- The Shades of the Sea and Flame series has some new swag to show off by way of a set of new covers:
2. On a related note, the Shades series can now be purchased as an anthology through this link.
Shades of the Sea and Flame: Complete Collection
A Dark Romance
The Gentes of New Babylon have a long and sordid history. At the centre of their timeless battle are the few humans that they love, swept up in the chaos and changed by the war. Ida Blanchefleur never wanted to be married, but she’d sacrifice anything for her family. When the foundations of her family are shaken by crazy events, Ida is forced down a dangerous path, darkened by shifting shadows that shape into unbelievable terrors. Can she keep her family safe and still love the dark demon that she finds herself inexplicably drawn towards?
3. Our new novel, Murmur, is set to be released soon!
Amity doesn’t watch the news or pick up a newspaper. She doesn’t need to. Amity knows what John down the street had for breakfast, just like she knows that Hannah isn’t really a broadway star on the rise. Amity can hear people’s thoughts and she hates it. Surrounded by music of her own choosing, more often than not, she can ignore this inexplicable habit, and only one mind is entirely sealed off to her. Until one night when she hears a murmur.
It’s February 14th and I figured I would go with the mushy stuff as a tribute to the mushiest day of the year, as well as my all-time most beloved vampire series of novels, The Vampire Chronicles, by Anne Rice. Now, this may be spurred by my need to clear the air on some things, my need to show my support for not just some of the incomparable Ms Rice’s work, but all of it, and also by my incessant need to write down random meandering thoughts, but what the hell.
I’d like to preface this piece by noting that I have never been one of (nor will I fully understand) those people that choose to exempt the series from some of its parts. Yes, I was young when I read the Chronicles (the first time) and maybe that affected my particular tolerance/love/adoration for them, but, I have never looked at the cover of one of these books after finishing that last word on that last page, set it down and thought “Well, hell, I won’t be touching that thing ever again. What a waste of my time.” Not once. And this is not a fun story I’m weaving for the sake of being a fangirl, this is blatant fact. The Chronicles up to Blood Canticle formed who I am today and I loved each and every one of them with singular devotion as if they were their own tiny universes with new things for me to fall in love with. Did I love Mona? No, not really. Did I sometimes wish that Lestat had stayed with Louis indefinitely and been a monogamous lover who only wanted his one and only? Sometimes. Was I ever offended that he not only betrayed David, but also took yet another fledgling? All the time. But this is canon. This is real. This is in print, there, on the paper, and it is what it is, and I didn’t love Lestat, or the books that he “wrote” any less for it. So why would I “choose” to dislike Blackwood Farm and Blood Canticle? Dear God, why?! Two of the most beautifully written things I have ever laid my eyes on! I cried for days!
Eh, maybe I am just being overprotective of the things I felt, but I think that these stories are shining examples of what Anne Rice is capable of giving to her fandom, and I love her all the more for them. I cherish them above all of my books.
But my love for the Chronicles is not all the mush I wanted to look at today. I give you Vampire Relations Appreciation Day!
Louis and Lestat
I don’t think I could get away with not mentioning this Vamp Power Couple. They’re like A-List vampire celebs and were even played by A-List celebs. Lestat and Louis were a same-sex couple when it was still taboo, and they somehow made it work for a full human lifespan together. To hear Louis tell it, it was hell, but if we read between the lines, maybe he was just at his wits end with his rambunctious and oftentimes manic maker. There are too many good reasons to love these two. They are the light and dark, they represent the good and the bad in people and the ups and downs of every relationship. They represent the one-sidedness of love. That each always feels that he feels more deeply than the other. They so often lack communication. But centuries later, look, they’re still together. And it’s beautiful. I dare anyone to tell me differently.
Marius and Armand
I feel like the “Marius and…” list is going to get extensive very quickly. But this one is one of my favourites. It was palpable enough in The Vampire Lestat, but the reunion of these two in Queen of the Damned was completely heart wrenching. They are the oddest and most compelling of couples: Marius, a stoic scholar and painter, and Amadeo, an obstreperous man-child with a knack for demands of love and outwardly selfish behaviour to get what he wants. A typical teenaged kid, basically. Their relationship has the hallmarks of bordering on uncomfortable and well beyond taboo, but has the sweetest core to it.
Louis and Claudia
Wow, this love story. Is it creepy to call it that? No, I don’t think so. It’s been validated that the act of caring for a child/infant alters the chemicals in the human mind to represent the feelings of falling in love. And Louis was nothing if not absolutely besotted with Claudia. Their relationship bloomed from a father and a daughter to eternal lovers, and isn’t that the way with all vampire relations? So many readers view Claudia as a monster. Her actions were monstrous, I’ve no doubt of that, but she wasn’t a monster so much as a tragedy, and Louis’ inherit tragedy was that he was the reason for her failings as a human, a vampire, and a child and companion. It’s a classic romance. Romances almost never have happy endings for everyone.
Marius and Pandora (<—Oh look)
Honourable mention? Maybe. Marius has a habit of falling for the least likely of suspects. Men and women that are nothing like him in the least, and in the end he leaves, they leave, everyone leaves, but while it lasts it’s always perfect. Pandora was Marius’ counterweight, and who can not love a story that spans millennia of a man looking for the lost second half of his heart?
