Science Fiction Studies

#48 = Volume 16, Part 2 = July 1989

Veronica Hollinger

The Vampire and the Alien: Variations on the Outsider1

(Winner, Pioneer Award, 1990)

That SF is capable of evoking in its readers "a sense of wonder" has become something of a critical cliché.2 Another and equally characteristic side of the SF coin, however, is its role in what we might term "the domestication of the fantastic." H.G. Wells introduces this issue, for example, in his "Preface to the Scientific Romances" (1933). "Nothing," he writes, "remains interesting where anything may happen." For this reason, the SF writer should provide the reader with orderly ground-rules for his or her fictional universes. Wells concludes that "[the writer] must help [the reader] in every possible unobtrusive way to domesticate the impossible hypothesis" (p. 241; Wells's emphasis). This is reiterated, in different terms, by Eric S. Rabkin, who argues that

what is important in the definition of science fiction is...the idea that paradigms do control our view of all phenomena, that within these paradigms all normal problems can be solved, and that abnormal occurrences must either be explained or initiate the search for a better (usually more inclusive) paradigm. (p. 121)

For this reason, while the SF genre expands the scope and the variety of the physical universe, it often does so—ironically perhaps—at the expense of what cannot be explained in terms of natural law and scientific possibility —i.e., at the expense of the super-natural or the un-natural, the ontologically indeterminate area of the fantastic.     

From the generic perspective of SF, the territory of the fantastic lies just across the border, and SF has always been effective at expanding its own territories through the scientific rationalization of elements originally located in the narrative worlds of fantasy. In Colin Manlove's words, "the science fiction writer throws a rope of the conceivable (how remotely so does not matter) from our world to his [or hers]..." (p. 7). Manlove points out that "as soon as the 'supernatural' has become possible we are no longer dealing with fantasy but with science fiction" (p. 3).            

A classic example of this domestication of the fantastic occurs in Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End (1953), a novel which draws the conventional figure of the devil—bat-wings, barbed tail, and all—across the border of the supernatural into SF territory. Childhood's End not only provides a "plausible" narrative framework for its demystification of the devil-figure; it also aims to explain the powerful ongoing presence of this figure in our collective race-memory. Clarke thus manages to transform mythic fantasy into alien reality while maintaining the "sense of wonder" inscribed in the original figure.         

The vampire, a less grandiose but equally horrific archetype, is one satanic figure which is currently enjoying a resurgence of literary and critical popularity.3 "Immortalized" by Bram Stoker in his classic Gothic novel, Dracula (1897), and still most typically associated with the horror genre, the vampire too has occasionally crossed the border from fantasy to SF, undergoing varieties of domestication in works such as Richard Matheson's I Am Legend (1954), Tanith Lee's Sabella, or the Blood Stone (1980), and David Bischoff's Vampires of Nightworld (1981).            

I want to concentrate in this essay on two other texts which introduce the figure of the vampire into the narrative worlds of SF in very different ways: Colin Wilson's The Space Vampires (1976) and Jody Scott's I, Vampire (1984). Although each may be said to parody—in the broadest sense of the term—both traditional vampire narratives and traditional SF treatments of the alien invasion story, it is interesting to examine the extent to which Wilson's compliance with previously established conventions serves to consolidate a conservative ideology, while Scott's more playful rejection of the absolutes of generic boundaries both derives from and results in a more radical ideological coloration. As Linda Hutcheon notes in her study of the forms and functions of parody, "the presupposition of both a law and its transgression bifurcates the impulse of parody: it can be normative and conservative, or it can be provocative and revolutionary" (p. 76).            

The Space Vampires is strongly influenced by A.E. van Vogt's novella, "Asylum" (1942), as Wilson acknowledges in an introductory note to his text. The makers of Lifeforce, the film version of The Space Vampires, took their title from van Vogt's story of evil aliens whose "unnatural lusts" include a passion for human energy (p. 611). Wilson's vampiric aliens share this appetite for the "life force" and are thus not particularly remote displacements of Stoker's quintessential blood-drinkers.            

Wilson's text is directly concerned with the expansion of scientific paradigms to include the "abnormal occurrence" of the vampire in ways which will rationally account for its existence. His narrative is based upon the theory that a kind of metaphorical vampirism is natural to human beings and that it may be either malevolent (as when one deliberately drains another's psychic energy) or benevolent (as when one shares one's own energy). This theory is developed after the discovery of "the space vampires," ruthless aliens who suck the life-energy from their victims and leave them either dead or helplessly enslaved.   

