Tired of TWILIGHT? 10 VAMPIRE Stories Worth Checking Out

<i>By <a href=http://twitter.com/sizzlerkistler>Alan Kistler, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> <p>Vampires are everywhere these days. There are shows like <i>The Vampire Diaries</i> and <i>True Blood</i>, both based on popular novel series. DC Comics has surprised many with the relaunched series <i>I, Vampire</i>, reimagining the 1980s comic of the same name that starred Andrew Bennett and his lover/enemy Mary. <p>And there's the upcoming <i>Dark Shadows</i> movie directed by Tim Burton, based on the first soap opera series to involve supernatural elements and which starred Barnabas Collins, whom many credit as the first true "vampire with a soul" who inspired many romantic life-drinkers to come. <p>But there are many other vampire stories that aren't in the spotlight these days, and don't have popular TV shows or movies out starring very pretty people who just happen to be immortal and feed on the life of others. And some recent movies were based on books worth exploring because surprise! Hollywood tends to change stories in adaptations. So with that in mind, here are some great vampire stories you should really check out, some scary, some funny, all interesting. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>

FEVRE DREAM

Enjoyed <i>Game of Thrones</i> and the rest of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series? Well, in 1982, George R.R. Martin wrote this vampire novel, taking place in Mississippi in 1857. The novel focuses on Abner Marsh, who is made captain of the new steamboat "Fevre Dream," thanks to the efforts of mysterious, rich gentleman Joshua York. Marsh is grateful for the job but a mystery arises as the Fevre Dream makes its way down the river. Why does Joshua York never leave his cabin during the day? And who are the people that compose his strange entourage? <p>The story leads through Abner witnesses strange revelations, participating in the American Civil War, and confronting Damon Julian, "bloodmaster" of New Orleans, a vampire who wishes to be the "Pale King" of the undead. It's an interesting work for historical fiction from the author whose later fantasy novels have made him wildly popular among readers and HBO fans.

I AM LEGEND

This book has been adapted into film by Hollywood three times, with movies starring Vincent Price, Charlton Heston, and, most recently, Will Smith. It has inspired several post-apocalyptic sci-fi and zombie films, such as the 1964 classic <i>Night of the Living Dead</i>, and was the first vampire novel to look at the undead through a scientific lens. The novel was written in 1954 by Richard Matheson, who also wrote various <i>Twilight Zone</i> episodes and whose prose work has been adapted into films such as <i>What Dreams May Come</i>, <i>The Box</i> and the upcoming <i>Real Steel</i>. <p>The story opens up on Robert Neville, who is the last human being on Earth as far as he knows. Humanity has fallen to a plague that has made the vampire the dominant life form. Every day, Neville reinforces the security of his home, checks to make sure the generator is working, replaces the garlic that hangs outside the windows, and makes a new supply of wooden stakes before he spends the afternoon hunting down and destroying vampires. And every night, he stays in his house, a modern-day fortress, hearing vampire women calling out with temptation and hearing the voices of old friends who are now undead screaming "NEVILLE!" This is a story of introspection and isolation, but also one about finding a new purpose in life, as Neville begins educating himself in science in order to study the biology of the vampire and just what makes their seemingly magical abilities and weaknesses work. <p>If all you've seen is the Will Smith version, grab this book. It's very different, and the ending may surprise you.

SUNSHINE

Neil Gaiman called this book "pretty much perfect" and it won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Fiction in 2004. Written by award-winning author Robin McKinley, this novel takes place in a parallel universe where Earth is aware of the existence of the Others: werewolves, demons and, worst of all, vampires. Following the Voodoo Wars, humanity is back in charge of the Earth but still fears occasional monsters in the dark. <p>Rae "Sunshine" Seddon narrates the story and she barely has time to introduce you to her world before she is kidnapped by a gang of bloodsuckers and chained up, offered to another vampire (one kept prisoner) as a meal. In this book, there is nothing romantic about the vampires. You're not even supposed to look at them in the eyes, for fear that you'll be lost in a hypnotic trance, and the sound of their voices is the sound of air moving through dead lungs. Yet Rae befriends this vampire and, in the process, learns about forgotten magical abilities that she is heir to. This book mixes a sassy, often hilarious, post-modern viewpoint with dark, old style fantasy. Vampires are truly presented as monsters to be feared, not envied.

