Bookish Musings: Human vs. Inhuman Vampires

 
 

In a recent review I posted for a vampire book, I asked you all if you like otherworldly portrayals of vampires, vs. more human portrayals, and it seemed like a topic people have thoughts on. Well, I have thoughts on it too! And since one can never have too many posts about vampires, I figured it would make a good discussion.

 

 

Arguments for a Human Portrayal

I, for one, appreciate human portrayals of vampires, especially ones who were just recently turned.

A lot of supernatural creatures—like faeries, demons, djinn, merfolk, and dragons, to name a few—were never human. It makes complete sense that they would be different from humans. Different morals. Different values. Different ways of experiencing the world. Different mindsets.

Vampires, on the other hand, were human once. So for them, it makes sense that they’d still have human values and outlooks. Think about it, if you were turned into a vampire right now, would you immediately be like, “Hell yeah, let’s go murder some people and drink some blood! I hope they struggle because that’ll make it even more fun!” No, of course not. At least, I hope not. And even if you did enjoy it in the moment because of some new primal instinct, wouldn’t you feel guilty about it afterward? You might be a creature that needs human blood to survive, but you’d still balk at the thought of killing someone or even taking blood from them without their consent. Because you’ve spent your entire life up to this point as a human yourself.

 

Arguments for an Inhuman Portrayal

On the other hand, I also appreciate otherworldly, inhuman portrayals of vampires.

Since vampirism is rooted in magic, it stands to reason that the turn might not only change the person physically but mentally as well. It could in fact alter their perception of the world, their morals, their personality traits, their priorities, etc. It could make them possessive and bloodthirsty. It could make them enjoy the kill. It could make them cold and callous. It could make them become complete mindless, raging monsters. When magic is involved, almost anything is within the realm of possibility.

Also, it makes sense that vampires who’ve been around for a long time would be affected simply by their age and immortality, even if the turn itself didn’t change them. If you were to live for hundreds or thousands of years while everyone around you kept dying, if you were see generations go by while you were always on the outside looking in, it very well might cause you to drift away from your own humanity, to think and feel and view the world differently.

 

And the Winner is…

Neither! Because this wasn’t a competition, and I like both portrayals :-) They both have their merits, they both make sense, and they both can be great when they’re written well!

 

Now for Some Recommendations

I have a post coming up next week with M/M vampire book recs, and I’ve previously shared lesser-known vampire book recs, so I’ll just choose a couple to highlight here.

If you like human-esque portrayals of vampires, check out the Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle trilogy by Amy Fecteau [Am | GR | Review] and the Thieves series by Lexi Blake [Am | GR | Review]. The first is a funny yet dark and intense M/M series about a newly-turned vampire. The second doesn’t have a vampire POV but is a hilarious and emotional series about a human and her vampire love taking on the Vampire Council.

Real Vampires Don't Sparkle by Amy FecteauSteal the Light by Lexi Blake

If you like otherworldly vampires, check out The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice [Am | GR | Review] and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black [Am | GR]. Anne Rice’s vampires are the epitome of strange and otherworldly. Coldest Girl is about a world with walled-off vampire cities and has a vampire love interest who is quite unique.

Interview with the Vampire by Anne RiceThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

 
 
 

Talk to me!

What kind of vampire portrayal do you like---human, inhuman, both, or something else entirely?

 

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  1. verushka

    That’s an interesting comparison! Visually, I think I like more human vampires, because there’s a glorious creepiness to not knowing who’s a vampire and who isn’t. But within the pages of the book, you’re right, it just depends on the writer and how they pull of the portrayal. I’ve read different, interesting versions of both.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! Ooh that’s a good point, the way they can blend in makes them even more dangerous. And maybe the way they look so human makes them more dangerous because you then underestimate them and think of them as human, forgetting that they’re not entirely.

    1. Cheryl Low

      Same! Anne Rice’s vampires have that perfect mix of complicated strange immortal with all the remnants of humanity distorting their personalities. I will never get over Claudia and the terrifying idea of a middle-aged murderess in a toddler’s body. THAT was terrifying.

      1. Kristen Burns

        They really do. Her characters are phenomenal vampire characters. Have you read the Claudia’s Story graphic novel? It doesn’t actually add much insight into Claudia, but I think you might enjoy it anyway if for no other reason than the gorgeous art.

    2. Kristen Burns

      Yep, both can be great! And yeah, I have a lot of issues with the Vampire Chronicles, but the thing that keeps me coming back is how amazing the characters are written.