The story follows the efforts of Wilson's human characters, led by the heroic Commander Carlsen, to find and then expel three of these vampire-like aliens, who have inadvertently been brought back to Earth by a team of human explorers under the mistaken assumption that they are dead. Wilson rather neatly plays by the rules of popular vampire lore here, since, as the text later reminds us, "it is a characteristic of vampires that they must be invited. They cannot take the initiative" (p. 95; Wilson's emphasis).            

While Scott's novel was published by Ace Books under the SF rubric, it is rather more careless of generic boundaries than is Wilson's. It, too, peoples its narrative world with aliens from outer space, but, apart from a casual reference to the defective gene inherited by its vampire protagonist (1:1), it makes very little effort to explain the "abnormal occurrence" of this figure within its fictional world. Among the ironically surreal events which take place in I, Vampire, there are no fewer than two alien invasions: the background conflict of the novel is between the benevolent race of Rysemians, who are determined to drag humanity up the evolutionary ladder in spite of itself, and the sinister Sajorians, for whom humanity provides a booming market in intergalactic slaves. Scott's vampire, however, is neither human nor alien: a kind of link between the two, Sterling O'Blivion remains an inexplicable phenomenon inhabiting a narrative world which can accommodate both "semi-mythological creature[s]" like herself (4:22) and genuine SF aliens.            

While I, Vampire can be read as a self-contained narrative, it is also the sequel to Scott's SF novel, Passing for Human (1977). The protagonist of this earlier work is Benaroya, the repulsively fish-like Rysemian "anthropologist" who reappears in I, Vampire disguised as Virginia Woolf. It is interesting to note here that, in Passing for Human, Scott, like Clarke in Childhood's End, makes use of a "domesticated" version of the devil. In her satiric fiction, however, this devil-as-alien is no benevolent savior but the quintessentially evil leader of the Sajorian invasion. Scaulzo, "the Prince of Darkness," is able to mesmerize his human victims because of their inherent gullibility: "primitives always go for that type of schmaltz..." (3:23).            

Passing for Human was recently reprinted by The Women's Press as part of its series of feminist SF, and I, Vampire continues Scott's critique of contemporary social and sexual politics. Specific to the latter novel, however, is her satiric attack on the repressive nature of social and discursive representations of the Other, accomplished through the delineation of Sterling O'Blivion's struggles against "readings" which attempt to appropriate her both as a woman and as a vampire. Benaroya/Woolf addresses this problem directly at the end of the narrative: "What is a vampire? Who projected that image onto you? My guess is, the people of Transylvania created you out of boredom and frustration" (27:210; Scott's emphasis). Even before this realization, however, Sterling refuses to rationalize or to justify her existence: "if my actual history sounds like outtakes from a tacky B movie, or worse, well, that's not my problem. I am what I am, as God and Popeye both say when you wake them out of a sound sleep" (3:13).

After centuries of keeping a low profile, Scott's vampire finds herself enlisted by the Rysemians in their battle against the Sajorians. And thanks to a time-travel machine which she has invented in her spare time, she also finds herself jumping five years into the future to market the Famous Men's Sperm Kit as part of the Rysemian effort to hasten the evolution of the human race. Most importantly, perhaps, courtesy of Rysemian lessons in "psychic evolution," Sterling overcomes her craving for blood, repudiating, within the terms of Scott's fictional world, the limitations projected onto her by the representations of others.

From the perspective of the "tradition" of vampire literature, what Wilson and Scott have produced are intertexts. The Space Vampires and I, Vampire inevitably invoke the entire "history" of the vampire in literature and film at the same time as they make use of previously established narrative codes and conventions for their own purposes. Within the terms of Hutcheon's analysis of parody, this history is "grafted onto the text[s]" (p. 24) and becomes available as a significant contextual element to readers who, as "decoders of encoded intent" (p. 34), have the role of activating it.4 While Wilson's and Scott's texts are also traversed by typical SF conventions in general and, in the case of Space Vampires, by details of previous SF stories in particular,5 I want to focus my attention here upon the way in which the figure of the vampire is positioned within each narrative structure and the ideological implications of its positioning. In order to accomplish this, I will, for the most part, confine my own "activation" of backgrounded material to certain aspects of Stoker's classic treatment of the vampire in Dracula.

