 Jul 2008 at 12:31 pm

    I believe that vampires are real. I also believe that they are not evil. They’re drinking blood to survive, right? So a lion would be evil to kill a deer? They’re hiding to escape the media. I also believe in stephenie meyer’s ‘theory’that they have some sort of overlord to keep them in check, such as the volturi in her twilight series.

  21. Constance Ashon 08 Jul 2008 at 1:44 pm

    You. Are. Joking.

    Yes.

  22. Foz Meadowson 10 Jul 2008 at 12:41 am

    I don’t think she’s joking. Think Sunset Club, BtVS, Season 2, Ep: Lie To Me. Joss Whedon might’ve made up Spike and Angel, but he sure as hell didn’t invent folks who think vampires are real.

    Trust me. I’ve encountered stranger theories and ones that are on par. (Among them, a handful of Evangelical, 7-day-literal-creation Christians who don’t believe in dinosaurs, but who do believe in dragons. Oh, and the people who believe evolved lizardmen live in crystal caves under the earth. Try Googling “Angelica Houston”, “starseed” and “lizardman” all in one go, and marvel at what comes up. Seriously! Human race = eccentric.)

  23. Foz Meadowson 10 Jul 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Actually, scrap that – replace “Angelica Houston” with “Angela Lansbury.”

    (Scary thing is, I’m not even kidding.)

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