With the hormone-drenched success of HBO's True Blood and the Twilight saga, it's easy to think our love of vampires is driven by undead lust. But NPR's Margot Adler read 75 vampire novels and discovered a different reason.
According to Adler, the vampire fascination has more to do with fantasies (and realities) of having power and living longer - and the questions we have about how to use power responsibly. We enjoy seeing vampires agonize over whether to kill or protect humans, and whether they owe anything to the humanity they used to possess. (She also quotes author Whitley Streiber talking about the fact that humans, too, are predators who have achieved amazing success at out-predatoring other species.)
A vampire's near-immortality is probably why I ended up reading 75 vampire novels. I'd been caring for a seriously ill loved one, and as a result, I had been spending a lot of time thinking deeply about issues of mortality. I had also occasionally fantasized what it would be like not to have to think about that.
But what I started noticing as I read all these novels and looked at all the recent television shows featuring vampires is that their near-immortality isn't the most interesting thing about them. Almost all of these current vampires are struggling to be moral. It's conventional to talk about vampires as sexual, with their hypnotic powers and their intimate penetrations and their blood-drinking and so forth. But most of these modern vampires are not talking as much about sex as they are about power.
The whole essay is worth reading, and listening to, for its discussions of the meaning of different vampire narratives. [NPR]