Vampirates: One man's journey into the world of crappy genre lit, part III

From the quiet menace of Dracula to the over-the-top animal gorefest of From Dusk till Dawn, the range of interpretations of the vampire theme is pretty endless. There is, however, one thing they must all share in common -- and it's the thing that makes them both scary and intriguing: At the expense of their human victims, they need blood. And that's where this week, once again, Vampirates: Empire of Night (yep, it's a series of books about vampires who are also pirates) goes ridiculously wrong.

Even in Twilight, the most watered-down of vampire-theme interpretations in recent memory and possibly ever, there's a dark undercurrent beneath Bella Swan and Edward Cullen's love: Despite his nobility and restraint, Edward still lusts for her blood. Besides being an obvious (though possibly unconscious, in Twilight's case) metaphor for the aggressive male sex drive and probably revealing something about author Stephanie Meyers' religiously repressed, latent ambivalence toward the male sex, the unquenchable and socially unacceptable desire of the vampire is what makes a "good" vampire so wonderfully ambiguous. Like that of the classic well-meaning drug addict character, the noble vampire's basic self-repression is what makes the archetype so powerful, and so tragic. Remove that menacing, helpless bloodlust, though, and the archetype loses its power.

With that in mind, let's consider this passage from this week's reading, which also marks the introductions of Grace Tempest, bad guy Sidorio's daughter, who had previously been only alluded-to:

For every vampire who traveled aboard The Nocturne -- with the exception of Mosh Zu -- there was a donor. These men and women, of a variety of ages and backgrounds, had each made a pact with the Vampirates to give a weekly portion of their blood in exchange for bed, board, and one further gift: immortality. For, in return for their blood, the donors remained as ageless as their Vampirate partners.

Sigh. First of all, if all that happens when a vampire bites you is you get to retain your svelte, girlish figure, then it kind of takes the danger out of vampires, doesn't it? Though it's not clear whether the vampire must keep biting you weekly for you to retain your immortality or if it only needs to happen once, either way, this sucks (in a non-mutually beneficial way) -- because if it's the former, then you'd think people'd be downright clamoring to get bit by vampires, and if it's the latter, then that raises a lot of questions about the nature of immortality, which even a hammy turd like Death Becomes Her examines, but author Justin Somper wastes an opportunity to explore here.

Not only does it drain the blood (on a roll, now) out of the vampire myth, but this scene -- and the general orderly comraderie that characterizes Grace's ship throughout the chapter -- completely bungles the pirate myth in the process. The whole fun of pirates, after all, is that they're assholes. These pirates are not assholes. They're nice.

So great. Vampires and pirates: now harmless and cuddly.


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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte