Best-selling author holds forth on the history and the eternal appeal of the bloodsucker -- and why it might be time to put them back in the grave
Neil Gaiman
Credit: Aliya Naumoff/ Retna Ltd.

Recently, EW’s cover story looked at the resurgence of vampires in popular culture, including some thoughts from writer Neil Gaiman about why it’s time for bloodsuckers to go back underground. He had a lot more to say on the topic, which we share here.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In contemporary pop culture, we’ve seen vampires make that move from horror flick fear agents to more fallen or misunderstood social outcasts, who set moral limits on their nature or who see themselves as beyond morality. How did vampires go from being monsters to anti-heroes?
NEIL GAIMAN: I think mostly it has to do with what vampires get to represent. Because at the point where we begin vampire fiction, you’re in Victorian days. And we’re looking initially at the sort of antics of…that wonderful Victorian bestseller Dracula. And in each case you have characters who fundamentally represent sexuality. Dracula is a great novel of sexual seduction…and rape and sex. Vampirism is always an excellent way of talking about sex without talking about sex. So it makes complete sense that your solid Victorian vampires were fundamentally evil. And you can have that nice big stake hammered through them as a way of putting them to rest.

Since then, you had a lot vampires out there on the edges of fiction, [like] Ray Bradbury’s beautiful [1946] short story ”The Homecoming.” But I think the next big, huge, cultural, ”somebody’s just written a vampire story” [moment] is probably Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, which is 1975. Steve basically wants to do Dracula again, only do it in a small town in Maine and see what would happen if Dracula’s plan to take over America had won…. But at that point you’ve got vampires still sort of representing the ”other.” I think then what happens is you have a confluence of a couple of things: you’ve got Anne Rice writing Interview with the Vampire, which as a teenager I thought it was a rather drippy book. I have to say, as a teenager who loved vampire fiction and wanted vampire fiction, I said, ”All sort of sitting around being miserable aren?t they?”

NEXT PAGE: ”But I think then the thing that changed everything and gave vampire fiction, if not a new lease on life a new lease on death, would have been AIDS.”