The Southern Soft Porn HBO Vampire Fantasy

I am a HUGE fan of Charlaine Harris’s books. Not least because reading Dead as a Doornail inspired me to write Tempest Rising. I’d never read a fantasy book like it (not because they’re not out there, but because I hadn’t read fantasy for about 10 years), and the tone was so different from the "serious" fantasy I loved but I’d always known I could never emulate. The first thing that struck me about Harris’s novel was that, while the heroine was heroic, it was in an entirely human way. She was heroic because she bore her “disability” with grace, always managing to be polite and respectful (values she held important) despite the horrors her mind picked up on a daily basis. She was heroic because she remained open, despite the fact that most people would have shut themselves off from experience or hope after living the way she had.



Another thing I adored about the series was it indulged in all the fantasies I’d always riffed on, in my own mind and with my family, about the SF/F genre that I otherwise loved. Peelers are a practical, cynical people. We have a touch of idealism and romanticism that balances our otherwise dark natures, but, for the most part, we reflect our Midwestern, immigrant roots. So, as we were walking out of Blade 2, years ago, my brother said, “I’m really glad that, after kidnapping Kris Kristofferson, the vampires put him in designer leather pants. Because he was wearing jeans throughout Blade. Somebody had to go out and buy him some Versace before they interred him in goo.”



What my brother was commenting on was what had always bothered me about many types of fantasy that we now call urban fantasy. Because I’m practical, and Midwestern, and a Peeler (so a bit of an asshole), I always wanted to know: who buys the vampire’s cravats? How do they pay their electricity? Do they have a checkbook? Do they balance it? With a calculator? Did Renfield ever look at Dracula and say, “Master, you need to stop spending so much on virgins because we have to feed your wolf-minions. And you know how rabid they get when we switch their kibble for something cheaper.” That’s why I loved, in Harris’s books, when Sookie compliments Bill on his brown and green golf shirt (!?!?) and Bill tells her he bought it at Dillards in Shreveport (where I do my own shopping nowadays, thanks). Harris obviously asked herself, “Where would a vampire get his golf shirts?” Which is genius not least because it’s a vampire in a golf shirt. That’s brown and green.



I know, nowadays, that Harris isn’t the only recent UF writer to riff on these things. But she was the first one I’d read after a decade, and it felt entirely new to me. So new I had to write my own. Which is why I’m not only a fan, I’m a bit of a rabid fan. Granted, I am a quiet fan, as always. I’m not much of a “joiner” so I don’t participate in fan stuff. But I’m enough of a fan of Charlaine’s books to have bought this:





It’s from Dirty Coast, a Louisiana tee shirt company.



I am also enough of a fan that I knew my judgment of HBO’s True Blood was going to be the jaded, mutinous judgment of a true fan waiting to be disappointed by the Hollywood treatment of their favorite novel. And I wasn’t very pleased by the first season. I didn’t get why they made Sookie so trashy, or why they made some of the plot deviations they did. I couldn’t see logic behind the choices, although I knew, as well, that I wanted the series to be the books and that was an impossibility. That said, I’m really enjoying the second season. I feel that the parts of this season that are like the books are closer, in spirit, to the original and that the parts that deviate do so in a bolder, more original way that makes sense.



That said, I am also aware that I may just have gotten over the fact it wasn’t a direct repro of my beloved books.



What do you think of True Blood, the HBO series? And don’t just tell me Eric is hot. That is a given, like the sky is blue or the sun will rise in the morning.



Thanks!

Comments

Anonymous said…
Mary Ann is HOT. Sookie too.

What? Not what you wanted? Okay. I like the serious. Most of it is not in the books, since most of it isn't from Sookie's POV. I agree, the second season is starting out with a bang. Much better than last season.

Of course, my very favorite part of it is....THE THEME SONG!

I wanna do bad things with you....yeah.

-Tom Gallier (totally unaffected by Vampire Bill's or Eric's charms)
Anonymous said…
I like the serious? Did I really write that? Sheeze. SERIES. SERIES. I'll write it a hundred times in longhand.

-Tom Gallier
Nicole Peeler said…
Tom: The theme song is unMITIGATED genius. And I'm digging the chick who plays Daphne. In my heart of hearts I wonder what the series would have been like had SHE been cast as Sookie. For while I agree that Anna Paquin is adorable, and she has an amazing rack, she's just not Sookie for me.
Thom said…
I will be perfectly honest with you and let you in on one of my shameful secrets- I have never actually read any Charlene Harris. I knew the basic gist of it (She's a telepathic waitress with a heart of gold. He's a Confederate vampire in search of redemption. They fight crime.) but I never did get around to reading them.

