At the start of October, one of my friends in my writing group suggested we did a vampire short story challenge.
I have an odd relationship with vampires. One of the many ways I misspent my youth was vampire roleplay. Some of that involved sitting around a table with some dice and some friends, and some involved sitting around a dodgy nightclub in a suit and goth makeup with some friends. After spending such a long time with my head full of vampires, I’d never really trusted myself to write them as fiction for fear it would turn into the chronicle of some roleplay game or other, which is usually only interesting to the people who were there. But that was a long time ago. So I gave the Halloween challenge a go.
It started off as a short story, and it grew. It seems that I still have a bit of a soft-spot for vampires after all. In the end, it’s become a short novella, in six parts, told in a mosaic structure from different points of view.
Vampires are a funny old thing to write. There have been a lot of different takes on them. Everyone has an opinion on what they should be, and those opinions are usually pretty strong. Some people just plain hate them. I had to decide what I wanted my vampires to be, and what I didn’t want them to be. I had a few things playing through my mind when I was putting my story together.
One of my inspirations for my vamps was seeing people complain about the role of consent in vampire novels, and how there’s always some ancient vampire using the power of their mind to force weaker people to do things (often sexual), and how it made them feel uncomfortable because it was supposed to be hot, but was in fact dodgy and as creepy as hell. So I wanted to look at the idea of consent, and explore that with vampires.
The other idea that played on my mind was the whole concept of eternity—how you’d make an eternity meaningful, and what that would do to a person. Would they be able to move with the times? Would they find a way to get through it all? Could they find something, like love, that gave it all meaning? So basically, a fair amount of angst and existential horror, and a smattering of insanity. And also a little bit of fun hopping about through history, with plenty of my usual obsession with decay.
I wanted them to be monsters, even though they’re still very human. I wanted them to do bad things, and not be excused. I wanted them to carry their crimes with them, and be defined by them. I wanted them to be unable to escape the essential brutality of their existence, even though they may wish to.
Finally, this is gothic horror, and gothic is all about what is forbidden and taboo. So I have laced the stories through with plenty of sexual tension and homoerotica, along with the horror and the angst. They wouldn’t feel like vampires without a little bit of that kind of energy.
So I’ve tried to take my vamps seriously, and also have some fun. This whole melting pot of ideas is coming together to form the interwoven threads of stories, centred around these ideas, and told by very different voices.