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Book Review: Vampires Today – The Truth about modern Vampires – Author Joseph Laycock

VAMPIRES TODAY: THE TRUTH ABOUT MODERN VAMPIRISM
Written by Joseph Laycock
Published by Praeger
Publication Date: 2009
Format: B&W – 200Pages
Price: $31.96

When one thinks of “vampires,” the mythological blood-craving undead being comes to mind. Bram Stoker’s story of Dracula, as well as Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire are two of the main stories that have helped to shape the fictional character of the vampire through the years. Furthermore, Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Count Dracula in Universal Studio’s film version of Stoker’s story helped to strongly shape the image of the vampire.

These stories of the vampire are all fiction, though. In Vampires Today: The Truth about Modern Vampirism, Joseph Laycock interviews a whole new world of the vampire to the reader: that of the “real” vampire. Laycock thoroughly dives in to the life of a modern day vampire, exploring what it means to be a “real” vampire: is it a lifestyle? A fantasy? A religion? A medical condition? Something you’re born with? Something you’re initiated into?

Most significantly, being a “real” modern-day vampire brings the mythological to life, and does not necessarily mean you are 1) undead and 2) require drinking blood as your life-force sustenance.

Laycock writes about and explains the modern day vampire through extensive research and interviews with people involved with vampirism in some form. He’s quick to note that vampirism as a whole is not necessarily a cult or religious movement. Rather, he approaches the topic in a much broader scope, noting that people involved in a form of vampirism tend to shape their sense of identity around it. As such, it is a very psychologically based book. Laycock even explains that for many people, vampirism is a journey of self-discovery. At the end of the chapter entitled, “The Vampire Mileu,” Laycock illuminates, “So far, that category has been defined from the outside by authors, filmmakers, role-players, and occultists. Now, we see that vampires have begun to take ownership of the category, redefining it from the inside. Under this new definition, ‘vampire,’ is becoming a valid category of person. In the eighteenth century, the statement ‘I am a vampire’ would have been incomprehensible. In the twentieth century such a statement would usually be considered a sign of madness. However, in the twenty-first century…[it] may simply indicate one more category with which someone identifies” (pg. 69).

Laycock does a superb job of fully exploring and explaining the different aspects of vampirism. I never imagined just how deep and broad the community was. After reading his book, I do agree with Laycock that being involved in vampirism in some form (be it as a lifestyler, role-player, psychic, sanguinarian, or hybrid vampire), is indeed a form of identity and self-discovery for the individual. With this in mind, I enjoyed how psychologically oriented the book was. This really helped the reader better understand and appreciate just how deep and intricate the sub-culture of vampirism goes.

After reading this book, it is impossible to cast aside a modern day vampire as simply a member of some religious cult. While some groups undoubtedly have cult-like attributes, many vampire clans hold a much greater meaning and purpose behind them. These societies have value sets that they use to help regulate their group of vampires; they teach good ethics and encourage living a respectable life. For instance, vampires who just attend parties and do not hold day jobs are looked down upon. Furthermore, group members are quick to blacklist vampires if they violate certain rules.

What I found most amusing about the information presented in the book is the fact that while these vampire societies are so secretive and tight-knit, almost each different “form” of vampire is hostile towards the others; each group (ie, lifestylers vs. psychic vampires vs. role-players) thinks the others are not real vampires. Even sanguinarian and psychic vampires disagree with what a “real” vampire is. The real kicker, though, is that each of these groups sees the other as delusional. For instance, role-players and lifestylers see sanguinarian vampires and psychic vampires as losing touch with reality, and vice versa. Despite the differences, one would think that there would be more of a rapport between various subgroups of vampires because of their broader unifying label of “vampire.” But, Laycock reveals that this is not necessarily the case.

All in all, this book was a very enjoyable and edifying read. It is so deep with content, from psychology, to philosophy, to religion, that it can be overbearing at times, with the feel of reading a textbook for school. But, with the topic at hand being vampires, it makes for a much more twisted and amusing informational read!

Available at AMAZON

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One Response to Book Review: Vampires Today – The Truth about modern Vampires – Author Joseph Laycock

  1. Good to see you discover this fine book, and appreciate it for what it’s worthy. An interview with Laycock, and interactions with his other work on vampires and the Exorcist can be found on my blog TheoFantastique: http://www.theofantastique.com/2009/08/25/joseph-laycock-vampires-today/.

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