Asking the Big Question

Some genres just keep coming back. Vampires come and go. Zombies come and go. Space aliens come and go. Dystopian futures come and go. But they always come back. The reason is that these stories are about fears. And every generation has its own fears and anxieties. Every time the vampires come back, they reflect the fears of a new generation.

Every once in a decade or so, a writer will come out to represent the genre for a generation. Anne Rice did that for vampires and became the queen of the vampire genre. (Whether Stephanie Meyer overtook the throne is debatable.) Rice’s stories were about alienated people, with strong homo-erotic undertones. They were embraced by the LGBT community (then still known as the gay community) as allegorical symbols of alienation and social isolation. An unspoken element is that they were also being read by straight people who were spooked by the sudden visibility of gay people in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Stephanie Meyer fused the vampire genre with the “young adult” genre, which was a smashing success with her predominantly young readership, but did not sit well with the older generation of genre writers like Stephen King and Anne Rice. She also infused her stories with a totally new set of fears and anxieties, this time a kind of political divide that polarized the gentrified and progressive Cullens from the reactionary and race-supremacist trackers. And of course even the culturally assimilating Cullens draw the line when it comes to cross-racial romance, thereby expressing the limitations and hypocrisies of progressiveness. Thus introducing a new set of conflicts for readers to identify with.

Eventually there will be another queen of the vampire genre who will speak to a new generation of readers who will have a different set of fears and anxieties. The one thing she will not do is replicate classic vampire novels of the past. Hard core vampire fans still prefer “The Librarian” over “Twilight”. But a resurrected classic is never the voice of the next generation. Even if you are a “genre” writer (or perhaps more so because of it) you must ask big questions like “What are the dominant fears and anxieties of the coming age?” Asking big questions and thinking about them seriously comes with the territory of being a writer. Even when you are writing a YA vampire story.

 

 

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