Tag Archives: vampire$

Vampire Slayers

I’m going to shift the conversation today away from the vampire to focus on his or her nemesis, the slayer.

It seems lately, when a book or movie focuses on its vampire characters, the vampires are (usually) conflicted about killing, sullen, falling in love with someone or something, and just not evil or dark in any general sense of the word. These are your Cullens, your bodice ripping fuck-buddy vampires, and everything that goes along with that. These are the types of books and movies previously said (by others, not me, read my post on the subject here) to have destroyed the vampire genre. Conversely, books and movies that focus on the vampire’s evil side are told from the focal point of the slayer–the good guy–and that’s who we’re supposed to identify with, believe in, and root for. The vampires here don’t care about love, they’d rather eat you than fuck you, and most of the time they’re absolutely not conflicted over said eating.

Now, it’s been my experience that slayers come in two varieties: extraordinary and not. Or, to put it more simply, beings with abilities and beings without. Some slayers that come to mind with these extraordinary abilities: Blade, Buffy (from the TV show, not the movie), Anita Blake, and pretty much any character you can think of in recent vampire urban fantasy. And yes, I know that’s one of the big things in urban fantasy, to have your main character be the chosen one. Blade was the Daywalker, Buffy was the “slayer,” and Anita Blake is just unkillable.

The flip side to that coin are your human slayers. Jack Crow from Vampire$, The Frog Brothers from The Lost Boys, Van Helsing from Dracula. They fight the vampires in their respective fictions without powers, without great aid, and that makes them far more compelling than slayers with powers. I mean, they’re just human after all, like you and I, and without the extra strength, speed, or magic, one has to wonder how the hell you’d stand up to a vampire.

But let’s face it, having powers is pretty fucking cool, too, right?

These are the two ideas that played a large role in the genesis of the split narrative in They Are Among Us. We start off in the human point of view, following Special Agent Alexandria Maxell and her team as they try to determine if vampires are real and, if so, what then? It’s a process with a large learning curve attached to it, and then I play with the concept of how truly prepared are they, which extrapolates to how capable are we, humans, in general?

The second half of the book follows Jack, a vampire, our creature with abilities, whose job is to kill other vampires, those who don’t conform to their societal rules. He’s not really a cop, as there’s no “protect and serve” with him, but rather a “you fucked up and now I have to kill you” motif. But, powers. And while it’s clear Jack is a cut above most vampires in the speed and agility departments, there is a cost.

My biggest concerns were falling into the quagmire of having an overly emotional vampire hit man and him becoming the vampire I despise. I also didn’t want my humans turning into some new cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So those were my big challenges when examining the world in They Are Among Us, and how each of my characters would behave in it. They each have their goals and how they’re going to go about accomplishing them within the parameters of who they are and my expectations of what vampire slayers should be.

And as I complete the second book, At Dawn They Sleep, we’re going to see how these quirks shape the opening days of the Blood War. I can guarantee things are not going to be the way readers are expecting.

Next week, tune in as I shift gears again and talk about something that’s been on my mind for awhile now, which is the community I find myself in… but not in: the writing community.

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My Top Five Vamper Novels…

As promised last week, I’m going to take a hot minute to list my top five vampire books. Mind you, these are novels, so I’m not including vampire movies or comics or television shows. I read these books once every couple of years and I’m always finding different reasons to love them. I think readers are hard pressed to find better bloodsucker fiction out there. The five listed here have influenced my love of vampires and still do, and since I want you to read them (if you haven’t), I’m going to give a very brief “this is why I loved it” paragraph about each one and I’m going to list them in reverse order, from 5 to 1.

5. Vampire$ by John Steakley

vampire$Where do I start here? Vampire hunters who work for the church and are paid well for it. Deals well with the religious aspect of vampirism (being on hallowed ground hurts, which speaks to the existence of God), as well as the toll hunting the undead might take on a person. They kill hard, drink hard, and die hard. The vampires are mean, they have an agenda, and this novel is good on so many levels it’d take two or three blog posts to cover them all. If you’ve only seen John Carpenter’s film based on the book, do your brain a favor and get the real deal. Read the book.

4. Midnight Mass by F. Paul Wilson

midnightmassF. Paul Wilson is one of my favorite authors. With this book, Wilson also deals with religion in vampirism, but he does it differently than Steakley does. You see, the main character is a rabbi and he doesn’t like the implications of vampires fearing the cross and holy water sizzling on their skin. Along with that, we have an interesting cast of characters, which stick out to me still for their diversity: the rabbi, a drunked out and blacklisted priest, a lesbian, and a nun. Plus, the vampires are mean as hell, and it’s one of the first books I remember reading where vampires have human lackeys working for them. The last battle for these characters takes place in the church of the blacklisted priest, and it’s a fight that will restore hope to the human race. If the humans can win, that is.

3. I am Legend by Richard Matheson

iamlegendcoverI’m not sure if this book even needs more words written about it, as it’s a classic in every sense of the word. However, like any book, it’s impact on readers vary and I’m not excluded from that. I’m sure what I loved about it, another person may have hated. For me, it was always Neville’s loneliness, and how he took to Cortman in the novel. It didn’t humanize the vampires (as a whole) that showed up at Neville’s door, but it illustrated how a man can humanize a single entity in the group, can empathize and have sympathy for something that’s perceived evil. This book is one of the main reasons why I believe reading makes us better humans, better able to relate to people who aren’t quite like us. If you’re that rare vampire fan (meaning you’re probably very young) who hasn’t read this book, then do it. Today.

2‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

salemslotcoverAnother classic vampire tale that doesn’t need an in depth discussion from the likes of me. I’ll cut right to the chase and what made this book stand out for me was King’s willingness to turn kids into vampires. It was one of the first books I’d read that killed kids without really a second thought. That, of course leads into King’s quiet destruction of the entire town, where even good people end up dying and, really, for what? There’s a certain amount of hope that’s stripped out of the world when you read this book at a young age, simply because King shows us that small and tranquil doesn’t mean shit-all for safety. Everything (and everybody) hides something from the world, and usually that something is heinous.

1. They Thirst by Robert McCammon

theythirstcoverAnd we’re to my top vampire novel. The reason is simple, which is that They Thirst encapsulates the best elements of the other books on my list. McCammon’s novel is a larger version of King’s novel, insofar as the vampires are after Los Angeles as opposed to a small town in Maine. McCammon addresses the religious aspect of vampirism, but takes it to the next level, he pits an odd mix of humans against the seemingly unstoppable force of vampires, and there’s a sense of isolation despite the large L.A. setting. And beyond that, there was something beautiful about McCammon’s descriptions in this book that turned L.A. into a character, and this is the first book where I really noticed the setting as character. They Thirst, in my opinion, stands as one of the seminal vampire novels of the last 50 years. There you have it, my top five vampire novels.

Next week, I’ll range into my top five vampire movies…

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