Anne Rice's Vampires

Anne Rice announced yesterday that she is returning to writing vampires.  Specifically, she will be releasing a book called ‘Prince Lestat’ that she is calling a “true sequel” to ‘Queen of the Damned’.  Lestat is coming back.  And nearly all the other vampires that featured in 1988's ‘Queen of the Damned‘.  This is an enormous announcement.  

Anne Rice is largely responsible for ushering in the era of the modern vampire.  Oh sure, there are a lot of literary vampires we owe homage to.  There are so many.  Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre’.  Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’.  Richard Matheson’s ‘I Am Legend’.  Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot’.  Marilyn Ross’ ‘Barnabas Collins’ series.  Charlaine Harris’ ‘Southern Vampire Mysteries’.  But Anne Rice gave modern vampires something special.  She reinvented their lore, their history, and their rules to suit her needs.  She adhered to the essence of what they are but she wasn’t afraid to define them uniquely just the same.  And most importantly she made them her imperfect heroes.  She imbued her vampires with all the quirks, flaws, doubts, longings, and joys that make human stories so compelling.  She made them rock stars, Botticelli angels, quiet soul searchers, theatrical geniuses, lovers, and animals.  She gave them spirituality.  And yet she kept them steeped in blood and night, true to their origins.  Her vampires were Shakespearean in scope and they strode through tales woven of the fabric of centuries.  Majestic sweeping stories that swept entire civilizations up in their telling.  So it’s cause for celebration among those of us who loved Anne Rice’s ‘The Vampire Chronicles’ that she is returning to them.  And thus returning them to us.

In honor of the announcement I thought it only fitting that I write about three of her vampires that move me the most.  My three favorites, I suppose it’s fair to say, though choosing favorites among so many diverse characters seems petty and pointless.  They’re all as individual and important as each other.  But still, every character moves you differently and these are the three vampires who have clung to me the most stubbornly through the years.  The ones I’ll never shake.  (Full disclosure: Lestat isn’t one of them because it’s too easy by far to choose Lestat as a favorite.  Lestat is larger than life, a true enigma, an icon, a god among even vampires.  He’s the Brat Prince.  Choosing him is obvious and though I adore him this isn’t about him.)

1. Claudia
Claudia first appeared in ‘Interview with the Vampire’.  She was, in the book, a golden-haired doll-like child of five when turned.  Both Louis de Pointe du Lac, the vampire whose story ‘Interview’ truly is, and Lestat de Lioncourt were guilty by turns of fathering her but it was ultimately Lestat who actually turned her.  Once immortal Claudia was forever a child of five in body but her mind grew rather quickly to womanhood and as the dichotomy of her body and spirit clashed her rage increased.  Claudia was keenly intelligent and yearned to learn the truth of the vampiric heritage.  For as much affection as she held for Louis she nurtured cold contempt for Lestat though in truth she was rather much like him.  She was a vicious killer, merciless, and had an enormous appetite.  Something about the enduring innocence of her tiny angelic exterior as juxtaposed with her fury and cool deadliness made Claudia utterly unforgettable.  Her savagery.  Her delicate beauty.  Her knowledge and yearning.  Her passion.  And her cultured ability to enjoy the best of whatever time she was in. 

2. Gabrielle de Lioncourt
Gabrielle first appeared in ‘The Vampire Lestat’.  She was Lestat’s mortal, biological mother.  When tuberculosis threatened her, Lestat turned her into a vampire to preserve her presence in his life.  Whether he ‘saved’ her or not is entirely debatable.  In life Gabrielle was educated and literate, drawn into her own mind and books, devoted mainly to Lestat and not much else and in immortality she became downright uncaring and eccentric.  She too was a capable and savage killer.  Unlike Claudia, however, Gabrielle cared little for anything but Lestat and as the Chronicles went on she spent years in jungles where she lived like a wild predator, spending days buried in dirt to avoid the sun and hunting down animals by night.  She wasn’t interested in the vampire politics that wound around Lestat.  She was silent, strong, and savage.  She preferred to dress in a sort of boyish disguise, lopping off her long hair nightly or tucking it under a cap.  In many ways Gabrielle proved the studied opposite of Claudia and certainly of Lestat but that uniqueness, that singular quality that made her indifferent and literally set her apart from all the others, made her irresistibly compelling.  

3. Armand (also known as Amadeo)
Armand, nearly five hundred years old at the end of the series, had an epic and tumultuous life.  His story wound through abduction, child prostitution in a Venetian brothel, apprenticeship in painting, being turned into a vampire by Marius, founding the Théatre des Vampires (that featured so prominently in Claudia and Louis’ story in ‘Interview with the Vampire’), and founding the Night Island off the Florida coast.  Armand was described as a teenage boy with a head of auburn curls and flawless features that called to mind a cherub or a Botticelli painting.  But it was Armand’s fluctuating capacity for emotion and cruelty, passion and indifference, mercy and savagery that made him so memorable.  He suffered and ached and yearned and lashed out and repented.  In many ways he was a literary counterpart to Lestat, a sort of Renaissance yin to Lestat’s rock god yang.  Armand’s story, told in his own book ‘The Vampire Armand‘ painted him as complicated and beautifully torn.  And truly I couldn’t resist his years in Venice.  The story was a lush tapestry with a demon-angel at its core.  

Thank you, Anne Rice, for returning to your vampires.  It's beyond thrilling that more of their stories will be told and I, for one, can’t wait. 

 

- Corinne Simpson