'SALEM'S LOT

Stephen King's second novel (and one of his personal favorites), published in 1975 is still considered a classic by many and has been adapted into live-action twice. Ben Mears is a writer who returns to his childhood home of Jerusalem's Lot in order to research the old Marsten House, where he suffered disturbing experiences as a boy. The house has recently been purchased by Kurt Barlow a wealthy man who is not seen, but represented by the darkly charismatic Richard Straker. Soon afterward, a few of the town's residents begin to turn into vampires. As he strikes up new friendships and a new relationship, Ben realizes that more and more undead blood drinkers are rising each night, to the point where he may soon find himself in a town entirely populated by monsters. <p>This story doesn't really follow one person but introduces you to the entire town, delving into the lives of many people and families, developing their characters so that no one is just a nameless victim or a simple supporting cast player. It really makes vampires seem like an unstoppable force that you may just have to give in to. And although Barlow is rarely seen, like Dracula in Stoker's novel, his presence is felt throughout the story.

THE VAMPIRE ACADEMY

This YA series by Richelle Mead began in 2007 and is a new twist on the vampire romance story. Rather than human girls falling in love with dangerous monsters, the teenage protagonist is a really tough young lady learning to take on dangerous vampires. Rose Hathaway lives in a world where there are two types of vampires: the Moroi who are born as living vampires and peacefully co-exist with humanity, operating by their own laws and hierarchy; and the Strigoi, the corrupt undead that live to kill, possess incredible strength and speed, and can turn others (including Moroi) into creatures like themselves. Rose is a Dhampir, half-human and half-Moroi and, like many of her kind, she is training to be a Guardian, her life dedicated to protecting Moroi from the soulless Strigoi. <p>Rose's life at the vampire academy is not just another version of Harry Potter. The Moroi have their own society, but they use computers and go to shopping malls and make references to human pop culture. Unlike some novels and TV shows featuring teenagers, the young men and women of the academy are depicted as just that: real teenagers, not stupid adults nor absurdly wise characters whom we're simply told are young. These vampire teens are impulsive and inexperienced, dealing with teenage awkwardness, trying to convince themselves they're older than they are, meeting secretly to have sex or just flirting and then implying that they've had sex because virginity might be embarrassing for some of them. Throughout the books, readers get to see Rose and her friends slowly change and grow up in a way that is very easy to relate to despite the fantastic surroundings of magic and vampires. <p>By drawing on different myths and creating two distinct races of blood-drinkers, Mead is able to enjoy both the tropes of friendly, romantic vampires and the older idea of vampires being terrible, near-unstoppable monsters.

BLACK BLOOD BROTHERS

In Japan, this is a light novel (what the US would call "young adult") series by K&#333;hei Azano and with art by Yuuya Kusaka. In this story, there are different vampire bloodlines with different abilities and traits. Some vampires can go out during the day, but aren't particularly strong. Some vampires are incredibly strong and possess telepathic abilities, but will burn in direct sunlight or when water makes contact with their skin. And then there are the Kowloon vampires, those who wield telekinetic abilities and are completely devoid of any human soul, wishing for complete dominion over Earth. Where other vampires must perform a process involving an exchange of blood in order to make others a vampire, the Kowloon only need to bite you once. If they even bite another vampire, that vampire will become a Kowloon child, corrupted by their new bloodline. <p>Following Earth learning about the existence of vampires, there were great battles where vampires ("black bloods") worked alongside humans ("red bloods") and government agencies to end "the Kowloon shock." The war ended when Jiro, a vampire called Silver Blade, killed the Kowloon King and ended his bloodline. The public was told that all vampires were exterminated, but those who remained and wished to co-exist with humans were allowed to relocate to a city called the Special Zone. Now, many years later, the Silver Blade and his younger "brother" Kotaro, an adorable vampire child, want to gain entrance to the Special Zone. But as they make their journey, they discover that the Kowloon bloodline may not be gone. <p>This saga mixes high action and gang war politics with comedic banter and honest love and loyalty between the characters. It also inspired a very cool anime series of the same name. One scene will have rapid-fire violence with high body counts and the next will have dangerous warrior Jiro having water dumped on his face, burning him as he's berated for breaking his friend's alarm clock and making her late for work.

