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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Guest Post: Giving Back Vampires Their Bite By. C.T. Phipps

"So do they sparkle?"

This is a question I was asked about fourteen times when I informed some of my readers, mostly men in their thirties, I was going to be writing a vampire novel. This is notably a joke I first heard in 2006 when the Twilight books were only starting to become international best sellers. It also means I've been hearing a variant of this joke or reference for the better part of ten years.

I should note that my wife was a die-hard Twilight fan when the books first came out and only seemed to cool her enthusiasm with Breaking Dawn part 2's movie release. She insisted it was our book series and I pointed out our book series was A Song of Ice and Fire. We've since decided to settle on The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries as a compromise. True Blood was, after all, on HBO and it starred a plucky young female protagonist.

The infamous sparkling question, however, reveals an attitude of possessiveness among many genre fans to the vampire. In simple terms, genre readers consider vampires to be their property and have strong opinions on how they should be portrayed. Putting aside the books which my wife and I disagree so much over, it occurred to me I setting myself up with failure with Straight Outta Fangton.

The title itself was actually born from my struggle to find something new to do with one of the most frequently done creatures of fiction in history. I wanted to do a vampire novel, there was no doubt about it, but it was a thriving genre when Bram Stoker penned Dracula. We've had romantic vampires, disgusting vampires, evil vampires, good vampires, morally ambiguous vampires, alien vampires, diseased vampires, demonic vampires, and cursed vampires. Did I want to make monstrous vampires like the original Dracula or something closer to Count Chocula?

I ended up choosing to do a horror-comedy in the vein (hehe) of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the early Dresden Files books. Straight Outta Fangton was born from my personal decision to analyze the transformation of the vampire in fiction. I created the character of Peter Stone as a vampire who was everything your typical vampire was not: poor, black, and unlucky with either sex. A character surrounded by a world enamored with publically known vampires who ranged from the sex gods of romantic fiction to the disgusting creatures of Nosferatu. He was, in simple terms, a vampire who had to breakout from the shackled of mundanity and I figured the NWA were as good a model as any.

Besides, it was memorable.

Vampires are such familiar characters to us now that it's hard to treat them as straight up creatures of horror. In real life, vampires would be terrifying but we also know their strengths and weaknesses better than we know our own as humans. I didn't want to take cheap shots at any other kind of undead. I'm of the mind that all people have their own preferred type of undead and they have a place in the greater vampire canon. For me, I wanted to create vampires who were possessed of traditional weaknesses rather than immune to everything. I wanted monsters who were repelled by faith, hated crossing running water, were immobilized by stakes, needed to stay near their home soil, and hated sunlight (even if it didn't kill them outright). I wanted these vampires to then evolve into creatures which could have a widely divergent set of powers and overcome most of these weaknesses.

A lot of authors feel compelled to make their monsters the biggest, baddest, and most terrifying version of the creatures yet. I, on the other hand, think a monster is as much defined by their weaknesses as they are by their strengths. I also was more interested in the psychology of my vampires as they dealt with the ups and downs of their condition than I was making them cool. Besides, it's hilarious when you have an ancient rotting corpse hungry for your throat distracted by sesame seeds. I didn't want my vampires to have awesome sex powers out of hand. Some vampires would be beautiful, some would be ugly, and others would be like the rest of us as something in-between. If a vampire had the power of being irresistibly attractive, it was probably to lure in prey and would be horrifying rather than alluring. Plenty of people find dark, scheming, ruthless, and powerful people attractive in real life but those relationships have downsides too. For Peter, I just loved having him deal with the undead who were sex gods and it just hadn't passed to him.

Publicly known vampires are nothing new either. It was the premise of the aforementioned Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries and the Anita Blake novels before them. However, vampires seem to get away with everything in those settings. I wanted a world where vampires had to be wary of regular humans arresting them while also smart enough to get away with way more than the law allowed. You know, like CEOs or the mafia. The challenge of staying ahead of the authorities while also not losing your status as citizens was one which intrigued me. How did vampires who actually wanted to obey the law live? How did they feel about their felonious brethren?

I also wanted to attack the assumption of vampiric wealth. Yes, Dracula was able to buy a bunch of property in London but he was a Prince. Also, his castle was completely falling apart and he chose to live in a broken down abbey. Vampires with hypnosis might be able to steal all the money they needed but those unwilling to do so would quickly end up flat broke. What do poor vampires do? Get a nightshift job? The very idea of vampires working for a living was one I felt I had to touch on.

I think readers will find my undead to be a quite respectable monster. I also think they'll laugh their asses off.

Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Esoterrorism
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with C. T. Phipps

AUTHOR INFORMATION: C.T. Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger, reviewer for The Bookie Monster, and recently signed a deal with Ragnarok Publications to produce the urban fantasy series, The Red Room. C.T. Phipps is also the author of The Supervillainy Saga, the first book of which, The Rules of Supervillainy, was released in 2015.



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