Monday, May 5, 2014

Can Vampires Survive without the Long Story Arc?


Since the 1860’s, Varney the Vampire had enthralled readers with a weekly chapter in a vampire series. People from all walks of life read the Penny Dreadful, and passed it around. But it didn’t last. The world wasn’t ready.
From the 1920’s vampire lore has plastered our silver screen with re-make after vampire re-make, re-hashing every concept under the sun (or hiding away from it), and providing the vampire lover with so many worlds to dream of. But not until Hammer Horror in the 50’s and 60’s, with Christopher Lee as the lead vampire and Peter Cushing as the consistent ‘Helsing’ variant, did the movies even think about heading into the ‘series’ category. For a decade, the fans were content.
In the Black-and-White ages of television, shows like The Munsters, and The Adams Family tried to keep us enthralled, but fell comically short. The viewer watched each episode like opening a new bottle of wine. In the days before video recorders, TiVo, and the DVD hard drive, it was essential to keep each episode free-standing, so that if we missed one, it didn’t matter, we didn’t actually miss anything important. Then, in the dawn of the video recorder, around 1971, things began to change, people could record episodes when they were out, on vacation etc, and TV series began to have two part stories, and include details from previous episodes. The beginning of the long arc had surfaced.
In books too, writers had made the trilogy the mainstay of the long-arc novel, and it took guts to extend the series beyond that iconic number three. But again, mirroring television, the novel was about to change. With the advent of cable television, the need to draw an audience grew, but a loftier goal was the keeping of an audience, and for that the television companies needed a hook to draw you back to a certain channel on a certain day at a specific time. The long plot arc was born through financial necessity, and it’s here to stay.
The television screens show vampire series.
The movies show vampire series.
Today, we cannot imagine a television series without a long-arc plot. In fact, if the long arc is not presented quickly in the series, therefore giving us something to get our collective teeth into, we swiftly turn off, and watch somewhere else. There is a burning need to have a mystery behind every show, whether it be science fiction, horror, or soap opera. In books today, we have so many series available in every genre that it is difficult to conceive of a single standalone novel anymore. Some authors do not even publish until they’ve completed at least two connected books. The age of the series is firmly upon us, and I for one am all in favor.
So, in summary, I ask the question. Do you, the book reader, read single vampire books anymore, or do you hone in on a series?
In either case, tell me about your best stand-alone, your best series, the one of which you cannot wait on the next volume.
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