Zeitgeist: Vampires

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Ah, the zeitgeist! A fancy German word that means the “spirit of the time” or “spirit of the age” meaning, of course, the popular trend in a culture. We are all affected by such spirits in our age. Some more than others. It’s what resonates inside of as a culture, a people and as individuals.

I have chosen the ultimate zeitgeist creature for this discussion: vampire. Also, vampyre, vampyr, strigoi and other things. Essentially an Eastern European legend that, forgive me, never seems to die.

Years ago, when I first delved into the lore, I remember turning to my friend Keith and saying, “Now, Keith, I want you to answer me totally honestly. If you–if they were real, would you become a v–”

“Yes!”

We all know what vampires are and what they do, and are mostly familiar with the basic mythos surrounding them from Vlad the Impaler to Dracula to Edward Cullen. But the question in this blog is not what they are or what they do, but why they stick with us like they do. I mean, come on! Do we ever tire of vampire tales. No, we don’t. I mean, we just don’t.

So why do they resonate so well? Why do they represent this spirit of the age for all ages?

Big Lance had a theory. It went like this. Vampirism is really a metaphor for sexually transmitted disease. After all, the “infection” is transmitted through the blood, through bites and exchange of bodily fluid and the swoon from drinking the blood compares with the sex act itself.

I believe he had a point.

I never got into vampires before Anne Rice‘s “Interview” and outside of enjoying Bram Stoker’s original, never cared much for other renditions. I did like how China Mieville portrayed them in The Scar, but then, I like how China Mieville portrays everything.

I read Twilight and was disappointed with them in that book, not that that is such a surprise, but I admit, I liked the first Twilight movie. I thought the movie was better than the book. But, that leads me to my theory of why they resonate.

They are the perfect creature for eternal love and by that token, eternal loss.

They are wonderfully romantic, even when–or especially when–they are drinking from a woman.

I think most people would agree with that, but why? How is that even remotely romantic? I dare say, if I were to take a woman out and attempt to drink her blood, most women would shut me down, quick. They wouldn’t even think twice about it and afterwards, after I left and she was safely tucked away in her apartment, she would not remember it with anything but disgust and fear and perhaps, a little pity. And this would be despite her bookshelf that is FILLED with vampire romance novels!

So…that leads me to this: they are the perfect creature to explore our own human nature.

Now, the vampire has the unique ability to defy death and sickness, two things humans cannot overcome. Even if you NEVER get sick, you will die. Eventually.

Or will you?

For certain, the body will die. That much we can say without question. I would, however, venture to say that most people believe in some kind of life after death scenario. Some kind of soul, human spirit, ghost. Medical science is familiar with OOB’s or Out of Body Experiences. More than one person has “been standing there watching” when they lay him out and do the operation. Most people believe in such a thing, not all. But assuming that the human organism possesses a non-material aspect, one could postulate that when you die, some part of you survives.

Then in comes speculative fiction. What if that part of you, was all of you? What if your body survived its own death? What would that look like? And what if in order to maintain that state, you had to drink human blood? To what lengths would you go? How would you feel about that and how long before you tired of living, and yet, lived on anyway?

Anne Rice’s vampires go “into the ground” every seventy or so years. In other words, they simulate death. They need a rest, a release. Some go insane, others jump on a funeral pyre and commit suicide and beg the survivor to spread the ash so they won’t come back. Some slump into apathy and otherwise resign to their fate.

And some, find ways and means to keep it interesting and create reasons to celebrate, to carry on.

I don’t know about you, but that all sounds eerily familiar to me.

In this light we see ourselves without all the societal props. Through the eyes of the vampire, we begin to see beyond the immediate need to work, to make money, to collect possessions. We get a break from the hectic live-live-live pace of raising a family and doing everything we can before it’s too late. Suddenly, we see, its never too late and then we glimpse eternity.

We glimpse just how long eternity can be. And that scares us more than death ever could. Only then do we see what horror really is. An eternity trapped in this earthly existence feeding on the life of our friends and watching all those we love die and die and die again, while yet, forced to live on. Forever.

Eternal love. Eternal damnation. The perfect creature to see ourselves and the universe that has us.

That is how, I believe, vampires form the zeitgeist.

Getting More Done with Monk Magic

I’ve had to take a break from blogging. Many reasons, so many. A move for one, from Los Angeles to Seattle. Sweet! Oh, but the rains haven’t come yet and so I am waiting to melt once they do. Seattleites are like that, they just love to tell you how much rain they endure on an annual basis. They wear it like a black eye, proud and winsome. 

Well, we shall see. I’ve got my rain gear, snorkel, galoshes. Waiting, waiting for the great deluge. 

Another reason, I have done a full-on re-write of my novel Prizm. I had to. I know you’re not supposed to do that, I know you’re supposed to “never look back” but I had to do it. Well, you see it all started over the cover. I don’t like the cover it has right now so I thought I would see about what I could do about that. Then I thought, well, if I’m doing a new cover, might as well fix up some of them typos I knew were in there and then…all up hill from there. Got into it and my Gad, couldn’t resist. Had to re-write. Well, I’m damn glad I did because the product is so much better. I mean, night and day if you ask me. Not the story, the story was all there, always all there. Just the writing, use of English. I just hadn’t had the technical skill to bring it off before but now, I think I got it. I mean, I think I managed to do the work justice. I think now I have at least approximated the vision. 

I am also having a new cover done. Using 99 Designs to do it and so far so very good. I am getting some really great renderings and I am very happy that the new cover will also do the work justice. Very important, covers. I also restored the full title because, it just wasn’t the same. Prizm. You know, what is that? So, I restored it. Prizm: Dominatrix of Sulan, Book One of the Jen Cycle. 

