Say you want to write a vampire novel. You have your mysterious vampire seduce an unsuspecting mortal, and then probably about a third of the way in there is the huge reveal: oh no, the seductive stranger is a vampire!
Now, traditionally the victim should go through a period of denial, disbelief, shock and then terror. A vampire? What’s that? They can’t be real! Yet today’s world is saturated in vampires. TV, movies, novels, plays, interpretive vampire dances – you can’t get away from them. If a real person today were to meet a vampire, sure they’d be scared out of their mind, but they would know exactly what’s up, what to expect, and what their best course of action would be.
So back to your putative vampire novel. Insert scary but seductive vampire. Insert mortal victim. Vampire finally reveals his fangs – and then what? Can we get away with the victim going through the traditional cycle of disbelief/shock/horror any longer? Having to learn about what vampirism entails? Or would it be more credible for folks to simply understand right off the bat and hit the ground running?
It’s a bit of a dilemma, since much of vampire fiction depends on the slow and terrifying reveal as to the basic truth about the vampire’s nature. It’s almost as if we’re entering a post-vampire phase, where the mystery is gone, replaced instead by – what? Vampire as merely a variant on the superhero? Instead of dwelling on the curse of blood sucking and Stoker’s emphasis on evil, we now simply sweep it all under the adage of ‘With great power comes great responsibility?’ The distance between True Blood and X-men might be shorter than we think.
Can vampires be saved from this fate? Will we need to go full circle and return vampires to their evil roots to redeem their original allure, or are we doomed to an eternity of Edwards, Bills, and brothers Salvatore?