  2. ShootingStarsMag

    I like more human type of vampires if they have just been turned, because you’re right, they WERE just a human so it makes sense they’d still kind of act like one. If they have been a vampire for a long time, then it makes more sense for me if they are a bit more inhuman, since they are so far away from that life/mortality. So I’m with you – I think it definitely depends on the book and characters. I also really need to check out Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle.

    -Lauren

    ShootingStarsMag recently posted: Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich

    1. Kristen Burns

      I feel like there aren’t actually a lot of stories about newly turned vamps, but I like those. It’s interesting to see someone handle their newfound vampirism while still having the mindset of a human. But yeah, I feel like it does make a lot of sense that way! The Real Vampire series is one of my favorites!

  3. Brittany

    Great Post!! I like Human vampires haha mostly because the inhuman ones tend to be scarier and I am a wimp when it comes to scary stuff! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

  4. Daniela Ark

    hahahaha you got me there! I WANTED to see a winner. I’m very competitive! XD

    I remmeber loving Dracula the movie becasue it was the first time I saw another “phase” of vampires, when Dracule became a batman. The second time I think it was with Van Helsing

    Love this post!

  5. Louise

    Yay for vampire discussions! I think my preference really depends on what I’m in the mood for. Some days I want to see the struggle of someone who is coming to terms with their new vampirism, and some days I want to see some badass old monster type vampires. I just like all of them, haha!

    I have been reading the Vampire Academy books recently and I like how they have vampires who were born vampires and aren’t immortal and also vampires who are made but still may have never been human in the first place. It’s great to see how imaginative and creative people can be with vampire lore.

    Louise recently posted: My Spooky Writing Plans ๐ŸŽƒ

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha I’m the same way. I just love them all! Every type of vampire can be interesting or fun to read about.

      It is great to see how imaginative authors get with their portrayals. I’ve also read some books in which there are different types of vampires, some born and some bitten, or just different kind of species of vampire, and it’s always interesting!

  6. Greg

    We need more discussions of paranormals! I like your second paragraph there about the inhuman portrayal- I think that’s my thing. Assuming they’ve been around for many years, even centuries, I like the idea of them being inhuman at this point, not like regular people. But then at the same time I do like vampires being able to pass as humans, to infiltrate society and accumulate wealth and power because, hello, they’re badasses! So I guess I like both too! It depends on the story- you’re right, there’s plenty of room for both kinds. Or even a melding of the two.

    It’s funny cause I’m different a little with werewolves. A lot of times they’re portrayed as pretty savage when they shift, pretty animalistic, and while I do like that sometimes I also like the idea of a werewolf being able to keep their intelligence, or human mind, when in wolf form. It’s more interesting to me if they’re not just a slavering beast. But I don’t want them just to be wolfish superheroes either, lol, so I guess it’s a fine line.

    I need a good UF series where there are ancient, scary ass vamps and werewolf stories that aren’t jusr PNR’s (nothing wrong with those, just not my thing) … one of these times I’ll find the right one.

    Anyway great discussion!

    1. Kristen Burns

      We do! But apparently they’re not very popular discussions since I haven’t gotten very many comments compared to other discussions lol. Yeah, I do enjoy that portrayal where they’re just kind of disconnected from their humanity cuz of how long they’ve been around. But the ones who can blend in really well are maybe even more dangerous? But a melding of the two is definitely possible :-)

      Ok, see, I’m the opposite of you with werewolves. Almost every shifter/werewolf/whatever story I find is about people who shift into wolf but are still just a human in a wolf form. And to me, that’s kinda boring. I like the portrayals where they lose some or all control while in wolf form. I find it more interesting when they become savage.

      You might enjoy the Immortal Coil series. There is a bit of romance, but it’s definitely not PNR, and there are some interesting ancient vamps, although the MC is not a vampire, so idk if it’s quite what you’re looking for.

      Thanks!

  7. Cheryl Low

    I love both too. I like a good otherworldly creature like Carmilla but the best vampires for me are ones that used to be human. Everything is sharper and strangely relatable.

    Oh my gosh! Have you read Bite Somebody by Sara Dobie Bauer? It’s about an awkward woman who gets turned into a vampire, has no idea what she’s doing, and is trying not to eat her neighbor whom she has the hots for. It is hilarious! The vampires are so human!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yep, both can be great! And I agree, the ones that start as human but become more otherworldly over time are often the most interesting.

      That sounds funny, haha, I’ll check it out! I did read a book once (Teeth by Chele Cooke) in which the new vampire tried feeding for the first time and mauled the guy’s neck because he couldn’t find the vein lol.

