Vampire Literature

Vampires novels are extremely popular these days but where did it all begin?

The concept of the vampire has been around for centuries in folklore.  The first literary vampires appeared in 18th century poetry.  But it was with the publication of John William Polidori's novella, “The Vampyre” in 1819 which began the vampire's popularity as a figure in fiction.  “The Vampyre” has been described as “the first story successfully to fuse the disparate elements of vampirism into a coherent literary genre.”  This novella was an important leap forward in vampire fiction as it was the first time that the fictional vampire wasn't portrayed as a mindless revenant.  The Vampyre, Lord Ruthven is depicted as a socially adept, alluring and sexual man that portrays his evil in more subtle ways.

Another notable development in vampire literature is “Varney the Vampire”, which was published in 1845 as a serialized gothic horror, printed in pamphlets, which were then known as “penny dreadfuls”.  It was published in its entirety as a book in 1847. “Varney the Vampire” is credited as introducing many of the tropes present in vampire fiction today.

Artwork based on “Carmilla”

Sheridan Le Fanu's novella “Carmilla” of 1972 was one of the first vampiric fiction works to successfully add erotic fixations into vampire literature with its tale of a young woman seduced by a female vampire.

It was at the end of the 19th century that Bram Stoker published the classic “Dracula”, which defined the vampire in its modern form and has spawned a plethora of theatrical, film and television interpretations.  The books fusion of traditional vampire myths with sex, blood and death proved very popular in its era and far beyond.

There were many other vampire novels in the first half of the 20th century but it wasn't until Richard Matheson's “I am legend” in 1954 that any really struck a chord.  Although the vampires featured in Matheson's book have little similarity to Polidori's, this novel is often referred to as the first modern vampire novel.

The 1970s brought us Stephen King's tale of vampires causing mayhem in Maine with “Salem's Lot” and the beginning of Anne Rice's “The Vampire Chronicles”, which would continue running until the beginning of the 21st centrury.  “The Vampire Chronicles” popularity pushed paranormal romance novels into one of the largest sub-genres in publishing.

Following on from Anne Rice's tales of Lestat, there have been many other successful vampire series, such as Brian Lumley's Necroscope Saga, Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, Christine Feehan's Carpathain series, J.R Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood and Charlaine Harris' The Southern Vampire Mysteries.  Of course, not forgetting Stephanie Meyer's very successful Twilight series and its film adaptions.

There are a myriad of other notable vampire novels that haven't been mentioned here and there are sure to be many more to come in this ever increasingly popular fiction genre. So there should be plenty for vampires fans to sink their teeth into!

Emma Edwards

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