Cover Image: A History of the Vampire in Popular Culture

A History of the Vampire in Popular Culture

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Member Reviews

Thanks so much to NetGalley for this eARC in exchange for an honest review! I really, really wanted this to be so much more in depth. It was kind of blog-ish with how it skimmed the surface of vampires in popular culture. I would’ve liked a more comprehensive history, but I’m also picky about my vampire reading. A History is not an awful book by any means. It just wasn’t entirely for me.
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Like the author, I have always been fascinated by vampires, so I was looking forward to this book. Unfortunately, this really didn't scratch my itch. The book opens with some really interesting discussion of folklore and the history of vampiric legends. It's a bit rambling and repetitive, and lot of it has been covered before in more detail in many other books - but obviously there's not much new in vampiric history - and to be completely honest, I did learn a few things - so I'm willing to give the author a pass there. Her exuberance for her subject is obvious throughout.

I did add a few items to my to-read and to-watch lists, but unfortunately I found the popular culture part to be lacking. I know there's a lot of material to choose from, but so much has been ignored here. There's a lot of Dracula (but mainly the Francis Ford Coppola version and the BBC's 2020 version with a bit of Christopher Lee thrown in... but where's Bela Lugosi? Frank Langella?), a bit too much Twilight (especially considering the author's obvious intense dislike of the series), a lot of Carmilla, a touch of Buffy and True Blood and a lot of missed opportunities. Even Anne Rice's Louis and Lestat barely get a mention. 

The end of the book is a collection of random interviews that had little to do with Vampires and far more to do with Goths. I ended up skimming most of them, with the exception being the interview with author Dacre Stoker, the great grand-nephew of Bram Stoker which was quite interesting.  

All in all, this isn't a terrible resource on vampires. It's pretty good, actually... but it just could have been so much better. 

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Read more like a fan blog than a "history" book - full of opinions, swoony fan-girl interviews of people completely unrelated to "vampires in popular culture," and mostly surface-level summaries of various vampire movies and books. No discussion of actual history, no in-depth discussion of anything really.
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Violet Fenn’s A History of the Vampire in Popular Culture: Love at First Bite is a convoluted and disorganized book. Some of the history is interesting but the book lacks depth and cohesion, the writing is repetitive, and it’s ultimately quite boring.

This book examines the history of vampires in “real life” as well as popular media. Fenn includes some folklore and vampire history from around the world. We learn about vampiric incidents in 1700s Serbia as well as the “vampire panic” incidents in nineteenth century New England. Fenn also highlights the usual suspects like Dracula, Carmilla, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. However, there are lesser-known media like Poppy Z. Brite’s book Lost Souls and new TV shows like BBC’s Dracula and True Blood. The book also includes interviews with people associated with vampire culture.

I love vampires and I was really looking forward to this but I was very disappointed. I did enjoy reading about some of the global folklore but the book really missed the mark for me. The chapters lack organization and coherency. Fenn’s writing is repetitive, dry, and unengaging. Moreover, a lot of the analysis is very superficial. There is too much summarizing and not enough analysis. References would be made to things and simply dropped without any obvious relevance. Fenn would also keep returning to certain things that were already mentioned in earlier chapters.

I also think that the media featured is too limited. There are countless vampire movies, TV shows, and books out there. This would have been a great opportunity for greater analysis of some of the lesser known or cult favorite media. Instead, Fenn constantly returns to Twilight (although she hated it), and BBC’s Dracula as well as Francis Ford Coppola’s version of Dracula. But, I do appreciate the short chronology of vampire history as well as the bibliography and filmography.

The interviews don’t really fit. I struggled to see how several of them connected with the theme. I wish Fenn had interviewed some more relevant subjects, asked some more interesting questions, or simply didn’t include any interviews at all. However, I did enjoy the interview with Dacre Stoker, the great grandnephew of Bram Stoker.

A History of the Vampire in Popular Culture doesn’t really offer anything new nor is it well-written enough to be an entertaining read. If you’re brand-new to vampire history, you could give this a skim. Otherwise, I really do not recommend this book.



