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Monday, October 29, 2007

The Good Vampire

Mike’s stories have appeared in Relief Journal, Forgotten Worlds, Alienskin, and Dragons, Knights and Angels, with articles in The Matthew’s House Project, Relevant Magazine and the forthcoming 316 Journal. He is included in the upcoming Coach’s Midnight Diner anthology and was one of ten authors picked for Infuze Magazine’s Best of 2005 print anthology. Mike is an ordained minister, has led numerous small groups and developed discipleship-training curriculum for several churches. He and his wife Lisa live in Southern California, where they have raised four children. You can visit him at

By Mike Duran

Those words seem like an oxymoron, don’t they? Good vampire? Aren't all vampires bad – night loving, Christ-hating, sex ravished ghouls? But if vampires are fictional constructs, then why can’t they be good?

Not long ago, I pondered the idea of a vampire novel from a Christian perspective. The genre, it seemed to me, lent itself to great redemptive possibilities. Anne Rice, author of the Interview with the Vampire Chronicles, says as much. On her blog, in a post entitled On the Nature of My Earlier Works (you must scroll down on her page for this essay), she discusses the concept. Since publicly professing faith in Christ, Ms. Rice has been repeatedly asked to renounce her earlier vampire works. After tracing the history of “dark stories” — from Dante’s Inferno, to Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth, to Flannery O’Connor — she states her belief that many such stories are “transformative” in nature. According to the author, the gist of her popular series is the “near despair of an alienated being who searches the world for some hope that his existence can have meaning. His vampire nature is clearly a metaphor for human consciousness or moral awareness.”

I’ve not read the books and thought the movie was pretty gloomy. Nevertheless, the idea that the vampire figure holds a mirror to “human consciousness or moral awareness” is intriguing. Historically, the vampire motif is often used to portray Original Sin, wherein fallen man is viewed as an addict, thirsting after wickedness. As such, vampire lore is rife with biblical lingo and imagery.

So there I was, a neophyte novelist, conniving this idea about a vampire who wants deliverance from her infernal appetite. After all, people don’t willingly become vampires, do they? Much like Original Sin, the vampiric nature is inherited" or, should I say, inflicted. Then it only stands to reason that some would despise what they have become and battle the impulses. Right? Okay, so figure on a Christian vampire -- more accurately, a Christian bitten by a vampire. Let’s suppose she was nipped in a botched raid on an unsuspecting local crypt and, after busting her braces and developing a revulsion toward garlic fries, is exiled to the underworld. But our Bat Babe won't go down without a fight. She stays home when the gang goes out for dinner, renouncing blood like a vegan does Prime Rib, and takes to dividing the flock with the promise of deliverance. They can't kill her, she's already undead. But even though the poor thing is anorexic and iron deficient, they give her the boot. She is a disgrace to vampires everywhere!

Our heroine wanders the city, shunned, feared, hunted. She takes refuge in a cathedral and contemplates suicide -- but the thought of chugging a receptacle of holy water is just too painful. Here, she encounters others like herself -- a subculture of conflicted night creatures living in the catacombs, a monastery of abstinent bloodsuckers. They perpetuate tales of a coming day when unwashed necks will cease to appeal. But they may never see such a day because, as we speak, some misguided Van Helsing type is plotting a massive campaign against vampires, an ad hoc inquisition designed to rid the world of genetic and spiritual impurity. Thus, the good vampires find themselves on the wrong end of the theological stake. They must yield to either indiscriminate slaughter or band together to fight both their blood brothers and the unmerciful Pharisaical persecution.

Okay, whaddya think? So far, so good?

Well, the storyline is not that original. Take for instance the Confessor, a character in the comic book series, Astro City . The Confessor was a Roman Catholic priest who was seduced by a vampire. As penance, he fought crime in Astro City , eventually becoming a religious-themed costumed hero. The Confessor’s mantle is eventually taken up by Altar Boy. He confines himself to the church during daytime, and on his chest, wears a large, shining cross that inflicts sufficient pain to prevent his temptation to drink blood, and remind him of his mission.

As one inclined toward penance, I must admit that the idea of prancing around in tights, adorned with a large enough crucifix to administer pain, tickles my flagellistic fancy. Anyway, the point is that people have been tweaking the vampire tale for a while now; making the night creatures conflicted, sympathetic, even good. So why not a Christian vampire?However, the more I floated my idea, the more I discovered a great resistance within the Christian fiction community. We don’t do vampires, was the resounding response. Some suggest it is the horror genre in general that causes CBA publishing houses to hedge (although, there are positive signs that is changing). Others say that the vampire genre has become so laden with erotica and evil that it carries an automatic stigma, making it unsalvageable.

