Vampire Fandom: United States
Vampire Fandom: United States(pop culture)
The growth of interest in vampires that began in the 1970s spawned a host of fan clubs, small publishing enterprises, and fanzines. Of these, the first is the Count Dracula Fan Club (now known as the Vampire Empire) founded in 1965 by Jeanne Youngson. A short time later, the Vampire Studies Society was founded by Martin V. Riccardo, which placed Dracula and vampire studies in a more scholarly vein. This society led to the founding of the Lord Ruthven Assembly and to the spread to America of the international Transylvanian Society of Dracula.
Anchoring vampire fandom on the West Coast was the Count Dracula Society, founded in 1962 by Dr. Donald A. Reed (1935–2001), a law librarian who served as its president. It was devoted to the serious study of horror films and gothic literature. Its members gathered periodically for screenings of new vampire and horror films, highlighted by the annual awards gathering at which the Ann Radcliffe Award was announced.
In the 1980s, the Count Dracula Society was superseded by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, dedicated to honoring films and filmmakers in the several horror genres. The academy continues to host regular screenings of films (approximately 100 annually) and sponsors an annual awards ceremony at which the Saturn Trophy is presented to winners in a variety of categories, including the best film in each of the three areas of prime concern (science fiction, fantasy, and horror), and an annual lifetime achievement award. The Count Dracula Society Quarterly (also known at various times as The Castle Dracula Quarterly and The Gothick Gateway), published by the society, was discontinued by the academy. The academy may be reached through its website at http://www.saturnawards.org/index.html.
Among the most active of fan organizations on the national level through the last generation has been the Vampire Information Exchange (VIE), founded by Eric Held and Dorothy Nixon in 1978 as a correspondence network for people interested in vampirism. Nixon had been interested in vampires since her high school days, when she was shown a copy of Donald Glut‘s True Vampires of History. She became interested in the question of the existence of real vampires and began a search that led her into association with Stephen Kaplan of the Vampire Research Center. Held was brought into the world of vampire fandom after listening to a radio interview of Kaplan in October 1978. The next day he called Kaplan, who put him in touch with Nixon. During that phone conversation, they discovered their mutual interests. They began to correspond, and by October 1979 they had been joined by six others. At that point, Held and Nixon began an irregular newsletter to simplify the circulation of general information, thus initiating the Vampire Information Exchange. Among the early correspondents were Jeanne Youngson of the Count Dracula Fan Club, Gordon R. Guy, editor of The Castle Dracula Quarterly, and Martin V. Riccardo, then president of the Vampire Studies Society.
The recently discontinued VIE Newsletter was a bimonthly, informative journal for active members. It carried reviews of recent books and movies, news about vampire publications, and bibliographies of various kinds of vampire literature. For a time, Held also put out an annual Calendar of Vampire Events and published The Bibliography of Vampire Literature.
Launched in 1991, Vampire Junction was a high-quality vampire fanzine devoted to the promotion of vampire fiction, poetry, and art. The editor, Candy M. Cosner, had been interested in vampires since her teen years, and her fascination with the subject resulted in a fanzine that was interesting and affordable. Cosner was also one of the first vampire aficionados to go on the Internet and through the 1990s devoted more and more of her time to communicating with people electronically. In the process she began to build an expansive vampire information site on the Internet. She discontinued Vampire Junction as a fanzine and her website may still be accessed at http://www.afn.org/~vampires/.