So for me, all the things that made you love the books, I was seeing for the first time in the series. Of course, now my view of the Southern Vampire Universe is completely skewed (you mean to tell me that in the books Tara is white and Lafayette gets SPOILER?!?!?).

All that being said, I loves me some True Blood. I love the characters and I love the fact that it is more Monster Mash instead of Vampires Only (No Other Monsters Allowed). Heck, I am more into the Demigoddess subplot with added shape-shifting than I am the whole vampire politics thing.
Bill Barnett said…
Nicole, I've just now come to the show. My wife — a connoisseur of everything vampire — has been raving about the show since last year, and like you, she has some of the same issues with the first season. She is, however, very much enjoying the series, and without a doubt, I’m hooked.

What I love about the series is how “human” the vampires are. They’ve got mortgages and debts and dry cleaning bills. Plus, I’m from Alabama and have lived in Louisiana, and the Southern “feel” seems to be fairly right on — right down to the expressions, the little Southern-isms.

OH! Nicole, thanks for the heads-up about the tee shirt! My wife’s birthday is in two weeks!

:)
Georgia McBride said…
I'm kind of in the middle because I didn't have high expectations for the series to begin with--other than it was on HBO and I know HBO tends to go a good job. I know that TV hystorically does not do a good job adapting the book to TV so, I figured whatever they did, they had to be able to pull people in visually and for what they came up with, they managed to pull people in that would never have picked the books up off the shelf. They wrapped a marketing shell around the series (sorry, I'm a marketing geek). As someone coming from the entertainment business, I understand it. As a fan of the books, I am 60% pleased with the show. As a writer, it is always great to see a colleague have their work turned into a show or film so in that regard, HOORAY! I'll support it because I want to see it continue. It means better opportunity for all of us in the long-run. So, I am looking at it from many angles, not just as a viewer. As a PURE viewer, well, I love me some vampires--plain and simple. It could be worse, it could totally SUCK. Pun intended.

Cheers-Georgia
Thom said…
Interesting thing I noticed because I am such a Buffy nerd (but it's okay because I got paid for being a Buffy nerd, lol) is that you can map out some of the relationships in True Blood and the match up pretty well with Buffy.

Sookie=Buffy (Hot Blonde with Supernatural Powers)
Bill=Angel (Hot Vampire in search of redemption)
Eric=Hot Other Vampire who would like to steal the above Hot Blonde from the Hot Vampire)
Tara=Willow (Hot Blonde's Best Friend)
Jason=Xander (BF loves him, but he is clueless to it)
Sam=Oz (Shape-shifting ex-lover of BF)

Of course the analogy falls apart after that because there is no Giles, Faith, or Tara. I am sure someone else in the interwebz has already thought of this, but I still found it amusing.
FictionGroupie said…
I've been happy with the show so far. The only thing i keep stressing over is if they're going to follow the same story line with Eric and Sookie, which is my favorite part of the books.

Hmm, now that I think about it, this is probably just a long way to say Eric is hot, lol.
Nicole Peeler said…
Thom: Isn't is awesome to get paid to be a nerd? And you should definitely read the series. They are wonderful books. And I agree about the monster mash... although not so much with the Buffy stuff. :-) I agree there are correlations if you WANT to see them, but I think what makes the books so great is that they ARE so different from the Buffy Model (which is what SO MUCH UF today is based on). So I like to focus on their differences, rather than their similarities, to the buffy-verse. :-)

Bill: The tee is GREAT, and Dirty Coast has tons of other really cool Louisiana inspired shirts. And I completely agree on the "human" (or maybe banal?) aspects in her supes. The episode of True Blood with Eric in foils had me dying. It was exactly the type of joke that Harris would make in the books.

Georgia: I totally agree with everything you said about watching True Blood. LOL I too enjoy/despise it on about ninety levels. Part of me loves it just cause it's a vamp show, part of me hates it cause it's not the books, part of me adores that it's opened UF to a wider audience...
And you're right, the marketing was GENIUS. Absolute genius.

Michelle: Eric is INSANELY hot. And he's here in Shreveport filming a movie, RIGHT NOW. ;-)

Fiction Groupie: I'm worried about Quinn casting, even though it's like eighty five books away. I am a Quinn girl... I know, I know, I'm a total minority. BUT I love him. That said, yes, Eric IS very, very hot. ;-)
You're a Quinn girl? OMG, you rabblerouser! Good for you.
Brooke Reviews said…
I love the True Blood series, and can't wait to meet the weres dammit! Bring on Alcide already.

