Right. So… I’ve done films. I even touched briefly on TV shows in my last ROAR-FEST about vampires, but this one is about books. And this one is the point of where that last one began. After all, I’m not writing films, I’m writing books and my interest has always been far in the written word and the novel.
So, if you take a peep at My Other Works, you’ll see other bits that I’ve written, am writing or plan to write. In future, I might actually mark those to detail which ones involve vampires. As it is, in brief, for the purposes of this entry you’ll find that Silk Over Razorblades, Gaea, Mathais, Trya’s Tale and probably quite a few of the short stories (and anything to do with RPGs) will involve vampires. My vampires have a variety of different features and quirks which separate one from the other, so, I would hope, there is no danger of them becoming samey or clichéd, even if I write about them all the damn time. Well… there’s only so much originality you can have in a genre that’s been done to death by now, but when I began writing in the first place, vampires seemed to be much less of a big deal. And faaaaaaaaaaaaaar less popular. The best we had was Buffy.
Anyway… vampires in books.
I’ll start now by saying I’m not going to talk about Twilight. I’ve just come back from dinner and seeing Drive Angry (YEY!) at the cinema, I’m in far too good a mood to take about that piece of tripe. Suffice it to say that Stephanie Myer’s vampires are, to my mind, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG! *ahem* and let no more be said about it (until I have a bad day and need to lash out at something).
Well what does that leave me with? Well, in the past couple of weeks, like I said before, I’ve been reading a lot of vampire fiction. I love the place in puts me in and the way I feel as I turn those pages, wondering what’s going to happen next. And of course trying to decide who’s side I’m on; the vampire, or the human. The best example of this so far is…
The Southern Vampire Mysteries (by most known as the True Blood series)
These are written by Charlaine Harris and they are epic. Freakin epic! I fussed and pouted and kicked my feet around when I was convinced to watch series one of True Blood before reading these books, but I actually bought them about this time last year. Unfortunately for me, I’d just started my bi-annual reading of The Wheel of Time and it actually took me most of the year to get through those monsters. So it probably wasn’t until about October time that I started reading Harris at all. The TV series was impressive. I really enjoyed Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer’s accent – when it wasn’t making me giggle – was quite delicious. However, going through these books gave me to me the character of Sookie Stackhouse who was immediately interesting and wonderfully normal. Despite being a telepath. The relationship she has with Bill as the first book goes on, also drew me in because it involved one of the aspects I loved the most; the vampire allure and their ability to use that to draw in humans. But I also loved the idea that vampires had ‘come out of the coffin’ and gone public. The entire world knew about them and people had reacted in various ways to the idea that humans aren’t the only intelligent lifeforms in the world any more. There are vampires too. Oh and of course werewolves, meneads, shifters, fairies (I wish she’d spelt it faeries), voodoo priestesses and whatever else.
It normalised vampires in a way that allowed the plot to roll on without it just being about vampires. The books also discussed Sookie’s relationship with her friends, with her boyfriend (who happens to be a vampire) with her job and her boss, with her family… there was something just very real and believable about her as a character.
And she’s not even a vampire!
I think my bias is letting me down! :p
Anyway, the vampires of the series also cannot go out by day, they connect (and often interchange) blood and sex almost instantaneously and without fail. They also do their best to hide a weakness to silver. Crosses don’t phase them and neither does garlic, while their blood is a black market drug. Luuuurvely. The drinking of their blood also forms a bond between the human and the vamp which allows, to some degree, the sharing of emotions and thoughts. It brings the pair closer together and almost acts like a homing beacon for the vampire involved. They’ll always be able to find their human meal again.
These vampires – if I forget about what HBO wants me to see – to my mind are an excellent example of what vampires are. These vampires are bad. Not evil, because that is a relative term, isn’t it? But definitely bad. They don’t have the same values, or control, or thoughts as humans. They don’t have the same lives as humans and certainly not the same sense of humour. It makes them a pleasure to read about.
Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series
These are written by Laurell K. Hamilton and are luuuuuuush! I love reading about these vampires, though straight away I can’t help but notice that the first two books I’ve talked about today don’t actually feature vampires as the central protagonist at all. They both feature strong women who are powerful in their own right. Hmm. Interesting. Anyway, Anita Blake’s world is another were vampires are public and everybody knows about them. She’s another character with her own special power; she’s a necromancer. She’s also a professional hunter who tracks down and executes vampires on court orders. An interesting idea that works well. The vampires almost form a sideline to Anita’s antics.
