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Vampire fiction is any kind of fictional story that deals with the mythical monster known as the vampire. These creatures are depicted in many ways, serving as villains in some stories and as heroes in others. The main attribute that does not change in most vampire fiction is the basic need to drink blood, but there are many variations on other characteristics, some of which are based in myth while others are purely fabricated by different authors. Vampire fiction is sometimes a kind of horror fiction, and in other cases, it can also be more romantic or even provide action and adventure.
Most vampire fiction relies on historical myths about vampires to varying degrees, and in some ways, many of those mythical stories might be regarded as the earliest kind of vampire fiction. Traditional vampire myths mostly depict the creatures as a kind of ghost or a walking corpse that drinks the blood of the living. In myth, vampires will often prey on family members and acquaintances, coming to them in the night while they sleep, and causing them to slowly waste away by drinking their blood. The vampire itself usually does not age, and most cultures who believed in vampires also thought certain ritual mutilations needed to be performed on their sleeping corpses in order to kill them, including things like driving stakes into their hearts or beheading them. Another common aspect of vampire myth is the belief that they are nocturnal.
Sometimes vampire fiction is designed strictly to frighten the audience. In these cases, authors often focus on the ghastly undead aspects of the vampire myth, along with the concept of contagion. Stories like this also usually rely on the potentially fearful idea of family members or loved ones turning into monsters and coming back to endanger those they once cared about.
Another kind of vampire fiction is more focused on the romantic or tragic potentials of vampire myth. Some people find that the dark and dangerous aspects of the vampire can have an underlying sex appeal, and this attraction is often the primary basis for these stories. Another common theme is the immortal vampire who is in love with a mortal person. The idea that the human will gradually age while the vampire continues living eternally can lead to sad or tragic storylines.
One common issue in fictional vampire accounts is the question of perspective. Some stories focus on humans trying to deal with vampires, either as a romantic obsession or something to be feared. Other stories are actually told from the perspective of the vampires themselves, which can be a disturbing experience in some stories and an escape in others. Some stories may even work alternately as escapist fiction in some parts, only to surprise the reader by showcasing something disturbing in another part. In fact, this sort of alternation between attraction and repulsion is often a central theme in some vampire fiction.
I guess those silly "Twilight" books really got the whole vampire fiction thing started. I read the first book, and it was O.K. It was appropriate for its audience. I started the second book, but lost interest very quickly. I just thought the other books were so poorly written. And the movies were just dumb. How can you tell one from another?
I'd rather read an honest bodice-ripper. At least, you know the author isn't aiming for high art -- just entertainment.
Call me a traditionalist, but I still love Bram Stoker's "Dracula" the best. I also like Charlaine Harris' "Southern Vampire" novels. Her books are very good and better, I think than the "True Blood" TV series. But the books are usually better than the movies/TV series.
I think vampire novels get people's attention because there's something inherently sexy about their power, and their darkness.
Since they're fictional, they can be molded into a variety of different forms: savage, romantic, heroic, psychotic... you name it.