🧛 ½ vampires out of 5!
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A decent look at vampires in books (and some turned into a film) and TV since the first writing of them to today. I think some mentions have been missed (vampires in the Shadowhunter world being an example). But the focus is on them being the main character. The history of the time being written.
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*4.5 stars*

Detailed and wildly entertaining…

Ahh, vampires. Sexy, scary, and all things in between, if you read, watch movies or spend any time on the internet you don’t have to go far to find them. While I’ve stayed on the lighter side of these books and movies, the interpretations of what and who they are seem endless. This book gathers many of these familiar stories and interpretations together in one volume while also digging deeper into how they came to be part of the human experience. From folk legends to centuries old history, there is familiar as well as brand new material here, waiting to be explored…

I loved how this author loved this subject! She admitted her fascination with all things goth and subsequently vampires, and her enthusiasm was infectious. From surprising quotes and tidbits, to common knowledge, it was all woven together into a non-academic but in-depth dive into vampires and their impact, and depth, in pop culture (today and times gone by). There is a raft of references and I will be using that to add to my TBR and TBW lists for sure.

If you are looking for a detailed (not dry), personal (fun to read), book on this subject, I would definitely recommend this one.
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Thank you to NetGalley for the copy of this book to read! I wanted to love this book as I love to read vampire books and wanted to learn more about the history. Unfortunately, I found this book hard to get through. There was no consistency with quoting from other sources. I would often read and not realize I was reading a quote from someone else until the language had changed. While the chapters appeared to have themes, I didn't feel there was much cohesion to the chapters as a whole. A reference may be thrown out that I wasn't sure how it fit in with the rest because details weren't given. There were parts that seemed to drag on. I did enjoy some of the book and found interesting information inside; I just felt it needed more work.
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This book was an interesting read. Loved reading about the different versions of vampires over the course of several years and books, and other sources. I would tell my friends and family who are into vampires to check it out.
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A History of the Vampire in Popular Culture is a interesting new book that goes in detail of the subject matter at hand trying to inform, but not necessarily, as the author stresses, to be some sort of encyclopedia of vampires or the like. large swaths of vampire history are not present, but that’s fine as the point of the book is to look at common tropes within vampire media, and elaborate on them using examples from various TV Shows, Books, Films and even folklore.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit, as the author used quite a few examples that are usually never referenced in books such as this; for example, referencing something like the popular gothic soap opera Dark Shadows is usually not something you see in books like this, despite its popularity many decades ago. Other topics included everything to Count Von Count of Sesame Street fame, as well as Twilight (shudders). While I’m not a fan at all of that franchise, I begrudgingly respect its place in popular culture.

There’s a fair bit of historical discussion here as well, including forays into various vampire themed moral panics, including a bizarre one where children were led to believe a random cemetery was home to a murdering vampire, which led to hundreds of pint-sized Van Helsings to descend on it – with the entire debacle being used as a catalyst to push comic book censorship.

I think there were a few missed opportunities here; perhaps a sequel might be in order? Most of this opinion comes from the fact that the more Romance-based vampire things (Twilight, True Blood etc) are not my cup of tea, but the author was very passionate about them and their presence in vampire history, so I can’t fault her for that (once again, its not an encyclopedia). None-the-less, this is an enjoyable read, and gave me a few thigs to jot down to read or watch in the future. The book is well-written, packed full of facts and anecdotes, even a couple of interviews. While not a perfect book, there is a lot to sink your teeth into.
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An interesting study on vampires in contemporary popular culture. There is a lot more to the history of vampires in pop culture but this book mainly focuses on the more recent additions. On the more sexualised version than the horrific version of earlier interpretations of vampires.
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this book is a rape apologist manifesto that centers the very vague central idea in the absolutely false premise that everyone that likes vampires are nympho and /or are sexually frustrated and want someone to force themselves on them. 
the author watched three movies and the bbc dracula adaptation and does nothing but talk about how sexy these vampire are (not like the twilight, which, we get it, the author doesn't like; what we don't get is why, if she dislike it so much, spends amost 1/3 of the book coming back to that saga) -- 
i wanted to do a placated and concious review but I AM DISGUSTED WITH THIS -- it's AWFUL. Not only it's BAD in the sense of "picking some favourites" really ended up beign talking about the same five pop products; the author seems to be purpusefully dense and actively trying to be disliked -- as an asexual vampire entusiastic, i found this book OFFENSIVE -- please just dont publish it.
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This is an entertaining and engaging look into the vampire in popular culture, both today and throughout the past several hundred years. From Lord Byron and Bram Stoker to Twilight and Buffy, what is it that makes us drawn to vampires? How have our views of them changed over the centuries and why? Violet Fenn looks into history to see how social, cultural and sexual changes have influenced the appeal of vampires. It isn’t just an overview of Fenn’s favorite movies and books- there are plenty of explorations into those she doesn’t like if she feels that the vampire representation is important. Although the book was a bit repetitive in its writing on occasion, Fenn’ s unabashed love of and interest in her subject comes through each page. Her sense of humor and personal thoughts and opinions are highly enjoyable to read and overall this was a fun look into the never ending question of why we remain so fascinated with vampires. 