BLOODSUCKING FIENDS: A LOVE STORY

Not all vampire stories have to be serious tales of loss and terror. This one is just a hilarious look at what undead life might involve. This book by Christopher Moore, published originally in 1995, explains that it's not all glamor and <i>True Blood</i> sexiness. You can be a hot 20something who becomes a vampire, now making you powerful and gorgeous and able to charm others, and it still doesn't help pay the rent or keep you from having to do laundry every week. <p>Jody is a girl who finds herself becoming a vampire and dumped by the boyfriend she lives with on the same day. So she moves in with Tommy, a fun guy who is okay with his roommate being a vampire because hey, he's used to roommates who do their own weird thing. A fun cast of supporting characters involves lots of witty banter and activities such as bowling with turkeys down supermarket aisles. Definitely a fun read if you feel like a vampire story without angst, especially with lines such as: "It's not like I came to the City saying, 'Oh, I can't wait to find a woman whose only joy in life is sucking out my bodily fluids.' OK, well maybe I did, but I didn't mean this."

SHERLOCK HOLMES VS. DRACULA

This 1978 novel by Loren D. Estleman is also known as "The Adventure of the Sanguinary Count." The title may seem ridiculous, but this is actually an interesting crossover. The original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker was written as a collection of journal entries, letters and newspaper clippings. In this book, we see Sherlock Holmes responding to those same newspaper stories, deciding to investigate the ship that arrived in England with its entire crew missing and its captain completely drained of blood, his log speaking of a man who was also a monster. Holmes and Watson continue their investigation and come across Professor Abraham van Helsing as he hunts for Count Dracula. <p>This is truly a Sherlock Holmes story, not just an excuse for a crossover. Readers get to see how Holmes, through logic and deduction, realizes the existence of vampires and concludes whom the vampires and vampire hunters of Stoker's story are before he even meets them. And seeing Holmes and Dracula in the same room, confronting each other, is a great scene. This is also a good story for Watson, who reminds us that he was actually a capable ally to the great detective and not the bumbling oaf he later became known as thanks to film and TV. This novel was also adapted by the BBC into a great radio play and was followed up by Estleman's book <i>Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes</i>.

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN

You've probably heard of the acclaimed Swedish film, and the American film adaptation <i>Let Me In</i> which both were based on this 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. While the films have definitely deserved praise, this work gives a much more detailed story and goes into some areas that Hollywood didn't feel like exploring. <p>Oskar is a 12-year-old boy with an interest in crime and forensics, living with his mother. He meets Eli: a strange girl who lives with Hakan, a man who was run out of another town for being a pedophile. Eli helps protect Oskar from the bullies who pick on him, and they become friends. Eventually, Eli reveals the truth she's actually a boy who was castrated and turned into a vampire two centuries ago. Hakan is not Eli's guardian but works for him, procuring victims in exchange for money (though he'd do it for free if only the vampire boy would spend the night with him). It's a dark tale where being a vampire is not the worst kind of monster. This is a drama about people first and foremost and about the terrible emotions a person can experience when their life takes dark turns.

COUNT DUCKULA

This cartoon rocked, don't even act like it didn't. This British series lasted for three seasons and starred a character who originally appeared on the popular <i>Danger Mouse</i> show. Count Duckula first appeared as a fiend who wished to destroy Danger Mouse but quickly got his own set of fans. In the opening of the Count Duckula series, we learned that the vampire duck had lived in many incarnations over the centuries. Each time his enemies destroyed him, his faithful servants would perform a ritual where he would resurrect, now with a slightly different appearance and personality (rather like that other British character, Doctor Who). Following the death of the version that had fought Danger Mouse, a new Count Duckula was born but this time things went wrong when his faithful aide Nanny accidentally used ketchup in the ritual instead of blood. <p>Now a vegetarian vampire (and we mean literal vegetarian, not just a vampire who abstains from human blood like <i>Twilight</i>'s Cullen family), the Count was happy to enjoy a life of adventure and ignore his servant Igor's protests that he was supposed to be an evil, sadistic blood-drinker. For 65 episodes, the Count led us on hilarious misadventures, traveling around the world in his castle that could move through space and time, meeting other monsters, attempting to set up his castle as a tourist attraction, and constantly escaping the vampire hunters who couldn't accept the fact that he was a vegetarian. If you were a kid, you enjoyed the slapstick and high jinks. As an adult, you can laugh out loud at the witty banter and reference to both pop culture and classic literature. This show is meant for "all ages" in the best sense of the phrase.

Tired of TWILIGHT? 10 VAMPIRE Stories Worth Checking Out

Date: 06 October 2011 Time: 08:55 PM ET