Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Life Amongst the Vampires - Guest Post by Inanna Arthen (Vyrdolak)

My Life Amongst the Vampires.

In Chapter Fifteen of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we briefly meet "an old student" of Professor Slughorn named Eldred Worple, who earnestly attempts to persuade Harry to share his life story for a biography. Worple's current claim to fame is his book, Blood Brothers: My Life Amongst the Vampires. He has come to Slughorn's Christmas soiree at Hogwarts—presumably with Dumbledore's permission—with one of his "blood brothers," a vampire named Sanguini. Most people don't think of Rowling as an author who writes about vampires, but they're mentioned in two other places in the series, and Sanguini is clearly "domesticated" enough to be trusted around Hogwarts students (provided that he has a chaperone). I always wondered if Dumbledore was attempting to befriend as many vampires as he could, along with giants and werewolves, in order to prevent their joining forces with the Death Eaters, but Rowling never mentions it.

I have to admit it: if I were transferred into the Harry Potter universe as a wizard, I would be Eldred Worple. My life has pretty much been spent among the vampires, for something like four and half decades by now.

I was not a fan of horror fiction or movies until I turned 11 years old, although I liked fantasy and science-fiction. I still remember the very first vampire movie I ever saw. It was on TV during the afternoon, one of those 4:00 p.m. matinee slots, probably in early 1968. It was the 1962 Hammer movie The Brides of Dracula, and I'm sure it was ruthlessly edited. But I was utterly mesmerized by elegant, supercilious David Peel with his Byronic wavy blond hair, sweeping gray cape and long fangs.

My vampire mania popped into existence fully-formed, and I have no idea where it came from. I was an avid reader, checking out the maximum six books from the branch library a couple of times a week and inhaling them (I read every gothic romance the library owned and everything Zane Grey ever wrote—not a word of which I can now remember). But I had to go to the main library downtown to find grown-up vampire books, and then I had to wheedle the librarian into letting me check out adult books with my juvenile library card. I took out Bram Stoker's Dracula and Montague Summers' foundational compendium of vampire folklore, The Vampire in Europe.

I read Dracula straight through in one sitting without stopping. I still think it's the greatest thriller ever written in English. The Vampire in Europe took me a little longer, but I was just as enthralled with it. Those two books launched me on a life-long obsession, for which I intensively researched obscure nonfiction and articles, collected everything I could find related to vampires in print, read every vampire themed piece of fiction I found and saw the movies that I was able to get into. In October of 1968 I first heard of the daytime serial Dark Shadows. I hurried home after school to see if I could find it on TV, and from that day until its cancellation in April 1971, I was one of those fanatical viewers who planned her day around getting home by 4:00 p.m. to watch Dark Shadows. Only play rehearsals got higher priority.

In high school and college I had a friend who shared my enthusiasm. We called ourselves "vampiromaniacs" and signed letters, "Bloody Bites!" One Halloween—yes, just one—I dressed as a vampire to answer the door for the trick or treaters. I took such care for authenticity with my makeup, my Dad was totally creeped out and wouldn't look at me, while one little tot paid me the highest honor: a round-eyed, "You look really scary."

But my obsession had a down side. When it came to vampires, I was a connoisseur, not a gourmand. Nothing was ever good enough. I studied the folklore with a critical and comparative approach, aligning it with my other studies in the areas of the occult, paranormal, folklore, fairy tales and history. I soon figured out how much misinformation and sloppy scholarship there was in the field and grew impatient with it. I found myself in the frustrating position of being a vampirophile who hated most vampire fiction and just about every vampire movie.

I wasn't alone. You'd be surprised how many authors of vampire fiction were inspired to write their own stories because they didn't like someone else's and said to themselves, "I can do better than that."

My fictional universe started evolving in the 1990s when I was a member of an active writing and vampire fan egroup called Vampyres List. Vampyres was filled with passionate and prolific writers who posted original fiction—from short drabbles to serialized novels—by the ream. A popular pastime among list members were virtual parties, or "v-parties," massive co-written improvisational marathons that ran for 24 hours a day and as long as a week at a time. A big v-party was like being on creative fire, non-stop, for days on end.

This was where I hammered out my vampires' unique qualities. I wanted to write vampires that were true to folklore, rather than fictional clich├ęs (so, no fangs, no problems with sunlight and they can eat and drink ordinary food and have sex, all of which folklore vampires did with gusto). I wanted them to seem so real, you wondered if they were living next door, and I used details from other paranormal tropes to make their abilities plausible. For example, my vampires are able to "open" their victims to get blood, in the way that "psychic surgeons" were believed to open and close wounds. I'm also a trained psychic and an initiate of a magickal order, so those life experiences were woven into my books, as well. My novels are more accurately categorized as “magical realism” than conventional fantasy or horror.

I wrote half of The Longer the Fall for Vampyres List and got stuck. I never expected to write Mortal Touch at all. I wrote Mortal Touch for National Novel Writing Month in 2005, an experience which reminds me of doing a v-party all on one's lonesome, but which works very well for me as a writer (I'm about to use NaNo for the third time to pound out the fourth book in the series). After Mortal Touch was finished and published, I solved the structural dilemmas which had been hanging up The Longer the Fall, and I resigned myself to the fact that I was writing a connected but non-chronological series, like The Chronicles of Narnia. After Book 4, however, I expect the narrative timeline to be more straightforward.

Now I run a small press, By Light Unseen Media, dedicated to fiction and nonfiction on the theme of vampires, as well as writing my own novels. Vampires not only accompany my thoughts and fill my imaginary worlds, they pay the real-life bills. I've gone from vampires as an avocation and enthusiasm, to vampires as a professional resource. I really do have a life amongst the vampires, imaginary and otherwise—and I feel amazingly fortunate. I wouldn't want to be living anywhere else.

http://bylightunseenmedia.com/mt.htm (Mortal Touch)

Inanna Arthen (Vyrdolak) is an author, artist and actor who runs the independent press By Light Unseen Media (http://bylightunseenmedia.com). The third novel in her open-ended Vampires of New England series (Mortal Touch, The Longer the Fall and All the Shadows of the Rainbow) will be released in 2012. She is a member of New England Horror Writers, Horror Writers Association, Broad Universe, Independent Publishers of New England (IPNE) and Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), and a contributor to Blogcritics.org. For more information about her writing and events, see http://inannaarthen.com.


Midnyte Reader said...

Couldn't comment before due to Hurricane Sandy, but I think your immersion into the Vampire culture is fascinating.

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