Coach's Midnight Diner, recently released by the folks at Relief, is subtitled The Jesus versus Cthulhu Edition. Created by horror-meister H.P. Lovecraft, Cthulhu is a fictional entity, one of the Great Old Ones, possessing a tentacled head and a grotesque scaly body (think Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean ). The ancient monster has become an icon of terror for horror / sci-fi fans everywhere and may even rival the vampire in terms of its rabid following. Nevertheless, when the anthology was first announced, there was some discussion among Christian authors about the convergence of those characters. Jesus and Cthulhu? Is that really right? Cthulhu stands for all that is evil. How can we even associate him with Jesus? Some disavowed the concept on the basis of its incongruence, others on biblical grounds.

But the answer that resolved it for me was this: It’s fiction, baby! God is written into many fictional settings. We may argue that a biblical caricature of God does not exist in all fiction. That’s a given. However the idea of inserting the real biblical God into hypothetical situations with fabricated figures is the basis of all Christian fiction. So if God can interact with Ransom, Reuben Land, Elmer Gantry or George Bailey, then why can’t He engage Cthulu or Count Dracula? After all, none of them – except God -- really exists.

Much as Tolkien and C.S. Lewis sought to reclaim mythology and unearth the underlying sediment of biblical truth inherent in folklore and fable, perhaps the same could be done with vampire lore. Current notions of the nocturnal nemeses are shaped largely by superstition, gothic literature and pop culture. Therefore, it remains in flux, unmoored, largely freed from factual constraints and rife for further tweaking. But, as Christian authors, do we dare?

Either way, I’ve since scrapped my idea about a Christian vampire story. Too many Van Helsings with theological stakes to drive. Nevertheless, the question still remains: If vampires are fictional constructs, then why can’t they be good?


  1. Hummm . . . very few would have the talent and ability to pull off something like this in the Christian world, but I think if anyone could, it would be you, Mike!

    I wonder ... if one were creating a mythological character out of the apostle Paul ... how that would look? The most unredeemable being redeemed by God?

    It's easier to believe something that is already done than something that has yet to live itself out in proof. We want to believe the vilest of humanity can be redeemed, but can we even go there? Really? I mean, yeah, we trust and believe that GOD can redeem ANYone ... but that ANYone must also make the choice, too, right? And what if they stop making that choice? Right when you think they're done drinking blood altogether?

  2. There is the excellent TV show Angel, about a vampire with a soul. He's not a christian, but he's fighting for redemption throughout the show.

  3. To the degree you could pull this off would be the degree you invested in the storyworld. Anything is possible if you create a compelling, realistic (enough to suspend disbelief) setting. But, I agree that a vampire is a stumbling block.

  4. Having grown up watching Dr. Shock every Saturday morning, I had plenty of vampire movies to satisfy my dark curiousity.

    I think your idea is fascinating, but I agree with Mary. It's a huge stumbling block for Christian publishing.

    I was gonna mention the TV show, Angel, but xy already did. Nothing new under the sun, huh?

  5. You say stumbling block, I say OPPORTUNITY!

  6. Hey, Mike, remember me?

    My biggest nit with reclaiming vampires is that traditionally, they have stood with witches, black dwarves, orcs, dragons, etc. Vampires as sympathetic figures is a 21st century twist. Its presence in children's lit (and it's BIG) means setting common morality on its head--screws knight vs. dragon for knight and dragon BFF. This leaves huge marks on kids' ever-evolving moral education. Subtly and by inplication only, they're taught that "bad" and "good" have permanant quotation marks.

    Just some thoughts. :)

  7. Yessss, I do remember you, Noel...

    Question though: Aren't there good dragons? I seem to recall several films / books that incorporate kind, scaly critters. So what if it's a 21st century thing. We are living there. And if it's fiction, it ain't etched in stone. Perhaps the strength of the concept, from a literary perspective, is not in its historical interpretation, but its fluidity. Henceforth, The Good Orc will be my next Novel Journey entry.

    By the way, are you blogging yet, Noel? Or is that too 21st century. :}

  8. Sure there are good dragons. There are good witches, too. And they're already working on good orcs.

    My concern is for the children growing up under these metaphor-morphing 21st century paradigms ... Schiller said, "Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life." Fiction may be fiction, but it's not impotent-- especially for kids.

    Nope, not blogging. I leave that to the techie geezers.


  9. I think it could be done, and done quite well...and I would read it and help promote it, as long as it was quality fiction:-)

    So I say, BRING IT ON!!

