Table of Contents
P. C. CAST
o . . . just what the hell is it with you teenagers and vampires? Huh? Okay, I have my suspicions. As with any mature, reasoning adult over the age of thirty who is also a parent, my natural inclination is to believe their allure has to do with . . . well . . . sex. I mean, come on! I'll admit to reading
Interview with a Vampire
the year it was released. I won't mention that year so as not to frighten you with my advanced age, but I will say I was sixteen the first time I read the book, and I was definitely tantalized and titillated by the overt sexuality of Anne Rice's vamps.
But while I'm taking this trip way back down Memory Lane, I find that I need to admit to more than just my age. If I'm being honest with myself, and with you, I have to add that the allure of the vampire is much more complex than simple lust. The truth is that vampire appeal goes beyond raging hormones and our baser emotions. I devoured Anne Rice's book and then went on to absorb Bram Stoker's
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's amazing Chronicles of Saint Germain not just because they were sexyâthat's way too simplistic a reason. I got hooked on vampires as a teenager because I identified with them.
About now my adult readers are shaking their heads and thinking,
Cast has lost it
. . .
It does sound bizarre. How could a teenager in the '70s, or the 2000s for that matter, “identify” with vampires? Okay, stay with me here. When I was a teenager I understood vamps deep in my soul because, at the very core of my hormone-filled being, I believed I was immortal too. Actually, it was such an innate belief, one that went so hand-in-hand with zits and driver's ed, boy angst and prom, that it wasn't until I looked back in retrospect that I realized what really drew me to absorb all the vampire mythos I could get my hands on.
Think about it. The sensuality and allure of vampires must go beyond biting and blood. Come on! Neither of those things is particularly enticing, even when you add a hot, brooding guy or a sexy chick to the mix. But sprinkle in the ability to live practically forever and to be frozen physically in time so that you don't have to age, and you have a whole new thing. Vampires rebel against time, and they win! Teenagers get that. Because isn't rebelling against time, whether “time” is represented by wrinkles or a parent's disciplinary hand or death itself, what being a teenager is all about?
Of course it is. Or at least it mostly is.
Hopefully you're nodding and grinning and thinking,
Cast hasn't lost it. She's old, sure, but she hasn't lost it. Yet.
Is it any wonder
became such a phenomenon? On one hand, she personified the immediacy of being a teenager. Everything was so deliciously now with Buffy and the Scooby gang. For them, every day really might have been the end of the world. On the other hand, Buffy seemed invulnerable, even to herself, even after she'd diedâtwice! And who did she fall in love with? Vampires, of course. Yes, Buffy had mortal boyfriends, but she struggled with the fact that it never seemed to work with a regular guy her own age (and species). The characters of Angel and Spike were old, and admittedly, monsters, but Buffy identified and fell in love with them instead. Why? (I mean, besides the fact that they were both so
.) As vampires, they symbolized everything that Buffy, as a teenager, believed would always be exclusively hers: immortal youth and the possibility of forever. And it worked! Spike and Angel hooked the audience along with Buffy, and whether we were fifteen or fifty we wanted to be with them tooâto share in the allure of attainable immortality and forever love.
It's a theme I play with in my own young adult vampyre series, the House of Night, which I coauthor with my daughter, Kristin. In our books the teenage heroine, Zoey Redbird, is changing lives and worldsâmoving from her human existence to enter the world of vampyres, where she will make the Change into an adult vamp, or die. During this Change Zoey struggles to maintain a relationship with her human boyfriend. In that struggle she's really saying that she isn't ready to fully embrace the magic and passion and forever-ness vampyres symbolize. At the same time, she's inexorably
drawn to the allure of the vampyre, which is best represented in the characters of Erik Night and James Stark, in whom she glimpses the possibility of forever. In later HoN books, add the presence of the mystical fallen angel, Kalonaâwho is, indeed, literally immortalâand the teenage angst as well as allure is really cranked up. It's scary for Zoey, but it also attracts her, just as it attracts the books' readers.
I think that's something else about the vampire mythos teenagers can especially identify withâthe sense of fear that goes along with the promise of forever. It's much like the bittersweet fear you feel as you contemplate leaving home for the first time. It's something you desireâsomething you look forward to and dream aboutâbut there's also a frightening sense of take-this-step-and-nothing-will-ever-be-the-same about it. And yet even that fear itself is exciting, compelling. Vampires carry that same sense of excitement about them. Sure, we can all push through our hesitation and reach for immortality, but perhaps only teens are willing to truly embrace it, because you're used to the big question mark that is the future and you still believe forever can be attainedâthat youth can really conquer death and love can be victorious over age and apathy.
Because that's really the heart of youth, isn't it? It's the magical possibility of forever that opens before all of us as young adults. When you're a teenager you've become old enough to see the promise of adulthood, you can practically touch the allure of freedom and the mystery of imagining what is to come, but you're also still young enough to believe that you can move through that future without changing,
without losing yourself and turning into scary cloned versions of your parents.