In Stoker's text, the sinister Count is the enemy in one version of the eternal battle between Good and Evil. This opposition, which is central to romance narratives, is always constructed upon specific ideological foundations. In his discussion of "magical [i.e., romance] narratives" in The Political Unconscious, Fredric Jameson explains the foundation of this opposition as follows:

The concept of good and evil is a positional one that coincides with categories of Otherness....The essential point to be made here [about the Other] is not so much that he is feared because he is evil; rather he is evil because he is Other, alien, different, unclean, and unfamiliar. (p. 115)

And in a fascinating consideration of "fantasy antagonists," R.E. Foust reminds us of Freud's theory of the doppelgänger and his postulation of the "phenomenon of the 'double"' (p. 442); from this perspective, the Other is a projection of certain undesirable aspects of the self, a "monstrous adversary" (p. 443) constructed out of repressed psychological material. As such, it is a source of fear and loathing whose return threatens to overcome the forces of Consciousness and Culture (the forces in whose interests it has been repressed in the first place). "The fantasy conflict," Foust concludes, "is structured upon an implicit assumption of the binary, rather than the unilateral, relationship between nature and culture" (p. 445). As I shall presently argue, it is this kind of binary thinking, endemic to the enterprises of logocentrism and patriarchy, which is sustained (even as it is parodied) in Wilson's text and Reconstructed in Scott's.            

One of the ways in which Stoker's text maintains the position of the vampire as evil Other is through its epistolary narrative technique. The entire novel is a compendium of diaries, journals, letters, newspaper articles, and other forms of I/eye-witness reports. The ideological outcome of this narrative method, of course, is the exclusion of the voice of the monstrous Other from the novel; that is, it keeps the outsider on the outside. As has been frequently noted, Stoker's narrative voices are exclusively human. Indeed, Dracula himself appears on only 62 pages of the original 390-page edition of the novel (Wolf: 350). In Dracula, the Other has no voice, no point of view; he merely is. While this, of course, ensures that he is all the more terrifying because almost completely unknown, it also effectively silences him.

As we might expect from its narrative strategies, Dracula is an extremely conservative text, one that valorizes human reason and privileges human over "alien" life. The inhabitants of its narrative world are neatly divided into "us" and "them."            

The narrative perspective of Space Vampires achieves very much the same kind of result. Although Wilson replaces Stoker's eye-witnesses with an omniscient narrator, the point of view is again that of the human characters, and in particular of the Commander of the Hermes, Olaf Carlsen, leader of the expedition which brings the three aliens to Earth and the central character in the subsequent battle to overcome them. There is no real attempt in Space Vampires to explore the point of view of the aliens. Like Stoker's Count, they are more often off stage than on, objects of human fear and loathing, variously described as "deadly unknown germs" (p. 69) and "galactic criminals" (pp. 187-88). During the course of the narrative, their vampirism is equated with sexual perversion (p. 39), criminality (p. 136), and outright evil (p. 137).            

Unlike Stoker, however, Wilson does provide his alien vampires with one opportunity to speak for themselves: when the human heroes trap one of the three "Nioth-Korghai" in the body of a human victim, they wrest a confession from him of his people's fall into vampirism and their subsequent history. He admits to these crimes but makes it clear that the alternative to their vampirism is death: "After all, this seems to be a law of nature; all living creatures eat other living creatures" (p. 184).6           

Any sympathy aroused in the reader through this exposition is quickly smothered when Carlsen refuses to believe the alien's peaceful overtures: "I've got an instinct about it. Nothing in their behaviour leads me to trust them" (p. 187). As it turns out, Carlsen is right. The space vampires cannot be trusted; by its very nature, the other is always evil.

There are several interesting similarities between Space Vampires and Wilson's 1967 novel The Mind Parasites, which postulates a similar kind of alien possession and makes use of the metaphor of vampirism: "for more than two centuries now, the human mind has been constantly a prey to these energy vampires" (p. 65). What is most disturbing about Mind Parasites is Wilson's speculation that the cause of human malaise lies outside human agency. This is both a negation of human responsibility and another instance of the (paranoid) projection of undesirable elements of the human psyche onto conveniently non-human scapegoats.7           

For the most part, the reader of Space Vampires has no access to the perspective of Wilson's aliens. Such a perspective is unnecessary, since there is no doubt in the minds of the human characters, and consequently in the minds of Wilson's readers, that these aliens must be destroyed if possible, or at least expelled from Earth. Under the circumstances, it is both appropriate and ironic that the human characters refer to the alien spaceship as "the Stranger" (if they are not conversant with Camus' existentialist classic, we can be sure that Wilson is). Space Vampires fits rather neatly into that longstanding SF tradition of representing the alien as the threat from the outside, the other who must be driven from human territory if humankind is to rest secure.            

