Thoughts

When Are Vampires Fantasy or Science Fiction?

20161217_032744.jpgI finished re-categorizing my reviews into their proper genres. While I was re-categorizing my reviews under a new genre, I ran into the vampire books. The problem I have is that most of the vampire books are categorized as “paranormal,” and that is not a genre that I made a category. My dilemma then is whether vampires make a book fantasy or science fiction. Now, I am not forcing myself to place each book firmly into only one genre, but I do not want to mark all of the vampire books as both modern fantasy and science fiction. Keeping this in mind, when do vampires belong in fantasy and when do they belong in science fiction?

Lauren Davis’ article “When Are Vampire Stories Science Fiction” delineates certain ways that make vampires science fiction. She breaks it down as:

  • Vampirism as a Virus: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
  • Vampires as Aliens: Mars by Gustave Le Rouge
  • Vampires in the Future: Vampire Hunter D movies
  • Vampiric Technology: The Fledgling by Octavia Butler and True Blood.

I agree with Peeps, but I disagree with the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries/True Blood. The problem with that series is that there are other beings that are strictly fantasy: fairies, witches, and shapeshifters. The way their powers work and some multi-dimensional adventures makes that series fantasy in my book.

Because I have that specific disagreement with the Sookie Stackhouse series, I have considered other elements within the book that make it specifically one or the other. When I think of City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare or the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead, there are other fantastical creatures and these powers have no sci-fi explanation. I suppose the key for these books is to determine what other creatures exist in the universe and how the magical aspects work. Vampires themselves don’t necessarily determine whether the book is fantasy or science fiction.

I’m still on the fence about the psychic vampire in L.J. Smith’s Dark Visions trilogy. I have not reviewed it on this blog because I read it a couple of years ago. There’s a sci-fi element of an institution trying to hunt the characters down, but I suppose most of the psychic powers would be classified as fantastical.

Do you think vampires make a book science fiction or fantasy, or do you think it’s easier to throw all vampires under the paranormal subgenre? Do you have examples other than Peeps of sci-fi vampires?

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11 thoughts on “When Are Vampires Fantasy or Science Fiction?

  1. That’s so interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with Science Fiction vampires. I would love to. It would be something like how zombies are usually explained. A virus that affected humans. I know I’ve seen films that show it like that, but I can’t remember which ones. I think you’re right about your classification. It depends on the whole world the story is build around. If there are fairies and such, it’s fantasy. Nice topic!

  2. I’ve never really thought about this, but it’s a great question. I tend to think of vamps as urban fantasy (or even horror) so I don’t normally think of them as SF at all, unless of course (as you point out) the reason they’re vampiric is an SF reason. And I haven’t read or seen any of those examples (other than the Vampire academy film) so I don’t really know about those. I guess for me they’re fantasy unless something specifically makes them SF?

  3. I read loads of vampire books, and somehow I’ve never actually thought about this. Maybe I just put all vampires under fantasy lol. And then it there’s also a sci-fi element, I’ll just put the book under both fantasy and sci-fi. Then there are books in which there’s aliens, for example, and they drink blood, but that’s their only vampiric trait and the word vampire is never used, and I just don’t classify those as having vampires at all, so straight to sci-fi it is. (I’ve always been unsure if I should mark those as having vampires since I have tags for supernatural creatures, but I think I’m getting off topic lol.)

  4. I’ve never really thought of vampires as science fiction, but I can see Davis’s arguments for all except maybe the last one. I label vampire books as paranormal or urban fantasy on my blog, but if I didn’t have a category for that I’d probably just call them fantasy most of the time.

  5. I never thought of vampire as sci-fi. I can see if it’s a virus, but other things in the story need to be sci-fi-ish. Like if it is set in the future with more technology, then it is sci-fi. If it happens in space, then a vapire story should be labeled sci-fi. Other than that is paranormal. I don’t know why people would label True Blood as sci-fi, what’s so futuristic about it?
    Great topic!

    1. I think the argument is that True Blood is a synthetic blood, created so that vampires wouldn’t have to drink human blood. That’s the only sci-fi element to me. There are fairies, witches, shapeshifters and other creatures. Those (plus the vampires) are not explained away by science, so I consider it fantasy.

  6. I think quite a lot of science fiction should actually be categorized as fantasy, but it’s interesting to think the other way around! I’m not a fan of vampire books but a scientific explanation for the phenomenon might make it more appealing to me.

  7. I’ll be honest in that I haven’t encountered this specific problem (in spite of reading LOADS of vampire books), but it’s largely because I tend to avoid the ones with alien vampires or virus vampirism or whatnot. If the blurb alludes to it, I naturally shy away (although I don’t actually know why? Because I’m sure they’re still very good books? -shrugs-)

    I HAVE had this problem with zombie things though. I don’t read a ton of zombie books, but I never know what to do with them. Most are futuristic. But some treat zombies as a necromancy type thing. Some treat zombies as a virus. I’ve even read one trilogy (which was PHENOMENAL) by Rachel Caine that used nano technology to essentially bring the dead back to life. And I guess it had zombie-like aspects? So it’s kind of grey territory in some instances. :/

    Great post! ~Michelle @ FaerirFits

    1. I have read that futuristic and dystopian settings should be classified as science fiction, yet there are always exceptions to the rule.

      What gets difficult is when the scientific aspects mix with fantastical aspects. I haven’t read many zombie books, but I think that the setting and explanations for how things work would still apply.

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