Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why Vampires Make Lousy Boyfriends

Now, let me start off by saying that I'm not knocking paranormal romance in general. I've got a couple ideas for paranormal romances percolating in my brain as I write this, so don't get the idea that I think the genre is stupid.

That said...

Vampires?  Really?

Vampires as a monster have had a long and well-established mythology, dating back to medieval times, although tales of vampire-like creatures may even date back to prehistoric times. Tales of creatures that consumed the flesh and blood of the living were attributed to demons, spirits, or even the Devil himself. Later on, with the rise of Christianity, their status as minions of Satan was cemented, leaving them unable to abide the presence of a cross.

Around medieval times, vampires were associated with the Black Plague and, as blood-bloated undead corpses, more closely resembled the Cryptkeeper than David Boreanaz.

It was not until Bram Stoker wrote Dracula that we got the modern vampire--the handsome, aristocratic, blood-sucking fiend who can charm the petticoats off otherwise respectable ladies. This would make him the ideal male lead in a trashy bodice-ripper novel were it not for the association with tuberculosis, syphilis, and the evils of sex in general. Aaaaaand he and his brides drank blood, directly from the tap, for preference.

Anne Rice brought about the first of the pretty vampires, and her novel Interview with the Vampire delved into the emotional and psychological issues that came along with being an immortal, blood-drinking predator, with the result that the protagonist vampire became a angsty antihero with an eating disorder, who just needs a hug and the love of a mortal woman to redeem his soul.

And here's where I start to have a problem with vampire romance stories.

First off, vampires are dead. You can't really get around that. This means that their body heat will be around room temperature (unless they've just fed, and then only maybe) and if it's sexual relations you're after, lack of blood flow will make him getting an erection practically impossible.

Secondly, there's the dietary concerns. Vampires, as a rule, tend to feed off something that is generally necessary for the continued functioning of their victims--usually blood. Sometimes they might resist the hunger, or divert it to other targets like animals or serial killers, but when you get right down to it vampires prefer to feed on humans. What kind of a relationship are you going to have with someone who, despite their best intentions, instinctively sees you as a source of food? Is he nuzzling your neck or checking out that tasty-looking carotid artery?

Which brings me to my third point: feeding on the blood of the living, and knowing that you absolutely must do so in order to survive, is not going to do kind things to a vampire's psyche. Even if you don't follow the mythology that states that a vampire is a corpse animated by a bloodthirsty spirit, and even if said vampire looks like a sex god rather than a hungry corpse, he is a predator. (I give pretty vampires a pass because being attractive to your potential food source is an effective hunting tactic. Luring them to where you are costs a lot less energy than chasing them down, and who knows how many blood-calories a burst of super-speed would burn?) So, best case scenario, your friendly neighborhood vampire will be constantly resisting his blood hunger, constantly worrying about slipping, and basically making himself a ball of neuroses because he sees his mortal girlfriend as something like a drink pouch waiting for him to stick in a straw and suck everything out. Worst case scenario, your vampire boyfriend is a soulless sociopath who has befriended you specifically to have free hemoglobin on tap for a good long while. And if you die? Well, he's immortal. People around him die from natural causes all the time--why should you be any different? Functional immortality tends to make vampires very pragmatic about the whole thing. Or suicidal, which isn't much healthier.

Now, I've read a fair number of vampire novels: Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, Twilight, and I'm currently working on Dead Until Dark. I'm not ragging on people who enjoy them, and I'm not saying that people who like the vampiric sex god archetype are stupid or horrible. I've just read enough vampire folklore to notice the problems that might come up with such a relationship, and I thought I'd share them.

Thanks for reading!