Louis and Merrick
For the haters: I loved this love story. I was so sad when it didn’t carry through, when it seemed as if Louis had forgotten all about Merrick and her witchy witchliness. Yes, yes, she tricked him. She sabotaged his misery and almost drove him to suicide, but you know what she did do for him? She LIBERATED him! That’s right. Claudia’s grip on Louis’ heart was killing him. Merrick, set him free. In a manner of speaking.
~ Because this article is reaching the realms of too-long-didn’t-read ~
Marius and Bianca (sigh)
Armand and Daniel
Lestat and David
Lestat and Nicki
Lestat and Akasha (Maybe Lestat needs a *sigh* too)
I KNOW I’ve missed out more than a few. I know that the list of Vampire Love is so long that I’d be writing on it until my fingers bled if I continued. But I don’t want to bore you to tears. If you have a Vampire Love you want me to mention, post it in the comments.
This is a series about Love. Doesn’t the above list of romances prove that? I don’t like the mushiness of Valentine’s Day, but it has given me a reason to write on my most favourites of love stories, so, thank you Valentine’s Day, or, Vampire Relations Appreciation Day.
And also, since it’s Valentine’s Day, do pick yourself up a copy of Blood Pearl, all vampire romancey and deliciously dark. It’s free. Sssh, don’t think about it, just do it <3
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.
I started this thread last week and then had difficulty continuing, in spite of my ever-present willingness to talk about these novels. It’s been a tough week, personally and worldwide, and tougher still considering the circumstances and the dangers in the world and the never-ending horrifying news stories that come from world powers and little backwaters like my own country. As such, after a good week of moping and an unwillingness to communicate more than a word here or there, I decided to dig myself into my escapism and live in it until things improve or until I am in a position to fight for the good things. The good things aren’t always easy to see, and a lot of the time they tend to be hidden behind the big bad that stares at us from the ajar closet in the dark and terrorises us into sleepless nights and hours huddling in front of a night light. And that seems to be a fairly decent starting point for a book ostensibly about a villain that turns into the story of a towering hero and his centuries of accomplishments on a manic journey.
~What can I say? I have a soft spot for the bad boy and the anti-hero, and sometimes even the villain. In a world filled with James Potters, I tend to root for the Snapes~
“Villain” is another word for the Hero of a different story
I picked up Interview and Lestat in one shopping trip and it didn’t take me long into my reading of the former to be a little skeptical of the second book in the series and its somewhat ominous title considering Lestat’s list of sins in Louis’ P.O.V. But a few pages into Lestat I naturally struck a turning point and was astounded at the leap in appreciation, as well as the escape from the dreariness of Louis’ world where everything is bleak and empty, into Lestat’s where everything is something to be conquered, explored, vanquished, understood, defined, experienced… The list is endless. He does The Thing. He looks at it and determines how best to do it, how best to undo it, how best to counteract it and control it. Even when his aim is to abandon all control, he somehow dominates the thing and becomes the highlight of any page he happens to land on.
Lestat made the error of keeping a lot of himself to himself and not sharing his own story with Louis. This invited his fledgeling to fill in the blanks of what life with the manic and vicious Lestat was like and why in his own book that was meant to, in part, smear Lestat, and draw him out by casting lies into the water like rivulets of blood. It worked. And it forced Lestat to tell his own story, his own truth. It doesn’t take Lestat long to set the record straight and win over an audience that had all the potential in the world to hate him at the opening of his very own book.
As such, I try not to treat any fictional villain as a villain anymore. The Vampire Lestat proved that one man’s villain is another man’s hero, and Lestat is an enticing hero with a list of heroic deeds that more than outweigh his sins. Or so I like to think. Arguments are valid and will be heard. But I like my anti-heroes. Lestat is the Heathcliff in my universe; the hero that took more than one wrong turn on his journey towards finding himself, but his goal is still pure and untainted by whatever “evils” he has to face or endure, or in his case, commit. If I’ve learnt anything here, it is never to sell a character short by giving him a proverbial moustache that he can twirl while laughing maniacally and swooping into the darkness. Villains are not villains because they have nothing better to do. They have/had a story, and their goals, their dreams, simply differ from what the protagonist wants. Louis didn’t want to be a monster and he saw Lestat as the reason for his monstrosity. Antagonists are only compelling if they come from a place of humanity, rife with all its sinful behaviour and selfishness, to pollute the hero’s story with their own desires and subvert the hero’s aims.
Sometimes, Heroes Lie
Lestat is a do’er. He looks at life through the eyes of someone who is gluttonous, wanting more of everything, and stopping at nothing to get that sense of fulfilment. Louis is a thinker. He analyses everything until the existentialism eats him alive. It’s hard to see the rosy hues of life when the human mind is hard at work finding the bad in everything and dissecting it, only to discover a great lack of answers and an empty hole where there should be an end, or, at the very least, an explanation. It’s dark and twisted, the human mind is. The good things aren’t always easy to see. And maybe, sure, maybe Louis was feeling a little bit sorry for himself, empty, angry even, and he partly hated Lestat for bringing this side out in him. But, in all honesty, that side of him was always there. Lestat was just the catalyst that gave it voice. Louis was cursed with a thinking mind.
