Sunday, October 04, 2009

My Dearest Charles:

In a cross-promotion for our short stories in the anthology, The Sweetest Kiss: Ravishing Vampire Erotica, miraculously talented writer Anna Black and I decided to each theorize on our favorite aspects of the vampire mythology. Her post -- excellent and to-the-point as always -- is HERE.

For my part, I want to analyze the bite itself. Or should that be The Bite? I rather like the capitals. Gives it a bit of credence.

So, what is it about The Bite that is so attractive? It's not always characterized as a comfortable or sexy thing, so why has the liquid kiss of the vampire invaded every form of art from literature to film, from paint to sculpture, from song to comic book?

Some schools of thought attribute it to guilt about sex. Hear me out before the groans! These folks think the sweet pain, the dreamy loss of blood, the submission and subsequent damnation for giving in to forbidden pleasures are a just punishment for succumbing to evil. For being unchaste, for being enchanted with darkness. And the need to see it, read about it, dream about it means we vampire enthusiasts are sexually confused or, at best, repressed.

Will the real Sigmund Freud please stand up?

Hey, what do I know? For some people, that might even be it. The theory especially holds up when the vampire is initially alluring, sensual, seductive... and then turns nasty right before the bite. When those two delicate incisors turn into a quisinart gnosharama that would put a shark to shame.

If that isn't a commentary on the dangers of sex, I don't know what is.

But what about older tales of revenants? Tales of the mindless, starving wretches who claw their way out of their graves to ravage anyone and everyone they come across with no guile, no beauty, no seduction, no sanity?

I tend to think these poor souls spawned from the same fetid, uneasy ground from which zombies rise. The two undead have much in common, after all -- mindless killing machines of eternal hunger, no memory of life or love, killing friend and foe alike. And spreading their terrifying malady by their Bite.

Ah, that's part of my theory about our endless fascination with the undead and the method of becoming such: disease.

Especially nowadays, when a chance sexual encounter could result in anything from genital warts to AIDS, fear of disease must be deconstructed, analyzed, satyrized, even embraced...and thus staked through the heart and conquered. If we can put it on a page or up on the big screen to be oohed and aahed over, it must not be really scary. Or, at least, it can be forgotten as soon as we close the cover or leave the theater, drowned in a comfortable sea of catharsis.

The Bite makes it especially poignant and fearsome, as so many of these real-life diseases are passed on by fluid exchange, and what better way than through a kiss? Or a kiss full of teeth?

Remember in Demolition Man when Sandra Bullock's character is explaining why people don't touch even to shake hands in her century? She spouted off a laundry list of STD initials that all resulted in one central point -- contact, especially sexual contact, is hazardous to your health. Thus, in that future, it was banned completely.

Talk about an era that needed a good vampire story.

But, of course, the earliest tales of nosferatu existed long before anyone knew that disease was most efficiently spread through fluid exchange. Hell, these folks still believed in spontaneous generation.

Admittedly, skeptics believe these frightened few huddling on the edge of the dark also thought up such bogies as fairies and vampires and werewolves and monsters to explain away such inexplicable "natural" terrors as sudden child death, cancer (or "the wasting disease", which is horrifically accurate, if poetic), insanity, and plague in a way they could understand and perhaps even fight, but hey. Other skeptics believe we invented God for the same reason. Who you gonna trust?

At any rate, the "fear of disease" theory only holds a certain amount of water when it comes to The Bite. Something else must be at work here.

Of course, fear of death is also a huge component. To allow someone's teeth -- even plain, old, omnivorish teeth such as ours -- near the vulnerable throat where our life flows so fully...to endure and even welcome the opening of that fragile channel....

A kiss there is especially arousing because of the trust it implies. But a Bite there?

Consider this: we humans are notoriously cowardly about our eventual fate. How much money is spent each year on research to extend life? As if we don't already have overcrowding problems...but that's a whole different post.

In my opinion, even the explosive cosmetics industry points directly to this fear of death. Deep down, we all know that looking older means we're that much closer to the grave, and we're all desperate to hold that Ghost of Christmas Future at bay. So...got wrinkles? You're at Death's door. Got some Oil of Olay to smooth those wrinkles out and give you a healthy, young glow? You might just live forever.

It's also that fear of death and the promise of eternal beauty, of eternal youth and life, that makes The Bite so attractive. To turn the neck and its jugular vein into an inlet for eternity instead of the makings of death is just as bolstering to the fearful as thinking up the stake and decapitation necessary for ending immortality must be to the righteous.

Think of it: bare your slender, vulnerable neck to the lovely beast with the dainty, humanely sharp teeth and... *snick*... instant immortality. Never know death, but taste it on your lips every night. Never know pain, but inflict it or not at your whim. Never see your own blood spilled, but lap up anyone else's to assure you, again and again, that you are no longer a fleeting thing.

That eternal gift. Exchanging the flickering candle of life for the cool, encompassing mist of forever.

And all from The Bite. A tiny prick that can be either pleasure or pain, depending on the beneficence or maleficence of your usher into invincibility.

Fear of sexuality. Fear of disease. Fear of death. All or none of the above?

I tend to think The Bite springs more from fear of disease and death than of sexuality, although -- especially in visual mediums like film -- the horror genre has made billions on fear and exploitation and demonization of sex, much to my amusement. After all, sex hasn't always been something to discuss at length and teach children in schools and prevent or advent, depending on your political and religious inclination. In less civilized times, sex was merely a part of life, something you did to continue existence. Like eating or sleeping, sex just was. No debate about it.

But there have always been vampires, as there have always been death and disease. As there has always been terror of the dark and the things that might -- or might not -- be in it.

Sweet dreams?

2 Comments:

At 5:34 PM, Anonymous Jenna Reynolds said...

Great post, GB!

I'm actually dealing with the issues, both erotic and non-erotic, of a vampire's bite in my current vampire WIP so this was great stuff!

 
At 8:20 PM, Blogger Joely Sue Burkhart said...

I think a lot of the allure with the Bite is taking a walk on the dark side, too. The risk, the thrill, wondering if the vamp will end up killing you or not.

Great post, guys

 

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