VAMPIRES: SO CONFUSING!

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Rachel Caine is our guest star today. Rachel writes the  Weather Warden series and the Morganville Vampires books. And I am personally all Fangirl! Welcome Rachel!

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Vampires are kind of like funhouse mirrors — because they’re never the same twice.  We like to think of vampires as having rules, but the fact is that just about any writer who’s ever dealt with them has created their own laws — used some, discarded others, outright invented some.  (That deadly-sunlight thing was invented by Stoker, by the way.  Not original to the mythology.)

So — what about vampire relationships, or relationships with vampires?

If we look at how basic human needs are identified, reproduction (or sex) is right up there with shelter and food.  Vampires have a complication to that need — if they’re looking to have a relationship with a human, food and reproduction are sort of uncomfortably intertwined.  You feed on someone, you (might) make them a vampire.  Or kill them.  Or both.  But it’s a predatory relationship in some way, which is part of what makes it so mesmerizing … it’s inherently risky.  Your vampire could be the nicest guy ever to get extra-long canines, but that doesn’t mean he can’t hurt you (or kill you, or turn you into something you didn’t plan to be).

So what’s safe?  Relationships between vampires?  Hmmmm.  There are lots of arguments about what will/won’t work, some of it based on the purely biological mechanics of things, but let’s say that all the parts are in working order.  Some people say that’s not a fulfilling relationship, because (by definition) it can’t lead anywhere but where it is … there’s no possible future state, as there is for a human relationship that progresses from first love to commitment to sex to family.  That’s sort of a life cycle.

Vampire + vampire … not so much.  It’s a pretty awesome “present,” but it’s the end of the road … unless the vampire couple “adopt” — bring other vampires into the fold as their family.  Which also has been explored in some interest books … check out the vampires in Barbara Hambly’s THOSE WHO HUNT THE NIGHT, or (of course) Anne Rice’s books.  They’re driven to create some kind of family, or at least society.  And that’s human nature.  We reach out, even after death (or especially, maybe).

Some vampires (and now I’m thinking of the truly predatory ones) aren’t interested in ANY of that.  They’re focused not on relationships, but on reproduction.  Think Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT, or the vampires in 30 DAYS OF NIGHT.

There are all kinds of ways to look at vampire relationships.  What I described above is more of the analytical way — the “what if” following a more or less scientific process.  But there’s also the seductive relationship … the idea that being a vampire is an “add,” not a “subtract” — the vampire’s human nature is entirely intact, he’s just got this little liquid diet thing.  So what he wants out of a relationship is pretty much the same now as when he was alive — he wants love, companionship, commitment, and ultimately some kind of family, even if it’s just with his sweetie rather than sweetie plus passel o’ kids.  I call those the Hot Vampires.  They generally are smokin’ hot, in bed and out, and their vampire-ness is more seductive than predatory.  Think P.N. Elrod’s VAMPIRE FILES, and most of the paranormal romance vampire heroes.  They’re the good guys, more or less.  Great boyfriends, bad enemies.

What do I write?  Maybe a little of all of that, depending.  I’m fascinated by the spectrum of what a vampire can be … mindless killing machine all the way up to snuggle-bunny immortal dream date.

There’s no right or wrong answer.  It all depends on what appeals to the reader — or the writer — and what the story needs.

Want to create your own?

Here’s a handy checklist:

The Handy-Dandy Vampire Generator

Check all that apply:

SEX:

_ Male

_ Female

_ Indeterminate/doesn’t matter

_ Yes, please, lots

LOOKS:

_ Smokin’ hot

_ Average (blends in)

_ Makes that guy in NOSFERATU look like Brad Pitt

_ Doesn’t matter because by the time you see him/her/it, you’re DEAD

BLOOD:

( Oh, it continues here…. )

_  Can substitute animal blood for live humans

_  Can do bottled/bagged blood

_  Subject to blood-borne diseases

_  Subject to cholesterol

_  Ewwww.  Hates to feed anyway.  Sips only.

_  Messy eater

_  Can absorb it out of your skin.  DO NOT HUG.

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ABILITIES:

_ Charming

_ Amazing wardrobe skills

_ Mesmerizing (literally)

_ Turns into a wolf

_ Turns into a bat

_ Turns into mist

_ Has minions

_ Has no need of minions, mesmerizing, charming smiles, or any crap like that.  JUST KILLS YOU.

VULNERABILITIES:

_ Sunlight

_  Turns to dust

_  3rd degree burns

_  Mild allergic reaction

_  Sparkles

_  Crosses/Holy Objects

_  Only if you mean it

_  Only if he/she/it is orthodox

_  Only crucifixes

_  Any old t-intersection of random things will do

_  Garlic

_  Kills him/her/it dead

_  Wards away

_  Mild dislike

_  Afraid of having garlic breath

_  Mortally afraid, HA, just kidding, you’re dead!

_  Silver

_  Allergic to it

_  It burnsssssss!

_  Real vampires only deal in gold.

_  Pile it on.  Yes, I’m terrified, you idiot.  Bring more.

_  Mirrors

_  Doesn’t reflect, angsts about it

_  Doesn’t reflect, doesn’t care

_  Reflects when he/she/it wants to

_  Of course he/she/it reflects, he/she/it’s dead, not invisible!

_  Only invisible in mirrors backed by silver coating

_  Only visible in mirrors backed by silver coating

_  Whatever, you’ll never see me coming.