A question can be raised. Did he lie? Or did he ultimately believe what he put into words? Only the author knows, and, in the end, characters do what they want when pen is put to paper. It’s a flaw in the design. We want the characters to be real and magnetic, and they run away with the words, laughing and squealing with happiness that they won. If we try and wrestle them back into their prospective cages and steer the ship down the course we set it on, they win anyway because the story comes out false and insincere. I wholeheartedly believe that Louis was one of these runaway characters, and Lestat was most insulted when he was forced to play the villain in Louis’ nightmarish memories.
But, yes, I may have pinned for myself the trouble with being human (and to me, vampires are still human, they’re just, elevated, changed, whatever you want to call it, but they come from humanity and are trapped in the cycle of who they were when they died). Being human is a constant battle between the soul and the body. The body wants and needs things. The should dreams big dreams. But the dreaming part has an awful lot of time to think, and has to think while seeing bad revolve around the world like the sun’s ugly cousin. I think that this horrifying cyclical nightmare is what Louis found himself trapped in. If I think back to reading Interview with the Vampire I get shivers of disquiet. It was sorely painful, because being in Louis’ shoes was like seeing nothing but pain and suffering everywhere and being powerless to stop it, and, worst of all, perpetuating a lot of it and feeling powerless to stop that too…
“My subjects look at me with love.
And I love each of them.
They’re family. My family. My kin. My blood.
Whatever binds us, ripples through us all. We might not all be shadow, but we are all human. I remind myself every night. I am a man. I always will be.”
~ Raphael de Sangallo, Blood Amaranthine ~
I am rambling, let me stop. But I’ll leave it on this note:
I’ll debate forever until the tips of my fingers are raw from typing, that Lestat is a villain. He’s the greatest kind of hero. He’s the utterly human kind; riddled with insecurities that he masks with incessant bravado, ultimately bound to make one massive mistake after another, and, finally, he tries, to do the right thing, even if his nature drags him into the darkness every handful of decades. Humans write about human flaws because we write what we can relate to the best. And the same facets that make the human monster the most terrifying, make the human hero the most enticing. A hero built on flaws and fears that falls every damn time he tries to walk, but always gets up and keeps moving forward.
~Plus, The Vampire Lestat introduced Marius. What more could a reader ask for?~
I always knew that I wanted to write. When I was in Grade 4 I had a teacher who wasn’t all that fond of me. Or at least that’s how my childish mind perceived her concern over my “sickly” nature. But there was one thing that she always praised about me: my capacity to write creatively and well. Mostly I remember there being a lot of ellipses and exclamation marks in my work then; so I still haven’t worked out all the kinks, I guess…
I started with poetry when I remembered how much praise writing had brought me, and moved onto prose when I was about ten. So while I credit my creative endeavours in most part to my favourite authors, I don’t blame them entirely for my forays into the written word. That being said, it wasn’t until I read the Vampire Chronicles that I gave any thought to writing about vampires. Sure, the topic had always fascinated me, there were other authors that I read who wrote primarily about vampires, I watched (and read) a lot of Buffy fiction, and I found my niche in contemplating life and meaning when I was in my early teens – something that I credit primarily to the vampire in literature – but it was the concept of the “romantic vampire” that spurred me to write not just small snippets, excerpts, and stories of dark castles and midnight kidnappings, but things that made me think. And in thinking, I hoped I would provoke others to do the same.
I was young, but I didn’t need the themes explained to me: the questionable nature of evil, the danger of beauty, the simple existentialism of being alive and never being entirely certain that there’s more purpose to it than eating, sleeping, procreation, scrabbling to find meaning in what seems completely meaningless. I couldn’t put fancy words to it, but I recognised a lot of what the perspective characters felt from what I felt in my own life. The metaphor of the vampire as “the outsider” has started to seem cliched, but it’s not, it’s archetypal. Why else would vampire fiction be so popular with teenagers? Everything is urgent and every feeling seems like its the end; not just of the world, but the universe, life, the soul, all of it. I wanted to explore the same themes, other themes even. I wanted to look at the world not through the eyes of the non-fiction perspective character, someone I knew, myself even. It was too close to home. I wanted to put myself int he shoes of someone that wasn’t me, and let them walk a mile, let them find the answers I couldn’t find.
You could say, I learnt lessons from the Vampire Chronicles. Not just about life, but about how to create literary life. how to take a cutout character and breathe into him, make him move and dance and sing, make him list and sway and follow the path towards his own truth. Books aren’t always about the story. Without the characters, there wouldn’t be one. I like the characters. The characters give a tale life and meaning. I applied the lessons I learnt from each book in the Vampire Chronicles to my own writing, and I believe that I won my own internal challenge, to chisel characters from nothing and make them real.
The realest thing a character can do, is run away with the story and ignore my planning.
