So I went digging through my bookshelf today to find my copy of Queen of the Damned, but the blackhole that is my house has swallowed it, and I will need to replace it somehow with some money, from somewhere.
This is Lesson #3 in my set of posts about how Anne Rice inspired me to write, the things I have learnt and the joy that I derived from gathering words into beautiful choruses and letting them sing to a captivated audience. At least, I try to live up to the potential that reading the Vampire Chronicles made me consider cultivating.
The lessons to be learnt by writers in Queen of the Damned are a little more obfuscated than the ones mentioned up to now in Interview and Lestat. Queen of the Damned is the first book to give a perspective – a number of perspectives in fact – that are so completely different from the Yin and Yang of Lestat and Louis. They are opposing forces that need one another to survive to their utmost potential. Centuries into their time together, they still gravitate towards one another and only feel whole when they’re together. That is an aside, previously discussed in other posts. but here, we’re going to be looking at the number of new and enticing entries that occurred in the Queen of the Damned novel, that opened up the world of the world of the Vampire Chronicles to display something not in the least claustrophobic. A novel that took the reader away from the vacuum of Lestat’s thoughts alone and offered opposing ideals, notions, thoughts, and feelings.
A single perspective makes the reader learn to love and hate and feel all the things that the character is feeling. In Interview, it was torturous not to feel sympathy for Louis; even empathy when his world was at its darkest. In The Vampire Lestat loving Lestat was easy. He made it so simple just by being himself. But knowing those same characters from the perspectives of others is like falling in love and knowing the love of those characters in an intimate fashion that is almost like voyeurism. It’s as exciting as voyeurism, but more importantly, it’s seeing the tiny webs of pulsing veins that connect them, the ghosts of their past passions, and their incomparable love through their eyes and feeling for their consorts in ways that it was impossible to feel for them before.
The two examples I’d like to look at are as follows:
Lestat and Akasha
Akasha’s evil is on the back burner for me as far as questions of it go. The reviews are mixed and with the new information in Prince Lestat it is getting increasingly hard to see Akasha as evil. Then again, some of her human choices were questionable too. That aside, Lestat is in love with her. It isn’t infatuation, it’s the love of a man that has looked into a woman’s soul and found that soul looking back at him with understanding. Akasha could have chosen anyone, but she chose him, she kept him as her consort and her lover, and Lestat fulfilled the fantasies he’d allowed himself to entertain from the moment he saw her, played for her, and angered her King. Feelingless creatures can feel. Even millennia old “monsters” know love. One can argue that that love is more of an infatuation, an obsession. Maybe it’s glandular and has everything to do with the instinctive need to find a tribe. But Akasha chose Lestat and for however brief a time it was, they knew love.
Marius and Armand
I doubt – no, I know – that I was not the only reader waiting for a reunion of these two characters from the moment Armand divulged some of history to Lestat in The Vampire Lestat. Aside from the fact that Marius was a relatively mysterious and unknown quantity here, there was a much deeper level to it. Armand is the quintessential lost boy, and Marius is the anchor that keeps him from floating off into his own madness (later the relationship between Marius and Daniel felt very similar, though in that instance, Daniel was utterly dependant on Marius, and not just used to dreaming him up late in the day in order to try and recall who he really was as in Armand’s case). There were numerous occasions in Prince Lestat when I was hoping for a similar meeting, a rejoining of characters that had lost each other, with the same depth of emotion. Marius’ love for Armand proves two things. 1) In fiction, anything is allowable, anything is done, and all things can be beautiful. 2) Love can heal any wound and can conquer any chasm it faces. An old Roman loves a young boy, and it’s exquisite. Armand is changed from a scared child to an obstreperous bon vivant, and it proves the most basic truth about love: it’s a cleansing breath of air, rain washing away the filth of the day.
In terms of vampire fiction/literature, love is often overlooked, or looked into in a creepy, stalker-ish manner. It’s easy to think of the vampire as a separate entity, something to be treated as alien. But if we are looking at vampires as a metaphor for humanity (greed, lust, envy, etc.) then we should look at them as the norm, not the other. Vampires are intimate creatures by the very nature of what they are. Touches between humans have a myriad of symbols attached to them. Touches between vampires are the same and vampires have to touch, constantly, to feed. The more they touch, the more they feel, the more love they get drawn under by.
This is potentially what makes the vampire such a smashing candidate for Romance and Erotica.
Queen of the Damned allowed one very simple insight into writing: There is no story without a character that can feel, that can flail into fits of rage at the loss of love or passion. And no story without characters that love one another. Whatever the manner of the love, the gender, the orientation, the crushing weight of the desire, it matters. It draws a sterling human creature out of some descriptive words, a fetching scarf, and a speech attribution.