The Dynamite Fan Club was a vampire horror fan club founded in 1991 by Mark Weber and Garry Paul, who served as president and vice-president respectively. The primary activity of the club was the issuance of a quarterly Horror Newsletter that included a number of regular columns (including “From the Coffin” by Count Vamp), book and movie reviews, and a section of classified ads placed by club members who want to either sell something or meet other members who reside in their hometown. Good Guys Wear Fangs was a short-lived annual vampire fanzine dedicated to what founder/editor Mary Ann B. McKinnon termed good guy vampires. In the mid-1970s, McKinnon, never a horror fan, discovered the novels of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, whose vampire character, St. Germain, was a romantic hero. McKinnon considered Yarbro an isolated author and enjoyed most of her novels as they continued to appear through the 1980s. It was not until 1989, when she saw the made-for-television movie Nick Knight, and later the two To Die For movies, that McKinnon developed some hope that other good guy vampire fiction exists. She decided to announce the development of a fanzine based on the theme of the vampire as a hero. The response to her announcement showed the vast interest and supporting material for her approach to vampirism.
The first copy of the 300-page Good Guys Wear Fangs appeared in 1992. It featured original short stories and poetry in which the vampire was the hero. By this time, Forever Knight, the television series that grew out of the Nick Knight television movie, was airing on CBS late-night television. The Nick Knight character was featured in Good Guys Wear Fangs. In 1993, McKinnon added a related periodical, The Good Guy Vampire Letterzine a newsletter for good guy vampire fans. The Letterzine kept fans aware of newly discovered good guy vampire fiction and movies, and carried an ongoing discussion on the nature of good guy vampirism.
McKinnon has encouraged not only completely original fiction but new stories that feature popular characters from television and the movies. By far the most popular character who appeared in Good Guys Wear Fangs was Nick Knight, but other stories have featured Starsky & Hutch, Columbo, and Dark Shadows. Through the 1990s McKinnon also produced a line of fanzines that included story lines built around the popular fictional characters Zorro, the Highlander, and Robin of Sherwood.
Gothica whose first issue appeared in 1992, was a fanzine based upon the ideal of what is termed the Anne Rice vampire nature. It was founded by Susan M. Jensen, who became friends with a group of vampire horror movie fans in college in the late 1980s. The group, called the Drac Pac, gathered regularly to watch horror movies and through them to explore the uncommon and the sublime. Although the group scattered after graduation, Jensen decided to begin a small magazine based on the ideas the Drac Pac had discussed. The first issue, in March 1992, had only 16 copies. It increased to 35 copies in August 1993 and to several hundred by the end of the first year, but was soon discontinued.
Loyalists of the Vampire Realm International Vampire Association is an international club founded in 1984 in Berlin, Germany, by a woman named Lucinda (the club’s name being derived from her initials). It is solely dedicated to the “preservation and recreation of all vampire styled art forms.” It publishes a quarterly newsletter, Jugular Vein, that features the poetry, fiction, and graphic art of the club’s members and thus provides the members with an outlet for their own viewpoints on the vampire as opposed to those of an editor or paid staff. The Vampire Realm also offered a very limited pen pal service known as the Vampire Correspondence Network. New members are invited to fill out a lengthy questionnaire concerning their interests.
Closely related to the Loyalists of the Vampire Realm was Vampires, Werewolves, Ghosts, and Other Such Things That Go Bump in the Night, an informal group of scholars and researchers who investigated vampires and related paranormal phenomena. The organization was founded in the early 1980s and has worked quietly through the 1990s gathering and documenting accounts of individuals’ encounters with vampires, werewolves, spirits of the dead, and demonic beings. Loyalists of the Vampire Realm has continued into the new century and has a webpage at http://www.vampirerealm.com/. Midnight to Midnight, the Vampire Writers’ Circle, was founded in 1990 by Karen E. Dove, “The High Priestess.” Dove had a desire to create a more human vampire figure somewhat removed from the image of a bloodsucking monster or a fantastic superhuman creature. She also became aware of a type of organization operated by fantasy genre writers in which a shared fantasy world was created and each writer collaborated with the others and shared characters. She constructed an initial Midnight to Midnight universe of characters and circulated them to potential members of the circle.
As it evolved, Midnight to Midnight averaged fewer than ten members. Members had one basic rule—that they write and contribute to the circle at least once every two months. It was Dove’s expectation that as writers come and go, the most serious ones would persevere, and the circle will have been a means of their growth; in the meantime all will have had an enjoyable experience.