Lessons from Interview
Lesson one: What I think I enjoyed most about Interview with the Vampire was Louis’ wandering, seeking the same answers and never getting them. Even when his story came to a close and Daniel stared at him waiting for more, it was very clear that the story was never going to end. Because the question hasn’t been answered. If the question is “what is the meaning of life?” no one can answer it but the wanderer. And in every novel thus far, I don’t think that Louis has ever really found that. You can live for someone (Lestat, maybe Claudia?), but it’s not really living in the end. It’s surviving for that one last look that they give you, like the sun slipping behind the clouds. One day (or night) you wake up and find that it isn’t enough, and then, you start to wander again. It’s a romance, but not romantic; not, traditionally anyway. It’s a horror, but the horror is so perfumed that the reader can’t see it until the spilt odour is choking him. Interview was dark. It was like the novels I read just prior to the Vampire Chronicles, in authors like Jeanne Kalogridis and her vile Prince.
Not one of my own characters, no matter how old, is a fully-fledged person. There is always room to grow. Always. Saskia D’Asur is older than the shadow that animates her, but she still hasn’t found her answers, and she keeps moving through time, trying to find reason. I suppose she even embodies the darkness I felt in Interview, the clammy fear, the brooding sincerity. She handles everything badly, everything wrong, but she keeps doing what is in front of her, in hopes that whatever comes next, will give her life meaning.
Lesson two: People look for meaning in religion, because without a God the world is terrifying, bleak and, well basically, meaningless. With no deity, there is no afterlife, and with no afterlife, what are we toiling for? Is everything for nothing in the end? Where do we go? Do our voices echo in our own skulls for eternity? I’m not sure it’s a question vampires can answer, but, I think it’s one that they’re more afraid of than any human. Why could Louis never end his “miserable” existence (we’re barring later books here)? Was he exaggerating about his anguish, or was it that much worse: after being immortal, death was less palatable than sleepwalking through night after night like a sad, old ghost.
Our characters struggle with religion. Human, vampire, whatever their physical attributes, religion is a harsh reality that is built on something they can’t see or verify. Not everyone believes. Not everyone has to. But the ones that do face their own challenges: defining evil, coming to terms with being evil, and fighting theistically evil intent. Evil is a very Christian structure, but Christianity is the forerunning religion of the modern age, and it features distinctly in the Gas Light Victorian Vamp setting of the Sanguinem Emere novels.
And the last lesson I learnt from Interview was, possibly, the most important one: A successful character, is a relatable character. Being a bloodsucking beast doesn’t make a character obscure, but being inhuman does. It’s difficult not to relate to Louis for all the reasons previously mentioned. Lestat and Claudia, however, on occasion behave with such monstrous abandon, that Louis’ horror seems perfectly well placed. Later on, from Lestat’s perspective, the horrors he commits seems almost justifiable, definitely understandable. And it’s a charming truth of all fiction, that a perspective character is not God, and that he can lie, if he chooses, and as the avid reader, we’ll never know the difference.
~It will be too long of a post to put each of the novels in here, but I will make separate blog posts for them. Hopefully one a day ~
This is an answering ramble from my most recent page project for “Prince Lestat” on the page dedicated to discussing the segment on The People of the Moon and the Stars: I apparently have reached that point in life where I have full conversations with myself and readers about things that we never discussed, and have realised that I only explored a fraction of what I wanted to with that particular article on vampires, and, specifically, on vampires and what we consider to be evil.
Now, this stems from a truth I found to be universal when I was young. Vampires – and vampirism – do not necessitate evil. Or rather, vampires, strictly speaking, do not need to be evil. I could go into the simple transference of energy from one person to another – the way that a person may walk into a room full of happy people, but feel as if his life has turned to ash, and leave feeling uplifted whilst the happy people suddenly feel a little down and just can’t put their finger on why. I could reminisce about the time someone deliberately drained what little energy I had and left me half-melted on a coffee table over a boring cup of tea wondering how I was going to walk home. But, what I mostly want to explore, is what we consider to be evil?
Do those that are evil:
- Do evil, unaware of the evil of the act, and continue to do so in ignorance and bliss?
- Do evil, knowingly, willingly accepting that they are evil and continue to do so nightly with the sole intent of performing evil acts?
- Do evil, knowingly, and feel immense guilt and suffering for it?
This is where the question of vampires as evil becomes tricky for me. I vividly recall a scene from “The Vampire Lestat” where Lestat chose to kill a young mother and her baby, relishing in the wickedness of the act. But, even as I read that scene, Lestat did not FEEL evil. Truth be told, he felt like a very cross teenager, that wanted to show just how bad he could be, and, I quote (from a later Lestat obviously, but still):
“I don’t think anyone will ever say it quite like you do. Come on, say it again. I’m a perfect devil. Tell me how bad I am. It makes me feel so good!”
I’ve never perceived Lestat as evil, because he is well-aware of what he has done, and, nightly, he admonishes himself for his actions. Never in so many words. But when he talks, it’s like he wants the audience to see how wicked he is. The sub-text could not be plainer: “Hate me! I deserve it…” Unfortunately for Lestat and his need to be recognised as the monster that he is, this only serves to make him more endearing. There is nothing on earth more compelling than a self-flagellating dark knight, who on more than one occasion, has put aside his need to be the villain, and touched goodness, held it in his hand, used it to save a life, two, three… Who’s counting anymore?