And that's what the vampires we fall in love with struggle to do too. No matter the mythos, whether we're lost in the world of Lestat, Edward and Bella, Angel and Buffy, or even my fabulous Zoey Redbird, our immortal enchanters all strive to maintain sense of self and find lasting love over the long stretches of their lives. In these struggles they take us with them and, perhaps, the journey is more magically real for those of you who are still young.
Come with me, will you? Let's pass through the realm of immortals again. I was dazzled by the variety and richness of the stories the wonderful authors in this anthology created. It is always a pleasure to visit Rachel Caine's Morganville, and a familiar joy to be seduced by the magic of Tanith Lee's unique voice and vision. I was a proud mom, smiling at Kristin Cast's world in which vampires were created by the ancient Furies, as well as a satisfied reader. The conclusion of Claudia Gray's pre-Civil War story had me cheering. In “Haunted Love” I was pleasantly surprised by Cynthia Leitich Smith's plot twists and turns. Richelle Mead's “Blue Moon” made me breathless. Nancy Holder's post-apocalyptic vision took me on a wild, scary ride, and Rachel Vincent's vampiric siren was a cool addition to our mythos.
I invite you to join me in reading the magic within these pages. We'll be mesmerized by the allure of the vampire together, and by doing soâeven if just temporarilyâwe'll all attain a measure of immortality.
CYNTHIA LEITICH SMITH
n my way to work, I pass the worn-out white cottage where I lived as a little kid. The windows are boarded up. So is the door. I expect it'll be put up for auction. I expect it'll go cheap. Nobody's moving to Spirit, Texas.
Every year, the high school grads pack up and leaveâone or two for college, the rest for jobs in bigger towns. And every other week, a crowd gathers at the funeral parlor to pay their respects to one of the old folks. Death is the most lucrative business in town.
It seems like everyone dies or leaves. But I'm not going anywhere. Spirit is home. It's the little piece of the world that makes sense to me, which, lately, is saying a lot.
“Cody!” calls a bright, female voice from behind me.
I ignore her. I've never been a talkative kind of guy.
“Cody Stryker!” exclaims the teenage daughter of the new mayorâthe one who's going to turn the empty store-fronts into antique shops and the abandoned houses into
bed-and-breakfasts and offer Spirit a future again, or so he says. “Wait,” she pleads. “I need to talk to you.”
I pause, turn. Did I say nobody moves here? The girl standing in front of me this evening is an exception to that rule. Last fall, Ginny Augustine and her folks arrived in Spirit after the bank foreclosed on their home in The Woodlands.
Typically, you have to live in town for at least a year before running for office, but nobody else wanted the job, so the city council passed a waiver and Mr. Augustine ran unopposed.
My glare falls to Ginny's hand on my sleeve.
She snatches it back. “I don't believe we've met before. I'mâ”
“I know who you are.” I begin walking again. Glancing at her sideways, I ask, “What do you want?”
I feel a faint flash of guilt when she blinks, startled. “Well,” Ginny begins again, “someone's cranky. Here's the deal: I'm going to handle ticket sales for you. Cool, huh?” When I don't reply, she adds, “You know, at the theater. Movies? Tickets?”
For the first time in more than fifty years, the Old Love Theater will open tonight at 8 P.M. After Uncle Dean's death, I sold off a third of his cattle, his antique gun, and his fishing boat to make the down payment. None of it was worth much, but neither is the Old Love.
It's reassuring to have somewhere to be on a night-tonight basis, though, to have another purpose beyond satisfying my thirst. To have something else to think about besides the night I faced down my uncle for the last time.
I keep going, trying to ignore how Ginny falls in step by my side.
At sixteen, she's girl-next-door pretty, medium height and curvy. Her teeth are even and pearly white. Long, honey-blonde hair frames her friendly face. What with the powder blue baby T that reads
in rhinestones and her faded denim cutoffs, Ginny looks like she was born and bred in Spirit, like a real small-town girl.
When we reach the theater, she persists in following me around back.
Ginny leans against the door, coy, as I fish my keys out of my jeans pocket.
“Big night,” she observes. “You nervous?”
“No,” I lie, unlocking the deadbolt. Once inside, I add, “And I'm not hiring.”
“Really?” Ginny asks, shoving a sandal-clad foot in the doorway. “You mean you're going to run the projector, pop the corn, restock the concession stand, ring up food and drinks, vacuum the carpet, change the toilet paper, and do . . . whatever managers doâpaperwork and billsâall by yourself? Think about it, cowboy. How do you plan to sell tickets and handle concessions at the same time?”
On one hand, I don't want to encourage her. On the other, I don't need any trouble from her leaving pissed off. I don't need troubleâperiod. I wish she would just take off. “I'm not opening the concession stand.”