Margot Adler
Margot Adler

If you go

What: Conference on World Affairs panel: "Vampires and Zombies Everywhere!"

When: 9 to 10:20 a.m. Friday

Where: Math 100

More info:

The existence of vampires and zombies can clearly no longer be denied.

In the new millennium, both horror tropes are resurgent in our culture with a vengeance. In television, movies, literature and virtually any other medium you might name, there they are — waiting to suck your blood, eat you, and sometimes even a combination of the two.

A featured panel at the 66th Annual Conference on World Affairs is poised Friday to probe the darkest corners of this phenomenon. It is titled, appropriately, "Vampires and Zombies Everywhere!"

The conference is well known for dropping some of its guests onto panels where the topic is not necessarily in their sweet spot. In the case of this one, that's not the case for panelist Margot Adler. The 40-year veteran of public broadcasting, currently the New York correspondent for NPR, has just published a book, "Vampires are Us."

So Adler, who has been participating in the conference since 1978, has a few thoughts on the subject.


"I had this incredibly interesting email from (gothic author) Anne Rice," said Adler, no relation to the University of Colorado sociology professor Patti Adler. "I had asked her why vampires have such traction. She said, they are the outsiders ... and she said for teens, their love of vampires is because they are desperately seeking a noble path through the hideous passage that Western culture has set up for them.

Howard Schultz
Howard Schultz

"Teens really have a cleared-eyed view of power and the abuse of power, because they are under the twin authorities of schools and parents. Vampires represent kind of an escape from that."

Predation for resources

Adler's investigation of the subject led her inevitably into the dynamics of power — ranging all the way from sex to corporations' and nations' vying for control of the natural resources they are sucking from beneath the Earth's crust.

As part of her literary and cultural exploration on the topic, Adler said she drew up a list of the popular vampires of the last 20 years, to probe what they had in common and how they differ from vampires who have arisen before.

"They were all conflicted," she said. "They were all desperately struggling to be moral, instead of predators. And that's exactly who we are — but our predation is not blood. It's essentially oil, fossil fuels."

She is joined on the panel by CU class of 1975 graduate Howard Schultz, president and CEO of Lighthearted Entertainment. A longtime producer of successful reality television programming, he is excited about one of his latest, coming to VH1, "Dating Naked."

'Very fearful world'

As someone whose job calls for close study of trends in what is popular, Schultz also has some ideas about why both vampires and zombies seem to be ever with us, in 2014.

"I think we're living in times where we're so scared to death, between having polar vortices take over our country, record rainfalls, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, there is so much going on, and there is so much happening with terrorists and planes that seem to disappear in thin air, that right now the world seems a bit out of control," Schultz said.

"So, why not zombies and vampires? These creatures that eat our flesh or suck our blood, turning us into vampires ourselves. There is this morbid fascination. But the undercurrent has got to be about this very fearful world that we are living in right now."

On the topic of vampires specifically, Adler said that the dominant themes of any one vampire story, from Bram Stoker's "Dracula" through the HBO series "True Blood," are noteworthy in that they tend to reflect prevailing themes facing the era's greater society at large.

She cited Eric Nuzum's 2008 book, "The Dead Travel Fast: Stalking Vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula."

"He said, if you want to figure out what any society is like, just look at their vampires," Adler said. "And I think that's true. Vampires may change, but there are lots of reasons why we are going to have vampires around for a long time."

Completing the panel are Christopher Douglas, a mathematics professor at Oxford, and Dovie Thomason, a Lakota and Kiowa Apache storyteller, author and activist.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or