discussions genre stuff

Angels Are The New Vampires (Apparently)

According to the wisdom of Anne Rice, at least. This is the same Anne Rice that did this but don’t let that colour your opinion of her. Neither should you let her last strange effort make you doubt this huge slab of self-promo article.

Angels are the new vampires of the literary world, according to the doyenne of vampire fiction Anne Rice, who is about to launch a new series of books starring a contract killer recruited by a seraph.

Taking their inspiration, perhaps, from Milton’s arch-fiend Satan, Rice and a host of other authors are plotting celestial assaults on the book shops this autumn, with angels in all shapes and sizes about to hit the bookshelves.

Well firstly, unless there’s some kind of Buffy-style cinema-enhanced multi-media decade-spanning phenomenon, then, um, no they’re not the new vampires. Vampires have swamped popular culture in a huge way, and have dominated urban fantasy for the last ten years, and have pretty much had it going for them ever since Dracula, to be honest – although the high point was clearly Count Duckula.

What is interesting, though, is the glut of books on angels that cram what we used to call back in my bookselling days, the “Mind Body and Spirit” section. It was the section that sat nicely next to religion, but wasn’t actually coherent or reliable enough to be part of it. Such titles have actually been around in the world of non-fiction for a heck of a long time, and are bizarrely popular to say the least. So, knowing this unsettling fact, maybe I’ll retain an open mind on this one.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

19 replies on “Angels Are The New Vampires (Apparently)”

Ah, MBS! Where astrology books sit side-by-side with David Icke.

Even if angels were the next genre staple, there’s one small problem: most people reading vampire books *know* it’s fiction. The MBS crowd (sweeping generalisations ahoy!) may not like the idea of angels being treated as just another fictional archetype.

Mark, you know more about the cold-eyed world of publishing than me. But if it is a name and it sells, it matters not a jot to the bean counters that it is sh**! Art is an irrelevance where ‘product’ is concerned. The Jenni Diski review was a hoot, though.

George – I’d forgotten about David Icke. Now there’s a sub-genre…

Nick – that’s true to some extent, but I suspect that even Anne Rice depends upon those vampires rather than something new.

David – Very good point there. Zombies really have taken over the last few years. And quite – Vampires have a very set role, which perfectly overlaps with certain romantic ideals.

It’s difficult to express the massive impact those old ITV Cosgrove Hall cartoons had on the literary establishment – not only the shadow cast by Count Duckula over the horror genre, but the way that Dangermouse revitalized the spy genre, adding the popular bespectacled hamster archetype.

I blogged about it (thinking of renaming it ‘Blog of no Consequence’). Zombies ar a niche market, unless a wave of necrophilia fetishism spreads across the world and I can’t see it. Since as much as anything else it is sex that sells.

Hirsute horror, hairy men in a metrosexual media world (Wolverine excepted) is still very much an acquired taste for teenage girls, since that is the demographic. While women are largely the authorship demographic.

Vampires fit in with the ‘I’ll tame you bad boy’ syndrome. Not only does the girl get ravished in some way (Twilight, True Blood) but she tames the bad boy, too. It’s a perfect cake-and-eating-it scenario. Despite Mr. Gaiman’s view that vampires have had their day, until that sexually transgressive (but acceptable – doing it with dead bodies ain’t) teen girl wishfulfilment fantasy diminishes, vamp are here to stay.

“I think many girls mature much earlier than boys, and they are frustrated when they approach young boys for love or protection. Hence the fantasy of a wise and protective vampire coming into the life of a young girl who, of course, appreciates him in a special way.”

Right, so getting pregnant by said vampire and then spending a few hundred pages having an emo-strop about said relationship is ‘appreciating him in a special way’ is it? What a crock of shit.

Still, such statements won’t do Rice any harm – her credibility was shot to shit years ago.

Insipid, anodyne, sexless immortals who float about being oh-so-fucking pretty and “deep,”(i.e. sophomorically moody twats) utterly divorced from any real passion that might involve, yanno, actual sweaty physicality — I don’t see much difference between vampires and angels, at least as fetishised by these Mary Sookie writers — c.f. the currency of the Nephelim in teen subcultures at their most gothwanky. The trope of the Fall (Lucifer’s rather than Eve’s) is writ large in the mythos; no surprise Rice’s protag is a *contract killer* aiming for Redemption. Compare Angel, Bill, Edward — all those ticks trying so hard to undo their Fallen state. Being a human who eats, drinks, pisses, shits, fucks, sweats, and so on — the tropes of vampires and angels both seem to come from a response of “eeewww, cooties!” to the realities of life itself.

