A few annoyed thoughts on vampires, sexism, capitalism, and double-entry bookkeeping

To say I’m not a big romance reader is something of an understatement. Nor do I read a lot in the urban fantasy or paranormal romance genres…rather less, apparently, than the author of this post. I am a firm believer in Sturgeon’s Law, but still have some sympathy for the argument that genre trends get stale really fast.*

All that said, there’s a lot to be bothered about in the post, not least the sexism and (probably related) dismissive critique of SF. Differently irksome are assumptions embedded in assertions about authors’ presumed lack of “interest in thinking through the conceptual implications of vampires”:

But, just to give one example of the complete absence of thought in urban fantasy, how is it possible for creatures that have lived for thousands of years to be short on cash? Have they never heard of compound interest? Or long-term dollar-cost averaging?

Cute throw-away line, right? It would work as a bit of dialogue, modern-day mortal to immortal…in fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it nearly word-for-word. But it completely fails to take into account just how much happens in a thousand years of human history. It’s not just a matter of empires rising and falling; entire modes of thinking emerge, to flourish for centuries or wither in a generation or two. That compound interest thing? Not something that’d be on your radar in an economy organized around subsistence agriculture. Not something you’d necessarily want to try if you were living in a society where, say, the dominant religious institutions strongly disapproved of the practice. (Bad enough to be an undead abomination in medieval Europe without having to worry about being taken for a Jew.) If you’re thousands of years old, double-entry bookkeeping might strike you as the cool new thing.

And that’s the thing that really bugs me, not just about this blog post but more generally. There are many aspects of post-industrialism, capitalism, and consumer culture that are unthinkingly accepted. It’s tough to analyze something you’re steeped in. But it is important to remember that things weren’t always this way, that they became this way through a series of choices, with consequences intended, unintended, and far-reaching. Past eras weren’t just like today, except with funny accents and silly costumes; “today” isn’t the same everywhere for everyone.

* Or perhaps putrid is a better word, given the dietary choices of vampires, werewolves, and zombies: perfectly dandy work’s been written about them all, and doubtless will be in the future, but wow, is there some market saturation going on. And the pages that aren’t saturated with blood are saturated with steampunks’ oil.