Saturday, March 26, 2011

This is why you are not doing vampires right (part 1)

Ever since the unfortunate glorification of Twilight, the paranormal romance genre began to take on vampires in hopes of duplicating Stephenie Meyer’s Edward Cullen, who for some reason is one of the best characters of the 2000s. Now Twilight in general, and not just with Edward, has managed to create a very... special... kind of vampire. These vampires don’t burn in the sun, or need to feed on human blood, or sleep during the day, or have any interesting aspects to them. Instead, they sparkle in the sun, and seem perfectly fine with drinking animal blood. Also these vampires are in general just wusses. They whine about being ‘monsters’ all their eternal lives and don’t even bother to make their peace with this fact. Only the evil vampires kill humans, but apparently only evil vampires do that in Twilight. Only evil vampires seem to have the vampiric instincts. But that doesn’t matter either, because the evil vampires are one dimensional and uninteresting.

Now to clarify what exactly the point of this rant is, well the point of this rant is thus: ever since the Twilight vampires appeared, the vampire genre has now been sparkled up with shallow, mythologically-incorrect creatures that are so far beyond what a vampire is meant to be that it’s not even funny. What’s worse? These vampire pussies are being compared to the classics like Dracula, Lestat, and are considered to be THE vampires now instead of the traditional (By the way, traditional doesn’t mean you have to include capes and turning into bats). That’s right, people actually now complain about vampires drinking human blood, and burning in the sun, and being scary in general,  because apparently that’s not what vampires are supposed to be now. Me and my wonderful girlfriend Space ferret, who is a vampire guru, have decided to sit down together and educate the masses on what vampires are meant to be. There will be a long list and long rants so this topic will be split into different parts. 

 

What people need  to understand about writing vampires is this: when you write about vampires you are going down a well-worn path and with doing that there are a few established rules. That's not to say that you can't be creative, rather on the contrary, but there a few things you HAVE to include, concepts you MUST grapple with whether its a traditional vampire, nosferatu or modern. 


Blood:

In the current YA books, you rarely see vampires drinking blood anymore. In Twilight you only see vampires drinking animal blood and for some reason or another managing to keep healthy and sane, and in other books like Marked and Evernight you don't see vampires needing to drink blood at all. Well okay, Evernight had it a little, but only a little. And that little was not enough. Vampires NEED to drink blood. Blood preserves and heals, keeps them hydrated, and that’s what keeps them alive (depending on your interpretation: either it keeps them alive, or healthy or it keeps them beautiful and sane). Vampires need human blood. Human blood supplies vampires with the nutrients that they need, which they can’t find in animal blood. If you're a Vampire Chronicles fan you would know this is dealt with pretty well in Interview with the vampire, when Lestat describes animal blood as helpful for surviving in emergency situations, but it's not something you can live on as a vampire. Human blood is a must for vampires. It’s not a choice and you can’t just change it. That would be like not having your human character eat food and just drink water. No, we NEED to eat food, so our body can get nutrients, vitamins, et cetera, and just in general survive! It’s like saying “OMG I don’t wanna hurt plants or animals so I’m gonna eat the dirt instead!!!” 


Sunlight:

Sunlight is a harder aspect of vampirism to grasp, because there are many different levels to it. For example Bram Stoker's Dracula didn't even burn in the sun, and there is a term for vampires who can go out in the sun called 'Daywalkers' (or half breeds). It's not wrong not to have your vampires burn in the sunlight, but you have to make sure your explanation as to why makes sense. And please, PLEASE, don't do sparkles. If the vampires in Twilight just claimed the burning in the sun to be a myth then we would have no problem, but there is no explanation as to why they sparkled like a disco ball. Well there is one, which is that Stephenie Meyer had a dream about a sparkling vampire. But that's dream logic. Dream logic is not logic. And you can't use it to justify something. 


Too much emo:

"WAAAAAAAAAAAAA I'm a monsterrrr and WAAAAAAA I need to drink blood to surviveeeeee!"

"Don't come near me, I'm too dangerous! Even though I love you." -stalks- "Didn't I tell you I'm too dangerous????? ILOVEYOU!!!" -stalks some more- "I'M DANGEROUS!!! I LOVE YOU! STAY AWAY FROM ME!!!!1111"

