Paranormal romance is filled with tales of vampires falling in love with humans. There’s something about a creature of the night that makes our pulse quicken and our hearts pound. Steamy passion is guaranteed in the works of many authors ranging from Anne Rice to Charlaine Harris. But what about love? Can a monster who’s not only dead — but feeds on the living to survive — love?
That was one of the questions I set out to answer when I wrote my portion for Strange, Dead Love, a paranormal romance RPG sourcebook for Vampire: the Requiem by White Wolf Publishing. The first chapter in the book dives deeply into intimacy, themes in paranormal romance, and props or devices used to tell a story. By the time I started talking about intimacy, I realized that I had to separate my thoughts about love and affection — literally.
In the new World of Darkness, vampires are still monsters battling the Beast within. Try as they might, they will never know what love is. Intimacy is about getting up close and personal, sure, but vampires can be intimate with a mortal (or each other) without feeling love as a human might. Vampires in this setting experience the illusion of love and passionate moments help them do that. Unfortunately, that’s part of what makes being a vampire so tragic. They’re no longer human. Everything these Kindred experience is a shadow of what once was. Sex, which can and does still feel good to them, pales in comparison next to the Kiss. The only thing that truly gives a vampire pleasure here is hot, sweet, nourishing blood.
Other settings forced me to treat this question very differently. To accommodate tales from the mid-eighteenth century up until present day, I obsessed over choosing appropriate themes by diving back into literary history. Even though the vampire myth is found in almost every culture the world over, paranormal romance traces back to Gothic fiction where you’ll find Carmilla (1872), Dracula (1897), and other stories and poems featuring a dead lover returning from the grave. Fast forward give or take a hundred years and you find books like Twilight, Guilty Pleasures, True Blood, Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, Interview With a Vampire and many, many more.
What I found was that romantic themes were directly affected by two things: how society treats vampires and to what degree the vampire is monstrous. If you have a secret vampire society, then you have a recipe for forbidden or tragic romance. If the vampire is horrifying to even look at, then love may redeem this creature and calm his vampiric nature. In that last case, I’d argue that “Yes!” a vampire can love because that emotion is so powerful it changes her nature. Without that specific lover, she’ll go right on drinking blood from anyone and killing without remorse.
The question of whether or not a vampire can truly, deeply love a living human being can only be answered on a book-by-book basis. In some stories, vampires and humans make the perfect couple. In others? No matter how hard they try, vampires can’t (and shouldn’t) fall head over heels for someone.
The way Strange, Dead Love was designed, we were able to move heaven and earth to accommodate many different types of settings. I hope you’ll do me the honor of learning more about this paranormal romance RPG sourcebook written by Jess Hartley, Filamena Young, and myself.
To celebrate the release of Strange, Dead Love, White Wolf Publishing has authorized a contest for a free digital version from DriveThruRPG! This sourcebook will be available very shortly on the site in digital and print. Whoever wins this contest will get a coupon to receive a free copy of the PDF the day it debuts! Make sure you leave a valid e-mail address in the comments below! (no need to paste in body of message, just add in form) Good luck!!!! (Winner to be announced here on January 3rd.)
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