Writing Catholic Vampires

The other day, I mentioned how I made Honor At Stake (OUT THIS TUESDAY, SEPT 1) a book out of Buffy-inspired fan fiction. But how does one do that?

In the beginning … get the vampire lore down.  How does it work?

Step one: I want my Dracula back.  And I mean the original Bram Stoker. Something that made sense.

In the Buffy verse, those who turn into vampires (while they MIGHT have the personality and characteristics of the people they were when they were alive), are basically possessed by a carbon copy of a demon.  Which is one way to make the original Dracula story make sense, especially with Lucy being pure and virtuous when alive, and a killing machine when she develops fangs.

But do I want to do that? Seriously, that seems very quick and easy, doesn’t it? Instant killing machine? I don’t want to use something that could be a cheap knockoff.

Though on the other hand, I want crucifixes and holy water to work on these creatures of the night.

Why? Because I am sick and tired of these secularized vampires in my vampire fiction. Even Fred Saberhagen, whose Dracula novels I loved, ejected religion almost entirely.

I want that back. Yes, I had no problem with Saberhagen doing that, but he was the first in my experience to do that … about twenty or thirty years ago.

Another reason I wanted  religious artifacts to work on vampires?  Logically, if left unchecked, the forces of darkness would easily overrun everybody if they so desired. And if there are demons from Hell, there is going to be a God in Heaven. And He will do something to cover our asses. Thank you. Period. The end.

… In which case, then what?  No, seriously, if I’m not going for instant killing machine, just hemophagic, how do I make vampires affected by holy items?

Because here’s the most important question: How am I going to circumvent free will?

Oh, well, duh, that’s the easy part: I incorporate free will.

One of the things people may not be aware of with me is that I play video games.  Yes, I’ve blogged about it before on The Catholic Geeks, but it’s been a while.

One of the more important parts of many role-playing video games is Aristotle’s ethics: character is shaped by one’s actions, motivations, and even words and thoughts.  What we do is who we are. We’re formed by actions.

And what if it’s the same for vampires?

Thus, the more evil or virtuous they are, the more powerful they become.  Day to day people, who just want to get home and take a nap after a long day at work, will probably be generally unaffected by holy artifacts, but they won’t be very powerful either.  The vicious have problems being within line of sight of a church.  The virtuous have no problems.

…. How does that work though?

If you look through the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, he created an outline of the abilities of a post-resurrection body. This would include the ability to rearrange the atoms of one’s body to slip between the spaces of the atoms in a wall — because a post-resurrection body would be something the owner would have complete control over, because the soul would be so bound up with the body.

Well, if that’s the case, why can’t we expand this list into a this hypothetical extension that includes shape-shifting? Like into a bat or something?

In this case, that would make vampirism an imperfect resurrection — or an imperfect death. If it was perfect, they wouldn’t need blood.  Heh.  And the actions that form the vampire would join the body and soul tighter together, and thus increase the vampire’s control over their own body, and then can do dang near ANYTHING. ANYTHING I SAY! BWAHAHAHAHAHAAHAH…

Ahem…

So, this might be the start of something big. I’d be able to keep crucifixes vs. vampires. I could have good vampires, evil vampires, and all of the Dracula-esque superpowers.

Hmm… does that mean my vampires are walking corpses with fangs and a personality? Or are they alive?  Answer: perfect control means they don’tneed to breathe or eat, but they can if they want to. And let’s face it, if they keep their body processes going, they create blood by eating regular food.

We won’t even go into blood from the chalice. Heh heh heh.

The next step, of course, is to add vampires to our history. Were vampires part of the French revolution as part of the nobles being beheaded, or were they part of the peasant rushing forward to catch blood with their bread? Do I have Nazi vampires? Commie vampires? Why not both? After all, why else would they have death camps? Of course, this would require some vampire spies, right? Ooh, a Cold War with vampires, isn’t that fun?

Obviously, this can go on for a very, very, very long time.

And I’m a historian by training, so guess what? I have more background than I have wanted for creating vampire biographies.

This was all so much fun.

About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, nominated for Best Horror in the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, an attempt to take Dan Brown to the woodshed in his own medium -- soon to be republished by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written "Codename: Winterborn," an SF espionage thriller, and it's follow-up, "Codename: Winterborn." And "It was Only on Stun!" and "Set To Kill" are murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.
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3 Responses to Writing Catholic Vampires

  1. So, I got here via The American Catholic, whose opinion I hold in great trust. Happily it remains so after this first encounter. Fun place you have here.

    That said, I gotta say the whole vampire thing must be generational. I just turned 57 and my old-school vampire mien is a soulless, bloodthirsty un-creature whose constitution is the exact opposite of our spiritual nature – a being of corruptible, worldly material and nothing else. It retains some of the abilities and habits of the person who once inhabited the body, but it is only the body without the soul – animated by the dread power of he who is in the world, hence the vampires’ reaction to Christian symbology borne by True Believers.