Okay, a whiny vampire only works if you're Louis. But that's only because Anne Rice puts variety in her vampires. But in the current YA vampire books we see waaaaaaaaaay too much whining, and it's every single vampire character (except some of the villains). Whining is not the way to make a vampire humane, and it's obvious it is intended to be as such. It's overused, it's boring, it gets tiring after a few seconds, and you just want them to shut up. If you do want to make a humane vampire the trick is to make them humane within their own culture. No matter what vampires will always be killers, always be hunters and always be the predator to humans, but there are distinctly more humane vampires than others. We see a good example of this in the Vladimir Todd chronicles when Vlad is given a choice to take part in a vampiric sport which involves herding, terrifying and eventually killing humans just for the fun of it. Sure there is a basis in food but there is also this element of doing it "for the hunt". A humane vampire opts out of this practice.  Yes the vampire still kills to live, but still they can choose not to torment humanity just because they are able to. Show a vampires humanity through their actions (if you must), and not what they complain about. A vampire's humanity is often shown by the way they treat their victims. However not every singe vampire is humane, and it's not necessary that only the evil vampires are not humane. Vampires are meant to be morally ambiguous. It's not a simple 'Good or evil' situation. Within vampires there is always a shade of grey, but that can be made interesting. Don't be lazy because it might be too complex. 
 

Food. Yes or no? (By co-blogger Space ferret)

Okay, there a lot of different opinions with this one, many authors choose to tackle it in different ways. But I think for logical answers, the best way to explain this is by treating vampires as if they were a living species and imagining what kind of digestive system they would have. Being a person who has given this a lot of thought and bored people to tears with rants, I have come up with two different systems that could be used.

1. The "digestive" Vampire.
This is a system where vampires have a digestive system much like our own, and the blood is needed for the different components in order to get various nutrients. The idea is that the blood is broken down into its basic chemicals and absorbed and used as nutrients. This leaves open the idea that vampires could possibly take in other forms of food or preferably liquid (because I imagine a vampires digestive tract may look a lot like that of a honey or nectar feeder) to supplement the initial blood. Though the nutrients in food I imagine are by no means optimal for a vampire. Therefore if a vampire ate food or drank something it would have to get rid of various toxins that would start to build up in their systems, so as a result you get a horde of vampires who need to make use of bathrooms. The distaste many vampires have for food, specifically the concept that regular food tastes roughly like charcoal, would then just be attributed to changed taste buds. Overall solid foods  are not ideal for a vampire. They will have trouble eating solids, not because they can't chew it, but because they can't digest it as well. Ideally you need to puree anything you're going got feed a vampire, unfortunately this gives a pathway to things such as the beef-smoothie but they're actually realistic.


2. The "Transfusion" Vampire 
This is a system is where a vampire does not technically have a digestive system, but rather a large and elaborate cardio-vascular system that allows for the introduction of new blood. 
It goes like this: Vampire drinks blood - Blood runs into something I can only describe as a "holding cell" as its cleaned of toxins such as various kinds of drugs including alcohol, caffeine, etc - after the blood is cleaned it is then slowly introduced to the vampires own bloodstream, the earlier mention toxins are then released from the body through a vampires hair and nails. 
Now you're asking "well how the hell does that affect my vampire?" Well quite simply my dear Watson. If your vampire has one of these systems and then through an accident (by forgetting) or sheer stupidity decides to try and eat normal food or drink a normal drink (including water) they could very well die in the next 48 hours from it. Your vampire would become horrifically ill very very quickly  because you've essentially injected them with puree cheeseburger, which will eventually float  to their brains and other internal organs and wreck all kind of havoc unless it is removed from the vampires system ASAP. In this map your vampire would not have a bladder and have no use for a bathroom except for maybe if they ate normal food and needed to violently expel it as quickly as possible.
Either way having vampire eat food or not eat food is really the author's choice but if you are going to have a vampire going through the KFC takeout make sure to explain WHY they can eat food, and if you are going to go through with an eating vampire keep their food simple. No matter what they're built to take simple nutrients, not an all you can eat curry buffet. 

12 comments:

  1. I am pretty sure the 'vampires not really vampires as we know them' predates Twilight, at least in the adult paranormal romance genre. I think the Black Dagger Brotherhood came out within a month of Twilight and I have this vague sense that other 'vampires who feed on other vampries and are TOTALLY MISUNDERSTOOD BY MODERN CULTURE' series were around before.

    It has always irritated me. I do not like modern vampires. I like vampires as monsters. If they're the protagonist of a story, they should still be monsters. Possibly awesome monsters but still monsters. If they're in a love story, their side of it should be tragic most of the time. Becoming a vampire should not be the state all sane individuals aspire to because it involves immortality, great sex and biting vampires of the opposite gender.

    Rant, rant, rant.

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  2. The wussification of vampires is so frustrating, not to mention boring. I used to work in a secondary school library and I've lost count of the books I dismissed for purchase purely because they were pathetic clones of a not-ver-wonderful series about wussified vampires. It seems as though publishers are too scared to try something new, or that authors are just seizing on what's supposedly "cool" and running with it. It's a great shame, because the opportunities for expanding the vampire genre and really thinking about it are right there, but no-one seems to taking advantage of those opportunities.