This is where I really get contemptuous about it. Cause, yeah, the “I’ll tame you, bad boy” syndrome is a huge part of it, and it isn’t going away soon, I think. And that’s headsmackingly bad from a feminist perspective. But equally as bad, and more personally irksome for me — way I see it is these vampires have more than a hint of the castrato homo to them. It’s like the writers have had a Gay Best Friend in high school, right at the stage where that queer kid is in the depth of denial, telling himself he’s straight or bi, fixating on a girl — but in a completely asexual Romantic way because of course it’s a profoundly neurotic pseudo-attraction. Not that the writers would actually recognise this as unhealthy. No, they’re too busy diddling themselves at the thought of being the object of such false, compensatory desires. Nice wish-fulfillment fantasy, that one — that if only your Gay Best Friend was *really* repressed he’d be, like, the Perfect (Safe, Protective) Boyfriend.

Metaphorically speaking, Rice has just taken her fetishised homos-in-denial and sent them off to get the cure at some Christian Ex-Gay Boot Camp. Cause, yeah, if all that repressed sexuality that surfaces as another kind of… “dark appetite” or “private vice,” shall we say, could just be purged completely, why, that would be, like, the best boyfriend EVAH! Not a vampire but an angel!

Hi Nick – interesting post on your site. And yeah, vampires will be around for a while yet, I’m sure.

James – ha, yeah, her rep hasn’t exactly shone recently. And there are some serious questions that need to be asked about the psychologies of all that.

Hey, Hal. Actually, when you describe them as such, they’re remarkably similar. Something else to slot neatly into the wish-fulfillment roles. I suspect there’s a lot that could be said about some of the reality-avoidance issues there, but that’s a whole other post.

I remember reading something by you on the fashion accessory nature of gay characters in urban fantasy. Did you see the article suggesting that vampires were akin to homosexuals? – – if you didn’t. I was waiting for your marathon post on the subject to materialise!

“Zombies ar a niche market, unless a wave of necrophilia fetishism spreads across the world and I can’t see it.”

Niche? Have you not seen how much money Zombieland’s raked in? And that’s just the most recent example of a trend that’s been going on for a decade. Every year I hear people predict the zombie craze is over but, so far as I can tell, that’s just a wish-fulfillment fantasy on the part of people who don’t like the zombie apocalypse genre. I suspect it will keep going strong for several years to come.

Anyone want to bet whether World War Z with be a huge hit?

Oh dear Anne – well, you know, she is the doyenne, isn’t she?

The amount of books I’ve been receiving lately from publishers have had a shift – we are dealing with immortals (human, but immortal) fallen angels (NOT demons), angels (winged seraphs), the offspring of Adam and Eve and Lilith and also demons (the badass guys). Very few vamps are coming through. Loads of zombies. More Celtic mythological creatures are coming through too, along with fae beings. There is a lot of faery stories at the moment – especially in the States.

Personally, I don’t care. If it’s written well and has engaging characters and it entertains me, bring on the critters!

Religion and mythology is being plundered by all and sundry these days in order to create the new hot thing, praying for it to be the new JK Rowling of Steph Meyer.

No one knows what it’s going to be! There is a lot of speculation. Angels have been hot for ages, look at the Sharon Shinn series.

Angels are cool, I quite like ’em – but I love the kick-ass ones, the fire and brimstone ones, the ones from Legion and Prophecy and Constantine, in other words, not the guys you necessarily want to fall in love with because eeew, grim…feathers! 😉

Hey, Mark. Yeah, I’ve been too busy to tackle that properly, but this post sparked me to get my teeth into the topic, actually. I’m working on something as we speak.

The article itself is… well, kind of glossy mag superficial in its points, but I think it’s sort of stumbling around *near* the right track in terms of a common subtext. Vampires have always had a capacity as cipher for the Jungian Shadow and hence fetishised Other, repressed desire and so on. Rice and Brite (along with all the AIDS metaphor stories in the 80s) cemented the link with homosexuality that was already coded into the image of vampire-as-sophisticate. (Like, fops=fags, yanno?)

You can add to that the way things like Buffy have sought to subvert the Othering, using demons like Lorne as a (not perhaps coincidentally camp) good guy. True Blood’s Alan Ball is clearly coming from a conscious decision to tackle those aspects of the trope. How much he subverts and how much the Mary Sookie aspect just plays into the wish-fulfillment is arguable.

Hell, I watched Twilight just so I could decide if I could ever have a relationship with any of the *countless* hot emo boys who list it as their favourite movie on Gaydar. (The answer being fuck no.) It’s not as simple as vampires=gay, but I do think there’s a weird link been/being made to the top/bottom dynamics and fetishism that are part and parcel of gay culture. It could just be a gay tendency to queer the text, but I can see where Marche is coming from. I didn’t read it as based on stereotypes so much as picking up on a meaning born of stereotypes.

