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The Father of Starlight

January 14, 2017

Where to begin with this? This is another ramble, but I think it might be an important one.

As with any interest (from running as a sport, to photography, and the public recital of war poetry outside of wartime) there are facets to the appreciation of the Vampire as a creation of Literature. Some readers enjoy the gender fluidity of the Vampire, some are more concerned with the power wielded by him, and still others find the Vampire’s innate animal attraction to be the thing that attracts them to the pages of a vampire novel. Very few people ever really discuss the presence of the Vampire as a father and a mother, but stories that play out that scene do exist. An example that comes immediately to mind is the popular trope of a young heir/heiress whose parents die and is taken into the custody of a mysterious aunt, or uncle. “Queen of the Damned” utilised this trope with Jesse’s magnetic connection to her distant and generous Aunt Maharet as well as any and all Marius love-affairs. In some cases the trope is twisted, but the ideal remains the same – a benefactor that comes into the life of a human hero/heroine and turns it inside out. How it ends is almost irrelevant.

Love is qualifiable, not quantifiable. Parents don’t love their children more than one another. All love is equal in the expanse, but different in how it takes form. Reading “Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis” now, I am hearing the word again, frequently, and it stands out like emboldened letters on the page: LOVE. As potent an emotion as anger or sorrow. Once someone has been loved, the love never goes away. It may turn to rage or sadness, but it’s always, at its core, love. Sorry, sidebar. Moving on.

A someone who is asked almost constantly by people that either share my curiosity or try to humiliate me why I “love” the Vampire so much, this is a topic I’ve had to think a lot about over the years. Initially, I grasped at straws to find my answers, but all of them were true because of the literature that I consumed. It didn’t stand me in very good stead with the (then) adults that asked the question as I told them things such as:

  1. Vampires are loving. My literary endeavours showed me one thing above all else. Vampires feel more passionately because of centuries of cultivating emotion and perceiving things in tighter detail than a human ever could. When I did argue that vampires were loving, I believe I was told to go to church, but it might have been a lot less antagonistic than that. What I mostly remember was a slew of people quoting Dracula at me, for a given value of “quoting.” But this, of course, wasn’t exactly effective as I had some cross pollination between Stoker and the Coppola versions of the tale. Naturally, by that point, I’d been reading Anne Rice, so arguments to the contrary of my original statements didn’t succeed in changing my mind. Oh, and Buffy… Buffy also played a large part.
  2. Vampires are mysterious. That one doesn’t really need any explaining.
  3. …?

I could never really vocalise the last one because I didn’t understand it. Only after writing my own fiction did I come even close to an answer. A somewhat strange and seemingly arbitrary one: Vampires are familial. The one trend that pulls through every vampire story (if I’m wrong about this, please drop me an argument in the comments: sometimes my thoughts run away with me) is the bond of family. Master and fledgling in the case of most (beginning with the “Vampire Chronicles”), a charming metaphor for a father/child relationship. Of course the father is often replaced with a “mother,” however, speaking in terms of the archetypes of literature, even these mothers are rather paternal. In Anne Rice’s case, the paternalism of women, and the oftentimes strength that women show which male characters fail at is a whole other discussion that I would love to get into. In the Tanya Huff “Victoria Nelson” series, the familial bond between vampires is what drives them apart, threatened territorially by one another, which evokes as strong of an emotional response as the connection between a vampire and its maker that slowly corrodes over time or stays strong and constant.

Students of psychology and vampire literature have had fun with this one in the past, I’m relatively certain. The Freudian undertones in Vampire Literature are not easy to ignore. And they aren’t meant to be ignored. The line between Parent/Child and Lover are almost always completely blurred and the two concepts become utterly confused. Which explains why so much Vampire fiction to date is credited to the Romance/Erotica genres.