  8. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    This is a VERY good question! And one I maybe cannot answer? I like your answer of neither, I think! Because like- the only vampire series I ever really read was the Sookie Stackhouse books and it most definitely had both types, and I really liked how that worked. Because you had these vampires trying to cling to their humanity, and those who lost it centuries ago (or DID THEY?) and the morality dilemmas were great! You have also reminded me that I own and want to read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown ASAP!

    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted: Reviews in a Minute: Authors I Love Edition

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol I guess it would be hard to answer if you’ve only read one vampire series. I haven’t read that one, but I watched a few seasons of the show. But yeah, I think it makes a lot of sense that there’d be both kinds since some would try to cling to humanity more, and younger ones might still be more human, but older ones might lose that humanity over time. Morality dilemmas can definitely be great in vampire books!

  9. Sam@WLABB

    Love this! I got a nice giggle from “the winner is” part. Well played, Kristen, well played. You give a solid argument for the human portrayal. Your logic totally works for me, and I especially like to see the vampire struggling with their fading humanity.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha, I’m glad I could make you laugh. Tbh, I only added that part because I needed a header for that section XD It can definitely be interesting to read about a vampire struggling to retain their humanity!

  10. Nicci @ Sunny Buzzy Books

    I agree with all your points on when vampires are turned/newly turned humans.
    However, there is the portrayals in which a vampire was never human but a separate species all together. In this case, I think they could be whatever the author wanted them to be without human traits applied.

  11. Roberta R.

    You made two equally convincing arguments! Let’s say that it makes sense to have a “human” vampire if we’re talking about a freshly turned one, but it makes just as much sense that, after living for centuries (or even millennia) in their vampire skin, these creatures would lose part (or maybe all) of their humanity. So, both can be equally interesting. though the “coming of age” angle does appeal more to me. BUT! Remember my review for the first volume in the Thirst series by Christopher Pike? In that case, the lead is 5,000 y.o., but still capable of empathy on some level, though she can kill relentlessly if needed. Of course, there’s a strong spiritual aspect in that series that you don’t find often in vampire etc. books, which makes it unique.

    I don’t usually read vampire books (not really a “creature” fan on the whole…unlike you LOL), but I did read and appreciate (despite the sex! yikes) another vampire series (NA/Adult) called the WVMP Radio Series, by Jeri Smith-Ready. Its unique aspect is that some of these vamps work as DJs at a radio station, because they are sort of stuck in the decade they died in, and unable to adjust to the modern world, which would cause them to “fade” (in a spiritual sense)…so by playing the music of their years, they are able to get a stronger grip on their unlife. Also, because of their difficulty to live in the present, they all have different types of OCD. There are 4 books in total (one of them being a novella) if you’re interested: https://www.goodreads.com/series/45374-wvmp-radio

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yep, they both definitely make sense to me! But I also think it makes sense for an old one to still be very human! It would just depend on the vampire and the vampirism and the life they’ve led.

      I’ve been rec’d that series before, but your description has made it sound so much more interesting. I will see if I can get my hands on those books! I do like the idea of immortals getting stuck in one decade. In one series I read, the vampires aren’t like that, but the mages are. It’s a fun idea.

  12. Lola

    Great topic. I think a lot can be said for both portrayals with a lot of supernaturals, although vampires are a bit different in that they used to be human. So I can see why the just changed might still behave a bit humanly, but with the the new instinct I can also see how that would turn them more inhuman. And especially the old vampires it makes sense when they’re more inhuman. I find it a bit unrealistic when immortals or very old creatures still act like teenagers sometimes in books, the older they are the more unrealistic it feels.

    I’ve also read some books where vampires are born or can be born and made. So in that cases it might make more sense if they have some non human parts too. I guess it all depends on the book. In the vampire series I read this year the born vampires actually did better controlling their bloodlust for example than newly turned ones, which was an interesting twist.

    So I like both types of vampires. It really depends on the book and I would like it to make sense given the world building in that particular books, but overall I think both types of vampires can be great to read about. The human ones can be easier to relate too, while the inhuman ones can be very interesting to read about too as they’re more different from humans.

    Lola recently posted: Sunday Post #304

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly! There are explanations that make sense whether the vampires still seem very human or not. But yeah, it can come across as realistic if a 500-year-old immortal is acting like a teen. If nothing else, I think they’d at least gain some maturity.

      That’s true, there are some stories where vampires are born, and that would change things too. I’ve read some that had born and bitten vampires too, it’s cool to see the differences.

      Exactly, as long as it’s well-written and fits, either can work! And like you said, human ones are more relatable, but inhuman ones can be more interesting!