Monday, 29 March 2010

Guest Blog! Gail Z. Martin

Gail Z. Martin (author of the 'Chronicles of the Necromancer' series) was the latest author to very kindly agree to supply a guest post for the blog, thanks Gail! I left the 'post remit' open ended, to see what I got back, and got myself a very interesting piece on vampires. Have a read and see what you think...

Why a good vampire never goes out of style

Given that vampire stories have been told in just about every country on every continent across thousands of years, I think it’s safe to say that something about vampires has captured the human imagination.

Over time, the attributes we focus on with vampires change, but the overall concept has stayed amazingly intact. If you read the old tales, the legends and folklore, the vampires are often menacing, ugly and have exceptionally bad breath, but other legends give them the ability to appear beautiful, and co-mingle their need for blood with the attributes of an incubus or succubus. While most of the popular vampires in fiction today veer toward the good looking and sexy side of the legend, pretty much every retelling shows a darker side of power and hunger.

I think there are a lot of reasons we’re drawn to vampires. Most of the time, they’re shown to be clever, beautiful and powerful, with wealth and sophistication accumulated over lifetimes. They don’t get sick and die, and they can stand back from the tumult of daily human life with detachment, taking a long view of things. Politics, petty bickering, even the rise and fall of kings become trivial irritations to vampires, while mortals who feel their fates controlled by such things have difficulty rising above the mundane.

At the same time, vampires retain humanness many other “monsters” lack. It doesn’t require a big stretch of the imagination to envision the loneliness of outliving one’s friends and relatives or even one’s own era. Many people have felt the condemnation of religious purists who take issue with the essential nature of what they are, without regard to how they live their lives. It’s not difficult to imagine that someone who has superior strength, speed or power could become ruthless, but we’re intrigued by the vampires who cling to honor, friendship and love because those are the qualities life does its best to pound out of mortals as well.

Who would you be when the markers of identity we take for granted are wiped away by time? When you’ve outlived your family, your contemporaries, perhaps even your nation, kingdom or empire, and maybe your religion? If you had immortality, what would you make of yourself? If clinging to your humanity made you vulnerable, would you do it?

The vampires that intrigue me are the ones who wrestle with the choice between retreating into their power where they are safe, both emotionally and physically, and those who choose to keep the best parts of their humanity, to love, to care about the consequences of temporal issues on the lives of people around them, and to a personal sense of honor.

My personal view of the vampire is as an archetype for someone who has suffered intense physical or mental trauma or abuse, and who stands at a moral crossroads. Does he side with the oppressor or abuser and lash out at others to ease the pain, or does he take the more difficult road to regain humanity by siding with the victim and choosing to feel love, compassion and suffering? Does he use his wealth and power to protect himself and turn his back on others, or does he become a champion and a protector for others who lack his strength and wealth? While some people live out a more made-for-TV-movie of that kind of choice, I think it comes in one form or another to each of us, after life has knocked us around for a while. And while Bones McCoy cautioned that “Evil usually wins unless good is very, very careful,” I choose to put my money on the hero.

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