They’re everywhere. There are so many of them infesting Story these days that sometimes it seems there are more undead in books and on glowing screens big and small than there are regular people. And rather than being creatures of pure evil, these bloodsuckers have hopes and dreams and relationship problems just like the rest of us. In fact some are so unlike whatever was supposed to scare us about them in the first place that it seems “vampire” has simply become a trendy way of saying that a character in a story is “cool” or “different,” or even “rich.”
It seems to happen every few years, this virulent cycle: we find ourselves craving genus Nosferatus in our stories. We just can’t get enough of them, we binge on them, and then get heartily sick of them, as every tired toothy cliché gets overworked and exhausted, and all the same old “twists” get passed off as new. The blood of Story grows clotted and unnourishing. The night people no longer have the same scare factor or hipness quotient and we go looking for something else. Vampires quietly fade into the night. Then a new generation comes along looking for thrilling stories, and the Undead crawl forth once more, reviving on the scent of fresh victims.
But we’re not really the victims. We do this to ourselves. We’re the creatures of unholy appetites. We the readers and viewers and browsers hungry for our next quick fix. We the editors and publishers and storymongers seeing the trend beginning again and flooding the screens and shelves with more vampires. Entire aisles at the bookstore of dark covers featuring haunted-looking young women beneath titles that drip blood (though this time around there will probably be a lurching zombie somewhere in the background). And the poor ghosts and witches and werewolves who always seem to play second fiddle, hanging around the edges of the feeding frenzy wondering if this time it’s really their turn. If this time they’re the big new thing.
Or maybe this time it’ll be minotaurs.
We force the Undead to rise too soon and too often from their well-earned sleep. We yank them up out of their coffins and charnel pits and make them dance for us. We dress them up to make them fresh and relevant but we still insist they act out the same threadbare plots over and over again.