I am desperately trying to think of “evil” characters in the Vampire Chronicles, and… I just don’t think any of them are. Not even Akasha… Nuts, sure. Utterly bananas, and very keen on world-domination and improvement as she saw fit, but, with the instance of “Prince Lestat” one can begin to understand why… Having a madman, an ancient spirit in one’s head, yammering away constantly, showing one awful things, will do that to a girl.
I’m not saying that some authors don’t allocate evil to their vampires. One that stands out for me very clearly is Jeanne Kalogridis’ Draculean Prince, who, to this day, is one of the most terrifying, haunting images from my childhood of a real, actual monster. A man that felt nothing as a human, joined the Scholomance to learn its secrets and became an uncompromisingly twisted and cruel creature. It’s not popular opinion, but in the visions in my head, he is what Dracula set out to be.
But so few fictional and literary vampires are the evil that they want to be, or that they are intended to be, according to these silly rules of one silly girl. If I accepted vampires as evil, it would reset my world-view, my perceptions of them that I’ve kept for so many years. As I mentioned in the previous article, vampires are the metaphor the world needs, for the possibility of strength, cunning, power, and most often, protection. The world is a terrifying place. It’s a pleasant, comforting thought to imagine that there is a big scarier thing out there that wants to defend your rights to civility, joy, and above all, life.
I used vampires as a bastion against the darkness. And I couldn’t have been more than eleven years old when that begun. I was a loner, I had few friends, and I felt isolated in every facet of my life. I started concerning myself with the dark things in life before I knew how to fill in a tax return or write a resume. Vampires were a solace. Anne Rice’s vampires were my final solace. But I made my own, I cultivated them, and I later wrote them into novels, and now they’re a part of my history. And I wonder, does my study of their acts and mannerisms make me evil too?
More than anything, good, dark, light, shiny, or smudged with the charcoal of “evil,” vampires ARE an escape. The world right now is a horrible place. On many levels, I imagine it always has been, but social media has brought those horrors out into the steel gaze of the public eye, and we’re forced to see just how cruel people can be everyday. If we can look at the cruelty of humanity and be jaded by it, why can we not accept that an evil heart could not possibly feel remorse for evil acts?
I’m lying here on the bed with a happily rolling MuMu who keeps looking at the ceiling and nattering away, telling me about the size of the dragon she fought last night, and that dark lord, Meriduse, who insulted her at a tea party on Sunday. At least… I think that’s what she’s saying, but it mostly sounds like: “Chowchowchowchowchow? Chowchow!”
Tomorrow, Friday 6th January, at exactly 09:35, Embla Lenore Wheeler will be six months old. She’s a little potato with aegean eyes and sandy hair that’s getting ever more blonde and wild every day. I’d say she almost has enough of it now to have bed-head when she wakes up. I’ve spent six months with her, almost constantly, learning little things about her that make her not just a “baby,” but a person. A single little individual, with her own amusements and mood swings. She only cries when things are unbearable, she loves fruit (but, above all, apples and bananas), vegetables make her whimper, she loves to be growled at and eated and tickled. She wakes us up every single morning with a giggle and a pupa wriggle.
It was October of 2015 when I found out I was pregnant with Embla.
Emmy was not a mistake, or a miracle, or a blessing. Emmy was an intentional little person that I wanted with every facet of my being. Every second with her (even the ones that happen at one in the morning when she looks at me with big bug eyes and smiles because it’s time to play) is a snippet of the most eloquent story on what it means to live in a world full of bad news and sad events. Emmy is a sun shining down on all the dark and vanquishing it.
When I found out that I was pregnant, I became militant about producing fiction, to provide the kind of life for my little girl that is safe and happy. And thanks to that, I can now proudly say that my five novels in the “Shades of the Sea and Flame” series are published and available for purchase.
The “Shades of the Sea and Flame” series is a Vampire Construct delving into Dark Gothic Romance, with strong elements of Horror and highly adult themes, set in the fictional city of New Babylon. It is the story of Ida Kron (formerly Blanchefleur), married to a strange man and finding solace in the arms of a monster. She journeys through love and loss and passion to find herself, her true self, in order to latch onto her happiness. Her journey takes her into the dark recesses of the Night Courts of New Babylon, ruled by the Lords of Night and their formidable God-King, where she must stand true to save the man she loves.
If you like the books, write us a review. If you don’t like the books, write us a review. Just, review the books. Our little family will reward you with many mentions of your kindness and your thoughtful suggestions and critiques on our websites:
Happy reading, and may you always dream of the dark, the beautiful, and the muse herself.
And to my Little Embla:
~ Emmy Belly, Sproutling, Fru Fru, Bunny, Dovelet, Beanie, Bells, Floople, Squeaker, Kicky Feet, Little Prp ~
One day, you weren’t entirely real just yet. Oh, you were there. You were little punches and kicks and flooples in my abdomen, and you were heartburn, and nausea, and back ache, and exhaustion, and you were a little clock ticking away to a time in the distant future where I’d get to meet you. And in spite of it all, all the gripes and grumbles, you were everything. Still you weren’t quite real.
And then a day later, you were.