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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Fenn's texts provides interesting information on different aspects of vampirism as well as the likely cause for their associations. It delves into the history of vampires and the many stories and myths dating back as early as the 1700s, if we exclude mythologies involving vampire-like creatures or illnesses associated with vampire folklore. It covers films from the multiple versions of "Dracula" to the "Twilight" series in a fresh and enlightening way. While it would have been intriguing to incorporate more recent vampire films and texts, this would definitely come in handy for most projects demanding detailed-research on vampires. Plus, my favorite part, it includes an interview with Dacre Stoker (the great-grand-nephew of Bram Stoker).
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You don't have to believe in vampires to enjoy this book but it helps if you do. Violet Fenn clearly loves vampires, or at least a certain type of vampire, and her book is written with passion but sadly disorganized. She returns again and again to mentions of Twilight and True Blood and the 2020 BBC adaptation of Dracula. But ...
The author doesn't once mention any of the hugely popular and iconic vampire films produced by Hammer Film Productions: The Brides Of Dracula (1960), Kiss Of The Vampire (1962), Dracula-Prince Of Darkness (1966), Taste The Blood Of Dracula (1970), Countess Dracula (1970), Scars Of Dracula (1970), Lust For A Vampire (1971), Twins Of Evil (1971), Captain Kronos-Vampire Hunter (1974), The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1974), The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires (1974), Beyond The Rave (2008) and Let Me In  (2010). This alone is a huge chunk of the cultural history of Vampires.
The author doesn't look at any of the stage productions of Dracula. Notably absent are the Bela Lugosi 1927 version, his first English-speaking role and the wonderful 1977 revival with Frank Langella.
There's plenty of mentions of teen vampire novels of the last few decades by American authors but none of the great British cult novels of the 1970s and 1980s, published most notably by NEL and Sphere, get a mention.
Christopher Lee's memorable LP recording of Dracula, made by Hammer in 1974 isn't mentioned, nor is Peter Cushing's Hammer recording of The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires made the same year or any of the classic theme music composers.
Whitby Abbey and The Dracula Experience account for a huge chunk of tourist industry in the area but don't get a mention.
Any respectable vampire will be turning in his/her grave until an updated version addresses some of these problems.
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A History of the Vampire in Popular Culture by Violet Fenn is a nonfiction book about Vampires and how vampires are portrayed in popular culture through out history. As it comes out in May of 2021 there is a bit more focus on recent Dracula adaptations and other vampire stories in comparison to other books that discuss vampires and popular culture. I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Unlike other nonfiction or historical books, this history of vampires doesn’t completely go in chronological order and focuses more on different types of popular culture, as well as the tropes and themes that the vampire represent or embody. This is the first book of this type that I’ve ever read so I’m not sure the best way to review it but my love of vampires and the different depictions of vampires throughout history is what intrigued me about this book.

This is a very well written and researched deep dive into many aspects of Vampires and how vampires are used in popular culture depictions. Personally, I loved both discussion on the historical vampire accounts and how vampires are used in movies and TV shows. The vampire mythos is constantly changing and there seems to be something for everyone even if you personally don’t agree with all of the depictions. I think this would be a great book for anyone that is fascinated by vampires and vampire fiction.
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A very interesting read, although a bit repetitive sometimes. I suppose you have to have really in depth knowledge about vampire movies since it mostly discusses that, although I enjoyed the historical parts a bit more. The author tends to ramble sometimes and I ended up forgetting what was being discussed in the first place, but that could have just been a me problem. The paragraphs tended to be wordy and the author droned on and on and sometimes the topics became very repetitive. The interview portion, I only really enjoyed the one with Bram Stoker's nephew, the rest felt unnecessary, although I suppose gothic fashion/music/history is related to vampires in a way. I really enjoyed the selection of photos but I wish there was a bit more and included more of the topics discussed.
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I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 
This book provides a comprehensive, up to date introduction to the the inclusion of vampires in media, from the early Gothic influence to Dracula (which formed the blueprint for all subsequent vampire stories) to the more modern takes, like Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Twilight. While not exhaustive, I like how the text explores its rise in literature, then how said literature influenced film and television, whether in the form of adaptations or just works inspired by the overall aesthetic. I also appreciate the inclusion of an interview with a  musician who embraces the Gothic aesthetic. This is definitely a work that will delight many fans of the vampire and its many media appearances throughout history.
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trigger warning
<spoiler> mention of suicide, mention of cannibalism, mention of grief, deadnaming, mention of child murder, mention of rape, mention of incest </spoiler>

In this book, the author explores the history of vampires starting by myths and then going into detail about media that contains them, exploring different themes that come up time and time again.