Space Vampires is exemplary of Wilson's ongoing flirtation with various forms of popular literature, especially SF. His latest effort, a threepart epic whose collective title is Spider World, promises to continue his appropriation of traditional SF formulas in ways which sustain, even as they exploit, the potential conservatism of these formulas.8           

Given the ideological parallels between Dracula and Space Vampires in regard to the figure of the "alien," it is also appropriate that Wilson's text contains some intriguing allusions to Stoker's. While the concept of energysucking aliens is borrowed from van Vogt, Dracula is perhaps a more interesting background text against which to read Space Vampires. It is not accidental that the opening pages of Wilson's story owe so much of their atmosphere to details which are overtly Gothic. The alien craft is compared to "some damn great castle floating in the sky" (p. 3) and to "Frankenstein's castle" (p. 5); and it exudes "the quality of a nightmare" (p. 8).            

Wilson's allusions to Dracula are even more pronounced in the area of narrative event. Carlsen's companion in his quest to find and expel the aliens is Dr Hans Fallada, a British criminologist whose research into the phenomena of human vampirism emphasizes his role as the SF analogue of Professor Abraham Van Helsing, the evil Count's original nemesis. Wilson's vampire hunters are able to pinpoint the whereabouts of at least one of the aliens through her mind-link with Olaf Carlsen, who must be hypnotized before he can disclose the information. This incident directly recalls that in which Mina Harker, also partially possessed, also hypnotized, reveals Dracula's hiding place to the heroic band of men who will rescue her at last from his spell.            

The fact that Wilson's allusions to Dracula are not always straightforward gives an interesting complexity to the narrative structure of Space Vampires. One of his most intriguing revisions of Stoker appears in the character of the mysterious Count von Geijerstam, who lives in seclusion in northern Sweden in a castle which was once the home of "our famous vampire, Count Magnus de la Gardie" (p. 97). It cannot be coincidence that von Geijerstam is living with three beautiful young women who are practicing a form of "benevolent vampirism" under his tutelage. The reader is inevitably reminded of the three female vampires, the "brides of Dracula," who come so close to destroying Jonathan Harker at the beginning of Stoker's text. Space Vampires also recounts a scene in which Carlsen—at this point clearly an avatar of Jonathan Harker—is approached by one of these young women. In a further revisionary movement, however, the text demonstrates that it is Carlsen rather than the woman who plays the role of vampire, as he drains her of life-energy until she is all but unconscious.            

Returning to I, Vampire at this point—and recalling Hutcheon's identification of the dual potential of parody ("it can be normative and conservative, or it can be provocative and revolutionary" [p. 76])—we can now see that Jody Scott's reworking of Dracula is far more unorthodox in its manipulation of the traditions and conventions of the classic vampire story than is Space Vampires.

One of Scott's most obvious revisions is highlighted in her title. Just as Space Vampires describes obviously oppositional figures who arrive from "out there," so Scott's title indicates the shift in perspective from the human to the Other. The first 13 chapters of I, Vampire are narrated by the vampire herself, displacing the human voice from its privileged position at the center of the text. Suddenly the outsider is on the inside and the voice of the Other, glittering with angry wit and the cynicism born of sharing the world with human beings for 700 years, is heard in no uncertain terms. Sterling O'Blivion is the subject of her own story rather than the object of another's, the interpreter of events rather than the event interpreted. She is only too aware that "when you are a...semi-mythological creature like myself, you are expected to act out a script written by others; one that ignores your true nature" (4:22). While this particular narrative strategy serves to demystify the Other even more definitively than does Wilson's text, it also shifts the perspective in ways which break down the oppositional barriers between human and other which Space Vampires leaves standing.            

Sterling O'Blivion, the centuries-old and ravishingly beautiful manager of the Max Arkoff dance studio in Chicago, is a victim of the kind of binary thinking which defines the Other as evil. She sets out to explode "a few pernicious myths" (6:31) about vampires, pointing out that all she takes from her own victims is "six skimpy ounces [of blood]. Less than they take at the blood bank. Cheap, selfish bastards!...and for this I suffered the curse of excommunication and was enrolled among the damned" (6:32). She also warns that "[o]nly a fool sets out to kill any living creature. You don't know what forces you are releasing" (8:42).            

