There are questions that need answering this Halloween that go beyond whether to trick-or-treat?
Is the taste for blood on TV of your average millennial leading to a horror revamp?
Are we on the verge of a new sub-genre, with two heavyweight creatures on the cusp of merging and creating a new breed of monster?
Has the long-in-the-tooth vampire formula finally lost its edge and in need of a zombie makeover?
Ever since Bram Stoker wrote his novel Dracula back in 1897, vampires have maintained their popularity. The 1931 film of the same name starring Béla Lugosi helped shape our modern image of the vampire. It was championed in the 60s and 70s by Christopher Lee in the Hammer films and given a modern twist by The Lost Boys in 1987.
— Bela Jobs (@BelaJobs1) September 11, 2016
Throughout, vampires largely remained true to their gothic roots. They were generally evil, either seducing or brutalizing their victims.
There were not many good guys until Stephanie Meyer gave them a shiny makeover in the Twilight series, and the similarly successful Vampire Diaries continued her trend of high school, vampires and romance, or ‘vromance’.
This touchy-feely side to the caped creatures was a stake through the heart of many die-hard fans who hate the thought of vampires that glitter, go to college and betray any hint of selfless emotion. For them vampires can be charming and attractive for their own purposes but ultimately they are downright ruthless and evil.
Of course it is up to the individual authors who can write whatever they like about their fictitious creatures. If some fans prefer their blood-suckers to be vegetarians who sparkle in sunlight, well, every dog deserves its day in the sun.
For the past decade, the vampire arena has been mostly hijacked by vegetarian vromantics, as in Twilight, and the like. But staunch supporters of the shadier side to the genre can now start to consider coming out of the coffin.
Help may be at hand from a different type of mythical antagonist which has spawned its own fair share of debate over the years. George A. Romero, the godfather of the zombie, has written a comic book series called Empire of the Dead and AMC is reportedly set to adapt it for TV, adding to their already immensely successful zombie shows The Walking Dead and its spinoff Fear The Walking Dead.
Empire would pitch Romero’s usual zombie fiends in their usual post-apocalyptic wasteland, but add vampires into the mix, contributing further to the already weighty woes of any human survivors.
In a literary galaxy just about as far, far away as it is possible to get from Mr. Romero, we have myself, new author Antony J. Stanton, pretender to the ghoulish throne.
My books are similarly populated with, wait for it… zombies and vampires. In a real-life story, not dissimilar to the experiences of J.K. Rowling or E.L. James, I faced a number of rejections to my books from agents and publishers.
So last year I self-published my post-apocalyptic horror/thriller trilogy. Before I started writing my books I had no serious writing experience much beyond Christmas thank-you letters to relatives.
I learned everything along the way and what an arduous yet fascinating journey it was. Initially my love for post-apocalyptic and gothic literature led me to explore the question of what if a vampire encountered a multitude of enraged zombies? After all, over the years vampires have been pitted against The Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, ghosts, and werewolves aplenty.
So why not zombies? And what if there was no escape and he, or she, had to stay and fight? Imagine the debonair and devious vampire, usually at the pinnacle of the pecking order, but for once, ironically, having to avoid being bitten by a crazed throng and having to struggle for his, or her, damn-sexy life. How many zeds (as fans affectionately call them) would it take to bring down a vamp anyway?
But in my writing, I wanted more than this. I wanted as realistic a foundation as the genre would permit. Too often characters act in unconvincing and unbelievable ways without adequate explanation.
I wanted to avoid treating the reader like an idiot and for my books to be about as close to the just-possible as possible. I wanted a scientific basis for the zombie outbreak that was almost conceivable.
— Antony Stanton (@stanton_antony) April 5, 2016
Without giving any spoilers, my mother recently died of the effects of a form of dementia called Pick’s Disease. Dementia eventually steals away a person’s identity and it’s a physical reminder that they no longer have the character or personality that once was, with little beyond basic urges and instincts. It’s not entirely dissimilar to the mythical zombie.
So dementia proved a good place to start, and as well as writing my books I thought that perhaps I might actually do something beneficial and raise a little awareness of an illness that is so often stigmatized and shunned.
After several years of toil, I finally published book one Once Bitten, Twice Die in November 2015. It quickly rose as high as #3 ranking on Amazon’s genre charts. Book two, and just recently book three, have also been released.
Again, similar to E.L. James and J.K. Rowling, Hollywood has come calling and there are currently significant ongoing negotiations with an American production company regarding adapting the books for TV. They are likely to be aired as soon as next year.
Could it be that these two very different writers, Romero, the master, and my good self, the apprentice, have independently realized the direction that these fantastical creatures should take?
Just as vampires have changed over the years, so have zombies. Could their fusion be the next stage in the evolution of evil and infection? Romero was not the first to make zombie movies, but he was largely responsible for bringing them to mass-audience attention with his series of films commencing with Night of the Living Dead in 1968, followed by its sequels Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985).
Zombies started off as slow moving creatures in movies. Suspense would mount gradually as they steadily, but relentlessly, closed in on a hidden human. It was death by tension.
Following a brief hiatus in the late 1980s and 1990s, director Danny Boyle hurled them back into our collective consciousness with the fast-paced, frenetic 28 Days Later in 2002. Zombies have been a common feature of our viewing ever since.
Currently the most viewed cable show is The Walking Dead and whether your vampyric preference be for Twilight or the grittier True Blood, the vampire has never been more popular.
So why not then merge these two monsters? It worked for Marvel with their universe populated by overlapping heroes. The fan bases for vampires and zombies are arguably as different from each other as are their mythical idols. The one liking their scoundrels to be suave, savvy and sexy, the other favoring the festering funk of fetid flesh.
Perhaps gothic and post-apocalyptic fans can evolve and incorporate each other as well. To an extent, FX’s The Strain has already started this, with words such as ‘virus’ and ‘apocalypse’, usually reserved for zombies, being attributed to the show’s vampires.
There is undeniably an element of crossover. But whether or not vampires retain their sparkle for their high school prom and zombies lurch slowly or run faster than Usain Bolt is down to the authors. After all, anybody can self-publish a book these days, as I have demonstrated.
Whether the pairing of these two old favorites ultimately succeeds however is down to the fans, and increasingly to millennials.
Should they have to decide who will wear the new horror crown- the old veteran George A. Romero, or myself, the young rookie, obviously, my vote would be for the taste of new, self-published blood.
Surely that would be evolution.
Book one – Once Bitten, Twice Die, Book two – Once Bitten Twice Live, Book three – “Twice Bitten, Twice Die” by Antony Stanton are available as paperback and ebook on Amazon and all major online retailers.