I’ve spoken with regards to personal matters on these blog posts and pages before when discussing the Vampire aesthetic in Literature and why I find it so intriguing, so I might as well continue to, at least, explain some of why I write so avidly about the familial ties between vampires:

My parents divorced when I was ten and my father moved onto a new relationship very shortly after that. He never fought for custody (but that wasn’t a slight against me, I trust – he didn’t want to drag me into a legal battle) which meant that I saw very little of him. Once every second weekend. As with any relationship, we grew apart and when I was twenty, he passed away from a very brief and violent battle with cancer. I had a terrible relationship with his girlfriend, turned wife, and that toxified my memories of him and my times that I had with him when he was alive. My mother and I lived in relative poverty. I remember that we had one teaspoon and a set of three knives and forks. We had a cutlery set, but it was her pride and joy and we were not allowed to touch it until we could use it on a completely extravagant dinner. That didn’t happen. We had a mattress, not a couch, and we shared a bed for a while because mine had a splintered board that I fell through. To this day, I skip breakfast. My friend’s mom would pack me lunch, and my mom and I would get a russian and chips to share on the way home because it was cheap and dripping with oil. We hopped from house to house and lost more and more of what we had with every move. This situation lasted a good six or seven years before we finally settled, but I was often put in the middle to ask my father for money to help us out. That situation started out as awkward and became very ugly within months. In the space of the years that we lived that way, I think my father lost respect for me as a person. To this day, I don’t question whether or not he loved me, but, I don’t really think, that I ever made him proud.

As much as this seems like a woe-is-me whinge, there is a point to it: I never really felt like I had a father. I always thought when I was young that I perceived myself as Daddy’s little girl, but now I realise that my dad was more like a distant uncle that I was really fond of and sometimes got to spend time with. I replicate my father over and over in my literature. And in my literature, he’s immortal. He’s powerful, and he has the capacity and the determination to defend whichever hero/heroine I choose to put under his care.

The Father figure is, without a doubt, my favourite vampire characterisation in Literature. It can be both Father and Friend, Confidante, Lover, Compatriot, as well as many others because of the sanctity of fiction where everything is allowed and nothing is ever held back.

In Vampire Literature, the Father can be a father as well as whatever else he chooses to be. Lestat, for instance, only ever really behaved like a real, true father when, ironically, he had a child that wasn’t a creation of his, but an actual Son. His other children he treated on more equal terms with himself. Marius was always strictly a father-figure, even with Pandora; relishing in teaching, and condoning or condemning behaviour.

Vampires cannot procreate, but they can create, and they attempt, like all parents, to create in their image, to inject value into their existences, to project themselves into immortality because, as we well know, not even vampires are really immortal – a topic for another time.

For now, let me say:

She’d missed the sunrises.

At the temple, it was the only time she was ever both alone, and at peace. Loneliness had been her burden. But the morning had been a realm of what was possible. Not what had been left undone, unsaid.

And it had always been glorious.

The cerulean dissipating into rouge, burning away into a bright orange flare, and then misting off into the gold of daylight.

On the night she’d left it all behind, she hadn’t known that she’d never see the sun rise again. If she had, she might have appreciated her last morning more.

The water had ebbed far away, now, the tide rolling out.

The two figures, one tall and wired with musculature, a mane of black and grey hair spilling down its bare back, the other short, soft, golden, had long since vanished into the water. She thought she’d seen two tendrils of shadow rise up, once, in mockery of her defeat, maybe, or maybe just in celebration. They’d curled together, wound around one another like lovers. But they were gone now. And soon, so would she be.

If she was going to die, she was going to enjoy her last sunrise, as she hadn’t before her first death.

The air was thick with warmth and moist heat, the sand near to her gaze was beginning to sparkle.

Saskia wanted to swallow back some emotion. She did. Her tongue cut into the blade. Her shadow had forsaken her. That of it which couldn’t flee into the darkness was waiting, waiting for its anchor to burn to ashes in the sun.

“Come then,” she wanted to whisper to the coquettish sun. But it hurt too much, and she kept her eyes trained on the horizon.

Darkness fell over her. 

The blade was drawn with agonising languid apathy from her throat.

As it broke free, she rose up, coughing. Blood expelled from her mouth, and she tried to draw in a breath, needed to speak, to form words, but she already knew who had come to save her.

She looked up.

Her Father wore his disappointed expression. The sun was beginning to rise, and his body was shielding her entirely from it. Only the edges of her vision sizzled with it. She winced. She looked away. His arms wrapped her up, arms long enough to curl around the universe. Instead they buried her against his chest.

He sequestered her in darkness, and she closed her eyes; closed them, knowing, the sun’s rising was gone forever.

 – Blood Amaranthine