Thursday, April 19, 2012

GUEST BLOG: In Which Sarah Zettel Reveals The Culinary Secrets of Vampires

Hello. My name is Sarah Zettel. And I’m a science fiction writer (Hi, Sarah). The thing is, I’m a science fiction writer who is currently writing mysteries. About vampires. And food.

I wish I could take credit for the idea of the vampire chef, but I can’t. The idea itself came from the late, great publisher and editor, Marty Greenberg, and I was just lucky enough to be an author with time enough to take on the project (truth was, I was out of work when the chance came). The first thing I did — after contacting a food critic friend and buying KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL — was start reading every vampire-starring book I could get my hands on. I was not really a reader of the modern vampire before this, and I needed to know what I was talking about before I settled into making jokes about it.

Thing is, as I’m a science fiction writer by nature, there was no way I was going to be able to write about vampires in Manhattan without going into the history of vampires, and the world of vampires “real” and literary. And there was no way all the results of that research were going into the books. Nor was there anyway all of it should.

This used to be a problem for authors. We had reams of research and strange ideas we had to squirrel away in our mental attics, and sometimes our real attics. Fortunately, in the 21st century, we have blogs.

So, with the kind indulgence of our hostess, I give you, dear readers, a history of the literary vampire, in dialogue form.


[In which the author is discovered standing at her front door behind a pile of rice, holding her crucifix and holy water and calling out sacred names. Soundlessly, a silhouette slips up to the window, a pale hand is laid on the glass, and a rich voice, impossibly old and dangerously young at the same time begins to speak]
            “Hey, can I come in? ‘Cause, like, the sun’s comin’ up and I’m gonna start sparkling any minute here.”
            “Yeah. Can you, like, let me in, please?”

