Today's vampire – a needy, neurotic wimp

It used to be the case that bloodthirsty vampires and fanged creatures of the night were the stuff of nightmares and terrifying children's fairytales.

Not any more, according to the bestselling writer, Neil Gaiman. They're all a little toothless these days, he says, and nothing like the true-blue bloodsuckers of old.

Vampires are now over-populating popular culture to the point where they are just not scary, Mr Gaiman said as he picked up the CILIP Carnegie medal for his gothic children's story The Graveyard Book, about an orphan raised by ghosts.

Speaking to The Independent, he likened the glut of vampires in books, films and television shows – from the Twilight series to the growth of paranormal romance fiction – to a cockroach infestation. He said he had originally wanted to create a vampire character for his next book but had later decided against it.

"The saddest thing is that it runs the risk of making vampires not scary. I will be glad when the glut is over. Maybe they will be scary again. I like my creatures of the night a little nocturnal," he said.

"My next big novel was going to have a vampire. Now, I'm probably not. They are everywhere, they're like cockroaches."

He said he hoped that mainstream culture would lose its interest in the undead so that vampire fiction could regain its potency. "Maybe it's time for this to play out and go away. It's good sometimes to leave the field fallow. I think some of this stuff is being over-farmed," he said.

Many in the horror fiction community felt that the rise of glamorous, fanged creations in books and shows such as True Blood (based on Charlaine Harris's novels), the Night World series and The Vampire Diaries by LJ Smith, and Twilight, Stephanie Meyer's series of books which have been turned into blockbuster films, have helped to create a new generation of "softer" vampires. Sam Stone, a member of the British Fantasy Society and creator of The Vampire Gene Trilogy, said the fault lay with the "huge influx on the market of paranormal romances and teen vampire fiction".

"I personally think vampires should not be depicted as vegetarians, as they are by Meyer. In other books, they tend to be quite neurotic. Bram Stoker's Dracula was so good because it was dark, multi-layered with violence that was inferred. Teen vampire fiction is spoiling that," she said.

Graham Marks, children's author, said Ms Meyer had created a crossover genre that did not stick to the rules of classic vampire fiction. "The two things that vampires are supposed to be is scary and sexy, but I don't think the characters in Twilight are either scary or sexy. Meyer took a genre and mixed it up. Other writers jumped on the bandwagon," he said.

The Graveyard Book is the first children's book to win the Carnegie award, and has also won America's most prestigious children's book prize, the Newbery medal. It is soon to be adapted for film, with Neil Jordan` as director.

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