The vampires of Midnight to Midnight shared a world very similar to those in the fanzine Good Guys Wear Fangs. They could not change shape or fly. They were not affected by holy objects such as the crucifix or by running water. Their night vision was not enhanced. However, they did cast a reflection in a mirror; they could live forever, but were vulnerable to various dangers; and they were nocturnal creatures, but are not confined to the dark; sunlight burned them. Three kinds of vampire beings populated the Midnight to Midnight world. “Born” vampires are children of two vampires. They grow normally until their early twenties, when they cease to age. “Made” vampires are vampires created after a period of mortal life. They remain at the age they were when created. “Half-vampires” are people born to a vampire and one mortal parent. They can live for many generations, but eventually die of old age after several centuries.
The P. N. Elrod Fan Club, devoted to the writer of vampire fiction, was founded in 1993 by Jackie Black for Elrod’s many fans. Elrod had burst on the scene in 1990 when three novels under the collective title, “The Vampire Files” were published by Ace Books. Bloodlist, Lifeblood, and Bloodcircle related the continuing story of reporter Jack Fleming who had been turned into a vampire and then became a detective. The trilogy was well received and three more volumes appeared in 1991 and 1992. Suddenly Elrod joined that small circle of writers identified with the vampire community. The club’s newsletter grew into a substantial periodical but in the new century, fan activity has moved to the Internet and now continues through Elrod’s website at http://www.vampwriter.com/.
The Vampirism Research Institute was a nonmembership research organization founded by Liriel McMahon, a musician and college student majoring in sociology. For several years McMahon published the Journal of Modern Vampirism, and in 1993 the institute began a series of new publications and a program of sociological research. In 1992, inspired by Rosemary Guiley’s Vampires Among Us and with the cooperation of the Count Dracula Fan Club and the Vampire Information Exchange, McMahon conducted a survey of vampire fans in which she asked about such matters as their belief in the existence of vampires and their opinions about people who claim to be vampires. Results of the survey were released in the summer of 1993. The institute also published a monograph entitled Dysfunctional Vampire: A Theory from Personal History and a compilation, Best of the Journal of Modern Vampirism. The Vampirism Research Institute continued into the new century, but has recently been discontinued.
The Munsters and the Addams Family Fan Club was founded in 1988 by Louis Wendruck for fans of The Munsters and The Addams Family, two popular television families of homey vampires and other friendly monsters. The club provided information about the television series, their movie spin-offs, and the stars who played family members. The club distributed various items related to the shows and helped members locate and obtain the many other pieces of paraphernalia that have been produced featuring the Addams family and the Munsters. For a time, the club had an annual convention and published a quarterly newsletter, The Munsters and the Addams Family Reunion. Wendrick also presided over an unofficial Dark Shadows Fan Club and edited Dark Shadows Announcement. The Dark Shadows Fan Club was independent of the larger scene of Dark Shadows fandom.
Vampire fandom, of the kind that produced fan clubs, peaked in the 1990s. Through that decade, numerous small clubs made a brief appearance under names such as Cheeky Devil Vampire Research, Club Vampyre, Dracula and Company, The Miss Lucy Westenra Society of the Undead, and The Secret Order of the Undead (SOUND). Even more numerous were a large number of short-lived fanzines and newsletters, including: Nefarious, Nightlore, Nox, Onyx: The “Literary” Vampire Magazine, Vampire Archives, Bathory Palace, Bloodlines: The Vampire Magazine, and the Realm of the Vampire.
Beginning in the late 1990s, the more traditional format for fan clubs with their informally produced fanzines was abandoned as the Internet became a more pervasive instrument for contacting and chatting with like-minded fans. Those fan clubs that did survive from the twentieth century into the twenty-first morphed into Internet-based (or in a few cases email based) fan collectives. Very few fanzines continued to be published, and the larger fan conglomerates were taken up in both the marketing world and legal realm of large corporations.
