First, I must thank my colleague Rachel Hyland for her thoughts on the other side of this debate. I mean, she called me funny, and flattery will get you a lot of places. Based on that, and her persuasive arguments, I was close to just packing it in and giving up entirely on the whole “standardization” thing. (Man, I have less self-confidence then the doe-eyed virgins in these paranormal romance books I keep reading.) Because I agree, creativity is a good thing. If everyone were the same, the world would be a boring place. (Although, if everyone were as perfect as me the world would be a better place, obviously.) But then I got to thinking and 1) “You can’t be creative if you can’t read” and 2) “This isn’t Nam. There are rules.”
It’s time to lay some down.
If authors and screenwriters just had a few different takes on vampire mythology, perhaps I wouldn’t feel so strongly about this. But, there have been some egregious offenses. Sparkling in the sunlight? Really? And vampire sunscreen? Cheating! Long ago you used to be able to buy a bottle of medicine and easily open it, but then some idiot come along and poisoned the Tylenol, and now it’s impossible to get into the packaging without a jackhammer. Just like that, some teen-angst vampire story became a world-wide phenomenon and has ruined the whole subgenre for everyone. There’s creative license and then there’s stupidity. Thank you, Stephenie Meyer, for your stupidity.
And due to the whole Twilight-craziness, now , more than ten years later, we must deal with a plethora of middling quality vampire literature that insists upon just jerking the rules around willy-nilly. For example, I recently read a book were vamps can walk around in the sunlight. Not only is this a pretty outlandish shunning of standard lore, but there wasn’t even an explanation. No sparkling, no sunscreen, no anything. There they were, just walking around in sunlight without a care in the world. It pissed me off. I spent the rest of the book waiting for an explanation and I was pretty peeved when none was provided. That, and a few other things about the book, made it pretty un-enjoyable.
Because, in the end, we need rules. We need standards. Have you seen Somalia lately? Aside from the fact that they have modern-day pirates (which is awesome… or at least, in theory) it pretty much sucks to live there. Sure, they don’t have to pay taxes, but that’s about the only bonus to living in an anarchist state. You don’t see people lining up to visit.
And books, I like books. They should be nice, pleasant places to visit. Which means when I open one up I shouldn’t be in for a world of hurt when just trying to figure out what the back story is. Now, I am not saying books should only contain sunshine and roses and puppies and unicorns. They can have darkness and sorrow and angst and mystery and intrigue. But I would rather focus on getting to know the characters, solving the mystery and connecting with the theme than trying to wrap my head around yet another bit of confusing lore. Getting to know the fictional world can and should be part of the fun journey of the book, but it shouldn’t be the main mental task-master.
Rules can be good and bad. But, we live by them every day. For example: physics. Physics is constantly in the driver’s seat. It’s a pretty strict thing, that physics. And it basically says what we can and cannot do at all times. But has it stifled our creativity? Has anyone besides a frustrated science student been overly constrained by physics? Do you wake up each day and lament: “Curse you, gravity, for keeping the earth revolving around the sun!”? No. In general, we live and die by the rules of physics and life is still pretty awesome.
I am not recommending we go so far and as to be as rigid and unyielding as physics. I am suggesting merely a set of standards that everyone can live and work with. The IEEE Standards Association webpage says:
“We are a leading consensus building organization that nurtures, develops & advances global technologies. Our work drives the functionality, capabilities and interoperability of a wide range of products and services that transform the way people live, work and communicate.”
That sounds pretty nice. [Is “interoperability” even a word? – Ed.] They are helping the wheels turn more efficiently by easing communication. Things are a lot more understandable when everyone speaks the same language. Let’s make a set of vampire standards that we can all live with. It gives every author and every reader equality of opportunity but not equality of outcome. With standards, when a reader opens a vamp-related book he or she has something to lean on and hold onto in this topsy-turvy world. But a good author will still be able bend these standards to his/her will. And a bad author will still be a bad author, even when gifted with a well-defined mythos.
But where does one start? I will concede a point to my opponent in this debate: there is no true “origin” story for vampire lore. Making it hard to trace what is “true” and what is “false” among all the many stories and legends. Who is going to make the standard? Who is going to draw the line in the sand? Where do we draw it? Well, if a bunch of scientists can finally have the courage to declare Pluto not a planet (it isn’t – get over it, you whiners), then I think a bunch of geeks can band together and provide some vampire operating standards for people to maneuver in.
So let’s get cracking on those standards. Plus, life isn’t very interesting if there aren’t rules to break.
READ THE OPPOSING ARGUMENT
IT TAKES ALL KINDS
by Rachel Hyland