Sunday, 17 October 2010

More Vampires: Vegitarians, VILFs and Fang Bangers

Much to the annoyance of my Other Half, I'm going to another Vampire conference and I'm presenting a paper again. I've not yet worked out why I'm such a glutton for punishment that I insist on doing papers on topics barely related to my main research interests i.e vampire literature. On the up side, I'll be giving this paper as a fully-fledged PhD student, so when people ask me what I'm doing I have a better answer than 'looking to start my PhD soon'. I also know people from the confrenece in April and even if Splooshface from The Dust Bunnies Under the Sofa won't be there this time (boo for being in Canada :-P) it'll still be a mini vamp-reunion.

I would like to say that the move to a British vampire novel (my last vamp paper was on Twilight) was a deliberate decision based on literary aesthetic, but if I'm honest it was because Matt Hiag's The Radleys landed on my desk at work the same day that I received the call for papers for the conference.

"Just when you thought Stephenie Meyer's bestselling Twilight books had sucked the idea of 21st-century vampires dry, along comes Matt Haig with this witty and humane story about a family of vampires living in respectable English suburbia. Haig writes in addictive, bite-size chapters that pump the action along. He has fun with all the Vampyre lore (garlic in the Thai Green Leaf Salad!) while keeping his characters convincing, original and likeable. All vampire fiction has a strong sexual undercurrent; but in this book, the passion's not just for the pale-faced teens." Daily Mail,

I've read the reviews on goodreads and it's getting quite a good write up, but I'm a bit concerned about the mount of reviews which mention that this is quite dark for Young Adult Literature. There has been a recent resurgence in discussions about appropriate content in YA literature, and the old, ugly calls for banning books with 'explicit' content from school curriculums in the US have been dragged out again by the SPEAK debate.* I'm still mulling over my views on what constitutes explicit content in YA, and there'll probably be a blog on this soon, but I'm against banning books in schools, particularly when the people who call for books to be banned haven't read the books they claim to object to. This, however, is a bit different. The Radleys is published by Canongate who don't have a Young Adult imprint. They are perhaps best known for publishing The Life of Pi, the three books by US President Barack Obama and The Mighty Book of Bush. They also publish edgy, controversial or 'quirky' books like those by Nick Cave (The Tale of Bunny Munro), Philip Pullman (The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ), Scarlet Thomas (the End of Mr. Y) alongside their original Scottish interest books.

Not really a publisher you would expect to support a run-of-the-mill YA vampire novel, and they didn't; The Radleys is neither of these. It's chapters are short and punchy, the violence is real and bloody, as is the sex. The thing which confuses this is that a YA version of the cover has been released and stocked in the YA section (the image on the right above). Leaving my opinion on the validity of explicit-ness in YA literature aside, this is misleading and I would bet my best pair of boots on the fact that this was a marketing decision. Vampire fiction is seen as a 'YA thing', a way for the 13+ market to get their teenage kicks without the alerting their parents. I'm not saying that it isn't sometimes the case, but this is a diminution of both the literary value of vampire fiction and the capability our teenagers.

This was never intended to be a rant, I was just going to write a quick post about the conference, some pretty book covers and a review of The Radleys which sparked some of my thinking (see above) about the perception of Vampire Literature. Unfortunately, none of this is covered in my conference paper, but I might use it as an introductory section to my 'dry run' at the PG forum in a couple of weeks.

I know lots of vamp lit readers, bloggers and non-bloggers, and wonder how many of us feel the need to justify our interest. I know that I hid it from a lot of my academic friends for years, or brushed it off as 'the tatt I read to wind down from academia'. Will the resurgence of vampire literature, perceived as 'Twilight mania, mean we no longer feel the need to do this? Probably not, but I'm outing myself. My name is Karen and I read vampire novels.

*For more information on Speak by Lauire Halse Anderson and the debate check out these reviews and blogs:
teenreads review
Wesley Scroggins call to ban Speak
Lauren Halse Anderson's retort


  1. (*whispers*) I like vampire novels too ;)

    Cool pik!


  2. Very interesting :D One of my favorite books is a vampire novel - Robin McKinley's Sunshine.

    Also, hi! Nice to meet a fellow Crusader! :D

  3. Hi, congratulations on the PhD. A great accomplishment. I'm another Crusader dropping by to say hello. Good luck with the presentation.

  4. I don't feel any need to justify any paranormal books I read as I also read lots of other stuff too! In fact I was quite surprised when I realised that (at least in terms of TV and movies) I've seen every major vampire movie and TV series ever made. It wasn't a conscious choice - but it has certainly influenced what I write about. :-)

    Enjoy your presentation (and best of luck with the PhD).

  5. Hi Kar. Great to meet a new crusader. Congrats on your PhD. Like the sound of Matt Haig's novel. Must check it out.

    I'm newly arrived at writing about vampires. I finally read the Twilight series and it got me started, tho I'm going for the old vampyre story. I have a serial going for #fridayflash. I'd be interested in hearing your comments. The story hasn't finished yet - an episode or two to go..:)

    My Flash Fiction Blog

  6. I'm in the process of writing my Join the Crusade post, and noticed all the comments here and my new followers. I know that this is the point (and I will pop by the other crusader's blogs to comment) by I'm genuinely overwhelmed by the most comments I've ever had.

    Hello fellow crusaders. Looking forward to reading your blogs and your writing in the near future.