I didn't think Sookie was trashy in the first season :/ My friend was upset when they showed so much of Sookie naked, and I was like...she's having SEX is she supposed to be fully clothed? lol
Rissa Watkins said…
Sookie said the F word at her grams funeral! That made me crazy. Sookie in the books would never in a million years do that.

I can see why they kept Lafayette on the show, his character is awesome but I wonder how it will change the storylines.
Jessica Kennedy said…
I loved the books.

And I'm loving the show. I've gotten over the fact that it's not going to be 100% like the books. The only thing I don't like about that is how much of Jason we see. His character is a nut head! He's good eye candy but enough is enough some times.

The whole Mary Ann thing is crazy too. I can't wait for that to be OVER!

Eric is HOT. And OMG was Goddrick hot too. I was drooling over him!

Lafayette's character on the show is my highlight of the night! He's amazing. I hope he stays around. :)

And I too can't wait for the weres! Quinn and Alcide are great!

And Sam is such a PUSSY! He makes me so made in the series! Balls up boy! Damn.

Great topic Nicole!
Kiyote said…
I like True Blood - its good...though didnt really like the extended drugs scenes last year...but still like the seriers.

Theme song is inspired - and if you can find the original song before it was changed...it says " I want to do bad things to you" instead of "with you"...first version to me matches the show better.

Love the televangilist on the show this year - he is inspired - too funny. You know thats how they would act if vamps turned up for real.

I do not think that sookie on the show is trashy - i mean sure she has sex and all but its HBO...thats a given.
Suzan Harden said…
I, for one, am glad the series doesn't follow the books. It gives me something new and interesting to look forward to in Sookie's world. I can't get the DH to read the books, but he's hooked on the series since the infamous Jason-OD-in-the-back-of-the-police-car episode. The DH was rolling on the couch laughing his ass off.
javacatz said…
I LOVE the books. The show is great, mostly. Some of the plot deviations don't bother me at all, and thankfully the second season seems to be more in tune with the books. My biggest pet peeve is the ridiculously stupid hallucinogenic camera effects when someone has taken vamp blood. I understand that it would be impossible to do it justice and have Sookie's POV all the time, but her thought process about everything she does and sees are some of the best and funniest parts of the books.
Nicole Peeler said…
CJ: I know! Everyone thinks I'm nuts. But I heart Quinn. I like big bald prisoney men. ;-) Especially when they're tigers.

Brooke Reviews: Oh, no, I don't think Sookie was trashy first season because she was naked or having sex. I don't mean trashy in a moral way, at all. I like immoral things. LOL What I meant by trashy is scenes where HBO Sookie swears at or physically attacks people, or talks about losing her virginity to a bar full of people, etc. The book Sookie would NEVER do those things. She's very private and very conscious of other people watching her, and she tries very much to be the sort of lady her grandmother raised her to be. So, like, in THIS season they have Sookie sitting on the bed and I think she says, "Oh fudge!" THAT'S the book Sookie talking. :-)

Rissa: That scene at the funeral is EXACTLY what I mean by the HBO Sookie being a bit WT at times. She would NEVER swear at her grandmother's funeral. It's not what a southern woman would do and Sookie in particular. And I agree about Lafayette, he was one of the only big changes in season one I really liked. :-)

Jessica: Thanks, lady! I think it's a good topic, as well. ;-) And there IS a lot of eye candy in this season, for either gender. I agree about Sam. He seems a lot less spineless in the books for me... he definitely annoys me in the HBO series. In the books it's more like he doesn't want to interfere to much because he knows Sookie has to come around to him, in order to really appreciate him. So like he's quietly waiting, knowing she's gotta get some stuff out of her system. But in the HBO series he does, indeed, seem a bit neutered. ;-)

Kiyote: I also LOVE the televangelist thing. It's SO clever. It's the sort of bold, big choice Ball made this season that I think is really interesting, whereas the Jason/V story line in the first just sort of confused me. Like, why doesn't Sookie trip after Bill gives her blood? Making V a hallucinogen still confuses me.