You were a pink bundle of warmth and snuffles, and you lay on my chest, and for ten minutes in between all of the noise, the shuffling, and needles, and voices, and hands taking you and holding you, and waiting for places for us to go… It was just you and me.
The very first night that we spent in the hospital, they took you away to sleep in the empty nursery, because they were worried I’d strain myself to get out of bed and hold you. And the next morning, drugged as I was, they brought you to me, at 7:26 am and said you’d missed me so much. And I looked into your little space-shuttle wheely cot where you blinked those big, fuzzy eyes at me, and was so perplexed with love for you that all I could do was reach my arms out in a “gimme” motion and say that I missed you too, over and over.
You’re the reason I lay awake at night, worrying and fighting anxiety, and then, finally, opening my laptop, writing a thousand words here, five thousand there, deleting garbage and rewriting, all to make sure I can do this one thing that I need to: Keep you safe. Give you a good life. Never leave you.
But I would sooner erase all the good things from my memory, than regret you.
Because you are the good things.
You’re sunshine at three am, and you’re a little spout of rain on a bleak day. I have no faith in fate, or the esoteric, but I know that you can only do the most glorious things in the future. My little bubble of joy and goodness.
You are the very best thing in the whole world, Little One.
And the world may not yet know this, but it is so lucky to have you in it.
Bram Stoker – Dracula
The Victorian Monster
The origins of the modern vampire myth are taken from many alterations on the idea of vampirism in both popular culture, as well as folklore specific to certain areas of the globe. Specifically, the modern vampire is a breakaway from the first iterations of the literary vampire, and the most popular of these is, without any doubt, Count Dracula, from Bram Stoker’s classic, Dracula. The vampire, the lord amongst the lesser of his line, is a monster by the same name, who rules his land as he has done for four hundred years, since his mortal inception, in the Romanian ruler, Vlad III, Voivode of Wallachia. Stoker plucked this character from history, in order to create what, for the time of the novel’s publication, was a compelling villain. Vlad Dracula (meaning son of the dragon/devil, depending on the dialect and context) was a medieval ruler of Wallachia, fighting the Turkish infiltration of his orthodox country. He was, historically, a great ruler, cruel, but effective, and, were it not for Stoker, his name may have been lost in the annals of history, for being exceptionally cruel as he was by many modern standards, he was no more or less cruel than other ruling monarchs of the time.
There are many rumours about the practices of Vlad III, but very few certainties. What is known of him, was that he was prone to practices of impaling his enemies, and of harsh, torturous judgements on those that broke the law; theft and adultery were mercilessly punished, and it is said that a goblet of gold and jewels could be left at well springs for villagers to drink from, as no one would dare to steal under his rule. There are many rumours, of his practices; nailing hats to the heads of Turkish emissaries, cutting genitalia off of adulterers, and worse. And it has been said that he drank the blood of his enemies, those that were impaled for crimes against the kingdom. Many sketches of this ruler, portray him feasting in the midst of a forest of stakes. What is imperative to acknowledge here, is the image that this creates by modern standards, of a true villain. Not simply an antagonistic figure, but, a villain, who does evil, for the sake of the evil in himself that needs to be fed with cruelty and torture.
It stands to reason that the distinction between an antagonist, and a villain, ought to be taken into account at this juncture. Villains do not earn perspectives in any novel, or work of literature, however, antagonists may very well have their own perspectives, their own desires, that simply happen to counter-act the goals and ambitions of the hero(s). Those goals cannot be a simple need to perform evil acts. A serial-killer who knows that his actions are evil and cruel, and continues with that chosen path irrespective, torturing, raping, killing, with seemingly no reason other than it makes him/her feel alive, is not a compelling antagonist. Villainous, yes, fear-inducing, but, not necessarily sympathetic by any means.
The character of Dracula, as seen in the Stoker novel, is no antagonist, though he has goals, his goals are not flushed out clearly. One could assume that, he strives to escape the “old world” that he has presided over for such a period of time. As it is isolated, and, night by night, becoming more so. For a creature that requires people to live, to feed, on warm, human blood, sensibly, he needs to move forward, and, that is the plan that he sets forth. All this is perfectly reasonable. It is a clear ambition, with evident imperatives, drawn from his lacking physical security. But that does not explain his a-moral nature, his actions; his cruel disregard for human life.
The structure of Dracula is, typically, the formation of a group of “good” people, enveloped in darkness, and fighting against it. Notably, the “darkness” to which we refer here, in a Victorian age, is the fear of that which lies beyond the boundaries of the West, the civilised, progressive world. Dracula, the character, is a symbol of that which Stoker intended to represent as wicked. Sexuality, the darkness of the Eastern reaches of Europe, non-Christian values, and, generally, the fear of that which stands outside the boundaries of Victorian civilisation and comfort.
If we break the story down, what we see is, the darkness, trying to seep out of its own world, and into the modern world, to infect it, spread its blood-drinking, mindless spawn, by feeding an unquenchable hunger, that, somehow, is spread through a series of feasts that are sexually heated with the closeness of flesh against flesh. A small bastion of light, strong, cultured and accomplished men, bolstered by a strong feminine presence, set out to fight against the darkness. And somehow, these few good men, chase it back to its homeland, far from the safety of their world, where it is now banished, and destroy the evil, and return to the sanctity of their faithful universe, free of the darkness, and somehow unaffected, in spite of it having touched some of them personally, infectiously.