    Thanks for the great post - it was fascinating to read.

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  3. Because of vampire wussification I got into the Trinity Blood manga series (the anime isn't as good), which, in my humble opinion, is a breath of fresh air. The main character is a sort of uber vampire (drawbacks include triggering insanity) who had a *really* dark past but is now trying to redeem himself . . . yet he's not whiny. He's actually hilariously goofy, yet serious when the situation warrants it. And on the topic of vampires eating normal food, he's a total sugar addict.

    I'm tired and not thinking too well, but it's a wonderfully complex story with well-developed characters and villains who do more than get slaughtered by the goody good heroes. A lot of questions therein about the nature of redemption and what it means to be human, but it doesn't hit you over the head with them. If you're into vampires and manga, I highly recommend the series. ^^

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  4. Actually there is an explanation for why vampires sparkle in Twilight. "Vampires are physically similar enough to their human origins to pass as humans under some circumstances (like cloudy days). There are many basic differences. They appear to have skin like ours, albeit very fair skin. The skin serves the same general purpose of protecting the body. However, the cells that make up their skin are not pliant like our cells, they are hard and reflective like crystal."

    Link To FAQ

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  5. Oh but emo sparkly vampires are so swoonworthy where my inner 13 year old tween feels pangs of girlish desire.

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  6. That's not really an explanation. It's psuedo-science. It works for pixies, but not vampires. Why would a vampire sparkle in the sun? Why would a vampire need rock hard skin? The answer: they wouldn't.

    Vampires have religious origins, which explains why they can't go out into the sunlight. They were in coffins, they were undead, and they were evil. Therefor the purity of the sunlight would burn their skin.

    What does rock hard skin and sparkles have to do with anything? Even fantasy needs a logical explanation, and as the duck says, dream logic isn't logic. I can fly and breath underwater in my dreams but that doesn't make it so. Even fantasy worlds need certain rules, otherwise you have no reason why a character can't pawn another immediately.

    Meyer has no understanding of Biology, as seen by her explanation of hemophobia and semen, so why would you take her explanation of vampire sparkles at base value?

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  7. Your inner 13 year old girl squeals like a Belieber doesn't it? It's funny that most young twilight fans are beiber fans too. It says something about popular fads.

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  8. I love this post! I have to add one more though. Vampires going back to high school. I'm 28 and I would never want to go back to high school. Plus isn't it a little creepy for someone who is in their 100s to date a teen? I really enjoyed reading this and I'm a new follower
    Meags at Feeling a Little Bookish http://bookworm-meags222.blogspot.com

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  9. This is an odd request but I was wondering if you girls could cover a few things, like whether or not it makes sense for vampires to even have functioning sex organs.

    I mean, why would they? They live forever. And anyway, vampires are made not born.

    Also other things I'd love to see covered: compulsion and other vampire magic; do vampires need to be invited in in order to enter a home? Can they be disinvited?

    Oh, one thing that drives me insane, though it isn't a vampire lore fail, is that centuries old vampires
    are attending high school because they need to blend in. To me this is just stupidity/lack of imagination/ laziness on the auhor's part. If they're weird, much like the Cullens, they're never going to blend in. So why not tell the townspeople they're homeschooled, ya know? Bella could have just as easily met edward at the sporting goods store, a place his frequents.

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  10. Great post! My main project involves a vampire, the evil kind, and he seemed to fit the list so far. It makes me feel good to think that I might be doing it right. Or according to current vampire trends, doing it wrong, but screwing with current vampire trends and tropes is a major part of the story.

    I feel so bad for vampires. I see so few in books anymore that aren't wusses. I grew up knowing them as soulless monsters and it pains me to see them turned into sparkly angst bunnies. Hopefully, they'll be back to themselves in a few years. This trend can't last forever, can it?

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  11. I'm with you 100% on the high school thing. It was the very first thing that bugged me about Twilight - why would vampires be going to high school??? !

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  12. This is an odd request but I was wondering if you girls could cover a few things, like whether or not it makes sense for vampires to even have functioning sex organs.

    I mean, why would they? They live forever. And anyway, vampires are made not born.

    Also other things I'd love to see covered: compulsion and other vampire magic; do vampires need to be invited in in order to enter a home? Can they be disinvited?

    Oh, one thing that drives me insane, though it isn't a vampire lore fail, is that centuries old vampires
    are attending high school because they need to blend in. To me this is just stupidity/lack of imagination/ laziness on the auhor's part. If they're weird, much like the Cullens, they're never going to blend in. So why not tell the townspeople they're homeschooled, ya know? Bella could have just as easily met edward at the sporting goods store, a place his frequents.

    ReplyDelete