edited by Simon Bacon and Katarzyna Bronk
foreword by Sir Christopher Frayling
I don’t normally write about my academic work on this blog (if you’d like to know more about it, you can read about it on my other blog), but I thought I would make an exception for my essay in this new edited collection on vampires and memory. Particularly as it lead to some interesting creative ideas…
When the editors (Simon Bacon and Katarzyna Bronk) asked me to write something for their proposed collection, I was a little resistant. I’ve written academic essays about vampires before, but my heart really belongs to werewolves (and, sometimes, fairies), and my intention was to carry on focusing on the lycanthropes. But then Simon suggested that I write about vampire/werewolf narratives, and I started to change my mind. In fact, he originally suggested that I write about the ways in which werewolves ‘are usually the familiars or pets of vampires’ or ‘the ways vampires are constructed as a superior race to werewolves’. This got my wolfish hackles up, and I immediately suggested that I should write about the texts in which werewolves are vampire-hunters or warriors – I was thinking particularly about McNair in Being Human and the Quileutes in the Twilight series.
So… I started working on my chapter, which was eventually titled ‘Pack versus Coven: Guardianship of Tribal Memory in Vampire versus Werewolf Narratives’. There’s more info about the book on the publisher’s website.
I’m not going to rehash all the arguments I make in my essay. What I thought I’d write about here is the creative project that followed on from writing this essay. One of the things that interested me as I worked through the narratives I was writing about was the consistency of the power relations presented. No matter whether the text was an action film (like those of the Underworld series), a TV drama (like Being Human) or a YA paranormal romance (like the Twilight series or Bree Despain’s Dark Divine novels), a particular and familiar hierarchy reappeared. Vampires are powerful, upper class, (hyper-)white, capitalist (and usually rich); werewolves are powerless (but often resistant), lower class, native, exist (sometimes) outside economic and societal hegemonies. Put more simply: vampires are the elite, werewolves are the underdogs. This leads us to be (usually) more sympathetic to werewolves, and to feel like they may be ‘right’, even when vampires are more attractive.
I asked friends and the Twitter hivemind about this, posing the question: ‘Can anyone think of a film/book/TV show with powerful (or ‘bad’) werewolves versus powerless (or ‘good’) vampires? The responses I received fell into three categories: (1) texts where vampires and werewolves live alongside humans, and there are a range of power dynamics and moralities at play; (2) texts where vampires and werewolves live alongside humans, and both are a dangerous threat; (3) texts where a vampire has become separated from its ‘correct’ status or lifestyle. None of these quite fit the model I was looking for.
At the same time as I was searching for my elusive good vampire/bad werewolf narrative, I was asked to contribute a short story for a new anthology (coming out some time this year). I was asked to write about ‘anything to do with monsters or monstrosity’. I decided to set myself the challenge of writing a good/powerless vampire vs. bad/powerful werewolf story. But I set ‘rules’ that both the vampire and the werewolf had to be recognizable (i.e. I couldn’t just flip the species and call a vampire a werewolf), and that the story had to have some reference to literary or folkloric traditions of werewolves and vampires.
I’m not going to say how I did it… the story is out later this year, and I’ll blog more about it nearer the time. You can see the traditions I’ve mashed-up to make my lower-class, powerless, vulnerable vampire vs. high-status, powerful, threatening werewolf when the book comes out.
But I’m still curious… can you think of any other narratives that do this? (I’m always open to new stories!) Or, if you were going to create this scenario, how would you do it? What traditions would you use to make a good vampire/bad werewolf show-down? Or do you think the power relations are too fundamental to mess with them?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!