Most fans of dark fiction and/or horror will have heard of The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (now a TV series). This is a great series with a great mythos and some true horror. It’s a well-told story of an epic battle for the survival of humanity as seen through the eyes of some key fighters, and not a little part of the horror is that the success of the enemy is due to damage-control-PR exercises by politicians who didn’t want to cause a panic.
The following may contain spoilers, but not huge ones.
The main thing I liked about the series was that it treats vampires as the monsters they are, rather than humans with pointy teeth and less moral compunction, or sparkling eye candy. Specifically, the books treat the vampires as a virus, which is what I think this particular monster represents, historically.
If you look at the old vampire mythos (and Bram Stoker is a good place to start) you can clearly see the analogs with disease-causing viruses.
Vampires never used to drain people dry overnight, or go on the hunt murdering people. They snuck in at night, draining a little bit each time, so the victim got weaker and weaker over a period of days, weeks, or even months. A slow decline, no obvious reason, strange marks on the body, unable to be prevented by brute force, usually ending in death.
— Vampires are killed by sunlight; the UV kills virus DNA strands (although not as dramatically as portrayed in The Strain)
— Vampires can’t cross running water; simple washing is a great first line of defence against viruses.
— Vampires are associated with rats and bats, known vectors of disease, especially the black plague.
— Vampires can even become a mist, a recognition of airborne diseases.
— In Bram Stoker’s novel, the vampire came from the East, from Europe, the route of the black plague.
Finally, for those who eroticise vampires, Bram Stoker did it the most accurately. He had female vampires, lovely of form, but inherently repulsive. There was something unseen about them that generated disgust despite the luscious bodies…those are your sexually transmitted diseases. Remember, if you ever fantasise about sex with a vampire, you’re masturbating over syphilis.
So, I was pleased that del Toro and Hogan went back to the concept of vampire as monster, of vampire stories as horror stories, updated to the modern era with the threat of pandemic taking down society because political issues trumped scientific and health ones.
There are reasons humans write about monsters: To remind us that they exist, and to prepare us psychologically and socially should we ever actually encounter them. We can pretend they don’t exist, that science has killed them, but it hasn’t – and they’ll be back one day, in one form or another.
Finally, and back to The Strain Trilogy, I was pleased that the writers (this could be quite a big spoiler, depending on your definition) tied up so many loose ends by making the origin of the vampires supernatural. There were simply too many points that were integral to the story but didn’t make “scientific sense” for the books to succeed as science fiction, but the revelation of supernatural origin tied everything together in a neat and logical way.
The Kindle version is very reasonably priced at a couple of dollars.