_  Invitations

_  Must be invited to enter a house

_  Can enter public buildings

_  Can enter if you have a lot of visitors (or dates)

_  Can come in anytime because he/she/it is SCARY

_  I prefer them on nice cream paper with gold lettering.  Embossed.

_  Stakes

_  Are you kidding me?  I combust at the sight of a stake!

_  You have to get me right in the heart.  Good luck with that.

_  Anywhere will do the job, even a nick

_  You can stake me all you want, but unless you behead me, I’m coming back

_  Pah.  I laugh at your puny tent-poles.  DIE.

_  Dormant in daylight

_  I am dead to the world when the sun’s up.  HA!  See what I did there?

_  I’m not asleep, but I can’t move.

_  I can do whatever I want, so long as I don’t come in contact with direct sunlight.

_  I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, LOSER.  Good luck.

_  Coffins

_  Sure.  Who doesn’t?

_  Why not?

_  Are you kidding me?

_  Ew.

_  Native ground

_  Carries it in a bag and sleeps on it

_  Carrying around a pouch does it

_  I just get bad dreams if I don’t have it

_  Why would I need dirt?

_  I can only die on my native soil, so ha, good luck finding it!

LIKES & DISLIKES:

_  Goes for …

_  Women

_  Men

_  Vampires only

_  Animals only

_  Whatever

_  If it’s got red blood cells, it’s a lunch pack

_  Won’t go for …

_  Men

_  Women

_  Kids

_  Unattractive people

_  Attractive people

_  Animals

_  Other vampires

_  Anyone, because he/she/it is too depressed to do anything but starve

_  Fashion

_  Cutting edge

_  Grave clothes with lots of blood stains

_  I prefer to be naked

_  Comfortable clothes

_  Cute shoes

_  Running shoes

_  Black.  Always black.

_  I dress according to the era I’m comfortable with.

GENERAL ALL-AROUND ATTITUDE:

_  Friendly

_  Indifferent

_  Loner/broody

_  Life of the party

_  Love the one you’re with

_  Bite the one you’re with

_  Hostile toward humans

_  Hostile toward everyone

_  YAY LUNCH

There you go.  If you can think of more to add, feel free.  That’s the great thing about vampires … there’s always more to do with them.

The most important rule is … there are no rules.

Rachel Caine

http://www.rachelcaine.com

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11 comments to VAMPIRES: SO CONFUSING!

  • Actually, one of the things I like to do is try to break with conventions when I write vampires. Of course, I tend to try to add a twist to any classic monster I use in a story to keep it from being the same old, same old. I far prefer the dark and not very nice/cuddly/sparkly vampires. It’s interesting that this has come up because I just finished a script rewrite that had some pseudo-vampires.

    I think the really interesting thing about the classics is that they’ve been around for so long that people pretty much expect the creature to be a certain way. When you change up the model the monster becomes something fresh again to the reader and not just another Count Dracula knock off.

  • And then there’s Blindsight, by Peter Watts. None of the above, more or less. With science. And footnotes. Lots of footnotes.

  • Tom

    Those pesky vamps. Why won’t they be pigeon-holed?

    Thanks for the great post. Gotta love a rogue vamp, going around making up new rules and all.

  • Christina

    I used to enjoy a vampire book or two, but now that the market is flooded with them, I’d just as soon never read about them again. I do still keep up with Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters version, but that is about it now. I’m ready for the field to move onto something else.

  • Very true. This is why I don’t typically read or watch vampire stuff very much. It’s also why I do tend to try to change up the model quite a bit when I write ’em. The market is so deluged with vamps that I wonder if it’s that much harder to sell anything vampire. Even a number of mags state right in their submissions guidelines that they won’t take vampire tales unless they are different enough to really grab their attention and make ’em take notice.

    I’ve started to notice zombies starting to fall into this same trap lately. Zombies have become popular again lately, so popular that every indie filmmaker out there wants to make the next great zombie film and the indie market is getting swamped with ’em. There’s been quite a few novels lately as well dealing with zombies.

  • Everyone is sick of vamps? Not me. Well, I thought I was, which is why I wrote two books about a vamp killer. Then I got a chance (between book deadlines) to read the Morganville vampire series. It is supposed to be a YA series, but a darker and more intense series of books I never read. I went through them like calorie-and-guilt-free Tasty-Cakes (if such existed). The main character is so not a vamp. I fell in love with them all for lots of reasons: great writing style, wonderful stories, cliffhanger endings that drive you right in to the next book, but also because the take on vamps really was fantastic. I turned totally fang-girl. If you haven’t read the series, I totally recommend them!

  • Christina

    Faith, I’m more apt to read books in which vampires are killed. I don’t mind that so much, and I don’t mind vampires being in the story in general (I read Kim Harrison’s stuff, after all), but I’m tired of them as protagonists. There’s just too much of it out there right now. So, I’ve turned my reading attention to werewolves and skinwalkers! Of course, I’m also feeling the urge to get back to reading just fantasy stuff (high, dark, sword or sorcery).

  • Christina

    The above aside, I may check out Rachel’s work at some point. I’m just burned out on the subject right now.

  • I just looked up the books on Amazon. There are djinn? Why didn’t you say so!!! Sold on the first weather warden book. I’ll give it a go.

  • Christina said, There are djinn? Why didn’t you say so!!!

    Oh girl, not just djinn….there are sexy powerful djinn! I loooove the Weather Warden books (and not just because I’m a weather geek.)

  • Ok, I’ve purchased Ill Wind. Looking forward to the read…most likely after this weekend.