K D Grace
It all started with Frank Langella’s 1979 film version of Draculaand the scene of the seduction of Lucy. I was a university student at the time with libido through the roof and an imagination to match. Oh, the fantasies! I couldn’t keep from wondering, even back then, just why those vampire seductions, those “turnings,” which were quite often so outrageously sexy, had to end with the turnee becoming the turner’s mindless minion and hideous restaurant. I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if the exchange was a little more equitable.
The first vampire stories I ever read were Anne Rice’s Lestat novels. I always found it disappointing that, in her books, while those turnings, those makings of fledgling vampires, were often little more than a disturbingly sexy rape, the vampires themselves, once turned, were very sensual but specifically not sexual. I wanted it all. I wanted the turnees fucked, turned and then fucked some more. But finally! halleluiah! Buffy and Anita happened.
“Seriously? Buffy the Vampire Slayer?” That was my initial response when I first saw the film at my sister-in-law’s house a hundred years ago. But I her teenage girls were watching it on cable, so what could I do but watch along … with bated breath.
“Really? They actually made a television series out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer?” That was my first reaction when I was bored-channel-surfing one evening a year of so later and came across an early episode. “Are they that hard up for subject matter,” I groused. And then I watched it … all seven seasons of it … some more than once.
“Oh you have got to be kidding? Derivative much?” That was what I thought the first time I saw one of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake novels. “Another vampire slayer? Haven’t vampires been done to death?” No pun intended. But I read them… well not all, but a good eight or ten or so...
With Buffy and Anita, at last we had arrived! The vampire slayers were now seducing the vampires, and making them tow the line. While the sex in Buffy had to be soft enough for evening television, not so the sex in the Anita Blake stories. Though in the early novels, the main character is celibate with a tendency toward ‘heavy petting.’ But in both cases, seduction was always only a breath away. That sexy pull of the dark is what we live for, right? The cost for Buffy was devastating. For Anita the sexy vampire was just the beginning of a kinky, steamy and very neurotic paranormal journey. I felt like I had come home.
I never thought I’d write vampires. In fact, I balked at writing paranormal in general until I realized that it was the perfect place to explore the darker side of the erotic without all the rules and regulations that restrict contemporary erotic fiction. But even so it was witches, demons and ghosts for me. I wasn’t brave enough to tackle vampires. And then Alonso Darlington burst on to the scene in Landscapes, which was not only my first M/M story written for the Brit Boys on Boysboxed set, but Alonso was my first vampire. Back then I never dreamed he’d become so dear to my heart, and that he’s worm his way into being a key player in my Medusa’s Consortiumseries.
I’ve learned a great deal from vampires. Paranormal in general is a great way to explore the dark side of human nature. But I think vampires are the best way of all because they once were human, and they either tend to despise that which they used to be or yearn for what they’ve lost. Both responses are so utterly human and both are equally fascinating. Vampires provide the perfect place to contemplate that age-old question: Who are the realmonsters? Quite often, they’re not who I think. Quite often the worst of them live down deep inside me. Oh Freud, where are you when we need you?
Once I started writing paranormal stories, I found them particularly freeing. No one insists on vampires and shifters and other scary dudes wearing condoms. It's pretty much a given that there is nothing safe about fucking a vampire or a demon, and if the whole idea doesn’t scare the reader as much as it turns her on, then what’s the point?
From long before Frank Langella to Buffy to Anita and to everything since, there has always been a very close relationship between fear and arousal, which in my humble opinion makes the arousal even more arousing. The iconic sex scenes between the young and beautiful couple in a horror movie is always followed by the ghoul, serial killer or other baddie murdering the lovers in a horrible way. A part of what is so arousing about paranormal sex is the breaking of so many taboos, the attraction to something that the world says should horrify us. Oh we’re no less horrified for our attraction, if anything we’re more so. That combination of attraction and repulsion makes us doubt ourselves for feeling things we shouldn’t. Sound familiar?
In paranormal stories that boundary between what arouses us and what terrifies us is so deliciously permeable that crossing it can get us into all kinds of trouble and then some. But crossing that boundary also brings with it the possibility of gifts and powers and abilities as well as a tumble into sex raised to something both divine and diabolical.
What is forbidden in erotica by most publishers doesn’t apply to paranormal. Some of the most erotic scenes I’ve ever read are of vampires taking blood from or giving blood to their lovers. In fact in some novels the sharing of blood enhances the pleasure exponentially. Blood holds within it life and identity. It contains the magic of who we are as individuals. We don’t have to lose a whole lot if it before we die. It also is the transport for horrific diseases, a river of both life and contagion that terrifies us as much as it fascinates us. That it’s all contained in such a fragile sensitive vessel as the human body only amplifies its preciousness and its power.
Vampire stories are the perfect place to explore dubious consent and loss of control. When dealing with vampires, demons, witches and magic, is consent ever less than dubious? Is there any better place to explore safely that total loss of control that comes from giving oneself over to the forbidden? Isn’t that really what the archetypal stories of seduction by the gods is all about? In the arms of a monster, with all our human frailties, there’s no guarantee of survival. And then there’s the terrifying thought of what we will become if we survive. How can we not be forever changed – for good or for ill. How can the resulting story not be intriguing?
