- 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.
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 ~
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:
- 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.
- Vampires are mysterious. That one doesn’t really need any explaining.
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
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.