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Something I've been toying with...

What if vampires are creatures of the day?

The first ones might have been heretical devotees of Aten who bought immortality by binding themselves to live only when their god rules the sky. At night they must sleep the sleep of death again, and those who dare to roam the night lose their minds, becoming mere mindless devourers, predators turned the prey of those who can think and coordinate. Or maybe something else. (Seems like it'd be fun to tie this in with the origins of agriculture and the emergence of patriarchy as a social default.) The key thing is that vampires can only be active during daylight hours.

There are a few classic ways for vampires to lose self-control, and most of them still seem to apply:

Hunger. Yup. No reason for a vampire du soleil to feel any less hungry or frenzy-prone because of it than any other.

Anger. Ditto.

Sunlight, fire, etc. Now this has to go. I thought about daytime vampires having a problem with darkness instead of light, but I think that gets too constricting. No hiding in dark places during the day? That gets cramping of narrative possibilities in a bad way, more like stomach cramps than cool-plotting cramps. I next thought of moonlight, but that turns out not to go places I want to go with this either. The idea of a ban that sometimes applies during the day is good, but not the idea that some times of the month it'd be safe to roam during the night. So I'm currently thinking that being active without sunlight simply rots vampires' minds. After not many nights of trying that, there's nothing left but blood-craving husks. So there's, er, teeth in the night-time ban.

Holy symbols? Not sure what I want to do with that. Do crosses work as powerful invocations of death, or maybe not work at all as partial evocations of the creating power's own nature? I'd like it not to be just a matter of the wielder's faith; that can be interesting but not quite the set of motifs I'm interested in poking at right now. Maybe it's symbols of the night that work, including moons and stars. Though there needs to be a ludicrousness check somewhere to prevent fearless vampire hunters wielding boxes of Lucky Charms. This is obviously an area of more work required.

What really interests me is the social possibilities. The vampire is traditionally a force on the margins of society. In modern stories, it preys on people who've drifted from a crowd, or who are gathering with other marginalized people, or doing something else that pushes them toward the pale and beyond. The vampire du soleil, on the other hand, exists in the thick of it. It could be a consultant, or an auditor, or a government agent with arrest powers, capable of taking prey off boldly and without challenge thanks to prevailing expectations. It could also work on the marginalized of other sorts, like day labor (either hiring them out or employing them and feeding on them once a few are apart from the rest). 

Likewise, there are lots of private spaces in the midst of the daytime crowd: places for people to meet for affairs, for confidential business, to earn and show status by being someplace exclusive, to cater to specialty tastes licit and otherwise, and so on. All of these could become vampiric domains without much effort. 

And, finally, if vampires du soleil don't look too massively inhuman, then they can be out in the midst of humanity. Vampire surfers! Vampires haranguing people on street corners, choosing their prey from those who respond favorably. Vampire poll-takers? 

This could be fun.

ceri: (Default)
How else to start but by defining terms? 
When I write about things serving as symbols and images, I mean something specific but a little hard to articulate. I do not mean allegory: I don't much like allegory, and can only thoroughly engage with fiction where things are first and foremost, themselves. What I like as an extra layer, though, is when the fictional things, which are themselves, evoke something about the real world. A lot of the fantasy, sf, and horror I like says things about reality by giving what is in reality just states of mind a more tangible meaning.
So, vampires. Take Stoker's Dracula. Dracula is a vampire, not an allegory of something. But he caught on in late Victorian England partly because he was also a great embodiment of a lot of Victorian fears about sex, that it was thing which had great power but was innately defiling and ultimately corrupting to society as a whole. Anne Rice successfully re-riffed on the theme, building a foundation of innate glamour partly because we're less inclined to think of sex as innately yucky, but reworking the corrupting force within and without. 
I've been thinking lately that vampires can also serve as symbols of transsexuality. Consider. They are, first of all, exotic, and fit no easy standard category. They're rare. They're strange: they don't quite fit into society, though they can go disguised for a time. They can be deeply glamorous, but they are ultimately dangerous, and normal people must rally to defeat them. They are parasitic, dependent for their continued existence on resources others give, or are compelled to give. They're imposters, having only a semblance of what all normal people have for real—vitality, in the case of vampires, of course. 
This all sounds pretty familiar. I wonder if some of the stories I've been stalled on might work with this in mind as I appraise and revise. Might be some good drama in the interplay between this innately damaging existence and people struggling with ones that are seen the same way but aren't. Hmm.

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I'd heard about this from the comics blogosphere last year but only got to see it this last week. Shaun Tan is a Chinese-Australian artist, and The Arrival is the wordless story of an immigrant's experiences in a strange new land. It's a seamless blend of tight realism and soaring fantasy, and it moved me very deeply.

What you want to do is go look at Tan's website for the page about this book. Then you should go get a copy, because the oversize, high-quality production of the book lets the illustrations shine very much more than these reduced images can convey. 

ceri: Pale woman casting a spell (White Witch)
It suddenly struck me that one feature that looms large in talking about the history of print-focused sf fandom the last few decades is the repeated collapse of institutions: mailing lists, Usenet, services like CIS and GEnie, the overall displacement of zines, and so on. I'm thinking that the burden a lot of us feel isn't so much the effort of learning new tools and the systems they enable as it is dealing with the failure of old ones, most particularly when the failure is, fundamentally, dumb and external, like the overwhelming of both mail and newsgroups by spammers and pirates.

But as I keep saying, partly to remind myself, I don't know much about media fandom's institutions or history. So have you folks dealt with the same kind of thing? Did you have presences in the old independent online services and felt the same "ah, hell" defeat as they eroded away? How much is loss and displacement part of your experience, too?
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I first had this thought while reading tributes to Robert Jordan, and I'm having it again today while looking at tributes to David Eddings. I am, and always have been, something of a style snob. I was raised to appreciate good style, and to cultivate my own, and to enjoy sophisticated play with language. That in itself is neutral when it comes to my interactions with others, but it can become a problem when it makes me inclined to make too-broad judgments based on what is partly an aesthetic and partly the result of familial and cultural advantages—which is to say, privilege.

Today I've been reading the heart-felt regrets of people who are, like me, enthusiastic readers, for whom, just as for me, fantasy and sf open up interior visions, provide escape in times of trouble and satisfaction in times of relaxation, the whole deal. We share a fandom. And right now I'm feeling less than wonderful thoughts about myself for all the things I've said about people just like them because of their particular manner of expression.

It seems to me that this connects to the clash of cultures over sensitivity to and ways of dealing with racism, sexism, and other bias, but I'm still teasing out my thoughts about that.
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I woke up this morning to find that David Eddings died yesterday. He wasn't my favorite fantasy author, but his books kept me company through some dull and unpleasant stretches, and I'm glad for the time I spent reading them.


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Ceri B.

April 2010

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