Archive | January 2013

Would You Want to be a Vampire? Part Two: The Modern Vampire

In the previous post, I asked if you wanted to be a traditional vampire. And the obvious answer should be “No!” However, the nature of the vampire has changed over time. Asking the question today is not nearly as clear as it was one hundred years ago. Courtesy of first Anne Rice, and then Stephenie Meyer, vampires have morphed into modern day heroes. Actually, I must be careful here. Some modern writers, such as myself, have taken great pains to keep their vampires dark and sinister in accordance with the traditional archetype. I’m not talking about those vampires. I’m talking about Twilight-type vampires.

 

Modern day romanticized vampires have been stripped of all their negative attributes. Do they lose their soul upon conversion? Uh, no. And that’s a biggie. Do they smell like the grave? Again, no. Are they inherently evil? This kind of goes with losing one’s soul so again the answer is no. The modern day romanticized vampire is incredibly strong, virtually immortal, and deeply in touch with his feelings. They make the perfect date for the modern girlie teen-ager. The only drawback is that they drink blood, but some can “go vegetarian” and survive off animal blood. I have to point this out, though. I’m a guy, and I write, and my sister reads my work. She takes great pains to point out the errors of my ways if I have too many women who are just cosmically beautiful with looks that kill. That if you do that too much you are objectifying women as mere items to titillate men’s fancies (a few of the women in Drasmyr fall into that category, but I couldn’t figure out a way to change it without doing damage to the story as I envisioned it). If a man writes about a woman and she is the perfect woman in each and every way, this makes things difficult with real women. Real women never measure up. Real women should be offended by such a characterization. Well, perhaps you see where I’m going. Perhaps, courtesy of Stephenie Meyer, the shoe is on the other foot, now (ha ha!). I think the male vampires from Twilight are an example of the perfect man (if you ignore the drinking blood bit). Real men just can’t measure up to Edward Cullen. And hordes of teen-age girls go all googly whenever they hear his name. I would go on, but I’ve gotten off track enough as it is (and, truthfully, I don’t care enough about the point to go on … I’m just making a nuisance of myself).

 

My point: modern vampires have changed from something evil into a romantic superhero. Now, when someone asks you if you want to be a vampire, the answer isn’t so obvious. For myself, I still say no. I like me the way I am—I don’t need some quick-become-undead-fix to cover up my many flaws. I think a lot of guys would probably say no just on the principle that they want nothing to do with Twilight or its vampires. A lot of teen age girls, however, might say yes. “Make me a vampire. Make me a vampire. Please!!!”

 

And somewhere Bram Stoker is rolling over in his grave. Or clawing his way out with murder in his eyes!

Advertisements

Would You Want to be a Vampire? Part One: The Traditional Vampire

With the popularity of vampires among society today, this actually becomes a question worth asking. Once upon a time, most people would have answered with a resounding “No!” Why, you might ask? Let’s discuss that. At that point in time, humanity’s definition of a vampire was very different than it is today. Once upon a time, vampires were creatures of the night; Dracula was their progenitor; and Satan their lord. Ahh, yes, the times of yesteryear. This old, traditional vampire was all but immortal; they could only be slain by a wooden stake through the heart, running water, or sometimes sunlight. They were incredibly strong and had a host of special powers like the ability to change into a bat, or mist, or a wolf. But to remain strong and immortal they had to feed on human blood. That is, of course, one point against them, as most people probably don’t want to make a diet of human blood. But that’s not the worst of it.

 

In the West where Christianity was once quite strong there has always been a strong connection between blood and religion. At the Last Supper, Jesus said to his apostles, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood you shall have Eternal Life,” and he promptly gave them bread and wine; the bread being his flesh, and the wine his blood (there is debate between Catholics and Protestants whether the bread/flesh and wine/blood connections are intended to be taken literally or symbolically, but that is straying off topic here). The important thing here is that Christ wanted you to consume his “blood” in order to be saved. I’m not an expert on theology or Judaic tradition so I may be getting in a little over my head here, but I seem to recall that blood was an important aspect in sin offerings. So, as far as Christianity is concerned, the blood of Christ served to “wash away” one’s sins; consuming Christ’s blood is a way to accept that and gain entrance to Heaven (like I said, I’m not an expert).

 

Vampires, on the other hand, are a complete perversion of this. They (in the West) were minions of Satan. They consumed blood and granted Eternal Life, as well, but the life they granted was an accursed abomination. It was an eternal, physical life in this “fallen” world filled with sin. Depending on the tradition, a human can become a vampire either by being bitten by a vampire, or by consuming a vampire’s blood. In the latter case, the perverted connection to Christianity is stronger. Here, the victim, instead of consuming Christ’s holy blood consumes the blood of the vampire, the unholy blood of Satan. Thus, it is a reversal of Christian Salvation. As a result, the victim is cursed to walk forever as an undead creature of the night to be forever repulsed by all things holy. Here, the price of becoming a vampire is your very soul.