But the vampires are fantastic. These are more vampires who have stuck right to the traditional and cannot go out by day. They sleep in coffins. For all intents and purposes, when the sun comes up, they ‘die’ and neither breath nor reaction to exterior stimuli.
Jean Claude the first powerful vampire that you come across in this series and he’s old, classic, occasionally slips into French when he’s horny or pissed off and stalks Anita in the same sort of way that Eric stalks Sookie. In fact I find Eric and Jean Claude to be very similar; powerful vampires who aren’t used to being told ‘no’ but a human they happen to be chasing.
In fact, it takes Anita a long time to fall to Jean Claude’s charm, but when she does, by hell does she fall for him.
The blood ties formed through the drinking of blood here is close to an enchantment spell (of course I was going to compare it to DnD) whereby the human can be ‘rolled under’ by a vampire’s eyes and be almost hypnotised. They become almost a slave to the vampire’s will. Its an interesting quirk in the blood which Anita neatly bypasses because she has her own resistance to such things through being a necromancer.
Never mind, eh?
These books both feature women who, though not prudish particularly, are more innocent that others in the way of romantic relationships and love. By the time Harris and Hamilton are done with them, Sookie and Anita are raving sex maniacs. Particularly Anita who seems to control a lot of her power (over the were creatures she looks after as well as the vampires following her) by manipulating the desire for her body and her blood. Friends of mine have said that later books from the Anita Blake series just seem to feel like soft porn but, really… are you complaining? I’m not.
Marked (first book of The House Of Night series)
Earlier this year there was a book fair at work. I picked up a stunningly cheap boxset for £3 containing the first book of three difference fantasy series for young adults. At £1 each I really couldn’t say no and hte fact that Kelly Armstrong was one of the authors just made it better. Unfortunately, its not Kelly Armstrong’s book I’m talking about here – though her book was fab! – its P.C. and Kirsten Cast. This is a mother/daughter duo that I’ve never heard of before who, together, wrote Marked.
This book documents the start of a new life for a teenager by the name of Zoey who is marked at school to become a vampire. As soon as I realised what this meant I found I couldn’t put the damn book down; vampires are ‘marked.’ So far, having reached the end of this first book, I am sure that the vampires of this series are not made or kissed, but chosen. They have strong links to Wiccan and Indian-American culture and worship the goddess of night; Nyx.
What a lovely idea!
When these vampires are chosen, a bright mark appears on their forehead in the shape of a crescent moon outline. As they grow older and learn more about what they are capable of, the moon shape fills in and can be joined by more tattoos of varying shapes and designs that can branch out across the forehead and cheeks.
No spoilers from me, but Zoey’s marking, of course, was a peculiar case.
I have never, ever, come across vampires written like this before. They are more like witches than any vampires I know though they still do drink blood. They can go out by day, though that is uncomfortable for them and can lead to unconsciousness and eventually death if they aren’t careful. These vampires have a particular affinity and closeness to cats and, best yet, not all of these marked teenagers will become vampires. If their body rejects what Cast (& Cast) refer to as ‘the change’ they will simply die. This isn’t a choice, or something they can avoid, it is a natural physical reaction.
That, also, was new; the idea that medical science has tried to explain this phenomena and not been able to, but the kids in the schools of this town learn about vampires as part of their classes. Though the public knows about the existence of vampires, they are, in most cases, uneasy and unhappy about it and try to find cures or avoid those who are ‘afflicted.’ A bit like curving your path on the street to avoid the homeless guy trying to sell you The Big Issue. You know he’s there, you do see him, but you pretend not to because he makes you uncomfortable.
I loved this book and I’m actually keen to see if I can get a hold of the rest of the series. I think there’s seven of them though, so I’m not going to rush. o.O
The Vampire Twins (Bloodlines, Bloodlust & Bloodchoice)
There is a fourth book, but I haven’t read it. And I don’t plan to. I know these books were published in the mid 90s and I know they’re for young adults (and I don’t mean young adults now, I mean young adults back in the mid 90s who are nothing like the 16, 17, 18, 19 olds of today!), but yikes! These were baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad books. -_-
I got the three I mentioned for something like 89p at a charity shop. In fact, it might not even have been that; I might have got them for free through some book-swap thing. Either way, I think I’m just glad that I didn’t pay for them because I’d want my money back.
The plot was weak and holey (and boring) and the characters utterly flat. The vampires themselves didn’t make much sense and just made me uneasy, not in that nice ‘heeeey, I’m reading a scary book’ kinda way, but more in a ‘wtf…? His hands are glowing?!’ sort of way.