    It seeks blood because that is where the soul lives – we are not washed in the Tears of Christ, although that would make sense. Judeo-Christian theology revolves around Blood as Life on level after level, so that is what a lifeless but still animated and hungry thing would want.

    If “free will” enters into the equation, it’s vestigial – no soul, no independent will other than the rudimentary ability to choose where to go to feed. Any human “charm,” decision-making or communicative abilities are the result of the carnal energy of the possessor of all things carnal. The quasi-sexual aspect of vampirism bears that out.

    And above all, vampires are always, 100%, no exceptions, without fail and you can bet your mom on it EVIL. The whole mythology was built to provide a concrete opposite to spiritual purity. They’re never nice. They don’t love. They can’t laugh or cry. They sure as hell don’t sparkle. They are Corruption Embodied, destined to remain glued to the dark side of darkness for ever, powered by the will of the most evil, driven singularly to at least harm the virtuous if not “convert” them.

    Needless to say, then, starting with Anne Rice and then painfully enduring the Twilight . . . whatever, I must hereby declare that the word “vampire” has been hijacked and attached to something I can’t even describe – mutated clones, quasi-humans, happy zombies? Different things but not vampires. Sharing wry irony and sentimental moments with somebody who’s planning to go sink his teeth into my friends’ carotids just doesn’t fly.

    I want my Nosferatu back and I want it now.

    Thank you very much.

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    • Don’t worry, Corky; we don’t bite. Much. 🙂

      I haven’t read Declan’s book yet, but that’s basically where I stand on the idea of a “good vampire.” I waxed so long on this when Twilight came out (and at the time, I thought I was the only one who couldn’t stand the story) that even eight years later I feel like I’ve been constantly repeating myself. The only “good vampire” I’ve ever been quasi-okay with, other than Angel (who was given a conscience by a spell in Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is Thomas from The Dresden Files. Even then, it’s a peculiar aspect of the way vampires are dealt with in the series (there are four different species of vampire; Thomas’ species is the most “human” and doesn’t actually feed on blood), and at no time does the reader ever get the sense that he’s anything less than a driven predator. He just happens to believe he can be better, and has a reason to try.

      Otherwise, yes, it’s generational. There’s a constant drive to innovate. You can see it with another classic monster, the orc. Most orcs in fantasy stories (books, movies, comics, video games, whatever) are pretty much identical to Tolkien’s original description, except that they’re usually not so much “evil” as “dumb.” It’s gotten to the point that games like World of Warcraft try to hold up orcs as some sort of noble savage oppressed by humans, with some people going so far as to condemn Tolkien for his “racism.” They conveniently forget that in Middle-earth, orcs are products of evil magic — originally elves, mutated by darkness, and that’s why they have a special hatred for their fairer cousins. Usually, modern stories keep that elf/orc feud, but rarely give an answer as to why they keep fighting.

      But I don’t think there’s an inherent problem in trying something new. It just needs to be well thought out. Declan’s take sounds interesting.

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  2. In mine (I don’t know if I’ll ever return to it – but nobody reads this anyway so major revelations here) I toyed with the following:

    History: The serpent in the garden (not actually Satan, but a high lieutenant) had some cohorts. When God said, “crawl upon your belly” they were bound to mortal form (which for former incorporeal beings, was like eating dirt) and became the first dragons. They ruled for a period of time until eventually humans “overthrew” them and started the long march to victory (aka: known history). During the ruling period (after the time Cthulhu and his colonizing ship came by and were trapped by our rulers), a human asked for mercy from his local lord. The dragon had “mercy” and gave the human his blood to drink (like an evil ___ – can you fill in the blank?) which changed the man (and later his wife).

    Since then vampires (along with everything else) have been a part of the world. On the whole they’re just like humans only without restraint since almost nothing is fatal to them. When reborn a vampire is given 1 “gift” (such as telekensis, or another might have super speed) and 1 weakness (extreme allergy to wood or severe aquaphobia among many). The weakness might kill or cripple them. In addition sunlight is always fatal if prolonged exposed (some are so sensitive to it, they can’t even visit modern cities at night) as well as a general repulsion to garlic. They drink blood as an animating factor. If they fail to drink with some regularity their bodies will eventually “freeze” and they’ll be unable to move until fed. (though obviously a vampire unable to move is usually one soon dead) To keep population low, they have a 2 generation system. “Born” vampires are actually asexual, and create new ones by mostly draining a person and then making them drink their blood. “Converted” vampires (the people changed by borns) cannot turn people, but once during their new life, a male & female converted can mate with each other to produce a Born (who end up being closer to alive than their parents, going through a span of “growing up” and lasting for 300 years until expiring).

    Then after that I had a variety of characters I was playing with. Like some being animal eaters instead of people. I should get back to that sequel someday. I was at the midway point where one vampire was using a zombie army to exploit a loophole in Vatican City’s mystical protection just so he could get something from the vast library we all know is buried underground there. (and yes, you heard right, that’s not even the climax – plus it introduced Justin the War-priest.)

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