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Tag Archives: urban

Yes, my vamps are different.

Please don’t hit me?

No hitting, good.

Mind you, I do agree that vamps have been domesticated to the point of absurdity. And my vampires do not share most of the weakness of “standard” vamps.  So much so, that I agonized over I should call them vampires at all. Then I proceeded to break down the vampire mythos to see if mine fit the bill, in their own way:

  • Undeath/Immortality: My vamps are not dead, their very much alive. However due to their “condition” they are immortal (or very long lived). Only an accident or a deliberate act can kill them.  Since the mark of both of these conditions is that the monster in question is very hard to kill it fits.
  • It’s in the Blood: My Vamps, being alive can reproduce, problem is that the survival rate of a woman impregnated by a vampire is extremely low (1-5 or 20%) which makes it hard for them to reproduce in large numbers. Also a condition of their demonic bloodline so it is transmitted from parent to child even if one of the parents is not a vampire. The type of blood line determines which type of vampire it is (Lust or Wrath).
  • The Hunger: Most vampires feed on blood (and to a lesser extent sex). Mine are a bit different. Their bloodlines dictate that they have to indulge in their ancestral demonic impulses. Those of Lust must engage in sexual acts which tend to be destructive to their victims (rape, pedophilia, sadism, torture and sexual slavery) while the children of Wrath seek to destroy/kill (murder, cannibalism, arson to name a few ways). In a sense they are consumed by their need to feed this hunger for destruction and failure to do so makes the impulse stronger until it drives them mad, not unlike an addiction.
  • Aversion to Sunlight: These vamps are not afraid of the warm rays of Sol but they do shun the spotlight. Secrecy is key to their survival, or as one character explains “we put power in the service of secrecy”.  They prefer to exist in a criminal/political underworld trafficking in weapons, wars and lives.  After all somebody who needs to murder another human being every few weeks/months needs a way to cover his tracks. After all even they can’t dodge a torrent of incendiary rounds flowing from a mini-gun at 3,000+ rounds per minute.
  • Other Weaknesses: Their immortality is based on their ability to regenerate, which means that while bullets will hurt nothing short of immolation or decapitation will finish them for good. A stake through the heart will leave a bruise and hurt like hell, but it is also a good way to piss them off.
  • Inhuman abilities: These vamps are at least 3-5 faster and stronger than your top Olympic athletes.  It would take a platoon of well armed me to take down a single vampire or somebody with magic sword. Somebody who is crazy prepared may, just may, stand a chance.
  • Vampires as Parasites: These vampires, like most vampires are also parasites of human society. They “feed” on human victims (those who are destroyed physically/emotionally by the Hunger) as well as human society as a whole. They lie,cheat and steal to get what they want. The foment wars, exploit conflicts, and play on addictions to gain power. They wrap themselves into the fold of humanity’s flesh like a leech and they are very hard to pry off.
  • True Monsters: They are not cuddly or cute (as if all the rape, murder and mayhem didn’t clue you in). They wear expensive suits, live in prime real estate and have just enough money to make Scrooge McDuck look like a pauper, they may even seduce the panties off a pornstar with a single look, but you don’t want to know what happens behind close doors once the Hunger hits, unless you’re into snuff flicks. They can’t be redeemed for it is in their blood.

So, do they fit the mold or break it? I betting that yes they do, although your mileage may vary.

And as a peace offering to the wild vampire fan spirits I offed this humble offering:

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Nancy Hightower over at her blog asked her readers about their definitions of  urban fantasy. Since SuD  fits the genre I decided to reprint my answer(s) here.

Urban fantasy (I prefer the term contemporary fantasy) is  a fantasy themed story (magic, monsters, quests, etc.) in a contemporary setting. BTW, a lot of the non-fluff Mall/Valley Girl YA stuff falls into this category. All Urban fantasy that I have read (and I’m writing right now) has several of the following elements:

1)World in the Shadows: Magic and monsters co-exists with technology but it resides in the dark places, such as alleyways, basements, backrooms, abandoned buildings.

2)Hidden in Plain Sight: This world co-exist with ours but either because it’s denizens (or the government or some other organization) work hard to hide it or we are blinded by our disbelief it is hard to see it for what it is.

3) The Hero Has a Gift: From the simple gift of Sight (the  ability to see the Shadow World) to wielding reality altering powers, he or she has the POWER. BTW, the POWER happens to be the source of all of the MCs problems. Hey vamp princess, not so sexy now with that stake stuck between your…well you know….eveil twins! 😀

4)The Setting: Urban really means “contemporary”, guns, computers, the police, modern communications. Chicago’s only listed Wizard packs a staff and a .38 caliber.

5)Black & White with a lot of Grey in between: You have your Good guys, your Bad guys and your Innocents. Except that the Good guys bend and break the rules, the Bad guys are not entirely nihilistic and the Innocent, how Innocent is the Hooker with the Heart of Gold, really? It is also a grimy environment and most of the dirt is moral.

6)Whatever the season Red is always in style: And by Red I mean blood, gore, and the like. Border-line horror story, except that the MC gets to kick back even harder.

7) Language and Sex: These are the elements that separate Urban Fantasy from their creepy crawly YA counterparts. People use the word fuck (shit too, as in “Ah shit!” or “Holy Shit!” or “The Shit Hit the Fan!”) a lot, and they mean it. Strip bars, prostitution, and a good roll in the hay (or three) with the local Vampire Prince are not out of the question.

