Guidelines for a Contemporary Vampire Story

  • Like seasons or car accidents, vampires must be known but considered an unavoidable part of the natural world. They must be spoken of as ecologically and socially beneficial, mostly by themselves and by people entirely ignorant about both topics or naively attempting to be eaten last.

  • You won't find a vampire hunting through foggy streets. They know stakes are the great equalizer; the defining trait of vampires is that they have no taste for equality. Their castles are vast and hidden, full of wonders they quickly tire of. They are served and guarded by familiars, humans who in the open recesses of their hearts wish not to serve or guard a vampire, but to be turned into one.

  • Vampires turn nobody. The most ardent wish of every vampire is to be the last, only, and greatest one.

  • Vampires' feeding involves no bite, as this would not scale to match their self-increasing hunger. Humans simply go to bed with less life than they woke up with, tired and scared, they believe, of the world. Then they get out of bed entirely too soon and go to work to scrub away the idea of stakes and the blueprints of crosses. This identity of victim and weapon should be the scariest feature of the story, but it should not absolve any of the characters.

  • The nightmares of vampires are full of the vague dread of something sharper and hungrier than themselves, something with a deeper shadow, something that stalks the skies and bleeds stars dry. They wake up with fear and envy, and go to work creating new and crueler sacrifices in an attempt to be retroactively turned by those vampires yet to be, but the future turns nobody.

  • The story should be clear that it's not a metaphor and that its genre is both horror and science-fiction but neither fiction nor self-help, and must avoid the easy closure of a vampire-killing flood or the human protagonist becoming a good vampire and then saving the world. It should also reject the conceit of being a symbolic stake or at all useful in any meaningful way.

  • From an ethical standpoint, therefore, the story should not be written. This will not of course deter the author, who might at least convince themselves to leave it as nothing more than a set of notes. The reader, rightfully annoyed by this trite postmodern turn, will forget to wonder about crosses and stakes.