The truth is that while we might be happy to dabble in the darker side of our sexuality, on a fundamental level, the very act of sex is frightening. It is the losing of self in the other, the opening to the unknown. It is the allowing ourselves to be more vulnerable than we are in any other act. It is the giving up of control. All of these elements are, by nature, a part of sex -- sex that carries at its core both the possibility of conception and of death. The vampire’s tale is an augmentation of all of those
That all we fear and all we desire in sex can be raise to the nth degree when placed in a paranormal setting and examined from the intimately terrifying safety of a book or a film or a television series allows us to vicariously experience the darker side of our desires. I would suggest that there are few better ways to explore our humanity than taking an erotic journey with the monsters in the dark who are more like us, and far closer to us, than we can easily admit.
I was completely disdainful of the Buffy series until a friend whom I really respected loaned us his DVD set of the full series. This was long after it had been on television. For more than a year, we rationed ourselves, watching only one episode, or at most two, per night (not every night, obviously). I could hardly believe how good it was -- though I should not have been surprised, perhaps, given how much I liked Firefly.ReplyDelete
There's a lot of sexual energy in Buffy, even though it's not usually explicit. I found the attraction between Buffy and Spike particularly arousing. And I've always loved these lines in Spike's song from "Once More With Feeling" (which I still listen to all the time):
You've got a willing slave,
And you just love to play the thought
That you might misbehave.
Until you do, I'm telling you
Stop visiting my grave...
How can one help pondering the delicious notion of what would happen if she DID misbehave?
Oh, and I agree that Frank Langella might have been the sexiest vampire ever!Delete
I've loved vampires ever since I first read Anne Rice's Interview when I was in college. Then it took forever for Lestat to come out, so I was married by that time. But I read many of her books, until they started getting too "off the wall" for me. Same with Anita Black. Once she became an insatiable sex monster that needed to have a minimum of 4 men in bed with her, along with an emu (I joke, but only barely), then I figured I was done with her. I think the last hard cover my husband bought for me was one of her books, and she spent pages having Anita Black discuss with her tortured pack leader werewolf lover, how his superhuman strength in sex would have killed a lessor woman, but luckily her demonic nature allows for her to take it all, and then some. But he doesn't like to share so much, so they always fight...until it's time for an extended brutal sex scene. Um...no?ReplyDelete
And Laurell Hamilton's seelie fairy series got really weird, really quickly. It wasn't many books into the series before the heroine is having sex with tentacled paranormal creatures, and other sorts of imaginary beings. And liking it all. Too much, ahem, variety for me, I guess?
I didn't want to write a vampire novel, but my hero appeared in my dreams to tell me that my writer's block was due to giving my heroine the wrong lover...it had to be him. And when he smiled, he showed vampire teeth. I woke up the next day, researched the Mayans, as he told me to do, and the block was gone! I churned out 2 novels in record time.
Now I'm working on a werewolf series, which again, I never planned. But I can't help what my dreams inspire me to do.
I do agree that Frank Langella was sexy, but I heartily agree that Buffy with Spike was much more interesting than Buffy with Angel. He was so much sexier! Phew! When they had sex, they destroyed entire buildings with their passion. Now that's rough sex!
Did you ever watch Dark Shadows as a kid? The vampires were never sexy, since Johnathan Frid was not attractive to me. But the actor who played Quentin, the werewolf, was super-hot! I watched all of the American International vampire movies, and some vampires were sexy, some not.
The freakiest vampire movie is The Vampire's Kiss, with Nicholas Cage. My boys own it and made me watch it. I'm not much of a Nick Cage fan, but you have to admit he chews up the scenery better than anyone else! This movie is weird, and not a little unsettling. But worth a giggle.
Not all vampires that came after Anne Rice reawakened the genre in 1976 seem equally believable, or sexy, but as metaphorical predators/seducers, the best ones tap into our deepest desires as well as our fears. They're interesting for several different reasons. Not only do vampires feed off the life-force of mortals , potentially forever, they also never change. Anne Rice's vampires are clearly associated with works of art (including dolls) that mimic or represent living beings, but remain the same, potentially forever. (According to one of my colleagues, Dracula, published in the 1890s, was probably a kind of response to The Picture of Dorian Gray, in which a very attractive young man literally becomes his own portrait, while the painting shows his inner corruption.) The idea of looking 18 (or 22, or 25, or 30, or --)for all time, with the energy of that age, seems appealing at first, then horrifying. :~(ReplyDelete
My favorite quote from Lestat is the question, if you could be immortal, would you improve, as a person, or would you just become more of what you were as a mortal? So if you were an asshole, would you get even more self-centered? I think the answer is of course you would, because having no fear of death, means no fear of eternal punishment. With religion out of the picture, then you would be free to be inexcusably cruel because no one would be able to stop you. I agree that we'd better hope that immortality is fiction. I can think of a few very rich, very powerful old white men who'd be the first in line to sign up, if such a think was available, and the damage they'd do would be immeasurably worse than what they can do now, with a limited life span. Though folks like that never seem to die young enough, do they?ReplyDelete