What is so Special about Vampires?
It used to be that blood-sucking creatures of the night were vicious, predatory (albeit seductive) objects of fear, nothing more. In recent decades, they’ve become more complex. We used to be afraid of vampires, and werewolves, and now everyone wants to date them. Buffy the Vampire Slayer raised us to understand that vampires and demons could be friends to mortals, instead of foes, if they were so determined. While I have not read the Twilight series, I can understand Meyer’s interest in the pathos of vampires and werewolves. These are concepts of dangerous magical creatures who used to be human and now have little choice but to prey on humans.
My new novel includes vampires but not werewolves. There are various reasons for the omission, which may include that vampires’ condition affects them the same way all month long, and that they pass for human as long as they’re not eating. An important difference between werewolves and vampires is that for the latter, attacking humans is not merely about aggression and compulsion, but about survival. Blood is their food, and what happens when a vampire starves? This is one of the questions that arise in Suicide is for Mortals.
What remains of the people they used to be, and how do they feel about killing and eating people? How were they turned? There is space in the concepts for people to ask to become predatory creatures, but most of the ones we read about were turned against their will. Do they have any agency in the transition from victim of magical assault to nocturnal predator? Do they have little choice in preying on mortal humans like they used to be, or no choice at all? If there is a choice in the matter, how do they figure that out, and how do they exercise what little control they have?
Has a vampire ever tried to kill himself, and if so, what was the result? Even if he does everything right after joining the undead, how happy can he ever be? How do the undead get along with each other? How does the pursuit of pleasure change for those who can’t go out in daylight? What does love mean to those who feed on the blood of people who could have been their neighbors, friends and family?
These are the questions we ask when we write stories about vampires who aren’t villains, or even those who are villains but still have their own stories to tell. These are the paths we want to walk when we read these stories.
The struggle over these changes surely leads many of the predatory undead to brood and rage against the loss of their humanity, even as the transition makes them more powerful than they could ever have been as mortals. We love the idea of that brooding, tortured soul lurking in our graveyards and dark alleys, don’t we? We’d love to be there to comfort him, and for the most part we don’t want to join him. We’re confident that the gorgeous undead predator would never hurt us, tempting though it may be to sink his fangs into our necks.
My vamps looked over my list of talking points for their condition and told me to pull up a comfy chair and get out some paper and pen, because I had a lot to learn from them. My bewildered newborn Scanlon, his cynical pack leader Andra, and our hardened predator Patrick love to turn my ideas upside down and shake them to see what falls out of their pockets. Nevertheless, they appreciate my willingness to listen to them, and they will be glad to meet you. Patrick will never say so, but Scanlon will be pleased to make your acquaintance.
Of course, my vamps do not hold this novel’s attention undivided in coping with the trials of immortality. The world of After Rezarta also bears ghosts. In the hierarchy of the living and undead, mocking and taunting ghosts is the only thing that lets vampires forget about their condition. Our ghost, Miranda, has a complicated history with the magical community, which makes it all the sweeter for the vamps to find out she’s a “spook.”
I’m not pleased with the way they treat her, but she dealt with much worse in her lifetime. One might think the undead and the spectral would be prepared to band together, but they have in common that they used to be human, and we humans know how gifted we are at exacerbating our divisions and undermining our common interests. Innocent people may well die if those vamps cannot deign to listen to their hated ghost. I will simply have to trust my vamps to do the right thing.
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