Susan: You've made a VERY good point, one I saw the actors make in an interview. They were saying that they owe it to the readers to give them something new, otherwise why would we watch it? Excellent point. ;-) Although I still don't want to hear Sookie swearing! That's my own Jane True's job... ;-)
Nicole Peeler said…
Javacatz: I JUST posted on Ball's hallucinogen V choices while you were writing. LOL We're on the same wave length, obviously. That NEVER made sense to me, either. It was awesome to see hot actors rolling about in computer generated flowers but plot wise I never got it. And I agree with you that some of the choices they made with Sookie took away some of the things that make her so adorable. She's so steely in this way only women in the South can be. I live in Shreveport, now, and the women here are amazing... everything is done with velvet gloves, but underneath are claws of steel. LOL
relliott4 said…
I love the show because I never expected it to follow the books. It's fun, surprising and as jaded as I am--or thought I was--I still get shocked.

I find so many of the characters fascinating and look forward to the show every week. Yeah, Eric and his maker are both incredibly hot, but to me, Bill and that stare... whoa. ;)
Taschima Cullen said…
Actually, Eric is HOTTER in MY mind ;)

And well, the first season was entertaining, though i didnt like the changes, Jason a V addict? WTF? I just hope they turn him...

I havent watched the second season, but, bah, Lafayette was supposed to be DEAD, and he ain't. Im just afraid that they are going to change one of my favorite series!!!
catfriend said…
The most difficult transition I had from the books to the show was the change in tone. The books have a sense of humor and a light tone; the series lacks that humor and is much darker. That change was especially jarring in season 1. Now I'm just used to it. Season 2 has been a definite improvement, although I've about had it with the Maryann storyline. Get to your climax already (again)! Sam needs to get back to Merlotte's.
Thom said…
Wow, so apparently I am the only one who is digging the Maryann story line. Sorry, I'm just a sucker for Hungry Gods Who Miss The Good Old Days Of Human Sacrifice trope. Loved it in American Gods, loved it in Supernatural' Christmas Episode, love it in this.

I can't wait for next week.

Funny thing, when I saw the trailer for next week with Vampire Bill talking about how he doesn't know how to beat Matyann, the first thing I thought was, "You know who probably had a chance against Maryann? Godric. Oh well."

Speaking of which- Sookie's dream about Eric and then Eric's scene with Godric on the rooftop- how can you not love Eric now? Of the vamps, Eric and Jessica are my favorites.
Jennifer Rardin said…
I loved your comments about the practical side of vampire life. Maybe it's the Midwestern in us? We just gotta have some how-to in our oatmeal every morning or we get the jitters? Anyway, I'm with ya, sistah. And Charlaine rox my socks as well!

As far as True Blood goes...can't get it so I haven't seen it. Maybe I'll ask Santa to bring me the DVDs for Christmas.
Nicole I so agree with you. I love love love the books.
It really irked me that they made the series didnt follow the books.
I am so glad they got rid of Erics wig. I like his real hair.
The Eric and Bill in my imagination are so much hotter sigh.

I wonder why only Bill and Eric have red rings around there eyes.. not Pam Goddrick Jessica nobody else why why why....

I too am glad they have kept Lafayette. I agree with Jessica K. I am so ready for the whole Mary Ann thing to be done.... arrrg.
That said I am trying to let go my book loving preference and watch the show with fresh eyes..
Carol said…
I loved Quinn. Sometimes Bill comes off kink of wimpy. I don't see the TV series as lacking in humor at all. The church woman dealing with her son's vamp girlfriend, hilarious. Love the series in general and I want to kill MaryAnne myself.
Vickie said…
I can enjoy the TV series for its merits. Just as I totally dig the book series for its merits. I love having the mental images realized. Yep, Eric is hot. Always thought so. My mental image had him hotter, thought, but I can live with seeing TV Eric now that I am used to him. I want him with long hair again.
I have the book series in audio format which is just delish!
Now to shop at Dirty Coast.....
Kiyote said…
I had to post again after seeing this week's epi. OMG - you know the old adage "In with a bang, out with a whimper."

Usually meant in a negative way - this story literally did it. Bang=bomb, whimper=eric/godric/sookie at the end.

AWESOME!

Oh - am so now totally on Team Eric.
Nicole Peeler said…
Relliot4: What shocked ME was the sex scene where he bites Sookie, she's bleeding all over, then he kisses her with his bloody mouth and she's licking at it. It was wicked hot but it was also so PORNY, because of the fluids exchange thing, I think? Anyway, I WRITE blood sucking sex scenes, but they're always way more clean in my head. I was like, "Yes, that's what it WOULD be like. I've been wrong this whole time! Woah!" It totally reset how I think about vamp sex. Which is strange that that is something I think about, but it is. I have to for my job, you know? ;-)

Taschima: Well, they're DEFINITELY changing the hell out of your favorite series. L But I think that the changes this season, while really bold, are REALLY good. Like Lafayette is SUCH a great character in the show (one of the only significantly changed characters, besides Jason, who I REALLY like) and I am GLAD they kept him alive, even though it is a huge departure from the books. It's a departure that makes sense, in the HBO series.

