Author blows the lid off the stereotypical vampire

May 27, 2007 ( / Jay McDonald) -- Where do discriminating vampires go to avoid the media frenzy and overblown stereotypes that tend to understandably exclude them from car pools and bake sales? Homosassa Springs, Fla., of course. It's got everything the well-traveled "Sanguinist" might want, including fresh oysters to fight those midnight cravings and Green Cross home hemoglobin delivery as an alternative to gnawing on the neighbors.

Welcome to "The Society of S" (Simon & Schuster, $25), the year's most intriguing fiction debut to date. Author Susan Hubbard, an English professor at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, manages to so skillfully combine a young girl's coming-of-age story, an epic quest and a major overhaul of the hoary old vampire legend that one can't help but bite right into it.

We join Ariella Montero, a sheltered only child who lives with her father in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on the cusp of more than puberty; to her shock and growing fascination, Ari has just discovered that her handsome scientist father is a vampire, which naturally makes her at least half of one. To learn more about her lineage, she embarks on a quest to find her mother, now living among Sanguinists in Homosassa Springs (say that three times real fast!).

But set aside everything you've seen and read about fangs, from Stoker to Rice to Buffy. Hubbard's vampires, though locked in the same precarious immortal state, are enlightened, erudite intellectuals who quote Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell and Edgar Allan Poe ("he's one of us") and battle to retain a nagging moral residue from their human days. Over glasses of Picardo, the undead debate the ethics of dining on human donors verses developing, as Ari's father does, "environmentally friendly" synthetic blood.

Sanguinists (the S in "Society of S") tend to gather in locales with S-heavy names, the more the merrier: Saratoga Springs, Savannah, Homosassa Springs. Presumably Mississippi is thick with them.

Hubbard, a highly regarded literary writer with two prize-winning short story collections to her credit, braced herself for the perils of writing a "vampire book."

"Certain colleagues, when they heard what the book was about, sort of gave me a look," she admits. "I'm fully aware that some people will typecast me, but I think that anybody who reads the book will appreciate it as something that is not genre."

In fact, Hubbard tends to forego the fangs and reconnect instead with the psychological duality that Robert Louis Stevenson explored in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

"I'm going to be curious where bookstores put it," she says. "I think some who have read Anne Rice and books like that are going to be disappointed because there isn't enough blood and gore. I'm not salacious about the biting part. I wanted to keep it in a subtle vein." (Subtle pun unintended.)

Although Ari shares the author's alienated adolescence and a few of her quirks -- both dream crossword puzzles and "seeing" letters and words in colors, a condition called synesthesia -- Hubbard says the similarities stop there.

"Yeah, I'm a vampire!" she chuckles. "My father was gorgeous in his own way, but in a very mortal way."

A sequel is already under way, focusing on Ari's further adventures with her mother in a Homosassa Springs you won't find in any Fodor's guide.


Society of S: more info

More info about the novel can be found here.

Fanged Films

USA, 1970
Phobia / State Farm / Die Satans-Bande
USA, 2006

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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