Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Fangs For Nothing

One of the disadvantages of being an English writer in France is the difficulty of getting books to read. I could read in French I suppose, but it takes more energy and feels a bit like peering at a world through frosted glass. In other words, I'd rather not. The internet is the obvious solution, but there are drawbacks there too. What I really miss is being able to wander into a good bookshop, browse and then make a chance purchase.

Now, there are some excellent bookshops in Rouen and I do wander around in them from time to time, if only to soak up the atmosphere. But today I decided I really ought to go and thoroughly explore the amazing children's section at L'Armitière with a view to assessing the market as it is today, on the shelf, regardless of any differences there may be between English-language and French publishing. What I found surprised me.

It turns out that most of the books there are translated from English anyway, and many of the others are trying to look like they are. And do you know what? It's not just hype, there really are hoards of vampires in bookstores these days, whole belfries of them! Though Transylvania is right out – modern vampires live mostly in the suburbs.

The weird thing is -- even though there was a special stand for vampire books -- I didn't see anything by Stephanie Meyer there. Though I did come away rather feeling that I had, if you see what I mean.

Whatever happened to vampires? They really have gone soft, haven't they? Now they are the toothbrushing playthings of adolescent female fantasy, I really feel the lack of good old fashioned, blood-hungry monsters. Not that I want to write about them particularly, but we need to leave something in the shadows, otherwise how will we scare our children? And it's no good looking to werewolves, zombies or fallen angels, they're just as dreamy and pretend-dangerous these days.

With one eye (as always) on the future, I collect romantic comedy plot ideas for adult fiction. Coming home from my visit to the vampire's air conditioned, bookish lair, something silly in that line occurred to me. A story about a shy, socially awkward young man who never has any luck with women, and who hides himself away to study all the faux-bestial anti-heroes in paranormal teen fiction. He emerges a year later, deathly pale from lack of sunlight and over-wise from all those glimpses into the secret desires of female writers. He learns how to cook, gets a job in publishing, and then goes on the rampage, carelessly letting his eighteenth century manners show beneath his leather jacket and simpering, 'Mon amour, I vish to slay you mercilessly, but for now, I sink I vill just hold your hand, no?'


  1. This idea is a winner! Really. I can just picture this guy. In fact, I love your drawing of him. Perfect.

    I can't read the old vampire novels because all that blood-sucking makes me weak-kneed. But the new ones have even less appeal. I never had such weird fantasies when I was an adolescent. I was happy with my everday guy-type boyfriends.

  2. Delightfully witty as usual. Unfortunately browing in British bookshops is much the same: I guess it's the generation of people who grew up with The Munsters - it's the only way I can account for it... Now, I confess to having a bit if a crush on Yvonne de Carlo (Lily Munster) myself, but even I haven't felt the need to dig up the dead in the pursuit of literary glory. Aha! Perhaps that's where I've been going wrong!

    I love your blog Thomas, beautifully written it always makes me giggle.

  3. Many thanks, Terry. Your response has made me reassess the silliness of it all. Perhaps I could mini-nano a chapter or two , just to see? Hmm, maybe one day.

    You know, a thought has just occurred to me -- those aren't your legs are they? No, don't answer that.

    James, thanks for those kind words and for revealing your unholy interest in Mrs Munster. Is it the heels? Oops, another question that it's best not to answer:)

  4. I am really not into vampires - at all. I only read the first of Stephanie Meyer's trilogy because it was there, and then I was completely hooked. I don't think it's appeal is actually anything to do with the traditional take on vampires etc. It's a brilliant framework on which to hang the whole teenage girl thing of unrequited love, with a devastatingly handsome hero who sacrifices all for the rather plain, uncertain misfit with love conquering all(of course!) Add in the fact that although there is no overt sexuality, it oozes sensuality, and the plain misfit is eventually transformed into a superwoman, AND gets her man you can see why it gets the fan base. And although it is aimed at teenaged girls it has got Aimee and her friends (late twenties/early thirties) me, fifties and my mother at 80 completedly hooked.Personally, I think all the writers jumping on the vampire bandwagon are barking up the wrong tree.
    (I have to admit to wanting to grow up and look just like Lily Munster, only just gtting the white stripe in my hair mow!)

  5. I do agree; it's time vampires were reclaimed and made dangerous again! The vampire as nice-guy stuff is fun (Buffy, Terry Pratchett), but the balance needs to be redressed now.

  6. OK, Thomas. We'll keep the mystery legs a mystery.

    Does she or doesn't she, are they or aren't they? Mystery is fun.

  7. Enough with the legs! I thought this was a place for serious literary discussion? Ok, I'll be going now.....but first...isn't the point of Meyer that teenageness is far scarier than vampires? I dunno, I haven't read any of her books, feels too Buffy. Do you remember on tv there used to be a game with a Dracula type vampire and the kid on telly stuck her finger in something and this voice said "I vant to bite your vinger" and she got a little stamp of two puncture marks on her pinky?...ah me, I need to get back to some serious stuff now! I am so the grown up in the joke shop here!

    Very amusing as usual, Thomas - great illustration, too!

  8. Serious literary discussion? Here? Gosh!

    Thanks for commenting. Just to be clear, I'm not knocking Twilight as such, or the people who have enjoyed it, it's more the 'How To Pull a Vampire' me-toos that have slip-streamed behind it. The idea of a vampire falling in love with its prey is a good one, though I wasn't convinced by the fitted-kitchens and all that baseball-playing in Twilight. And why would a vampire bother to go to school? Decade after decade pretending to be only 17, taking the same classes again and again...

    Give me a tumbledown gothic castle to hide in anyday. Or night.

  9. But, Thomas, it's all about keeping a low profile! you wouldn't want people to find out that you ARE a vampire, would you? And if you stayed 17 in a gothic castle, you would a) get bored after 100 years, and b)be discovered and turned into a freak show. That's why Edward goes to school. Anyway, good teachers change their curriculum regularly (she says)so that school doesn't get boring for vampires who never grow old, but also for normal children.
    I'm in Penny's team, anyway. I am not ashamed to claim that the Twilight saga is great (books and films), as I am someone who doesn't enjoy gory blood and scary music in films.
    Saw the second film (New Moon) last friday. Thoroughly enjoyed it, even though it is less about a 21st century Dracula and more about well-shaped tanned young men running in the rain (what is there not to like?).
    I also read somewhere that tourism in Forks (where Twilight is set)has increased 1000%. Which led me to ask myself (and now ask you): what else, in the whole history of humanity, has ever increased 1000% ?

  10. Yes, but I'm a kind vampire -- I only suck the blood out of oranges.

    Actually, I used to know someone who had a reputation for being a vampire. He was very pale and was invariably dressed in black with a white collar. I'd better not tell too many stories about him because he might be reading this. Anyway, despite his best efforts to hide it, he was once caught eating cake, so I suspect he was a kind vampire too.

    Just to reiterate, I'm not having a go at Twilight so much as the taming of the beast that has followed it through a swarm of rubber-toothed were-copycats. also, I should admit that though I started reading Twilight I lost interest and gave up. It was not actually written for me, so that's okay, but if only Edward had been a real man-killing vampire, then his restraint over Bella would have meant a lot more.

    As for your question, I think there's easily been a 1000% increase in blogging over the last 10 years:-P


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