It is another October, which means that I must contribute to the understanding of horror literature the best way I know how: by dipping into my gigantic collection of vampire pulp, and sharing the results.
This year, I have selected "Vampire of the Mists", which is a novel published by TSR, written by Christie Golden, and set in Ravenloft, which is the setting of Dungeons and Dragons horror-oriented campaigns.
The story follows one Jander Sunstar, an elven vampire who maintains his morality, and views being a vampire as a curse. He meets an insane woman in an asylum, falls in love with her, and when she dies, goes insane and finds himself passing through the mists into the land of Ravenloft. He meets the resident ruling vampire, Count Strahd, and they strike up an uneasy relationship. Over time, Jander realizes that the situation around him, and Count Strahd, are even more nefarious than they seem, which is quite a realization, since being in a cursed land ruled by an insane vampire tyrant was horrifying to begin with. Through some skillful twists, the plot of the book comes to a head, with an ending that is about as happy as could be imagined in the setting.
As I have found in many other licensed materials, this book is much better than it could be. While TSR's novels may have been formulaic, they had enough characterization and plot twists to be interesting. That is not really the issue.
The real issue with this book is where vampires fit into the genre of horror. After all, vampires are a horror staple. However, TSR is more writing fantasy with a horror edge than horror as such: the vampires in the book are mostly just orcs with a few added powers. Other than the lead characters, whose relationship seems to borrow inevitably from Interview with the Vampire, and the tradition of vampires as vessels of sensuous angst. In other words, while vampires should be staples of horror, they also blur into being either high fantasy monsters with fancy clothing, or else Byronic heroes with sharp teeth. And that is why the entire vampire pulp thing can be hard to negotiate, but then, we don't have to spend too much time thinking about it.