By Sarah DorrancePiercing the Darkness got panned by some members of The Coven, who felt the vampire lifestyle to be condemned, but now that I’ve read Cathy Krusberg’s review, I absolutely HAVE to read this book! I was especially interested in Krusberg’s summary/interpretation of Ramsland’s viewpoint below:
“Ramsland takes pains to examine a wide variety of external trappings, from novels and movies to real-life vampire clans and ceremonies. Her book, however, is more than a guided tour through vampireland. She also analyzes the implications of vampires’ many aspects and current popularity. An early chapter quotes psychiatrist Robert McCully: “The increase in interest in vampires … is related to a certain cultural self-blindness,” because culture tends to “extravert” our shadow side — that is, to project away what we want to eradicate. A later chapter explores the significance vampires can have for Generation X-ers in particular. The power, beauty, and sense of community that the vampire (particularly as portrayed by Anne Rice) represents counterbalance the powerlessness, alienation, and unhappiness of their own lives. Ramsland even gets a bit political in describing the forms of vampirism that our culture sanctions, which act as context for the less acceptable vampiric behaviors that our youth are ostracized for indulging in.”
— From Cathy Krusberg’s review of Katherine Ramsland’s Piercing the Darkness.
This really hit a nerve in me. I think Ramsland is on to something here. I am Generation X, from the earlier part of the generation, which started job-hunting in the middle of a Reaganomics-inspired recession and saw all sorts of blows directed at America’s communities, not least of which was the youth community, who were victimized simply for being the wrong age.
Most of my friends had divorced and remarried parents; my parents were the only ones that were still together, and I found out later that it was an unhappy marriage. It was also a rather abusive family, but hell, compared to some of my friends, I had it so easy. There were kids in my school coming out of the closet all the time about being beaten or molested, and eating disorders and drug use in my generation were high. So much of that, I think, was due to despair. There were no jobs waiting for us when we graduated (if we graduated), and our elders didn’t love us and weren’t good role models. There were all these horrible things going on in the world, too — famines, dwindling rain forests, the Iran/Contra scandal, on and on…nuclear war… The whole world was falling apart around our ears. Even those of us who were sheltered scions of the middle and upper classes didn’t have it too easy. You just couldn’t escape from the world.
There was no sense of family, no sense of community, except that which we made for ourselves.
I think of this list [The Vampire/Donor Alliance; firstname.lastname@example.org] as my family — the people on this list are my brothers and sisters and cousins. I am sure there is something to Ramsland’s theory that our subcultures give us the community and sense of continuity we lust after, also validation and acceptance for activities that are not accepted in the outside world. Hell, I can also see why the larger communities of vampires (Sabretooth, etc.) are so popular, with their codified behaviors and rules and false antiquity — I strongly believe that my generation (and the generation after it, the so-called “millennial kids” or “super-predators” depending on whether you approach an optimist or a pessimist…these would be the kids born after 1980 or 1985) needs a sense of tradition. Our old traditions and ways of life have gone out the window, most of us no longer follow the exact same faith that our parents did, we’re cast adrift without an anchor and many of us feel a need to stop the sense of pitching and yawling that being adrift gives us. Hence, all these fake “traditions” that seem mostly cribbed from White Wolf Vampire games. Fake antiquity is to many people better than no antiquity at all. The urge to conform is a strong one, and conformity often is best reinforced by a sense of continuity or history. Tradition is what holds communities together. It’s a sort of ritual. Humans are pack animals, it seems. Time to trot out the “traditions,” they make people feel better…
Oh, what an interesting time we live in.