Vampires Are Us: About the Book

Now at the Patheos Book Club
Vampires Are Us
Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side
By Margot Adler

About the Book

Starting as a meditation on mortality after the illness and death of her husband, Margot Adler read more than 270 vampire novels, from teen to adult, from gothic to modern, from detective to comic. She began to wonder why vampires have such traction in our society. Why is Hollywood spending billions on vampire films and television series every year? This interest led her to explore issues of power, politics, morality, identity, and even the fate of the planet.

In a culture that does not do death particularly well, we are obsessed with mortality. Adler writes, "Vampires let us play with death and the issue of mortality. They let us ponder what it would mean to be truly long lived. Would having a long life allow us to see the world differently, imagine social structures differently, have a longer view? Would it increase or decrease our reverence for the planet?

Vampires allow us to ask questions we usually bury. What does one value more and what does one value less with a short human life? Is the vampire's frozen 'life' sterile? Does life only mean something when it is part of a cycle of birth, growth, decay, death and the birth of new life? Is there a beauty that comes only from the cycles of which we are a part? Or is the heroic struggle imagined by every super hero a worthy one—a symbol of our striving to break through our human and planetary limitations?"

"Every society creates the vampire it needs," wrote the scholar Nina Auerbach. Adler's book explores how vampires have existed in cultures throughout history and how our obsession has continued to grow. Dracula was written in 19th century England when there was fear of outsiders and of disease seeping in through England's large ports. Dracula, an Eastern European monster was the perfect vehicle for those fears.

But who are the vampires we need now? In the last four decades, going back to Dark Shadows, we have created a very different vampire: the conflicted, struggling-to-be-moral-despite-being-predators vampire. Spike and Angel, Stefan and Damon, Bill and Eric, the Cullens who are all struggling to be moral despite being predators, as are we. Perhaps our blood is oil, perhaps our prey is the planet. Perhaps vampires are us.


Margot Adler is a long time NPR news correspondent whose pieces air regularly on All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition. She has a BA in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, an MS degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York, and she was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 1982. She is the author of Drawing Down the Moon and Heretic's Heart. Visit her online at

4/1/2014 4:00:00 AM
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