There is a misconception, that Dracula is a Byronic Hero, that, he introduces the concepts of sexual freedom, and non-Christian values, and, the East, as a whole, and all the alternative elements that it represents, to the cloistered comfort of that which is known and trusted. That Dracula is, in fact, misunderstood, by the heroes, when, deeper, he is a romantic soul, buried beneath all the hints at his cruelty. But, truthfully, in the original text, there is no indication of the character’s misperceived “dark romance.” In fact, this view, is, more likely than not, a cross-contamination with later iterations of the text in film, and unofficial sequels. Francis Ford Coppola made of Dracula a sorrowful figure, cruel out of his own loneliness and possessiveness of the character of Mina Murray, who so resembles his dead wife. In the text, Dracula, there is no romantic connection between Dracula and Mina. He is described as repulsive, with hairy palms, and foul breath, that, even as he seduces his victim, violates them, also inspires disgust and hatred in them. And his “tryst” with Mina, as he forces her to take his blood, and slowly become like him, is nothing more than a form of punishment against her “men” who dared to stand against him and thwart his plan. At no point, does the character display aspects of humanity, moral equivocation. He remains, from the beginning to the end of the novel, purely monstrous and despicable, and his ultimate destruction, comes as a relief.
If there truly was an aspect of heroism to the character, his death would have had a bittersweet note of sorrow to it. Relief at his destruction, with a twang of regret. But, no. It remains a blessing, when the good finally crushes the dark, the monster that threatens the sanctity of their world. Where sexuality is kept hidden, and faith is sacred, and culture holds no surprises, or threats of change and, dissonance. With age, popular culture becomes high literature. And so, Dracula, a horror novel, written by a relatively unknown author, grew from near obscurity, to a standard study in classic literature. But its themes are not deeper than they may at first appear. What stands out on a first reading is, almost entirely, the full depth and content of the piece. Dracula is no hero. And, for this reason, he is more compelling, in deviations from the text, than he is in the original.
Vampire Bibliographica is the pet project and author page of author and general wordsmith, Carmen Dominique Taxer. All articles posted here are written by Carmen, unless specified otherwise.
Secrecy and Vampires
If they existed, chances are we wouldn’t know about it.
What would be the natural result if vampires “came out of the coffin” today, and conclusively revealed their existence to mankind? We have many literary examples of this event in our milieu, notably the Southern Vampire Mysteries, also known as The Sookie Stackhouse Novels by Charlaine Harris. How would people react? In the Vampire Mysteries, the whole event is treated to some extent like a mass LGBT outing, complete with political television debates and rallies for and against, religious extremism and divided families. Would it be that blazé?
Why such an event would even occur? What would vampires gain from outing themselves?
Let’s look at possible benefits:
Outed, vampires can more directly influence policies to benefit them. I’m reaching, I can feel it. Whether or not they would be able to pass any suggestions into law is a pretty slim hope, because of simple mathematics. There are a lot more of us than there are them. Why would sheep accept and acknowledge the presence of wolves? And then go ahead and give them rights?
Maybe vampires want mainstream acceptance and love. They are (mostly) human after all. That might be fine for a paraphiliac in love with the Great Pyramid of Giza, because she is not likely going to eat you, after she eats your children. Would you love and accept something that must cause harm to the people you love simply to be? Small chance there then as well.
These are both slim benefits. The truth of the matter is vampires must hide to survive. The sheep outnumber the wolves a million to one, not to mention that the sheep are fanatically protective, religiously delirious, and above all heavily armed and industrious. The moment vampires are revealed as the apex predator, they cease to be the apex predator. For reference, see every predator that ever deigned to eat long pig.
An argument can be made for veggie vamps, such as the toothless muppets that make up the Cullen’s in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, but even there, the temptation is too great for any fanger worth his sparkles to resist for too long. When you’re immortal, eventually might as well be today. They seem to be the exception, rather than the rule. Besides, do you want to be the self-righteous vegetarian at a table full of full blooded, proud and suck-in-their-ways master hunters? You are already a pariah as a vampire, (the outsider is the point of vampire literature as an entity), why alienate yourself completely amongst the few peers that you might have? And wasn’t the whole of vampire kind bent on ruining the Cullen’s baseball game by the end? If I remember correctly, they were only saved by bad writing How it Should Have Ended: Twilight. So that’s not an option really. In the high-school clique that is the vampire social structure, the trend is to pick on the weird ones, and executing them if they seem like even the slightest threat to your eternal prom.
What would they lose?
How long would it take for the religions of the world to universally call vampires the agents of the devil? Is there a negative unit of time in existence? What then? Religion still has a lot of fans. I used the word “fans” because it’s the derivative of the word “fanatics”. There would be a holy target for the holy mother church to levy her holy hand grenades of Antioch at for the first time in centuries. On a rational note, every vampire in existence is a serial killer. Every single one. Even the ones that say they never killed anyone, for reference, read any vampire book, any. If the law can get to the vampires before the church does, the whole lot will undoubtedly be up for several life terms, which would be inconvenient. More likely, there would be some sort of worldwide vigilante mob storming every precariously positioned castle on every mountainside on earth. Humans usually kill for less than that. Daddies already want to put a bullet through that misbegotten boy on the porch’s fat head for wanting to stick his man-jubblies into his daughter, what wouldn’t he do to protect her from fang-rape?