  10. Interesting discussion. Eric Wilson is writing a vampire series (The Jerusalem Undead series), which will be published by Thomas Nelson, I believe. The first one "Field of Blood" will be published in fall 2008, according to his website. I am not sure if this portrays a Christian vampire, but it is a CBA publishing house putting out a vampire novel. So, it seems that there is greater openness to the idea of exploring this genre in a redemptive way.

  11. Noel, Are you suggesting that fairy tale archetypes should never change? Once a dragon, always a dragon -- or should I say BAD DRAGON? I'd suggest that we teach children morality by giving them the tools to discern BEHAVIOR -- this includes discerning the behavior of fairy tale characters. A BAD dragon is one who incinerates virgins; a GOOD dragon rescues them. Teaching our children to discern behavior is more important than maintaining the status quo among Hansel and Gretel.

    Signed, Techie Geezer

  12. Oh Mike, you know I love you.

    Like a grandpa. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

    You're totally right that teaching children to discern behavior is more important than making sure all dragons are bad. But, for hundreds of years, stories--fairy tales--have heavily influenced millions of children, not didactically, but through symbols and metaphors and archetypes. These types have not altered from one generation to the next (until now)--rather, they have preserved a moral standard. Where did that moral standard originate? Who was the first storyteller who decided witches should be evil and princesses good? Secularists shrug.

    The idea that dragons are bad is as old as Saint George. *climbs onto a limb* To go totally fundy, it's as old as Satan the Serpent. Writers like Tolkien and Lewis demonstrate their belief that traditional paradigms exist for a reason, and should be preserved. (Balder kills Smog in the Hobbit, Eustace is converted from dragon to human by Aslan.)

    There's a really good book on the subject, called A Landscape with Dragons, about the influence stories have on children. O'Brien is the author, I think.


  13. By the way, thanks for being such a nice guy in your comments. It's refreshing to be able to disagree agreeably with someone.


  14. Sue Dent's Christian Vampire Novel, FOREVER RICHARD, will be coming out soon, so I'd say go for it! I am already laying the foundation for a Christian Vampire romance, in which, ultimately, the undead may be redeemed. (This was inspired by a comment by Janet Tronstad, and we brainstormed it together. She was too busy with a six-book contract to cowrite it, so she told me to go for it! It was going to be my NaNoWriMo book, but I had a chance to write something for an editor pitch that I couldn't pass up, so it's on the back burner temporarily.) Sue's first book, NEVER CEESE, featured both a vampire and a werewolf, neither of whom wanted to have been changed. I'm still looking forward to reading it!

    As to manipulating the mythos, I think there are pros and cons. Everything needs to be taken into account and carefully weighed. For example, IS something just a myth, or does it have its basis in fact? If the latter, then we need to be careful about making something traditionally evil into something good. Anything that doesn't have an obvious basis in fact, say, trolls, gremlins, etc., would be fair game. Does that make sense?

    I hope you go ahead with your Christian vampire novel, whether or not you can find a publisher immediately. Of all genres that Christian publishers SHOULD deal with, horror is most definitely at the top of the list. After all, some of our brethren fight the forces of darkness daily (and nightly). If we can illustrate that truth in fiction, we can arm those who are unaware of the battle. Just a thought.

  15. . . . and Eric Wilson will be right behind me with his undead trilogy. Let's not forget those of us who've already battled the odds and have succeeded in making it easier for those to follow. Eric is with a CBA publisher I am not. It's going to be intersting to see what CBA guidelines will allow Eric to get by with. I'm pulling for Eric as much as I'm pulling for myself. There's nothing new about this concept. There are a number of vampire books out there written by a Christian. The trick is writing one in the restrictive guidelines of the CBA. I didn't know about the CBA when I wrote my story but have no doubts they'd find something they felt needed to be edited out. That's why I'll stick with Independent/Traditional publishers. No real problem except that it makes it a little tougher to get on Christian bookstore shelves. I can still get on them, just have to work harder. Good luck on your endevour. Just wanted to make sure you knew there were others already out there. Hey, the more the merrier, I say!

    Hey, Hope! Love ya!

    Never Ceese - A vampire . . . a werewolf . . . can two who were wronged make it right?

    Forever Richard - The sequel
    coming soon from The Writer's Cafe Press

  16. Hey, Sue! You're welcome for the plug! *hug* Keep up the good work!
    Love ya, too!

  17. Mike, on the subject of Christian vampires, check the Tanya Huff Blood series. Henry Fitzroy, the vampire in question is a devout Catholic, more devout than the other protagonists. He prays, goes to confession (since he figures out that the same sins still apply, even if hte circumstances change), and believes what he was taught in the catechism, even if some things he thinks he has learned more about.

