I got schooled by one of the Elders.
No. Just kidding. I was having another lovely exchange with a friend of mine who has been around since the beginning of our modern Vampire Community.
What she says is that what we have now is more of a Vampire Subculture, not so much a Community.
Why is it important to explore the difference between the two terms? For one, language is important. It represents ideas and conveys meaning. Words can be a form of shorthand. We gather a lot of implications from one well placed word and act accordingly, depending on how we relate to that word.
When I first discovered Real Vampires/Modern Vampires/Living Vampires on the internet, I was told that I was entering The Vampire Community. I didn’t question the name, at all. I had just come in from the Pagan Community. For better or worse, I was used to the idea of “Community” referring to any gathering or collective of people who came together because of a common interest, trait or defining quality. Also, I was aware that fan-bases considered themselves “communities,” as well.
What didn’t seem odd to me is that I was also aware of “community” being used to describe the collective of people in my hometown (Community of Mendota) and the culture (Mexican Community). There were communities with such a variety of personality types and relationships, that the Vampire Community seemed like just another assortment of negative and positive types, as well.
It wasn’t until more recently that I’ve heard some of the seasoned veterans bring up that they perceive it to be more accurate to use “The Vampire Subculture” to describe what some of us still call The Vampire Community.
Up to that point, I assumed that we were a “Community” because we were a loosely connected collective based on our different relationships to “the Vampire.” Whether this is because some of us believe that some of the mythos of the Vampire stories were fantastic elaborations of real blood-drinking individuals and psychic siphons in the past…OR that we, the modern collective of blood-drinkers and psychic siphons, adopted the Vampire as a group mascot, because of actual or symbolic similarities…OR because some of us relate to the art and imagery of the fiction based on the Vampire mythos. To me, I thought that our common ground was that we were made up of groups that related to the idea of the Vampire in any one of the three above ways.
As a Community in the loosest sense, we do not have an agenda or goal common to all factions of the Vampire Community. Rather, we are a loose collective that relates to the symbol of the Vampire as the common factor that connects all areas of the Vampire Community, under it’s umbrella term of Vampire. It’s no surprise to me when there is uproar and discord every time someone wants to “unite” the whole of the Community, because we have so many various and conflicting agendas in the whole of our communication network.
Referring back to the conversation that I had with my friend–she pointed out that what we commonly refer to is actually more of a Subculture. How I interpreted her remarks was that what she knew at the beginning of the crystallization of the VC was more of a community in the sense that there was more of a feeling of support, connection and camaraderie from the relatively small numbers of members who were beginning to come together. My personal supposition is that our modern Vampire Community was originally based more on that sense of support because it was mostly the initial gathering of lone individuals who (up to that point) had the experience of being MOSTLY SOLITARY AND ISOLATED Blood Drinkers, Psychic Energy Siphons and Self-identified Vampires…before there was any Community, online or in-person.
The danger and the beauty for those of us who now come to a Vampire Community, ALREADY IN PLACE, is that there is the impression that there is already a tribe here in place, waiting for the incoming members. Even if (or when) one comes to the conclusion that one’s tribe is to be found WITHIN the Community, and not necessarily the whole Community itself, it’s a matter of eventually finding your fit.
My supposition is that the founding and original members created and entered the new Community under an entirely different emotional atmosphere than what we now have. There might have been a more intense feeling of loneliness, aloneness and strangeness that these members held for much longer, because there was very little resembling a support system before the VC. The relief and hopefulness–and perhaps worry over the fear of this Community not being able to fulfill one’s hopes for support and camaraderie–might have been a much larger emotional stake for those of the newly-formed VC.
Also, because of the IDEA that these early Vampires finally found like-minded, like-experienced people–creatures LIKE THEMSELVES…it might have been enough to create a sense of immediate friendship and a family-like atmosphere in the presumably smaller group membership. It might have been more intimate because there were more interpersonal communications happening, out of necessity. At the time, there was a lack of larger amounts of people to interact with, along with a lack of the quick communication that would come later with advances in technology.
According to the layman’s common interpretation of “community”, the Vampire Community really was a Community, at its beginning.
Personally, I am not so much a group person. I find connections with individuals within larger groups. Even though that I understand what “Community” is supposed to mean, I have always tended to make my Web of connections with the people that I click with. I have never been used to the idea of feeling like the group at large supports me. This is just my personal experience.
Even so, even though I have my own re-interpretation of “Community” whenever I hear the word–I can see how the word might conjure up warm, fuzzy expectations for others. There might be people who expect a “Community” to offer emotional support, validation and instant fulfillment. There might be people who equate Community with “family”….the way that people throw around “family,” “brother,” “sister” or other like terms indicating some sort of relationship, sets members up to make assumptions about unconditional love and acceptance, that might not be a given in every circumstance or even over time.
Perhaps the VC did have more of that atmosphere in its inception. Arguably, we make our own “families” in life as adults…with conscious effort, we find and make our own support systems through the friends and associates that we surround ourselves with. Perhaps, there are even some lovely people, that because they are generally good-natured, gravitate towards good experiences and find that Community “feeling” in their personal network of contacts and associations. (The key might be to focus on your tribe and ignore everyone else.)
Ultimately, I probably won’t argue for replacing one term for another. One Vampire might find Community in what some of us call The Subculture. Some of us have a less-than-supportive interpretation of what Community should mean, according to formal definition. But, these might be some things to keep in mind when we use the word “Community”….and like with everything else, it’s up for further discussion.