Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Guest Post: Lili St. Crow - Werewolves vs. Vampires
Lili St. Crow is the author of Strange Angels. She lives in Vancouver, Washington with her husband, three children, and a houseful of cats. Betrayals, the 2nd book in the Strange Angels Series is in stores today.
Vampires and Werewolves are among the most popular mythical beings of supernatural fiction amongst readers today. I'm thrilled that Lili will be sharing with us her thoughts on why these creatures are so fascinating.
How about you, which is your Favorite?
Werewolves vs. Vampires
There are millions of age-old questions. Peanut butter or jelly? Sandals or sneakers? Chicken or dumpling?
But the real question is, vampire or werewolf?
Both sides have passionate advocates and detractors. Both have things to recommend them.
I, for one, am perennially undecided.
Vampires are fascinating. They're a blank screen that deep cultural anxieties about sex, death, female sexuality, and parasitism play on over and over. The vampire is a shapeshifter. One moment he's a rotting corpse, the fear of contagion and being buried alive. The next he's a creepy-hot, razor-licking romantic antihero. He can be a Malkavian or a sparkling teenage dream. The vampire is most interesting not for what he says, but for what he says about us.
Female vampires have moved from being automatons under the sway of a princely master to interesting meditations in their own right. Wilhelmina Murray was passive British womanhood at risk of "foreign" contamination; the female vampires of today are more likely to be struggling with issues of sex and power as active agents.
And werewolves? Primal beast and thinking man in the same body? The tension between animal instinct and rationality makes for interesting and attractive characters. A werewolf can be a Noble Savage or a man not responsible for his beastly behavior, both things Western storytellers love. The lure of the werewolf is the chain it takes off our instincts. Animals don't doubt themselves, and a werewolf doubts him or herself only when they're not in the grip of the beast—and free of responsibility.
This is why I can't decide between werewolves and vampires. Two great tastes, not necessarily great together, but both, well, great.
I'm a little tired of pretty vampires—this is why I created scurf in Jill Kismet's world—but I can see the attraction. A tall, dark, rich (because all vampires invest, of course) immortal? Whether hero or villain, he's hitting all the right buttons. With all the benefits of vampirism (like superstrength and superspeed, not to mention becoming incredibly attractive) it's amazing so many vampire characters are so angsty. Then again, they are drinking blood. They are essentially parasites, and there's not a good way to prettify that dynamic. If there's a drawback to vampires, it's the angst—or the psychotic jerkwad factor, if we're talking about vampire villains.
As for werewolves, well, we've always suspected human beings are beasts at heart. Human history is full of humans doing things to each other animals would never dream of, things more "beastly" than the feathered and furred. Civilization and cooperation are the way we've survived, but they also require a lot of delayed gratification and compromise. Who hasn't seen the lure of turning into a huge hairy beast and running amok during, say, a boring business meeting? Who hasn't had nasty, ugly thoughts and fantasies? The werewolf is a safe place to repose all those things, because we are ultimately in control of any fantasy he stars in.
After all, we can turn off the television or leave the theater, close the book or turn off the radio at any time. These fantasies are dependent on us not just for blood or meat, but for existence itself.
To be honest, the werewolf has his own share of angst or jerkwad. But we forgive him like we forgive the vampire. After all, without us, they don't exist. Our blood, our breath, our stories give them life.
I think the ongoing fascination with werewolves and vampires comes from two things: the fact that they are both shapechangers, ready to serve our storytelling or anxious needs in a heartbeat; and from our need to make the world behave in a coherent fashion. The human brain is great at finding patterns and attributing causes to events, even if those patterns and causes aren't accurate. Senseless violence or disasters, or even plain bad luck, are all very difficult to find explanations for or healing from. With a myth of supernatural creatures bound by certain rules, we can take control of scary things. Draw their fangs, as it were.
Werewolves and vampires are both repositories of fantasies and anxieties we rarely speak aloud. Sometimes they work together, sometimes they cross-pollinate, sometimes they are depicted as enemies. In the end, though, they're our extraordinarily faithful servants.
Is it any wonder we have trouble choosing between them?
For more information about Lili St. Crow and her books, please visit her website here.