The target of Scott's sometimes vicious satire is that very humanity which has forced the vampire to live in the shadows for 700 years. The Rysemians bluntly inform Sterling that the human race is psychotic, that it will have to be quarantined or destroyed if it cannot evolve into a fit inhabitant of the universe beyond its own borders. I, Vampire, as it casts humanity as dangerous life-form, thus effects a satiric inversion of the conventional alien-invasion plot.9           

Scott's feminist parody of Dracula is particularly effective in its subversion of the sexual politics of the earlier story. An examination of the roles played by the female characters in Dracula soon reveals that they are as dependent upon their relationship with Stoker's sinister Count as they are upon the ordinary men by whom they are befriended or to whom they are betrothed. Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker are cast as prizes in the contest between the Vampire and his human opponents, while the three vampire brides have already been won. In their passive receptivity, women are at once the susceptible mediators through which the Other may penetrate into human territory and the spoils of war which fall to the victor in this battle between Good and Evil.10 If Mina Harker enjoys peace and prosperity at the end of her adventures, it is because she submits herself to the values of Stoker's Victorian reality and returns to the patriarchal fold cleansed of any contact with the Other who both attracts and threatens from the outside.            

This implicit identification of woman and vampire, which operates as a powerful subtextual element in Stoker's original story—a kind of hidden agenda—is both acknowledged and satirized in Scott's.11 Indeed, her work goes several steps further in its Reconstruction of the human/other opposition. O'Blivion becomes involved in a passionate love affair with Benaroya, who has temporarily abandoned her own alien body in order to infiltrate the human community disguised as Virginia Woolf. On the one hand, Sterling is not only a female vampire, but a lesbian vampire, and one who has made love "out of [her] species" (12:77). On the other hand, as Benaroya assures her, there are no limits to what the mind can create out of the physical universe, "or P.U., as we call it" (9:53). She also makes it clear that, from the perspective of the Rysemians, "there are no aliens" (10:63), or, as she revises Terence, "nothing alien is alien to me" (12:76). I, Vampire ultimately acknowledges the nature of reality as social and linguistic construction. Any logocentric dependence upon "the thing in itself" is thoroughly undermined in this postmodern universe of continuously shifting bodies and perspectives.

Given the structural parallels in the position of the vampire in Dracula and Space Vampires, it is perhaps not surprising to find in Wilson's text an uncomfortably ambivalent attitude towards women—the same discomfort that we can read in Dracula itself. Space Vampires weaves a complex interconnection between the ideas of vampirism and masculinist versions of sexuality, which becomes apparent, for example, in Carlsen's realization that "the vampire responded to desire like a shark to blood" (p. 113) and that "the energy-loss [resulting from psychic vampirism] produced much the same effect as masculine domination" (p. 113). Wilson's human females are invariably ready to yield, both mentally and physically, to Carlsen as his own powers as a psychic vampire develop, but it is made clear that "his gentlemanly self-control" (p. 34) will prevent him from taking advantage of their weakness.12           

Wilson implies, however, that female vampires will not act so benignly. Just as the women in Dracula are either pure Victorian maidens or ravening (i.e., sexual) monsters, so Wilson's text represents the sexually active woman as somehow linked to the alien forces which threaten from "out there." The scene in which Carlsen defeats one of the aliens who temporarily inhabits a female body, for example, bears a disturbing resemblance to a sexual encounter in which male physical desire is equated with strength of will: "Without moving his body he was holding her as a bird might hold a worm" (p. 196). The alien, of course, was about to destroy him completely. Wilson's women-as-alien-vampires are incapable of restraining their appetites, and for this reason, are tremendously threatening figures.            

Carlsen's wife, Jelka, on the other hand, is a modern version of the Victorian angel in the house. The text's references to Goethe's principle of the ewig weibliche, the eternal feminine which "draws us upwards and on" (quoted, p. 56), draws the reader downwards, back into the sexual politics of Dracula, which also separates the good woman from the sexual woman. When Carlsen's "basic masculine tenderness" (p. 113) is aroused by one of von Geijerstam's young pupils, the sexual-political ideology of Space Vampires becomes even clearer: "It struck him that her body was Jelka's. Both were embodiments of a female principle that lay beyond them, looking out of the body of every woman in the world as if out of so many windows" (p. 113; Wilson's emphasis).            