I think for a long time representation of gays in urban fantasy has borne comparison with slash, tapping into a female attraction to / identification with gay men that can be healthy and laudable or exoticising and dodgy. You do meet those girls who mean well but basically love gays, like, cause we’re all “sensitive” and shit. And sparkling in sunlight? How much more *fabulous* could Edward be? If you read the article as recognising the emergence of a new permutation of the trope-as-cipher — faghaggery gone really quite wrong — yeah, I can see a flip-side to the “taming the bad boy” subtext in a “turning the gay boy” subtext.


David – I stand by that in relation to genre as a whole. I adore zombie films, but for me they never, ever get better than the slow, shambling Romero type from his original trilogy, often imitated, often riffed upon but for me never surpassed. Simple concept. Whether the result of a nuclear ballsup or ‘when there’s no more room in Hell the dead will walk the Earth’ (which can actually be part of the same thing, since the whole point of those films is how mankind has a tendency to destroy itself from within, but that’s another post). An
utterly awesome monolithic concept, like Gort in the original The Day the Earth Stood Still. And they remain so. Yes there has been Shaun of the Dead doing well, Zombieland also (a film for the video game age, vicarious action and slaughter without consequences; and either the ending up in the amusement park was meant to be arch or was simply unknowningly ironic). But this and other moments (the 28 Days stuff – don’t get me started on the difference between homage and bare-faced lifting in that, or Alex Garland’s hamfisted screenplay writing – he clearly doesn’t know the difference – overrated the lot) but this hardly constitutes the enormous shift of stuff in vampireland there has been. And now along comes Colin for six thousand quid and I hope he does well. I’ll go and see it.

In all honesty, I cannot comment on current zombie book sales, but they can surely be no more or less remarkable than other sub-genre sales in the realm of fantastic literature. And by that count alone remain niche.

Liz, I take it this is from a reviewer’s standpoint. If it is an editor or a publisher saying the same thing I might want to go and slit my wrists! Becuse it would just mean that words on the page *are* nothing but product.


I’m not sure what depresses me more, that or this from Philip Roth:

Mind you, the novel a minority cult in 25 years? As someone who’s life revolves around it, I thought it already was now!

(The comeback regarding the success of ‘Silicone Lit’ – sh** I should copywright the term! – will be that it is a free market and thank goodness and their sales drip down to more esoteric and organic writers getting a chance; but you might notice this is an argument that frequently comes from authors who have made it – and are often anything but esoteric: ‘I don’t know about literature, I am a writer and I write books and just try to tell a good story’ – or are currently making it work for them in the said free market atmosphere. You can tell which end of the stick I’m grasping!)

I can more than half believe Roth’s prediction. We don’t live in an interactive age because of new technology, we live in a reactive one, in which cold hard thought is increasingly marginalised in the individual.

Hal, Jung, apropos:

Proof that there is no subsitute for old school, cold hard thought. We leave it behind as a species at our peril. Perhaps finally, David, zombies *will* inherit the earth!

David – Zombies really have come to the forefront, haven’t they? I suspect they’re most certainly part of some horror nostalgia that’s gained massive momentum. I suspect they won’t do quite as well as vampires, because vampires have a very strong female appeal, and many more females read than males. But they certainly shouldn’t be dismissed.

Liz – I think you bloggers must get a very interesting view on the quantities that publishers are putting out, without being influenced by sales performances. I suspect all parts of the genre will be repeatedly plundered. Funny how those vampires keep on coming back though, isn’t it? How many more variants can there be?

Hey, Hal – I’ll keep an eye out for when you’ve written it. I’d love to see what the Elders of Sodom have to say. 🙂

That’s interesting you’re in broad agreement with it. I felt that they overlooked many factors, needless to say how iconic figures have appeal to young females (and how non-inconic other young boys of that age can be! 🙂 )

I never thought about just how strong the dominant/submissive sexual relationships echo that of the gay community (I know little of gay culture – but is there a big deal made of the top/bottom roles? And have you totally ruled out emo boys as a result of Twilight?)

If I’m being honest, I’m not that well-versed in urban fantasy – how deep do you think the female fetishisation of gay men goes? Or is it something that echos modern culture, other genres even?

Nick – thanks for the depressive links! I doubt what Roth has to say, very much. Especially in genre – where sales are very healthy, and there is a strong and loyal readership. If anything, I suspect other media – film and TV – will ship more people into the genre sections in bookstores. Fantasy especially.

I doubt that most editors treat books like product, though. They have to love what they buy, essentially.

“I suspect they won’t do quite as well as vampires, because vampires have a very strong female appeal, and many more females read than males. But they certainly shouldn’t be dismissed.”

True. Romance has always had be best sales of any genre so the “vampire romance” will certainly be dominant in sales.

But I’m thinking of what the dominant horror story monster is. And it ain’t vampires. Vampires have almost entirely moved out of the horror genre (except perhaps for a few people like David Wellington who are writing vampires as rip-your-throat-out monster rather than as wish-fulfillment boyfriends).

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