These vampires got about in the daytime by wearing sunblock and dark glasses. They didn’t eat solid foods and they would sleep in a coffin, yes, but with such a forced emphasis on it being ‘weird’ and ‘strange’ and ‘creepy’ that I just lost interest. I only kept reading because I needed a book for work. What I did like, however, was that Janice Harrell was pretty good at reminded me, as a vampire fan, that vampires don’t like fire. When one of her characters managed to get caught in a house fire, she was gone in an instant; like a piece of paper soaked in vodka; woooomph! That, I like a lot and even though Ann Rice touched on it when Lestat got caught in that burning house, it wasn’t quite enough for me.
Blue Bloods (first book of the Blue Bloods series)
This is another book from that £3 set I was talking about and its written by a lady named Melissa de la Cruz. I only just finished reading this book this morning and I can’t decide what I think. These vampires, literally have blue blood and are in fact fallen angels being reincarnated over and over and over trying to get back into heaven and into God’s good graces. They drink blood solely to help them survive on earth.
The religious aspects aside, I think I struggled with this main because I found the book hard going. Schuyler (I think I spelt that right) Van Alen is the primary character who the narrative follows most but Cruz seems to have a habit of diving between POVs which is really distracting. I can’t get into a character’s head or feelings when she does it and, to coin a phrase from Writer’s Club, it really does pull me out of the story. Worst of all, however, were the brand names she dropped all over the place. I know the idea behind these vampires is that they’re all rich and well to do and well known yadda yadda blah, but having every other sentence filled with the names of designers and brands that I’ve never heard of just makes my brain hurt. Its all empty-headed fluff about clothes and shoes and handbags, which immediately makes the fact that these characters are vampires, secondary and far less cool.
And, in the most typical and clichéd sense of it all, the meanest vampire is the sexiest, richest and best looking (Mimi Force) while Schuyler herself is dowdy, less rich and has ‘poor’ fashion sense until she slaps on a little make up and realises that she’s ‘a stunning beauty.’ Its been done befoooooooooooooooooore!
The Last Vampire Series
This is the series that made me love vampires. THIS IS THE ONE. I wish I could remember them more clearly, but it was probably something like 1998 the last time I read these and I haven’t been able to find these since.
Written by Christopher Pike (who is actually called Kevin Christopher McFadden), these six books feature the tale of Alisa Perne, a blonde haired, blue eyed teenager who is, in fact a 5,000 year old vampire named Sita. She was born in India (dunno how she ended up blonde o.O) in something like 3000BC and lived through things like the life of Krishna and the birth of Christ. She was sworn never to make another of her kind but finds her life thrown into upheaval when a private detective seeks her out and begins to ask questions. Turns how he’s been hired – through many channels – by a name named Yaksha who is in fact the very first vampire back from Sita’s home village who is trying to find her to kill her. And himself too.
I won’t say too much more than that in case you want to read these books, but they are amazing!
I think this was the first time I came across vampires who could walk by day with a reasonable explanation; why shouldn’t they be able to?! They aren’t allergic, they are simply weakened by the sun’s light (which is the case with Bram Stoker’s Dracula by the way). Sita also was able to eat food just like a human and go without sleeping in a coffin. She can also die if injured badly enough.
Sita and the other vampires of this series are my absolute favourites. Just thinking about it now, so many years on, makes me want to read them again. A part of me is hesitant since I know towards the last two books there are serious religious under currents (the messiah has been born again; a miraculous conception culminating in the reincarnated spirit of both Krishna and Jesus [ugh]), but to simply enjoy the powers of a vampire, these books are it.
I know they’re written for young adults (the same sort of time as Vampire Twins) but Pike did it properly.
Pheeeeeew! Right, I think I might have written enough! I didn’t realise I’d gone on quite as long as that and I haven’t even half covered as much as I wanted to. That will teach me; I’ve got to learn to control myself a bit better, rather than just writing and going nuts. A bit like I’m doing now. o.O
I think my final assessment here is that vampires ARE cool in books, so long as you’re reading the right ones. I’ve also decided that traditional seems to work best in terms of vampire powers, agilities and strengths while the originality has to come from the plot. Its all well and good spinning the world on its head and making vampires into fallen angels (if you really want…?) but without a decent plot line, you’ll just confuse people or bore them. Similarly, if you want to turn vampires into witches who just happen to drink blood, then go for it, so long as your characters are vibrant, lively, colourful and real. Zoey Redbird vs Schuyler Van Alen would get my vote any day. Though I guess Alisa Perne trumps them all! :p