This is an answering ramble from my most recent page project for “Prince Lestat” on the page dedicated to discussing the segment on The People of the Moon and the Stars: I apparently have reached that point in life where I have full conversations with myself and readers about things that we never discussed, and have realised that I only explored a fraction of what I wanted to with that particular article on vampires, and, specifically, on vampires and what we consider to be evil.
Now, this stems from a truth I found to be universal when I was young. Vampires – and vampirism – do not necessitate evil. Or rather, vampires, strictly speaking, do not need to be evil. I could go into the simple transference of energy from one person to another – the way that a person may walk into a room full of happy people, but feel as if his life has turned to ash, and leave feeling uplifted whilst the happy people suddenly feel a little down and just can’t put their finger on why. I could reminisce about the time someone deliberately drained what little energy I had and left me half-melted on a coffee table over a boring cup of tea wondering how I was going to walk home. But, what I mostly want to explore, is what we consider to be evil?
Do those that are evil:
- Do evil, unaware of the evil of the act, and continue to do so in ignorance and bliss?
- Do evil, knowingly, willingly accepting that they are evil and continue to do so nightly with the sole intent of performing evil acts?
- Do evil, knowingly, and feel immense guilt and suffering for it?
This is where the question of vampires as evil becomes tricky for me. I vividly recall a scene from “The Vampire Lestat” where Lestat chose to kill a young mother and her baby, relishing in the wickedness of the act. But, even as I read that scene, Lestat did not FEEL evil. Truth be told, he felt like a very cross teenager, that wanted to show just how bad he could be, and, I quote (from a later Lestat obviously, but still):
“I don’t think anyone will ever say it quite like you do. Come on, say it again. I’m a perfect devil. Tell me how bad I am. It makes me feel so good!”
I’ve never perceived Lestat as evil, because he is well-aware of what he has done, and, nightly, he admonishes himself for his actions. Never in so many words. But when he talks, it’s like he wants the audience to see how wicked he is. The sub-text could not be plainer: “Hate me! I deserve it…” Unfortunately for Lestat and his need to be recognised as the monster that he is, this only serves to make him more endearing. There is nothing on earth more compelling than a self-flagellating dark knight, who on more than one occasion, has put aside his need to be the villain, and touched goodness, held it in his hand, used it to save a life, two, three… Who’s counting anymore?
I am desperately trying to think of “evil” characters in the Vampire Chronicles, and… I just don’t think any of them are. Not even Akasha… Nuts, sure. Utterly bananas, and very keen on world-domination and improvement as she saw fit, but, with the instance of “Prince Lestat” one can begin to understand why… Having a madman, an ancient spirit in one’s head, yammering away constantly, showing one awful things, will do that to a girl.
I’m not saying that some authors don’t allocate evil to their vampires. One that stands out for me very clearly is Jeanne Kalogridis’ Draculean Prince, who, to this day, is one of the most terrifying, haunting images from my childhood of a real, actual monster. A man that felt nothing as a human, joined the Scholomance to learn its secrets and became an uncompromisingly twisted and cruel creature. It’s not popular opinion, but in the visions in my head, he is what Dracula set out to be.
But so few fictional and literary vampires are the evil that they want to be, or that they are intended to be, according to these silly rules of one silly girl. If I accepted vampires as evil, it would reset my world-view, my perceptions of them that I’ve kept for so many years. As I mentioned in the previous article, vampires are the metaphor the world needs, for the possibility of strength, cunning, power, and most often, protection. The world is a terrifying place. It’s a pleasant, comforting thought to imagine that there is a big scarier thing out there that wants to defend your rights to civility, joy, and above all, life.
I used vampires as a bastion against the darkness. And I couldn’t have been more than eleven years old when that begun. I was a loner, I had few friends, and I felt isolated in every facet of my life. I started concerning myself with the dark things in life before I knew how to fill in a tax return or write a resume. Vampires were a solace. Anne Rice’s vampires were my final solace. But I made my own, I cultivated them, and I later wrote them into novels, and now they’re a part of my history. And I wonder, does my study of their acts and mannerisms make me evil too?
More than anything, good, dark, light, shiny, or smudged with the charcoal of “evil,” vampires ARE an escape. The world right now is a horrible place. On many levels, I imagine it always has been, but social media has brought those horrors out into the steel gaze of the public eye, and we’re forced to see just how cruel people can be everyday. If we can look at the cruelty of humanity and be jaded by it, why can we not accept that an evil heart could not possibly feel remorse for evil acts?