            “Holy cow! Get in here. Edward! I thought maybe…”
            “Maybe, what? That I was like, a real vampire?”
            “No, no, of course not.”
            “It’s okay. Everybody thinks it.”
            “They don’t. You’ve got millions of fans…”
            “Well, I think it. And they’re right.”
            “You are a real vampire, Ed. You suck blood…”
            “Ah, that doesn’t count. Besides, except for Bella, I haven’t like, chowed on a human in decades. I’m starting to forget what they taste like.”
            “Well don’t look at me, kid.”
            “See! See! You’re not even scared of me! And what’s with the cross?”
            “It’s a crucifix, and it’s supposed to remind you of your eternal damnation.”
            “Yeah, right. I’m damned. I’m a daddy!”
            “‘S what you get for having unprotected sex, Ed.”
            “But I don’t want this! I don’t want to be married to my high school sweetheart. What kind of life is that for a vampire! I want a harem of sinister undead beauties in white nighties at my beck and call! I want to fly! I want to bring on floods of rats and turn into creeping fog! I want to destroy virgins and chew on a corpse laid out in a chapel! I want to be a vampire! A real vampire!”
            “Sorry Ed. You’re the result of hundreds of years of evolution and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
            “What do you mean, evolution? I’m UNDEAD. The undead don’t evolve.”
            “Yeah, you do. Listen, there are two main species of vampire; the monstrous, ugly, permanently damned, corpse-eating kind, and the seductive, discreet neck-puncturing kind. The monster line has just kind of…died out. That’s the problem with symbiosis.”
            “Symbiosis? We’re top predator, man!”
            “Yeah, and what happens when the top predator eats too many of the prey? The predator dies back. Then you’ve got the problem that your particular preferred prey tends to mob up and fight back. Now, what happens in every story where the vamp chomps through a village or tries to convert the local beauty?”
            “Didn’t hear you there, Ed.”
            “They get…staked.”
            “Or burned, or otherwise made to cease to exist. Right. Now, what happens in all the stories where the vamp is broody yet powerful and finds a woman who loves him more than life itself.”
            “If that was “they live,” well, continue to walk the earth anyway, you’d be right. Classic evolutionary pressure. The monsters died, the Undead Lord Byrons lived.”
            “So how did this happen? I mean, Vlad the Impaler did not have girlfriend trouble!”
            “Women got the vote.”
            “The vampire myth is a rape myth, Ed. It’s a warning to young girls not to trust the handsome stranger who promises you the moon and the stars if you’ll just come up to the castle and look at his etchings. It’s about how every guy wants your virginity and if you give it up, you’re worse than dead. By the time Braham Stoker got hold of it and wrote ‘Dracula,’ it became a story about how young women need to be saved from their sexual feelings which will inevitably lead them to death, or worse.”
            “Those wacky Victorians.”
            “You got that right. I mean, what’s the plot of ‘Dracula?’ Girl falls for vampire, stalwart hero saves girl from vampire, girl becomes proper wife, and presumably forgets all about those silly cravings. But, see, the problem was women didn’t WANT to forget all about those silly cravings. They wanted the guy who would take them away from the fate of being a proper wife.
            “And women buy books. Lots and lots of books.”
            “I noticed. But, wait, you’re saying the whole falling in love with a vampire thing is an expression of sexual freedom…”
            “About which American society still has really mixed feelings. We still see sexually free women as doing something really dangerous, so we’re still equating seductive men with monsters …”
            “But what about Vampire Lestat? He’s gay! You can’t tell me women are running around falling in love with a gay guy!”
            “OMG. Clearly, the undead do not read manga. Lestat’s your grandfather, Ed. He was the beginning of the modern trend. The first vampire hero. Oh, there’d been attempts to re-vamp (you should excuse the expression) Dracula with things like Fred Saberhagen’s “Dracula Files,” but it was Lestat who took off. He was perfect. A handsome, broody monster who actually loved deeply, who did right in the end, and was absolutely unattainable because he was a gay vampire, so everybody could fantasize about being the one he actually came to love.”
            “You are kidding me.”
            “Nope. ‘Fraid not. And you’ll notice, the vamps didn’t remain gay. They went back to heterosexuality very quickly after Anne Rice. These days the vampire myth isn’t just about sexual freedom. It’s about obtaining what everybody says you can’t have and shouldn’t want.”
            “So, what, now I’m a piece of really good chocolate?”
            “Actually, I think you personally might be a Mormon.”
            “Never mind. I can’t back it up. But the chocolate metaphor is good. You’re the forbidden in a manageable package. Just the right amount of danger.”
            “Because women buy a lot of books?”
            “Last big gasp of the monster line was Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT, and even he couldn’t stand up to the power of the women’s vote.”
            “But, wait a minute. What about all those kick-butt, vampire hunting heroines?”
            “Very powerful expression of the fantasy of freedom. Those women are absolutely without question not victims. The KBVHH chooses to love a vampire. And because she invariably looks hot in black leather, the guys don’t mind looking at her either. Equal opportunity eye-candy may be the ultimate evolutionary force.”
            “I’m, like, so gonna wring Angel’s neck. He should have chomped Buffy a good one when he had the chance.”
            “I don’t think you can kill a vampire by strangulation, Ed.”
            “So, that’s it?”
            “‘Fraid so, Ed. You’re stuck being the hero.”
            “But…like it’s not the end, is it? I mean, we changed once, we can change again, right?”
            “Could happen.”
            “Then I’ll be the first of the new breed! I’ll be dark! I’ll be death on silent leather wings! I’ll rip the hearts out of my enemies and…hey, what time is it?”
            “Almost nine.”
            “Ah, crap! I gotta get going. Bella’s taking classes at the community college and I’ve got to take care of the kid.”
            “I bet you even drink wine don’t you?”
            “Starbucks, mostly.”
            “Good luck, Ed.”

Sarah Zettel is the author of numerous science fiction and fantasy novels, including the award winning BITTER ANGELS (writing as C.L. Anderson). Most recently, she’s the author of the Vampire Chef mysteries: A TASTE OF THE NIGHTLIFE and LET THEM EAT STAKE. You can find out more about her books at and, of course at of which she is a member along with many other notables, including Deborah J. Ross.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent piece! ... I never thought of Vampire Evolution, but you've hit the nail on the head.