At this point we might recall Sterling O'Blivion's complaint that a "semi-mythological creature...[is] expected to act out a script written by others; one that ignores your true nature" (4:22). In its essentialist representations, Space Vampires not only reduces its female characters to the status of "semi-mythological" beings, but undertakes to supply the script for their subsequent behavior. If there is parody here waiting to be activated, the reader might well be forgiven for missing the point entirely.            

I would like to return now to Foust's contention that the Other is created through the projection of undesirable psychic material. The result in Wilson's text is the expression of this undesirable material embodied in the form of vampire-aliens; his narrative can be read as a metaphorical dramatization of the return of the repressed, an expression of the anxiety of the divided self which has constructed a reality defined through binary oppositions such as inside vs. outside, human vs. alien, masculine vs. feminine.13 As is inevitably the case, such binary thinking is also rigidly hierarchical. In each instance, one of the terms is privileged over the other: inside over outside, human over alien, masculine over feminine.            

The deconstruction of such antitheses is an important activity in Scott's text and a driving force in her parody of the conventional treatment of the vampire. Whereas Wilson's narrative casts the vampire-alien in opposition to the human, Scott's replaces the two-term system (with its underlying hierarchical privilege) with a three-term one: vampire, alien, human.            

Any attempt to return her narrative to the dramatization of binary thinking breaks down in view of the shifting relationships among the terms of this system, relationships which emphasize complicity rather than opposition. The human cannot remain antithetical to the vampire in the presence of the alien; nor can the human/alien opposition hold up in a narrative which interposes the figure of the vampire between these two conventionally opposed terms.            

While Wilson's text is an intriguing revision of the traditional vampire tale—a successful crossing of the border from fantasy into SF—it maintains rather than revises the ideological paranoia towards the figure of the alien Other which pervades Stoker's Dracula. In its echoes of the latter's sexual politics, it seems also to support conventional patriarchal attitudes about women, casting its female characters as pawns in the contest of human heroes and alien vampires in a way which underscores the human/ alien opposition around which the narrative is structured.            

Scott's I, Vampire, though lacking the coherence and the direction of Space Vampires and suffering periodically from a kind of New Age valorization of psychic over physical reality, is more skeptical about the usefulness of borders and boundaries than Wilson's fiction is. Its fusion of fantasy and SF parallels on the generic level its Reconstruction of the human/other opposition on the narrative level. Sterling O'Blivion is the vampire as intertext, a figure combining the characteristics of both human and alien, mediating between the two in a way which demonstrates the artificiality of an opposition which is, after all, only a difference.            

The vampire, like that other l9th-century avatar of horror, Frankenstein's monster, always functions within a context which resonates with implications beyond the mere telling of an exciting tale. Stoker's original literary vampire, for example, has been usefully examined from a variety of critical perspectives, ranging from the sexual-political to the socio-political to the psychoanalytic.14 While the intrusion of the vampire into SF heralds a relatively untraditional treatment of this typically Gothic archetype, Wilson's conflation of vampire with alien maintains the role of the former as the threat-from-outside, the quintessential Other. Scott's revision, by contrast, is one of a small but growing number of works, most of them by women, which are interested in creating new scripts for this particular "semi-mythological creature"—scripts which are applicable to the "real" world as well.            

Roger C. Schlobin has suggested that many contemporary treatments of the vampire have "emasculated" this traditionally potent figure, and he cites works by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (the six-volume Saint-Germain Chronicles [1978-83]) and Suzie McKee Charnas (The Vampire Tapestry [1980]), among others, to support his contention (p. 30). To this particular list should be added the works of Anne Rice, Angela Carter, Tanith Lee, and Jody Scott. What these writers have effected is a rejection of the vampire as what we might term a "metaphorical rapist." Schlobin makes it clear that the vampire, as it functions within the framework of the conventional horror story or film, threatens its victims, whether male or female, with a kind of violation that has its clearest analogue in the act of physical rape. It is not therefore surprising that even when the vampire is male (as in Charnas's Vampire Tapestry or Rice's "Chronicles"), he is developed from outside the conventional male perspective (i.e., he is emasculated). When the vampire is female, as in Scott's text, the rejection of this perspective is even more obvious. I would suggest, therefore, that the "emasculation" of the "fantasy antagonist" in all these instances is also—and results in—a "feminization." There can be little incentive for women writers to contribute to the literary tradition of the "monstrous adversary" as rapist. Instead, these works might be said to constitute a new literary canon developed around the figure of the Outsider. This is no longer, of course, the modernist Outsider identified by Wilson in his 1950s' book on the subject, but a new representation created by a politicized contemporary literature in its protests against the coercive nature of patriarchal marginalization.            

