When I heard the news, I thought it was too good to be true. I was reading Mrs. Rice’s books when they were probably a little too mature for my age range in middle school. I remember being entranced by the protagonists and antagonists– and the fact that from time to time, the characters were both! This was new to me at the time, when many stories geared to children in that age group teach in black and white and good versus evil. And oh, her descriptive powers; I was totally hooked. I read and re-read all of her books, even the more obscure ones (Merrick is a forever favorite of mine) until I realized; wait! There has to be more!
When I found out that there wouldn’t be I was utterly devastated, but as all bibliophiles know, life must go on. After Mrs. Rice’s return to Catholicism, I too was somehow left with a strange feeling of emptiness that had little to do with the lack of new books to lose myself in. If our lady Anne had turned her back on her vampires, then what did it mean for those of us who found so much solace and personal identification in reading about their all-too-human stories? Especially: What did it mean to the countless LGBTQ+ people who finally found some kind of representation in the subtext of the stories they liked? During the time that the fans watched and waited, we were met with an onslaught of new or re-visited vampire stories. We saw the advent of Twilight, True Blood, and even shows like the American revisiting of Being Human. It seemed that vampires had become a central part to literature and especially young adult stories, even if they only really appear in the stories as supporting characters– such as in Cassandra Clare’s (lovely and totally recommendable) Shadowhunter Chronicles.
All of this media was well and good and yet I found myself questioning; “Where are the real vampires?”
Despite all of the merit of these other varied stories, nothing felt as genuine as Rice’s Chronicles to me. Why, I wondered. About a year ago, I began to revist them, rereading my favorites. Part way through another revisiting of The Tale of the Body Thief, something hit me. I was reminded of a tip that I was given when I very first picked up writing and decided that I wanted it to be my profession and that was: Your character must have flaws. Oh of course; that seems like elementary dear Watson and yet– it is so very easy to lay something upon a protagonist and call it a flaw such as giving your handsome and awkward boy a painful past that makes him push people away. That is a flaw that is an attractive flaw. It can hardly be called a flaw in the sense of writing! People you may say, always love the broken things; this is another rule of writing for me. The realism of Mrs. Rice’s characters came through to me so very clearly in Lestat; sometimes, he is altogether wretched! Immoral! Cruel, even! And yet strangely you find yourself loving him and why (this article is very much about why, you see)? Because he is human. He may be immortal and beautiful, but seeing into his mind is to look into your own; even the glaring and painful parts of you that you pretend don’t exist save to yourself in the dark of night.
Right now, The Vampire Lestat is on my Audible account. I had forgotten how much I loved it! And yet, with this new announcement I found myself wondering with dread: What if a generation nursed on Twilight and Underworld can’t handle the “truth” and even worse– what if we end up with a repeat of the Queen of the Damned movie (feel free to shudder in unison with me)? Perhaps it is my old fuddy-duddy side showing, and the general sense that so many people just getting old enough to really understand nostalgia that says “The old/first one is the best!” or maybe my fear is justified. Can the world really handle the Brat Prince after more than a decade of his silence?
I suppose all I can say is that I view it with trepidation and hope. I hope that younger readers can pick up these novels and appreciate the grandeur of the scale, and the sweeping emotions. In a recent vlog posted on her Facebook by her assistant Becket, Mrs. Rice said that in order to write things that really grip people, you have to go where your pain is. Write from that place; write from your pain. If nothing else, I can say that she is a master of this. In the end, my purpose of writing this article is to say that I dearly hope that if you haven’t read The Vampire Chronicles, and you are a fan of vampires in media, I really hope that you take the time to give these books a chance. These days, you can find them in every library and on Amazon for a penny a piece plus shipping. Never forget where the “now” came from; remember that these books really and truly gave birth to the genre of sexy, miserable, wonderfully human vampires.