22 October 2011

Vampires Vs. Werewolves

Capclave Guests of Honor Carrie Vaughn (left) and Catherynne M. Valente compare the charms of vampires and werewolves at Capclave, October 15.

With Carrie Vaughn (whose most famous series features a werewolf named Kitty) and Catherynne M. Valente (who's explored the mythology of just about everything) as its guests of honor, it was inevitable that Capclave 2011, the Washington DC area's hometown con, would address the eternal question:

Fangs or fur?

Death or life?

Edward or Jason?

Well, maybe not the last so much, but the relative popularity of vampires vs. werewolves--and the apparent reasons for it--dominated the con's guest of honor chat Saturday evening, October 15.

On the face of it, the odds would seem stacked in the werewolf's favor. After all, werewolves represent life; vampires, death. But as the panelists said, some people have a problem with the fur.

Then there's the whole "daddy thing". Ms. Valente pointed out the modern vampire myth ultimately comes down to the seduction of an inexperienced young woman by an older, infinitely experienced male. He is the ultimate father figure--all-powerful and wise, even when for some inexplicable reason, he's still in high school. It's one of the evergreen romance plots: Beauty and the Beast, Jane and Rochester, Persephone and Hades (minus the crazy mother-in-law).

In contrast, the werewolf has, in Ms. Vaughn's words, "...gotten short shrift over the last hundred years of storytelling. It's always: The beast within takes over. You can't control yourself. You do horrible things, and then you die."

Larry Talbot and his cinematic descendants have a lot to answer for.

But the nice thing is the core myth (or metaphor, if you prefer) can change. In fiction, nothing's set in stone. Vampires can become heroes. Werewolves can take control of their destiny. Ms. Vaughn's werewolf DJ Kitty Norville is a prime example.

"I thought, let's get past the [standard Wolfman plot]. Let's assume werewolves are okay and can handle it. What stories can we tell then?"

Plenty, apparently, since the Kitty Norville series is up to ten books, with four more under contract. And Ms. Vaughn's books aren't the only ones redefining the myth. My Beyond the Veil blog mates have been very busy on that score, too. If they keep this up, who knows, within ten years the balance of attraction may tip. There's a lot to be said for fur, though I confess, I prefer mine in a coat. ;-)


I apologize for the quality of my Guests of Honor photo. My Capclave camera karma was definitely lacking. I posted my best shots, such as they are, at my Flickr account. I have an ulterior motive in providing the link. There are two photos near the end I'm unreasonably proud of. Yes, that's me sitting on the dais with Ms. Valente, Ms. Vaughn and Danielle Ackley-McPhail, the editor of Dragon's Lure, the anthology containing my short story "Lord Bai's Discovery".

"Lord Bai's Discovery", along with Ms. Valente's "Days of Flaming Motorcycles" and Ms. Vaughn's "Amaryllis" were among the finalists for the Washington Science Fiction Association's 2011 Small Press Award. I wasn't surprised "Amaryllis" took the prize. It was nominated for a Hugo, too. I was surprised, however, and incredibly honored to be included in such company.
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