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Vampire Week: Author Alex Bledsoe on his Vampires

Posted on June 25, 2010 by Flames is pleased to present you with an exclusive look into the mind of Alex Bledsoe, an author who has published a series of horror novels with an unusual vampire character. Find out what Alex Bledsoe thinks about vampires, and why they are so meaningful to him as an author.

I’m a long-time fan of the vampire as a literary figure, and believe strongly that to realize its potential, that figure must function as a metaphor for something else. The standard tropes–blood drinking, aversion to sunlight and crosses, unending existence, irresistible sexual attraction–are simply gimmicks without the metaphor’s symbolic context to give them meaning. And what makes the vampire so special is that it can embody so many disparate things while remaining true to its essential nature.

But while the vampire may be everywhere these days, he’s hardly ever alone. The glory days of lone nosferatu (nosferati?) are over. He (or she) now shares space with werewolves, dragons, demons, shapeshifters and any other creature from folklore that catches the writer’s fancy. To me, this greatly diminishes the power of the individual monster. It’s the Justice League Syndrome: what’s sillier than someone in a mask and long underwear fighting crime? A whole room full of them. So if I’m writing about vampires, it’s just about vampires. I find them plenty interesting on their own.

Also, in a lot of contemporary fantasy there are vampire societies, with elaborate feudal laws and hierarchies. This to me is just…silly. Really. When monsters get organized, they’re just the Mafia with fangs, fur and claws. There’s no dark grandeur or sense of wonder in a bureaucracy. So in my novels, vampires are solitary figures distrustful of each other, and certainly not about to unionize.

I realize that makes me sound like a cranky old man: “When I was your age, our vampires were foreign and overdressed, and we were glad to get ’em!” But the vast majority of these new literary vampires say nothing to us remotely as powerful as Dracula, Carmilla, Barnabas Collins, and Lestat do. They represent nothing beyond the latest form of bad boy (and occasional girl), and so they ultimately mean nothing.

In my novels, the vampire figure represents nihilism run rampant, and the related danger of denying one’s connection to the world at large. Zginksi, my protagonist (he’s definitely not a “hero”), is interested solely in self-preservation, and will simply eliminate anyone he sees as a threat. What happens when he must give and receive help is the theme of my 2009 novel Blood Groove, and the consequences of love are the subject of The Girls with Games of Blood, just released from Tor. As my friend author Adrian Phoenix said about the new book, “Just because a monster’s heart awakens, doesn’t make it any less of a monster.”

I don’t know if Zginski means anything to anyone other than me; that’s for readers to decide. But in creating him, I swung for the symbolic fences and tried to imbue him with something larger than himself. I hope it works, and that readers respond to it even if they’re not aware of it. And ultimately, I’d rather fail at that than succeed in creating just another bloodsucking poster boy.

Alex Bledsoe – 2010

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