That’s all I can come up with right now.

Dwarfs, Elves,  Vampires, oh my! On a recent post (and many more after that) on the NaNo forums the subject of “cuddly” vampires (a la Twilight) came up. The poster said that he didn’t like the recent fad of turning vampires from monstrous blood suckers to tortured goth heroes. I responded that the vampires in my NaNo project were anything but “cuddly”.  If anything they are conniving, manipulative, psychopaths driven by a demonic urge to rape, murder and destroy.  As far from the romantic (in the modern sense of the word,  one which would cause the likes of  Lord Byron, Tennyson or Blake to spit if they heard what passes for romantic these days) vision of the tortured yet irresistibly attractive vampire heroically fighting the urge to drink virgin blood while dating the only virgin left in town as you can get.

This got me thinking about the endless parade of writers that from the beginning of time felt compelled to take familiar character types (the stoic Dwarf, the ethereal Elf or the Vampiric blood sucking terrors of the night) and change them in some way. Of course these archetypes are variations on earlier forms defined by modern writers such as Stoker and Tolkien. The idea behind the manipulation is to take the familiar and turn into something new (if not unique). Problem is that you can only make so many changes before you end up with something unrecognizable and lose whatever advantage the use of the original gave you in the first place.

I don’t frown on the practice as I have done a bit of archetype twisting in my day (about a month or so back). Yet it pains me when I see author after author fail so miserably at it. While the author might think that his improvements are “cool” the end results are trite, cosmetic and downright disappointing. The reader is left wondering why the author engaged in the exercise in the first place. So I came up with a few tips that will (hopefully) help my fellow nascent writers to avoid the obstacles on the road from the familiar to the memorable.

First a few questions. Honest answers to these questions will yield the best results:

  1. Why did you choose a particular archetype?
  2. Do you know/understand the history behind the archetype?
  3. Are you changing the archetype for purely arbitrary reasons,  that is, you think it would be cool to have rhinos on submarines?
  4. Or have you always hated the archetype in question and think you can do better?
  5. Is there more to the these changes than simply creating a anti-archetype? Are you doing this because you’re in a contrarian  mood?
  6. What is the role of the archetype in the story; accidental, background, or central to the narrative?
  7. Would your narrative goals be better served by abandoning the archetype all together?

Like I said before, familiarity is what drives many an author to choose a given archetype. This is especially true of modern fantasy and science fiction books, in all their variations. Both the author and the reader know the archetype and feel comfortable with it.  No need to create an entire elven language (unless you’re Tolkien) or describe how a vampire’s gaze overwhelms it’s victims senses. Just drop the dwarfs down the nearest mine shaft and concentrate on writing that exciting battle scene where the stalwart defenders of the underground realm battle the incoming goblinoid hordes. But we already read Lord of the Rings (OK, I saw the movies, tried reading the Hobbit and fell asleep on the their page)  so we want something more than the fall of  Moria. So the author introduces a few changes into the dwarf archetype. His dwarfs are not the dour hammer swingers of Tolkien’s lore but singing sensations to rival he likes of Elvis (Costello or Crespo). The attacking goblins go from an unorganized rabble to a disciplined army that fights for duty and honor.

But in order for these changes to stick an understanding of the archetypes in question is a must. You don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of western European mythology, but understanding the history behind the myth will help you preserve enough of the archetype so that it remains recognizable to the reader.

Questions 3-5 deal with the particular reasons for the changes in a given archetype. Many a writer makes cosmetic changes based on what their DMs allowed on the gaming table while playing D&D. They go for what they think would be “cool”.  But just reversing the archetype role or characteristics is not good enough. Doing things just to be contrarian or different is  a waste of time. Might as well slap a goatee on the character’s chin and call it a day.

Which brings us to question #6, the role of the archetype in your story. Cosmetic changes are great, if you are coding a video game. A player will notice something out of the ordinary, gawk at it for a second or two and be on his way to kill the boss monster. Same thing in your book if its something that lies at the bottom of page 267 where a secondary character explains why the main character should never go to beyond the Impassable Peaks of Doom (which we know that the MC will, in fact pass with some difficulty). Things change as the archetype(s) inch their way to center stage. Without a solid explanation the reader is apt to question why is the handsome yet ravenous vampire zipping from frozen packets of goat’s blood instead of dinning on warm blood of his seventeen year old date with the body of a SI swimsuit edition cover girl. Solid answers to questions 1-5 will (hopefully) prevent the local bookstore from shipping back boxes of your latest offering to the publisher.  You need reasons why the character does not fit the mold, answers that go beyond “Well I think vampires are seriously misunderstood creatures”. These reasons should have a direct connection to the story so that it lends depth to the character and through him to the narrative.

Last but not least, could you do better without relying on the archetype? Creating a new alien race that does not read like a Vulcan on steroids is hard, yet if the changes are drastic enough as to erase the fundamentals of an archetype, I suggest you abandon it all together. Go with something else. Something that fits your vision and the needs of the story. A knight that uses a gun is not really a knight, he is a gunfighter. Go with that instead.

I hope that the above helps you in some way. I can’t wait to read how the goblins barely won the battle against the singing dwarfs yet earned their respect by their honorable behavior in battle.

Until then….