The Vampire’s Bite: Curse or Virus?
I have written previously of how the nature of the vampire has changed since the original writing of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”(the original blog entry is here). Where once they could move about during the day, they are now incinerated by sunlight. Where they could once turn into a bat, many modern varieties are limited to a human-like form. Etc… One thing I failed to touch on, however, was the manner by which the vampire transforms its unhappy victim into another vampire. By all accounts, it does so by biting his or her victim, and draining the blood to a certain critical point. Through the years, though, one’s understanding of the bite and how it ultimately works has changed.
At the time when “Dracula” was written, the bite was understood to be a curse. The vampire, as agent of the Christian Devil, bit the victim, and he or she was transformed into a creature of the night by the mysterious powers of darkness. The method of transformation was safely ensconced in the supernatural. It was beyond human understanding, and as such, offered no hope of redemption. Most modern people, as a result of the continuing advance of science, do not believe in curses. They require a more “scientific” explanation for the vampire. They want to see some mechanical explanation that is somewhat more plausible than some unfathomable “curse.” And so the vampire virus was born. I don’t know who first used the virus-explanation, but it seems quite prevalent nowadays. I remember seeing it once in a comic book years ago, and I thought it clever, then. They used it in the series of “Underworld” movies starring Kate Beckinsale, and earlier in the “Blade” movies starring Wesley Snipes. I’m sure I’ve seen it elsewhere, but precisely where, eludes me for the moment. Anyway, I’m starting to get annoyed with the vampire virus explanation. I mean, really, do we need a “quasi-scientific” explanation for a vampire?
Isn’t it more chilling and more sinister to have the method of transformation beyond mere mortal explanation? Although most of the tales agree that the virus is incurable, that aspect of the disease is a temporary state. There is no reason why a virus, in principle, could not be cured at some later point in time by scientific advance. Some movies have even incorporated a “cure” for vampirism in the plot line. And to me this just detracts from the supernatural horror. Give me the curse without a cure. The sentence of living damnation that cannot be suspended. I mean, we are dealing with supernatural folklore here. Why limit ourselves with “science.” The vampire virus was kind of cool and clever for a time, but nowadays, I’m starting to look at it as more of a cliché. I like the mysterious and the unfathomable; give me the curse with no cure. It makes for a much more chilling tale.
And, of course, I must shamelessly mention my fantasy vampire novel, Drasmyr—see the side bar under Publications if you are interested.