Vampires and World Peace

Posted: November 8, 2012 by Arushi in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , ,

Today, on this day, (8 Nov. 1847) Bram Stoker was born.

Now personally, while I do think that Dracula is a good book, it took me a while to understand what all the hype was about. The book is not just famous for being a good story; it is also, I think important and well known because it brought the supernatural into mainstream literature, though in a way the process is still on-going.

The book looked at the many aspects of human behavior, even if they were uncomfortable to the audience and thus, became a ground-breaker. Or so I think. After all, I am no expert.

What I do know is: anyone who has any interest in the supernatural should read it. But they should not stop there. It is not the only classic in the genre. It is not the most refined one. It is good, it may be the best, but one should decide that after reading the others, not simply because it is the most famous. One of the other major works in vampire fiction from approximately that time (this was written 25 years before Dracula) is Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.

Carmilla is a good book, and in a way the complete opposite of Dracula. No one visits a mysterious castle, but rather, the vampire comes to their house as a guest. The vampire is female and so is her victim. This is not a romance story and the vampire is killed without giving her too romantic an image.

But these books are the start of vampire fiction as we know it. Things have changed drastically since then. The one thing that is strikingly different between these books and contemporary vampire literature is the role reversal. They’re now not the bad guys, but the misunderstood hero who is full of angst. Or maybe just the hero. Perhaps not all, because in a lot of books they are still heartless bastards who manipulate and connive everything to within an inch of its life, but still, somehow we’ve learned to sympathize with them.

Vampires are not evil just because they have a different diet and they might have ‘died’ a while ago. They might still be evil, but now it’s about the personality and their actions. It’s about who they are, not just what they are.

I wonder what that says about us and our taste as readers. Have we become more accepting, or did it simply get boring to see the human killing off the big bad monster and saving the day? Is it something completely shallow, like a more entertaining story to pass the time, or does the meaning run deeper?

Have we become more accepting of others? Our world is not Utopian by any stretch of the imagination. We fight with each other over things like religion, skin-color, politics, communities, regions etc. These fights may be verbal, or they may turn into a war, depending upon the people involved. We have people who appreciate others speaking out, even if it is against them, and then we have people who would do anything to stamp out the ones who raise their voices against them.

We are a varied people, and unwilling to accept that we are indeed all a part of the same Homo sapiens community. But we are now willing to read a book where a guy from another species is the hero. So much so, that I know I belong to a generation which grew up along with Harry Potter and am proud to say so. I know that I learned a lot from those books, and probably so did many others, maybe unconsciously.

When Twilight came, it became a world phenomenon. While I am not a great fan of the books, I have to admit, our acceptance threshold has gone up. Maybe if there ever is an alien invasion, we will stop squabbling among ourselves and kick their butts. I don’t think there will be one, so we’ll keep squabbling, but perhaps, the vindictiveness, the hatred might change to at least grudging tolerance. I am a realist, I will not expect that world peace will happen at the drop of a hat, or even at the end of this century to be honest. But maybe, we might at least start thinking of looking at the other person’s perspective. That would make for a really good start.

On the 165th birthday of Mr. Stoker, I have to admit, that I do see some progress in us. In what we read and what we write, in the fact that we have become more accepting, at least in our literature. Maybe someday we will become more accepting of each other too, though I am not holding my breath.

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Comments
  1. Lannister says:

    Have you ever read this book …

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/472966.The_Vampyre

    It often gets mentioned as an inspiration for Dracula too. It’s short and free for the Kindle, but despite that, I still haven’t got round to reading it! Just thought I’d mention in, since you talked about vampire classics. This one was inspired by Lord Byron, a somewhat Marlowe-esque character, in his own way! 🙂

  2. Arushi says:

    A long while back I read The Penguin Book of Vampire stories (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/279969.The_Penguin_Book_of_Vampire_Stories) and it contains The Vampyre, so I’ve read it. The joys of anthologies 🙂 But thanks for reminding me. Now I need to find where my copy of that book is buried.

    That is also where I read Carmilla, and I guess that is the story that has stuck with me the longest. I think “Bite-Me-Not, or, Fleur de Feu” by Tanith Lee was also pretty good.

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