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by Vanessa Cortez, staff writer.  [November 25, 2003]




[]  Although TV's fictitious Buffy kills vampires with a stereotypical drop-kick or a stake through the heart, true-life vampires are a richly diverse and multicultural people -- possessing a diversity of habits, strengths, and weaknesses -- which Shawn MacDougall records in The Vampire Slayers' Field Guide to The Undead!

The book's contents are divided by nationality, so vampire slayers in every nation can determine what to look out for, and not be hindered by human-centric stereotypes. For instance, while Chinese vampire slayers can learn from horror films (their indigenous Chiang-Shih is challenged by garlic, mirrors, and running water), most vampires defy horror film stereotypes!

In addition to nationality, other chapters include "Becoming Undead," "Fighting the Undead," "Defenses Against the Undead" and "Destroying the Undead" -- but nowhere a chapter on "Learning to Live in Peace and Harmony With the Undead."

With all this newfound understanding and rising above stereotypes, shouldn't someone be asking, Can we all get along?

But if all you want to do is hunt and kill, you may have to go abroad. Not every nation appears in MacDougall's book (maybe vampires are an endangered people?), although they still live in portions of six continents. (Antarctic is vampire-free, perhaps due to repressive and discriminatory immigration laws.) Yes, they do live in Transylvania -- and even the U.S. has its own indigenous vampires!

Speaking of Transylvania, MacDougall writes: "During the time of Vlad Tepes, Romania's ruling class was composed of Romanian Szekelys and Hungarian Magyars." However, one Weekly Universe source reports that the Szekelys are Magyars, albeit a subgroup, and not Romanian.  (And as Magyar is Hungarian for Hungarian, "Hungarian Magyar" is redundant).

MacDougall also writes: "Tangled in the complex rural histories of Romania and other Slavic countries are a number of references to different types of Strigoi." But Romanians have long insisted that they are not Slavic but Latin, descended from Roman colonists. (It's why they prefer Romania to such other Western spellings such as Rumania and Roumania). The late Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, in seeking Western aid, stressed that Romania is "a Latin island in a Slavic sea."



MacDougall's diversity-oriented definition of vampires is inclusive of "revenants," which he defines as: "A corpse that has been reanimated and has risen as a vampire, ghost, zombie, or angel. For the purposes of this book, Revenant will be used as a term to describe those vampires that are human corpses that have returned from the dead. These vampires are often pale and shambling, their bodies showing signs of decay."

But in privileging his definition, MacDougall ignores the richly diverse history of horror film revenants. In Horror Film Aesthetics, horror film critic Thomas M. Sipos defines a revenant as a corpse with a degree of self- awareness and intent (usually revenge, e.g., Tales from the Crypt).  By contrast, zombies lack self-awareness; they are usually under another's control (White Zombie, I Walked With a Zombie) or are mindless flesh-eaters (Night of the Living Dead, Zombi 2).

The Vampire Slayers' Field Guide to the Undead is thick (540 pages of text, 132 pages of appendixes covering vampire websites, unset groups, bibliographies, filmographies, glossary, etc.), but it's an easy read, with many pictures! Mostly artist sketches (by 19 artists), but also photos of women demonstrating how to wear fangs or carry stakes. (Amazingly, when it comes to females, both vampires and vampire hunters prefer to dress skimpy!) All illustrations in black & white, aside from a 14-page "Color Gallery."

Something weird: The book prominently states that Shawn MacDougall is the pen name of Jonathan Maberry. Sort of defeats the whole point of having a pen name, no?

Copyright 2003 by


Vanessa Cortez is a Los Angeles based tabloid reporter who investigates the occult underbelly of the entertainment industry. Read more about her journalism in Hollywood Witches.



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