Given the rapidly increasing popularity of horror literature and film over the last few years, it is not surprising that the vampire archetype has been resurrected, nor that it has occasionally been appropriated by SF writers. What is especially interesting about this "return," however, is the significant ideological differences apparent in the works of writers like Scott who have taken over the figure of the vampire in order to develop explorations and Reconstructions of conventionalized oppressor/victim relationships.         

Wilson's domestication of the fantastic is more successful than Scott's insofar as The Space Vampires offers its readers a rational paradigm from within which it can explore the "abnormal occurrence" of the figure of the vampire. What Scott's text succeeds in preserving, however, is that sense of wonder about our own human nature—actual and potential—which becomes suffocated in The Space Vampires, buried under an earlier and far less desirable view of reality.


1. This essay was made possible through the generous support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. A preliminary version was presented at the 1987 International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I would like to thank Roger C. Schlobin for his informative commentary on my original draft.

2. Sam Moskowitz discusses the popularization of this phrase in "Five Steps to Science Fiction Sanity," Extrapolation, 27 (1986): 281-94.

3. For example, at the time of writing, Anne Rice's The Queen of the Damned (1988), the third volume in her "Chronicles of the Vampires," is in first place on the New York Times Book Review bestseller list. (The two previous volumes are Interview with the Vampire [1976] and the extremely popular The Vampire Lestat [1985].) Count Dracula himself made a recent appearance in PMLA, in John Allen Stevenson's "A Vampire in the Mirror: The Sexuality of Dracula" (see my "Works Cited").

4. As Hutcheon explains, however, "the structural identity of the text as a parody depends...on the coincidence, at the level of strategy, of decoding (recognition and interpretation) and encoding" (p. 34). In other words, like irony, parody does not exist for the reader who does not recognize it at work in a particular text.

5. Wilson's vampires, for example, owe a debt to H.P. Lovecraft as well as to A.E. van Vogt. In The Strength to Dream, Wilson mentions "Lovecraft's favorite idea of incubi who can steal a human body, expelling its rightful owner" (p. 7), a device used by Lovecraft in his SF—The Shadow Out of Time (1936), for instance. This method of possession is repeated by Wilson in The Space Vampires.

6. A case could be made for discussing Wilson's space vampires as exemplifications of existentialist heroes gone wrong: they have forgotten what Wilson, in his early philosophical examination of the subject in The Outsider (1956), cites as "the Outsider's credo: `I say, let them dread above all things stagnation'..." (p. 279; the quotation-within-the-quotation is from G.B. Shaw's Back to Methuselah).

7. Here too Wilson is indebted to H.P. Lovecraft, whose "Cthulhu" mythology postulates an ancient race of creatures who inhabited Earth long before the human race and who lurk out of sight (usually in dark nasty corners), plotting to reclaim it. As David Ketterer notes:

Colin Wilson was sufficiently impressed to adapt Lovecraft's evocation of alien malignant powers harmful to man's autonomy, in The Mind Parasites...thereby placing the alien-manipulator theme in the fully developed science-fictional context that Lovecraft only implies. (p. 263)

8. Brian Stableford's review of the first volume of this trilogy, The Tower (1986), also provides an extremely entertaining review of Wilson's "career" in SF (see my "Works Cited").

9. In the effects it achieves in its treatment of human beings as alien, Scott's text is comparable to Matheson's SF novel, I Am Legend, in which all of humanity is infected with vampirism except for the lone protagonist, who thus takes on the role of outsider.

10. For an informative discussion of the sexual politics in Dracula, see Gail B. Griffin's essay. Another perspective is examined in Christopher Craft's, which reads in Dracula the conflict, mediated by patriarchal representations of femininity, between the fear of and the desire for a forbidden sexuality.

11. Angela Carter uses much the same strategy in her chilling fantasy, "The Lady of the House of Love" (1979), but her text recounts the destruction of the fantastic, not its triumph. Her woman-as-vampire, the Lady Nosferatu, dies for the love of a beautiful young man who remains sublimely unconscious of her true nature.

