The Anne Rice Phenomenon

There can be but a handful of vamps, and those interested in the subject, who haven't read at least one of her novels. Many of her works have been translated into different languages, some as obscure as Romanian! The reasons for this popularity are varied and wide-ranging as the folk who eagerly devour their content. At the end of the night only the individual can best answer the question of why they have such a hypnotic appeal, if indeed they do for you? Love her or loathe her, Anne Rice and the phenomenon of her work is indisputable. Further increased by the adaptation of her first book 'Interview with the Vampire' into a major Hollywood blockbuster and with rumours currently rife on a sequel, this trend seems set to continue well into the 21st century.

Guide books in the form of dictionaries, such as 'The Vampire Companion' by Katherine Ramsland, help keep Anne's loyal and devoted readers contented until the next instalment of vampire escapades, whilst the Anne Rice Vampire Lestat Fan Club, based in her home town of New Orleans, keeps its members informed of current developments and news pertaining to her world. This is the same group who also organise and run the annual Coven Ball in her honour.

Numerous sites abound on the world wide web dedicated solely to Anne and the abundance of colourful characters she has brought to 'life'. In fact will take you straight to Anne's very own website.

In other articles in this issue of Bloodstone, we have looked at the various manifestations of Anne Rice's work, in literature, film and graphic art, but there is one key field so far untouched, and it is a massive genre which deserves mention. This is of course that merchandise range connected to her books. It must be noted by the die-hard Vampire Chronicles fan, however, that much of what is available (largely in the USA and sanctioned by the author herself) relates more to Anne Rice than to her creations.

Whilst objects such as the Lestat doll – a limited edition item, one of which recently sold at auction for over $2000 – and Lestat Cuvée wines may perhaps find a happy home in any fan of the vampiric genre, the portrait t-shirts of several of the characters leave a lot to be desired. Firstly they are on white shirts, which will instantly alienate the goth market, though a version of the Claudia shirt is available on black, in what I would call a negative image, but what the advertising blurb on Anne Rice's website calls 'an eerie supernatural x-ray type effect'. But it isn't only the vampires who get the t-shirt treatment, as there are some available with Anne Rice on as well – a none too flattering shot called 'Contemplation', and two very disturbing pictures which simply state 'Anne Rice, My Brain'. Now pardon me, but would any of our readers out there be interested in wearing shirts displaying the brain scans of Bloodstone's editors?! I think not. This is only one stage removed from photographing your arse and then selling the pictures to all your friends! Come on, people, honestly! What do you think we are?

It seems that the Anne Rice ego machine has gone into hyperdrive, and I can quite understand why some fans of her books and the film show such antipathy towards her. It rather looks as though she's in it for the money these days, not for any higher motives of good storytelling or emotional catharsis. Let's not forget that 'Interview...' was written to exorcise her pain at losing her daughter to leukaemia, and now she has publicly expressed her hatred for the character that most typified her in that book, namely Louis de Pointe du Lac. Her adoration of Lestat is well-known, and unsurprisingly Lestat related merchandise comes in way ahead of any other character.

Amongst the above mentioned shirts, doll and wines, you can also purchase from Rice's website: candles, incense, soap, an umbrella, a sun visor, perfume, a rain poncho, nightshirts, art prints by her husband Stan – and much of this stuff relates more to Anne herself and New Orleans and her house and her brain, than to the very characters and books which made her name in the first place! Gross commercialism like this is a smack in the face for the genuine vampire fan who stumbles across it. Every produce which becomes available has to be formally licensed and approved by Rice, which usually involves her slapping her signature or face on it somewhere! Thus even a nice item like the umbrella – black with red writing saying 'Blessed are the undead, upon whom the rain dare not fall!' (a worthy sentiment for any self-respecting vamp!) – is ruined by having her signature scrawled on it.

All this frantic money-grabbing leaves one wondering where it's all going to end up. When the regular lines of merchandise dry up, can we expect to see Anne bottling up her own waste products, prettily packaging them in glittery bottles and packets, signing a photograph of her colon and selling it all as the latest in Vampire Chronicles haute couture?! Count us out. We'll stick to the unrivalled majesty of the film and the books, and leave the trash to those who revel in such muck.

Admittedly all this is the extreme or cranky end of a phenomenon which has brought joy and passion to millions of souls. This type of merchandise is purchased by a minority sector of her fan base and obviously fulfils a need, as well as bank balances. Tar not the majority of her admirers with the same brush, for it should not detract from appreciating the finer aspects of Anne's work, something which this issue of Bloodstone sets out to do.

see also on this site: Interview with the Vampire Buffy & Ricean imagery

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