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Vampires are hot stuff right now. The preternatural creatures leer seductively from the covers of books and lust dramatically after their prey in television shows and movies. A glance at recommended reading lists for those who enjoyed Twilight, Stephenie Meyer's wildly popular vampire-romance series, yields hundreds of vampire entries, the majority published in the past three years.

This isn't the first time the undead have become a cultural obsession. Religious scholar J. Gordon Melton traces the word vampire to the Slavic "upyr," first recorded in 1047. Folkloric tales of night-walking monsters that drink blood to gain immortality surface in the chronicles of ancient Mesopotamia, Africa, and Europe. But the vampire's most recent resurrection owes more to two 19th-century tales, John Polidori's The Vampyre and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Both authors transformed the vampire from a bloated, red-faced, flabby creature into a monster with sex appeal—sleek and suave, epitomized by Twilight's hero, Edward Cullen—shifting from the purely scary to the intriguing and tempting.

Anne Rice, whose Interview with the Vampire (1976) and subsequent Vampire Chronicles have established her as the premier vampire-centric storyteller of this generation, believes the creatures continue to fascinate because we see something of ourselves in them.

"The vampire is a monster who preys on his brothers and sisters, but loves them and needs them emotionally as well as physically," she told Christianity Today. "There are times when almost anyone might confess to feeling like a vampire—for using or abusing someone else, for taking rather than giving, for being in pain yet wanting to hang on to life no matter how difficult it gets."

Rice believes ...

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There's Power in the Blood
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February 2010

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