It introduces the second one, which will be called Prizm: Liberator of Sulan, Book Two and so on. Anyway, it will be up in a couple weeks, I think, at the most. New cover and new improved all the way around. 

Let’s see, more reasons for not blogging. Sleeping. Reading (China Mieville you never cease to amaze! Anne Rice, if you ever read this, let it be known I shall sit at the foot of the master to learn what crumbs of knowledge thou mightest cast at me! Yeah, she’s one of favorites. Oh, yeah, Roger Zelazny, Terry Goodkind, Brandon Sanderson. The list grows. 

Oh, another reason, I am going great guns on Thomas Hunter. I am currently describing it thusly: Harry Dresden meets Corwin of Amber at the Vatican to fight Cthulu. Though, I am searching for something less bombastic. Any ideas, let me know. Excited about that one and considering just going straight into the next book. You know, strike while the iron is hot and all. Better maybe to do it while its still so fresh in the brain. 

Let’s see, let’s see. Oh, yes, I did a reading of Demon of Montreal at a coffee shop here in Seattle and while I would chalk the whole experience up to “practice” and “an exercise in NOT promoting to see who comes anyway” I did find that my voice is oddly perfect for the piece and so have decided to do the audio book. Yes, I am really looking forward to that. My friend Paul M. in Minnesota is hooking me with some really great pricing on a real honest to goodness recording studio complete with pro-tools. So, just after Thanksgiving…somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I will have an audio book out. Demon in audio just in time for Santie Clause. 

What else, what else…well, that kind of brings me to the name of this blog post. I have a word. One word. This is how we can a) get more done b) solve crimes c) save lives and d) have our doppelgangers too. One word: bilocation. 

Yes, bilocation. It’s so easy, I have no idea why I never thought of it before. 

Actually, this is monk magic. For some reason and I have no idea why, monks, devout monks of a certain faith have had attributed to them such strange powers, like levitation and bilocation. The famous Padre Pio apparently bilocated on many many occasions, meaning appeared in body in two or more places at the same time. His body mind you, not his spirit that is a very important part of bilocation. Its not spiritual its physical. Padre Pio of course saved people from imminent destruction and guided people through near death experiences and what not.  

Levitation is another one. One priest in particular…hang on let me check my sources…St. Joseph of Copertino Italy in 1600 something, used to have wild, spastic episodes of uncontrolled levitation whereby he would bounce around the chapel, bumping into things and breaking things. Yes, he termed it “my giddiness” of all things. I guess he was so filled with religious ecstasy that he just couldn’t help himself from flying. 

Well,  I don’t know about you, but all that sounds like a pretty good way to a) get more done–doppelgangers in the flesh can do actual work presumably and b) get there faster. 

I’m going to try that with writing. After all, its working great for Patterson. 

 

The Best Way to Do It (on paper!)

Yeah, I was going to do a post about cliched sayings that it seems every book has to have, like when someone always ‘smells fear,’ but I decided to just go for the jugular and talk about a local favorite. (Don’t worry, this post has a Disney rating.) 

Let’s face it, sex in a book is kind of…usual. I personally kind of expect at least one sex scene. Our characters are supposed to be life-like and so, they do it. I also think we’d feel a tad bit disappointed if the two star-crossed lovers didn’t hit the sack at least once. 

What is the best way to portray this very human need? Do we…dress it up in the language of floral anatomy? I always loved the “his stamen” references. On the one hand you could say it’s pretty weird that anyone would draw an analogy between flower and human sexuality. And on the other hand, you have to admit it’s pretty cool that flowers are sexual. It’s like nature did that just for writers. 

You’ve got Heinlein who doesn’t really have sex scenes, but just mentions it throughout the story, a sort of novel-length tease. Piers Anthony too. I don’t call these sex scenes, so much as nudity. This is an okay method if you ask me, lets you do all of the imagining, which may be better than having it described in great length, ad nauseam.  

Erotica does it’s thing with the use of all the slang and four letter words. I guess that’s the stock solution to sex in a book. It’s effective in that it gets the job done. A good “down in the trench” engineering approach when you want a fail-safe method. But somehow it seems we should treat the subject with a bit more respect. 

I will never forget the sex scene in Stephen King’s It. At the time, I had been reading something about how you’re not supposed to say “feel” but describe the internal physiological changes taking place. So, instead of saying, “he felt excited” you would say “adrenaline flooded his brain” or some such. Well, in It that advice is taken way too far in the sex scene at the end. Reads like a medical manual, describing all the internal glandular processes that take place during the deed. No sir!  

I think the best writer on sex scenes is China Mieville simply because he doesn’t sugar coat and leaves a lot to the imagination. In The Scar he has a sex scene between this guy and his girlfriend who has her lower body grafted into a machine chassis, so her legs are metal caterpillar tracks. If you’ve ever read his work, you’ll understand. Anyway, the line is “and somehow they managed.” 

Whoa, I bet they did! You just don’t have to write anything else.

I’ve always drawn on the old romance model in my writing, I guess because that’s what I grew up thinking was a “sex scene” in a book. But I don’t really like it. I became a fan of Mieville’s, “And then they *&@*#” approach. Just come out and say it all crass and shameless.

There’s other ways too. Diana Gabaldon mixes in all the violence with it, which I can’t say does very much for me. But hey, maybe that’s historical accuracy. I’d be pretty upset if I was eating haggis too, I guess.

You’ve got the Philip Marlowe approach. Jeeze. He just takes and doesn’t care. You have to admire that only because the dames are always too happy. What a Svengali!

But in the end, I think I am casting my vote for Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witch Series. Pretty good on the steam, but not overboard on the details. A good balance of taste, I thought. Then again, I have not read 50 Shades of Gray, so…  

 

What do you think? Any examples of particularly good or tasteful sex scenes in books?