Catfriend: I completely agree re: the idea of tone. And I, too, think the tone has improved a lot this season. There are more genuinely funny moments and more really Harris moments. The foils in Eric's hair when he comes down to his torture chamber? AMAZING. I was guffawing.

Thom: I am ambivalent about the MaryAnn stuff. I don't like how Sam has been portrayed through it, but other than that I don't mind it. I think part of the problem is, for a lot of people, it's competing with Bill/Eric camera time. ;-) Although I'm fine with them sharing some chest shot time with Eggs. Oh yes. I am fine with that.

Jenn: I KNOW! LOL It's why I immediately wanted to write a book "like" that . . . I understood how it was thought through, cause it was done by thinking through supernatural/fantasy elements they way I already think through them. Who DOES buy their leather pants? How do they find a good all night dry cleaner to get all that blood out? LOL Do they take out the garbage with their preternatural strength? Anyway, let me know if/when you watch the series and what you think!

The Optimist Pessimist: Yeah, I think PART of the reason I like season two better is because I got over the fact they changed "my" books, finally. But I also think it IS just a better season. I agree about Eric's hair. It looked VERY much like a weave when it was long. LOL

Carol: I LOVE Quinn! Poor Quinn. He totally got shafted. LOL And Bill is a TOTAL pusspuss. I HATED him in the books. I hate him less in the series, and I think it's interesting they're making it Eric's "fault" Bill's maker comes back for him. Hmmm. And I agree, I ADORE the church story line. I really, really love it.

Vickie: Yeah, there's a mental jarring when I see who they've cast. I pictured everyone differently, as did we all, but for the most part I've been pleased. I still don't like Anna Paquin as much as Sookie...I like HER and I think she's adorable but she's too colty ... Sookie was an entirely different creature in the books. OH WELL I have to get over it. LOL I pictured Sookie more like Daphne looks.

Kiyote: I have yet to see the last two weeks. I've heard they're both great though! And Eric is foine. I wouldn't kick him out of bed for eating tripe, let alone crackers. LOL
Anonymous said…
Enjoying the comments, thanks for creating this blog!

I've just started on season 2, watching online as Aust TV hasn't picked this up. I'm not going near the books yet, as they're always better than what's happening on screen & so far I'm really enjoying the series. I'm not going to compare this with Buffy as they are 2 entirely different approaches to the mythology. I loved the sharp snappy dialogue of Buffy & I love the gritty feel of True Blood. I wonder what Joss Whedon would come up with for Miss Stackhouse?...

So far LaFayette & Sookies grandma have been my faves, It was a bad episode when that darling woman was killed. Jason is unbelievably thick & I'm at the point of begging him out loud not to do things, then laughing myself silly at what happens next. We have a saying here "if he had half a brain he'd be dangerous", boy is that apt for him!
However, I must admit that Sookie is starting to annoy the hell out of me, for someone that's telepathic she really is lacking in empathy. Her reaction to Sam on his big reveal & her constant carry on at Bill just make me want to slap her. Besides, I feel as though the writers toyed with the idea of letting us into Bill's character & then chickened out. The guy has obviously travelled & broadened his mind during his extended time here, but the little glimpses we are given of that have (so far) not been expanded on. Instead they've kept him rather 2 dimensional. Some of Sookies responses to him just make her look like an ignorant fool. Sigh, perhaps you'll reassure me all that is going to change. I can try to live in hope, though the big cynical part of me says it'll never happen & they'll keep his dialogue down to mentioning that Sookie is his in various scenarios.

My shoes are firmly under Bill's bed, how could I resist a guy who listens to Tuvan throat music & those dark eyes are hypnotic. He's mysterious, I love a man (or vamp) with a sexy mind. Eric's very pretty, but beefcake doesn't do it for me, not even 1000 yr old blonde beefcake.

Hey, reading this back, I think (in the TV series anyway) Eric & Sookie may be made for each other. I think Bill needs to find someone a little more mature & worldly. I feel so much better getting that out of my system. Can't wait to get to the end of this season, roll on series 3 :-)

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