The new world of fandom was amply illustrated by the emergence of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the television show that came to dominate the scene in the at the end of the 1990s. A fan club arose, fan paraphernalia began to appear, and fans began to write fan fiction using the characters from the show. (Some limited concern was expressed by copyright and license holders of the infringement on their rights by fan fiction, especially the so-called slash fiction which placed characters in homoerotic situation.) As the show grew in popularity, a variety of licenses were issued for the production of everything from trading cards and T-shirts to cell phone covers and jewelry. An official fan club with a slick professionally produced magazine (whose format followed one developed for a spectrum of other television shows) was organized with its activities largely consisting of selling items to the fans. As Angel developed in parallel to Buffy, the same development and management of fandom occurred. As the fan scene began to decline and was no longer a viable marketing collective, the company managing the fan clubs, first merged the Buffy and Angel clubs and then merged continuing fan interest into a collective of fans of the several television shows for which it had produced magazines.
Behind the more visible world of the official Buffy and Angel fan clubs, a more dedicated groups of fans had emerged in the los Angeles area which was able to attain access to the sets where the show was filmed and to hold annual gatherings at which the stars frequently appeared. Fans were also able to meet with the stars of the show at various fan conventions that were held irregularly in North America and Europe.
By 2007, the fan scene around the Twilight books of Stephenie Meyer was clearly on the upswing, and by 2009, after the first movie had appeared, more than 250 fan sites (using English) had appeared on the Internet, with additional sites in French, Italian, German, and Spanish, a list appearing on Meyer’s home page (http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/ts_fansites.html). All appeared to consist of a few friends of the person creating the site and an Internet collective. The site contained pictures of the book covers and of the stars of the movies and pictures of the fans, but are largely limited to supplying space for the fans (overwhelmingly teenage females) to express their feelings about the show. News was at a minimum, as was information on fan paraphernalia, both being readily available elsewhere on the Web. Information on the movies was concentrated on the official movie site hosted by Summit Entertainment (http://www.newmoonthemovie.com/). Information on fan paraphernalia (clothing, posters, toys, room accessories, candy) was concentrated at the site of NECA, which produced it. Both the movie sites and the NECA site had links to the Amazon.com retail site. Borders Books has maintained a space for Twilight items (books, posters, trading cards, and related paraphernalia) at all its stores, held gatherings for Twilight fans, and published special exclusive editions of Twilight books and movies. Fan conventions and the appearances of Twilight stars are under the direction of Creation Entertainment, which has, for example, scheduled Twilight conventions through 2010 for cities across the United States where fans may, for a price, briefly meet the stars and obtain autographs.
Similar websites have been developed by the producers of recent popular television series True Blood (HBO), developed from the writings of Charlaine Harris, and The Vampire Diaries, developed from the books of Lisa Jane Smith. The official site for the show includes a fan site and a merchandising page.
Among the most active creator of vampire oriented fan sites on the Internet is John T. Folden, who also operates as the JTF Network. He has created a site devoted to a spectrum of television shows including True Blood, Moonlighting, Dark Shadows, Being Human, and The Vampire Diaries (as well as a number that do not include vampires). Each site is informative, contains a number of pictures, and emphasizes the purchasing of fan paraphernalia.
Meanwhile, a new generation of vampire fan clubs and interest groups has also appeared on the Internet. They present a massive and bewildering array of interests within the ever-growing vampire realm, and grade into the new organizations that serve the so-called real or self-identified vampires. Some sites are quite general and provide information and news on the vampire fan scene, some are devoted to one or more of the older movie or television series (from the Hammer movies to Forever Knight to Vampire Hunter D), and some are limited to Dracula, or vampire movies, or the writings of Anne Rice. Rice’s main fan club, which was disbanded when her religious life revived, was reopened after the Katrina hurricane devastated New Orleans, as a means of helping the city rebuild economically.
The Vampire Guild see: Vampire Fandom: United Kingdom