Biologically impossible, morally offensive and aesthetically dichotomous, vampires epitomise transgression. They are life and death; repulsion and magnetic attraction in one.
Angela Carter’s radio play ‘Vampirella’ (1976) opens with a chorus of birdsong, with doves cooing and a lark singing in the musical accompaniment of the title character’s long and sharp nails against the bars of a birdcage. The melancholic vampire asks herself, “Can a bird sing only the song it knows or can it learn a new song…”, only to be interrupted by the screech of a bat.
The Gothic novel was a peculiar and typically feminine genre of the second half of the eighteenth-century. Peculiar in many respects since Horace Walpole claimed his story — ‘The Castle of Otranto’, the very first specimen of a long-lasting tradition — to be a blend of the ancient romance and the modern novel, the sentimental and the realistic tradition.
Although any horror story might be designated a ‘Tale of Terror,’ this term has come to have a particular association with the short sharp shockers of Regency and early-Victorian monthly magazines — particularly Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine — a form most perfectly realised in the work of Edgar Allan Poe.
It is easy to agree with Tzvetan Todorov that fantastic fiction creates a certain “hesitation” in the minds of the intrafictional characters and the extrafictional readers. But it is not as evident that Todorov is right when he claims that what distinguishes the uncanny or gothic from the fantastic is whether the supernatural is explained or not (Todorov 1995:25).