    His feeding is non-lethal, and does not precisely cause defilement (although you may charge him with encouraging sexual inmorality, as that provides him with a cover for his biting).

    There is now a series about him in Lifetime "Blood Ties" Fridays at 11 o'clock. Check it up, and you may come up with some more ideas for your book.

  18. "The first one "Field of Blood" will be published in fall 2008, according to his website. I am not sure if this portrays a Christian vampire, but it is a CBA publishing house putting out a vampire novel. So, it seems that there is greater openness to the idea of exploring this genre in a redemptive way."

    No CBA Christian publisher has put out a vampire novel to date and it's doubtful that they'll go very far past inferring that something in the book MIGHT be a vampire but oooops, maybe not.

    Vampires and werewolves does not suit their target audience of conservative evangelicals. My vampires and werewolves seek redemption but not one CBA Christian publisher was interested. Not even after it was short listed for a Bram Stoker Award or voted book club choice for the month of May 2007 at the ACFW.

    Thank goodness the general market (composed of Christian readers as well as secular readers) has no problem with vampires and werewolves. Too bad the CBA Christian market doesn't allow this. But it's understandable. For the most part it offends their core market. :)

  19. The idea of a 'Christian Vampire' is a complete paradox. The vampire in it's very nature is a blood sucking creature of the night. To castrate the character of a vampire, and make it 'fluffy' is a sin to horror fiction and fantasy.
    Vampires aren't nice, they don't care whether their food wants to be eaten or not (much like the human's attitude toward animals) and one of the bare basics of vampire myth is that once you are transformed into the monster, there is no redemption, no matter what. Perhaps one reason that vampires are immortal. They can't be accepted into any afterlife.
    If you want Christian novels, leave the 'horror' elements out of it.
    Let the vampire be the vampire.

    Goddess Bless

  20. In fact, Jesus was all about confronting the horror of sin. For that very reason, I felt compelled to deal with vampires in a Christian novel. Nothing nice about the vampires in "Field of Blood." It might change your mind about "Christian" fiction's parameters.

  21. Anonymous writes: "To castrate the character of a vampire, and make it 'fluffy' is a sin to horror fiction and fantasy." My question is: Who says? It's horror FICTION, right? Last I checked, fiction was made up, not true, imagined, etc. Vampires are part of the canon of fiction, and thus fair game for literary re-interpretation. Unless there's some all-powerful gatekeeper of "horror fiction and fantasy" that I don't know of...

  22. Anonymous goes a bit overboard with his saying that a "nice" vampire is a "sin" against fantasy and SF.

    Now, as I understand fantasy and SF describe things that *do not exist outside the author's imagination* and therefore can be molded according to that imagination.

    If you write a bout cuddly fluffy crocodies you can be taken to task for ignoring basic biology - but that is because there are crocodiles out there and while Steve Irwin might have loved them dearly, we all know they are not cuddly and fluffy.

    But imaginary creatures are fair game. We are free to reimage them according to the story we want to tell. Whether the story is worth telling or not - and what its moral is has to be determined by reading it.

    To say that a creature has to be "always" evil is to say that such a creature has no free will - and thus cannot be either good or evil - like the shark in Jaws, which is described that "all it does is swim, eat, and make little sharks". We cannot say that someone is evil, unless we can prove that he could be good, and chose otherwise. That is, unless we want to posit a mindless beast, driven by instinct - and which might even have to be protected to preserve the ecological balance - to to show an evil dragon, or an evil vampire, we have to show the goodness it might be capable of embracing - and we might thus have to show a good dragon or a good vampire.

  23. And speaking of fluffy vampires, Anonymous must never have read Bunnicula. (A charming tale of a vampire bunny. Highly recommended to all vampire fans everywhere, of any age.)

    I started my book at last. I'd be further in, but I took the flu.... There will be nothing fluffy, trust me, about my vampires.

  24. Is anyone familiar with the christian publications Jack Chick?

    Well he has one person on staff that was involved in real vampirism and gives his testimony on the web site.

    Darkness, murder, sex, drinking blood how can any of this be christian... Way too many folks these days being sucked into darkness with these type things..

  25. Ah, yes, Jack Chick. Too many here are painfully aware of this publications, and what an embarrassment they are.

    Catholics have nothing good to say about him - as he has nothing good to say about them, to the point of depicting the Pope as a crook who is a tool of Satan.

  26. chelle the southern belle7:25 PM, March 31, 2009

    I know a few christians who came out of the Catholic church and they decry it loudly.

