Fantasy Friday: Interview with the Vampire
Anne Rice is, if not the gold standard suggested by Interview with the Vampire‘s cover, at least the silver standard of vampire literature. Apart from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I don’t know of any other vampire literature before Twilight that more clearly defines the modern concept of the vampire.
Rice manages to both pay homage to Stoker and modify his concept in this first book in the Vampire Chronicles series. She infuses an essentially Eastern European myth with hints of the Southern Gothic (the main character used to own a plantation) and of Bohemian Paris. It’s quite an accomplishment, really.
In addition to retaining the sleeping-in-coffins and damaged-by-light tropes Stoker made popular, Rice adds a few little twists of her own. While her vampires are not affected by traditional defenses against vampires such as garlic and crucifixes, they are — or at least, her main character is — vulnerable to a certain kind of moral anguish. Louis, the main vampire, is constantly wondering if he is damned implicitly, regardless of his actions, merely because he was turned into a vampire.
Rice, so far as I know, also introduced the idea of a vampire “court” in this work. Stoker’s Dracula is very much alone, and Rice does state in her work that vampires work best as solitary predators. But she still introduces her collection of French vampires who (mostly) work together for a common cause, something you don’t see with Stoker’s isolated vampires.
It’s in these twists where Rice’s influence on Stephanie Meyer and Twilight can best be seen. Certainly the character of Claudia, the child vampire, anticipates the half-human half-vampire child Edward and Bella have, though in typical fashion, Meyer has conveniently modified this idea to have her child mostly grow up but remain immortal. I believe Meyer picked up on Louis’ subsisting on animal blood for many years, and used that as the inspiration for her ‘vegetarian’ Cullen family, and certainly Rice’s vampire coven influenced Meyer’s.
Does it change my reading of Twilight (such as it was) to know that Meyer owes so much to Rice? Kind of. At least now I know that Meyer was engaging with some kind of vampire lore besides whatever she Googled during the course of her writing. She is, admittedly, tapped in to the tradition of vampire literature. If she’s “cheated” on tradition a little by making her vampires sparkle and allowing them out in daylight, it’s only taking Rice’s rejection of certain vampire superstitions a step further.
Still, I think Rice was much more creative and much less sexist — despite the fact that her main female character remains an eternal child, Rice depicts this as horrible and unnatural and something to be regretted. And while Twilight horrified me with its blatant approval of stalking and suicide (come on, Bella wants to die, let’s face it), Rice is not quite so black and white.
If you’re going to read vampire lit, I’d recommend Rice over Meyer any time. Maybe not a book worth buying, but at least a book worth checking out.
Have you read Interview with the Vampire and/or Twilight? How do you think they compare? Tell us all about it below!