"Come now my child, if we were planning to harm you, do you think we'd be lurking here beside the path in the very darkest part of the forest..." - Kenneth Patchen, "Even So."

THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT STORIES AND STORYTELLING; some are true, some are false, and some are a matter of perspective. Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


"...I assumed completely we were cursed and victims of the Blood as surely as mortals thought themselves to be the guilty victims of Original Sin..."

- Lestat, Prince Lestat

Early in her writing career, Anne Rice stopped writing novels and started writing scripture instead.

Her debut novel, 1976's Interview with the Vampire, is a classic. Rice's vampires, stripped of satanism and portrayed not as ravenous corpses but miraculously transformed humans, started the entire subsequent genre of vampire fiction as something distinct from horror.  Interview is the seed from which True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Twilight, Forever Knight, Vampire: The Masquerade, and dozens of other works spring.  Even Buffy shows shades of Rice.  Gone from the vampire cosmos was the garlic and the crucifix, the turning into bats, the vampire's victims rising in three days as vampires themselves.  Now vampires exchanged blood to transform others, now they moved with blinding speed and had heightened senses.  Now they seemed to retain their "souls."

But it was never her reinvention of the species that made Interview a gripping read.  Interview was a painful, soul-searching work, the crucible into which a young mother poured all her pain over the tragic loss of her daughter to leukaemia   Through Louis, Lestat, and Claudia, Rice was grappling with life and death, love and loss, and taking the reader along with her.  Like all great fiction, Interview was emotionally honest.

And...it was a novel.

The same can not be said for 1985's The Vampire Lestat.  In this work, which is part of a pair of bookends with The Queen of the Damned, Rice consciously decides to stop writing fiction and take up mythology instead.  Fitting for an author who would later write two novels about Christ, in Lestat Rice gives us a "Jesus of the Vampires," a Brat Prince messiah who comes to overturn the old, static world of blood drinkers with a new Gospel.    Where Interview was all about asking the questions, Lestat was about revelation.  It had all the answers.  In it, Rice reveals a new vampire mythology, detailing their origin in the fusing of an Eqyptian queen and a bloodthirsty spirit.  They get all sorts of new powers, such as flight and causing things to burst into flame.  And gone, really, is any trace of real horror.  Their are glimpses of it--the stone-like Akasha and her king, the cruel fates of Mekare and Maharet--but mostly it is Jesus Christ Superstar with fangs.

Prince Lestat (2014) marks Anne Rice's return to vampire fiction after eleven years, and is considered by her a direct sequel to The Queen of the Damned.  In many ways it is the most "scriptural" of all her Vampire Chronicles (which is saying something in the wake of Memnoch the Devil), filled with endless chapters of "so-and-so begat so-and-so," a bewildering cast of characters, and its own lingo.  It requires two forwards and an appendix just to explain what the hell is going on.  None of this in and of itself disqualifies it from being a novel, but Prince Lestat comes dripping with agenda.  It takes about two-thirds of the book to get to it, but it all comes clear here;

"...we've waked from those nightmares of the Queen's Blood cult and the Children of Satan. We are finished with such things.  We are in thrall to no belief now except that we can know from the physical world around us...stop with the self-loathing.  Stop with the imagery of 'the damned...'  we are not Damned, we never were..."

Now, Anne Rice's on-again off-again relationship with Catholicism is well known.  She has herself has been quite vocal about it.  In her "on again" mode, she has devoted her talents and much of the last decade to three novels (one forthcoming) about Jesus, and already in the Vampire Chronicles we have seen her extensively explore religious themes (again, Memnoch the Devil).  Now, Rice is "off again," and a declared secular humanist, and Prince Lestat preaches the Gospel of that.  Lestat has come to deliver vampires from superstition, and Rice has come to deliver the readers of her tales as well.

Don't get me wrong...I am not here to condemn Rice for her secular humanism.  I am a secular humanist myself.  But I haven't talked about the plot of Prince Lestat because there really isn't much of one.  A mysterious presence called 'the Voice' is speaking to vampires around the world, trying to persuade the older ones to kill off all the younger.  In a repeat of The Queen of the Damned, the vampires of the world assemble to stop it.  That is pretty much it, and the climax?  Well, let's just say it was predictable. Herein lies my assertion that Rice isn't writing fiction; the "story" is completely irrelevant.  Strip away the pages and pages of her descriptions of gorgeous, unearthly vampires listening to gorgeous, unearthly music, wearing gorgeous, unearthly clothes, and you are left with a book urging you to set aside superstition and look to science for answers.  The whole thing is extended preaching.  Prince Lestat is only a 'novel' if the Bible is.

I don't think I am being wholly unfair in this; characters in Prince Lestat themselves actually refer to the 'Vampire Chronicles' as scriptures.  In the context of Rice's fictional world, the personal memoirs of Louis, Armand, Lestat, Marius, and others have formed a sort of vampire religion.  Clearly Rice is aware of the scriptural quality of her work.  My discomfort with Prince Lestat is the same bone I had to pick with Twilight--thinly disguised Mormon doctrine of be a good girl, wait until marriage, and after you have a child will be rewarded with rebirth into an eternal body.  I had the same gripe with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I don't mind subtext in fiction, but when the fiction's main purpose is to preach a doctrine, I find it off-putting.

I've stuck with Rice over the years because Interview with the Vampire was unquestionably a great work.  It dealt with broad human themes that everyone eventually has to deal with.  But Prince Lestat is an editorial piece that only some readers will agree with, and the only way to really enjoy the book is if you do.  When Rice puts her mind to it, as she did in The Witching Hour or The Mummy, she can spin gripping stuff.  Prince Lestat feels more like a long-winded secular Sunday sermon.

No doubt Prince Lestat will please Rice's die-hard fans, but it isn't going to win over any new ones.  

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