 

I just made all of that up. How’d I do? J

 

Anyway, the obvious conclusion to the question: “Would you want to be a (traditional) vampire?” should be a resounding “No!” for all clear-thinking individuals.

Book Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

“The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” by C.S. Lewis is probably the most famous of the books of the Chronicles of Narnia. Although it is listed as book two in the series because the events that take place within it follow the events that take place in “The Magician’s Nephew” it was actually written first (I believe “The Magician’s Nephew” came out chronologically as around book six or so, and was written as a prequel). Anyway, because of the break in the timeline, there is some discontinuity between this book and the first; specifically with reference to the character of the White Witch.

 

As noted in my prior review, the Chronicles of Narnia are intended to be a metaphorical story used to introduce young children to Christianity. The Lion, Aslan, is analogous to Jesus Christ. Opposed to him is the White Witch, a.k.a. Satan. In this book, the relationship between Satan and the White Witch is a little clearer. In this book, there is a reference to the White Witch previously being in the service of The Emperor Across the Sea (God) as his sort of enforcer. That is analogous to the role Satan has in some Judea-Christian traditions where he played the role of an accuser of a man for his sins before the throne of God. I just wanted to note that because that is a change from “The Magician’s Nephew” in which the White Witch is described as coming to Narnia from a completely different world (a world she destroyed); there is no reference to her ever being in service to The Emperor Across the Sea.

 

Anyway, the main characters of the story are four children: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. They discover a wardrobe in their uncle’s (I think it’s uncle) house, that leads them to the magical land of Narnia. There, they find the whole land in the grip of a never-ending winter brought on by the power of the White Witch. And to make matters worse, the White Witch is even preventing Christmas from coming (oh, no!). But with the arrival of the four children—the two Sons of Adam, and the two Daughters of Eve—things start to turn around. Soon, the Great Lion, Aslan is on the move to help the children bring about the ruin of the White Witch.

 

The most important metaphor in this book is the death of Aslan at the hands of the White Witch and his subsequent resurrection by the power of the Deeper Magic. Obviously, this is supposed to serve as a metaphor for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And there’s not too much to be added to that.

 

Overall, this is a good children’s book incorporating the strong moral traditions of Christianity in it. As an adult, I found it entertaining, but of a somewhat light fare. And, after a certain point, because it is geared towards children, it started to get a little tedious; I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish the series.

 

Anyway, as far as a children’s book goes, I’ll give it four out of five stars.

Fantasy Literature: Short Stories vs. The Novel

The art of writing a short story is distinctly different from writing a novel. There is far less “room” in a short story than a novel; you must make every word count, particularly if you are up against a tight word count. The story must be unified by a single theme or over-arching idea; there is no room for subplots and parallel memes. Depending on the genre, the notion of a twist is also quite prevalent. In fantasy literature, for example, there must be something in the story that takes it an unexpected direction, or flips our expectations upon their head. A piece of clean prose that tells a simple straightforward tale will not cut it. Nowadays, there is a requisite of something unusual, something that makes one look at the story from a clever angle.

 

One is also limited by characters and viewpoints in the short story. Generally, the writer is limited to a single viewpoint with but one protagonist and one antagonist. There might be a couple other minor characters, but they will be few in number and their roles hardly substantive.

 

A novel is an altogether different animal. While it is true, that there is usually a central theme for any great literary work, there also can be sub-themes and sub-plots and what have you. These can be developed throughout the course of the work, because there is no word-limit on a novel (although length of a novel certainly is no indicator of quality). Complex literary devices like symbolism and such can be fully employed in a novel; one has plenty of room to develop and expand upon such concepts. In the fantasy genre, the novel, like the short story, must be more than a straightforward tale. We are drawn to the unusual and the surprising. Because of its greater length, the novel has room for multiple twists, each one eliciting a pleasant burst of “ahh!” from the reader. A story of a brave knight rescuing a princess from a dragon no longer cuts it today.

 

In the fantasy novel, multiple viewpoints and plotlines have become almost standard practice. Rare is the novel with but a single protagonist these days.

 

So which one will you write? For myself, I’ve gone back and forth. I’ve written a number of short stories, with a few minor publishing successes. However, I got into writing to write novels not short stories. Short stories are great to hone your craft, to figure out the intricacies of fusing dialogue with narrative and what-have-you. And I don’t regret the time I’ve spent on short stories—I even have a number of short story ideas that will probably never come to fruition—but I have decided that I want to focus on novels. Besides, short stories don’t pay enough to support a writer. They exist to fluff the resume. And they are great for honing your craft. But, in my opinion, that is all they can do.

%d bloggers like this: