History bites: mashing up history and gothic fiction in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

The premise of Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestselling 2010 mash-up novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, is clearly ridiculous. Latching on to the popular fascination with all things vampire and the perennial marketability of Lincolnalia, the book serves up a twisted romp through the Great Emancipator’s well-trod biography, whose sole aim seems to be sheer ironic novelty – and the profits such sensationalism can sometimes bring. Experienced as a shallow and derivative spoof, it’s quite easy to dismiss Grahame-Smith’s book with little more than a roll of the eyes. This essay argues however that there is a more complicated set of interactions at play. Mashing up realist history and gothic fiction, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter not only parodies popular Lincoln iconography, but the practice of ‘doing’ history as well. In this way, it can be connected with recent theoretical debates within the discipline about the construction of historical knowledge, about alternative varieties of historical explanation, and about the complex relationships between reader, writer, history, and the past.