So it makes sense for vampires to hide.
The kindred of Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem by White Wolf Games both build their society around a tradition of hiding from their food in what they sensibly term “The Masquerade.” In literature, at least some effort seems to be expended to hide the monsters from the outside world, with the notable exception of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles where indiscriminate prostitute killings in hotel rooms and vampire vocalists are more the norm.
However, even in cases like that, would a few bitten and bloodless streetwalkers be enough to out vampires to the world? Let’s say Lestat gets a bit messy and leaves the one or two evildoers per night for the cops to find. What then? Would a coroner, whose professional opinion is the difference between an innocent man incarcerated and a mass murderer free to go, risk the psyche evaluation that would result from a verdict of: “Yep, that’s a vampire bite all right. Incisors are the right length. Neat too, must be an old one.” Murders happen all the time, we’re a vicious enough bunch as a species to hide the one or two odd vampiric screw ups in a tidal wave of mundane cadavers. At worst, a serial killer or a satanic cult would foot the blame, and there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth, but no public outcry to take out vampire-kind once and for all. Even if the coroner was convinced of a vampire pandemic, would he risk his career, as well as all the cases where his opinion was used as evidence to convict real, human bastards, in order to out a mythological creature?
What if a vampire decided to out vampire-kind as a sort of suicide bombing of an entire race? To try and entice humans to eradicate him, and his ilk, due to terminal self-loathing? Do yourself a favor and Google “Real Vampires on Youtube.” At best, he will be patronized. At worst, he will be given air-time and mocked. I suspect that his fellow non-suicidal suckers might not take too kindly to it and deal with it in some manner. Let’s say our suicidal twit gets himself to a biologist or an anthropologist and convinces the poor sot that he’s real. Do you have any idea how long it takes to be published in an academic journal? Not to mention that the reply to the first thousand requests for peer-review would be: “Are you kidding me? Is this a joke?” In either event, it’s more than enough time for his non-suicidal fellows to apply PR-fu and make the whole thing go up in a torrent of ennui at the attention whore, where after he can be carefully disappeared into the Battycave Asylum for the Terminally Stupid (or BATS, for short).
Now let’s assume that vampires have the notion that it’s in their best interest to be secretive. Secrets are known to make it to the light of day, and mysteries have a habit of being solved. Humans are inquisitive little buggers. Tell a really juicy secret to one person and it might as well have been broadcast over the internet. It is for this reason that most conspiracy theories are bull. (How many people would be required to remain resolutely quiet to make the staging of 9/11 plausible? Probably more than one, thus no chance of that secret being kept.) But what needs to be taken into consideration here is that vampires universally have superpowers. They can read and alter thoughts, their blood is an aphrodisiac drug that enslaves, they are as strong as ten men and they live a long, long time. With multi-generational experience of hiding and a culture of secrecy, it might be impossible for us to ever know whether they exist.
However, accidents happen, victims escape, things are seen that beggars belief. What of those who meet a vampire and live to tell the tale. But would anyone believe them? Would they believe themselves? An entire field of psychological study is devoted to the ability of the human mind to repress painful, shocking memories, and to cope with them. Humans can survive horrific amounts of physiological and psychological trauma more or less intact. Over time, maybe the encounter with the dashing stranger that bit my neck in the midst of mind blowing sex might be remembered a little differently that what actually occurred. What if a group of people saw the same thing? Witness reliability and credibility is a sketchy thing at best http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witness#Reliability and with the subject material so unbelievable, would they look at each other and wonder if they’ve gone down the deep end of Lalaland?
Vampires don’t have it all their way. Some strong willed people will remember, will hold on to the idea of what they saw was real, and it would make them not scared, but angry. They will not tell anyone, but they will look at the world differently. Soon, they will start employing that unique human attribute of creativity and will to try and solve the problem that only they have, to solve the problem that they know that there are wolves among the sheep. Daddy’s got something to aim his gun at now. For this reason alone, vampires should be picky eaters and clean up after themselves. You can never tell when your dinner will want to make a meal of you. These individuals will start frequenting hotspots, following up leads, listening to those who no one else will listen to, and start learning. They believe, and they’re pissed. For the vampire’s sake, they hope that the fledgling vampire hunter is impatient and strikes out unprepared when faced with his tormentor, so that that little error does not go nuclear. If the hunter is cautious, and patient, well, the strength of ten men is of little help if you’re caught in a septic tank filled with napalm at midday. Vampires would tell of other members of their immortal fraternity that got ganked by hunters because they left their toys out, and use it as a lesson to younger ones to always make sure that they take out the trash.
We might never know
Sadly, the odds are against us ever finding out whether our favorite predators exist. Their culture of secrecy, the implausibility of scientific proof of the supernatural, and even our own minds conspire against our ever living in a world where Lestat’s existence would be widely accepted. Poo. I’m a little sad now.