12. Although Wilson's text maintains rather than subverts the sexual politics of conventional vampire narratives, it occasionally displays more of an ironic awareness than we might at first expect. The passage in which Carlsen withstands his first "attack" by a vampire, who appears to him as a beautiful woman, is positively funny:

He was not rejecting her; he wanted her with a greater intensity than he had wanted any woman; but he had always been a man of self-control; he attached importance to behaving like a gentleman. It would have been against all his instincts to make love to her where they were, in the specimen room. (p. 31 )

13. Such an expression is a literal function of the narrative structure as well, as Craft discusses in his analysis of Dracula. He calls attention to the "predictable...triple rhythm" of texts like Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde:

Each of these texts first invites or admits a monster, then entertains and is entertained by monstrosity for some extended duration, until in its closing pages it expels or repudiates the monster and all the disruption that he/she/it brings. (p. 107)

14. See, for example, the essays by Griffen, Hatlen, and Astle in my "Works Cited."

15. It seems extremely unlikely that the projections of women (themselves marginalized outsiders within traditional patriarchal cultures) will lead to the construction of "fantasy antagonists" characterized by the same anxieties and repressions as those of male writers. See Joan Gordon's essay for an important examination of some of the revisionary features in vampire fiction by writers like Anne Rice, Suzy McKee Charnas, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Tanith Lee, and Jody Scott.


Astle, Richard. "Dracula as Totemic Monster: Lacan, Freud, Oedipus and History," Sub-Stance, 25 (1980):98-105.

Craft, Christopher. "`Kiss Me with Those Red Lips': Gender and Inversion in Bram Stoker's Dracula," Representations, 8 (Fall 1984): 107-33.

Foust, R.E. "Monstrous Image: Theory of Fantasy Antagonists," Genre, 13 (1980):441-53.

Gordon, Joan. "Rehabilitating Revenants, or Sympathetic Vampires in Recent Fiction," Extrapolation, 29 (1988): 227-34.

Griffen, Gail B. "'Your Girls That You All Love Are Mine': Dracula and the Victorian Male Sexual Imagination," International Journal of Women's Studies, 3 (1980):454-65.

Hatlen, Burton. "The Return of the Repressed/Oppressed in Bram Stoker's Dracula," The Minnesota Review, 15 (Fall 1980):80-97.

Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms. NY, 1985.

Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. Ithaca, NY: l9X 1.

Ketterer, David. New Worlds for Old: The Apocalyptic Imagination, Science Fiction and American Literature. Bloomington, IN: 1974.

Manlove, Colin. Modern Fantasy: Five Studies. Cambridge, UK: 1975.

Moskowitz, Sam. "Five Steps to Science Fiction Sanity," Extrapolation, 27 (1986): 281-94.

Rabkin, Eric S. The Fantastic in Literature. Princeton, NJ: 1976.

Schlobin, Roger C. "Children of a Darker God: A Taxonomy of Deep Horror Fiction and Film and Their Mass Popularity," Journal of the Fantastic in the arts, 1 (1988):25-50.

Scott, Jody. I, Vampire. NY: Ace, 1984.

——. Passing for Human. 1977; rpt. London: The Women's Press, 1986.

Stableford, Brian. "Slaves of the Death Spiders: Colin Wilson and Existentialist Science Fiction," Foundation, 38 (1986/87): 63-67.

Stevenson, John Allen. "A Vampire in the Mirror: Sexuality in Dracula," PMLA, 103 (1988):139-49.

Stoker, Bram. The Annotated Dracula, ed. Leonard Wolf. NY: Ballantine, 1975.

Van Vogt, A.E. "Asylum" [1942], in Adventures in Time and Space, ed. Raymond J. Healy & J. Francis McComas (NY: Ballantine, 1975), pp. 588-640.

Wells, H.G. "Preface to The Scientific Romances" [1933], in H.G. Wells's Literary Criticism, ed. Patrick Parrinder & Robert M. Philmus (Brighton, UK & Totawa, NJ: 1980), pp. 240-45.

Wilson, Colin. The Space Vampires. Toronto: Granada, 1976.

——. The Mind Parasites. 1967; rpt. Berkeley: Oneiric Press, 1979.

——. The Strength to Dream: Literature and the Imagination. 1962; rpt. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1973.

——. The Outsider. 1956; rpt. London: Victor Gollancz, 1974.


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