Though this book has a very long appendix, there are no footnotes. I am not sure why. It would have improves this book greatly.
If you're looking for further vampire media suggestions, this is a great book and it's possible to jump over the synopsis and more detailed analysis of something if you've still got it on your list. I didn't read the passages about the 2020 series called Dracula, because I haven't had the opportunity to watch it yet.

I have a few problems with this, apart from the footnote question:
- in the segment about Countess Báthory, part of the argument against the myth is simple biology, namely that a literal blood bath would need many corpses for one filling and the blood would coagulate quickly, so I waited at multiple times for "humans can't drink human blood". due to a tonsil removal I have personal experience in what a human's stomach does when presented with certain quantities of human blood. it comes out <i>very</i> quickly. lick over a wound, lap up a few drops, maybe - but drinking? not possible. at least not if you mean with "drinking" that your body accepts it
- the only comic mention in here is Blade, and that seems to only come from the movies with Wesley Snipes. While the author says in the intro they won't mention <i>every</i> vampire story and that there is no special reasoning behind who's in and who's not, if you take out whole groups of media like graphic novel or video games, you should state it at the beginning

After two books by this author: Will not read more by this author. Ever.
The arc was provided by the publisher.
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This is going to be going in my top books I have read this year, I loved how Violet Fenn got me thinking about why I love vampires. Though it did take me a few pages to really get into the book but after that I was hooked. I recommend this to anyone who loves vampires and want to know why we love them.  I will be picking up Violet Fenn other book soon and will read anything else they write. Thank you Netgalley and Pen & Sword for letting me read and review A History of the Vampire in Popular Culture.
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When I was in college, I wrote several papers about vampires and loved every bit of it. I'm still very much a vampire fan and I was excited for the opportunity to read more about them from a more academic point of view.

Would I recommend this book. Yes. Definitely.

My biggest concern is the corpus the author chose to work with. She admits herself that she focused on stuff she enjoyed, but that means other relevant pieces of media were discarded and that could lead to a little bit of bias. I was also concerned about the fact that there is no research book listed in the bibliography.

Other than that, I thought this book mentioned a lot of very interesting topics, though some of them could have used a deeper analysis. I'll definitely remember the part about Countess Bathory being a victim of sexism. I'm a bit sad that she didn't go further and explained how sexism is still very much present in modern representations of women in vampire books, like Dracula's poor Lucy Westenra being raped and called a willing prostiture for it while Mina Harker is the pure woman to be protected at all costs. There's definitely something here and should anyone want to write about sexism in vampire books would find a couple of examples in this book.

Other fascinating topics include the torment of eternal life, far from the gift it looks like at first. Vampire children illustrate that point perfectly, from Interview with a Vampire's Claudia's rage at not growing up to Let The Right One In's Eli, stuck in the body of a mutilated child and living with a paedophile. Dissociating eternal life from eternal youth is another great point. Sexuality and consent in a good chapter as well, though I find it hard to talk about vampiric sexuality with so little emphasis on homosexuality. The same remark could be said about vampires and morality, which delves way too quickly into "vegetarian" diet and never mentions True Blood or the ersatz being developped by Daybreakers' main character (this movie isn't great but it does have something to say about vegetarian vampires. Vampires moving from ports to suburbs could have been a great introduction to talk about how vampirism can be a methaphor for racism. And the chapter about music could have mentioned Marilyn Manson's If I was your Vampire or Alice Cooper's cameo in Dark Shadows.

I'm also sad that blood disease, which is a known vampire weakness, especially these days, doesn't even get a mention. From AIDS in True Blood to tainted blood in Only Lovers Left Alive to vampiric blood in Daybreakers (told you this movie was relevant!), vampires can no longer eat whoever they want to the point where blood can actually be used as a weapon, like for Claudia in Interview with the Vampire. 

Now I insist: I did enjoy the book. The topics are rather wide and all are interesting and the author sounds like someone I would LOVE to have a conversation with on the subject. I never get the chance to discuss vampires this way and it was so great to get back into it like this. Now would I recommend this book as as research ressource? Actually yes, I would. I could definitely see it in a bibliography for a thesis. Hell, I wish it had been around when I wrote mine. Just expect some additional work to do to dig deeper. And if you want to read it just because you enjoy vampires? Yes. But I would suggest checking the bibliography and filmography first so you can understand the references better.
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