    I too being raised a good Baptist for many years I was taught that the Catholic church is the great whore.

    I have done much study on the catholic church and have come to some conclusions about the RCC myself and most of them teach doctrines contrary to the true word of God... Just because someone calls them self a Christian does not mean that they model their life after Christ...

  27. As a non-Christian but having an interest in vampires, I have additional information you might be interested in and a point of view you might wish to consider.

    The idea of a " Christian vampire" as you describe it has been done before, in the SECULAR media. Ever hear of the TV series " Forever Knight"? That was about a cop who secretly was an 800 year old vampire seeking redemption for his sins as a vampire and sought to become mortal again.

    I usually don't read Christian fiction because years ago I read some of the novels of two Christian authors, Frank Pereiti and Bob Larson, and found their work to be pretty bad, story-wise. The one " Left Behind" book I read was bad in the sense that the authors didn't make the characters credible.

    There is a subgenre of vampire fiction called " good guy/gal vampire" fiction. I have in my collection four anthologies by fan fiction writers that are specifically about that subject. I am always interested in reading anything worth reading by Christians, fiction or nonfiction. But as your experience shows, certain segments of the Christian publishing area are not open to the idea of redemptive vampires and such. I would suggest that if you wrote a Christian vampire novel you could have better success in trying secular publishers instead. That way you could still have yoru fellow Christians find your book and read what's acceptable to them according to their religion.

    My only requirement to the writer is the same one Stephen King said is a conrtact between the reader and the writer. Tell a story credible enough so the reader can stay along with you to the end. Make the story, characters, plot, action and so forth worth the reader's time. And whatever you do, don't insult the reader. As a Wiccan/Pagan, well you can guess I encountered some pretty good examples of writers insulting a reader like me in various ways.

    And OC we do have some people who actually think they are vampires in real life, and some of them claim to be Christian. BTW the one "Christian" I've heard who claimed he was a vampire once is Bill Schnoebelen, who is " coincidentally" has a multi-DVD set of his story as a former "vampire" for sale. Schnoebelen is not a credible source and IMO he's a liar.

  28. Very interesting, foreverknightfan. Thank you! You bring out some good points, things for me to consider in the vampire novel I'm currently writing. Probably I will end up selling it to a secular publisher, and that's all right with me. I will see if I can find the DVDs of the series. I remember seeing it once or twice a long time ago, and can't remember now why I didn't watch it. Maybe we got bad reception on that channel...

    I think Christian fiction has improved over the last fifteen or so years, especially in tight writing. When it first started as a separate genre, much of it was dreadful! A lot of them were more like slice of life without good story arcs. (Of course, grammar has deteriorated in all genres, for which I blame television and the lack of English grammar being taught in secondary schools.) Have you tried Robert Liparulo or Ted Dekker's work? I think you might enjoy Deadfall & its sequel, Deadlock, by RL. Both also write for the young adult market.

    Thank you for sharing the Wiccan/Pagan perspective. It might do a lot of Christians good to remember that others who do not share our faith read our books. I have many writing (and non-writing) friends of different religions. My hope is that I will always have something meaningful to share with everyone, not just those who believe the way I do. I also hope always to tell really gripping stories, whether they're about vampires, the old west, detectives, or whatever subject is dear to my heart at the moment. That should be the goal of every writer! Thanks again for bringing it to my attention!

  29. Why not some christian porn too, jeepers!!!!!!!!!! What are we coming too these days. In these last days, perilous times shall Come... How true the writings of paul were.

  30. Christian porn? Like, oh " Dead Air" by Bob Larson perhaps?
    Anonymouse, tell me what is it that would prevent a writer who professes to be Christian to write a vampire novel? I realize that for certain types of Christians who are "legalistic" ( to use a term to describe their Bible-only attitude) that the idea of a " believer" writing a novel were the vampire character is treated sympathetically is incongruous to the " only glorify the lord" view, but you seem to forget that by that same standard C.S. Lewis' fiction would be " bad" by that standard.

    Frankly I would be intrigued as to what a Christian author would HONESTLY do with a sympathetic vampire character. I'm always open to interesting treatments, regardless of what the author believes or not. However, as I've noted in my other comment, I've read so-called Christian fiction years ago that were, to be honest, shallow and quite frankly insulting.

    I am sorry you think that certain subjects should not be explored in Christian fiction, ever. A vampire protagonist is a good template for the Christian idea of sin and redemption against a carnal nature.

    We humans are storytellers. Perhaps " God" gives some humans the gift of fiction writing as an avenue to help teach things to other humans.


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