Wanderings Of A Dangerous Mind #1

From My Patreon, one week ago:

The task I have ahead of me tonight and this week is to write the climax of Vampires Will Never Hurt You. I have very little experience of writing climaxes and denouements, because I have started far, far more things than I have finished. I have far more experience of writing beginnings, middles, and cliff-hangers than I do of wrapping things up in a satisfactory way–and of course, the ending is the hardest to execute (it is certainly the part that readers and viewers complain most about in nearly all works). So that’s an intimidating challenge, especially as a writer who does not plot again, but I’m excited to step up to it. The last time I finished any stand-alone novel-length fiction was back in 2004 or 2005, more than a decade ago. But two weeks from now, the first draft of Vampires Will Never Hurt You could be done!

Tomorrow, I finally return to my apartment at Cyrus Field’s castle in Dobb’s Ferry after several months of absence during which my father has been kind enough to put me up at his place in Pawling. I will need to put in some work to render the place habitable again, most likely.

I need to start GMing regularly again or I’ll go insane, even if it’s only over Skype. I want to reawaken my love for Shadowrun but I am not happy with any edition of it currently on the market, least of all the one I have a writing credit on.

One of my projects here will be Savage Run, a conversion of the Shadowrun to the Savage Worldsrules, using the Savage Worlds cyberpunk setting Interface Zero as a guideline.

One of the other projects I’ll be working on here will be Anathema 2nd Edition, which will move tonally away from White Wolf’s World Of Darkness and closer to the better parts of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn. Anathema is the one game I laid out before the End Transmission assembly line was in place, so it seems like a good choice for continuation in a post ETG world.

Finally, I’ll be working on and off on a gruelingly detailed, highly simulationist tabletop RPG called Dark Days Ahead, designed to tonally channel works such as Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us, the film It Comes At Night, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

So that’s what to watch out for here in the coming weeks and months!

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Patreon & Excerpt The Second

My Patreon is now open here! Most of the content I would post here will now be posted there so that supporters see things first, so please do check it out and thank you!

Here is maybe some of the last content exclusive to this channel, the second excerpt from Vampires Will Never Hurt You, Excerpt The Second, Chapter I:

Chapter I

Five hours earlier, Hope Hadley was dropped off by a local bus that she’d hopped on at the nearest regional Greyhound depot. Hope was a tender seventeen years old, which was, at that moment and to her thinking, a most inconvenient age to be. It meant she was still a minor, and still subject to the court order—no matter how hard she resented it—that she’d been served requiring her to visit her biological father. Even if she’d rather be by her mother’s side as the poor woman battled cancer, or anywhere else for that matter.

The sun was setting over Lake Galena, a hazy orange sinking down through the cloud layer, reminding her for whatever reason of radiation. At present she was at the intersection of Rural Route 301 and Galena Avenue; across the street from her were two of the tiny hamlet’s six churches, the Gilead United Methodist Church and then the Church of St. James the Apostle, , along with the town and county supreme court. To her left (north) was the Gilead Diner, open 24-7. Kitty corner around the block to the left was Fair Street which lead past the local high school and eventually to the address of her father—a lawyer, she thought, wrinkling her tiny, pixie-like nose at the his odious profession—and his practice. If she felt like biting the bullet now, she could go see him directly, but she didn’t, she felt like procrastinating.

So Hope turned left and got a room at Smalley’s Inn, an authentically quaint little Irish Tavern and public house.

You need to see Hope and see her very well as she settles into her quaint little room at Smalley’s Inn, taking off her olive drab army jacket and sniffing her armpits in her black tanktop, applying an apple-lavender deodorant to cut down on the smell of “several days on Greyhounds” that still faintly clings to her. Hope is 5’3” and somewhere near 105 lbs. Her ears are pointed in an almost elfin way, and pierced multiple time. Her hair, cut in a short bob that accentuates her bangs, is dyed a shade of pure lilac. Hope is an attractive young girl, for certain, but not enough to be an actress or a model. However, Hope has a certain…something.

Hope didn’t know much about this something herself. And counterpoising Hope’s ability to unintentionally provoke unrequited adoration more unfortunately, she hadn’t even the most remote suspicions about the equal and opposite power that existed, something else entirely.

An hour later, Simon Stark turned on his headlights, driving into Gilead from the south along State Highway No. 6, hugging the curving dark banks of Lake Galena. Simon was a 31-year-old private detective who worked out of New York City and considered Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe to be his ideal self, his totem, his spirit animal, and his mentor. It was business that had brought him to the small town of Gilead. His client, a large, wealthy, eccentric black man with a Ving Rhames thing going on named Marcus Esadh, was secretive but paid well.

Although the job took him out of his back yard, the client was covering his expenses, and frankly, Stark and his partners were happy to get any work at all—the PI business was becoming increasingly focused on more and more heavily corporatized “digital investigation” which Stark had failed to be an early adopter of—and Stark personally was over the moon to have a case that didn’t amount to pinning the cuckold’s horns on a jealous husband, or confirming the suspicions of a suspicious wife. He’d been in this business eight years and had enough of that kind of case to last him eight lifetimes.

No, this time around, he was looking for a rare painting held in one of the hamlet of Gilead’s six churches. Not a Jackson Pollock or a Picasso or a Monet or a Warhol, but it was worth a pretty penny to his client. And there was a whiff of the Maltese Falcon to the whole thing that he had to admit made him the tiniest bit giddy. And it paid well enough to justify this field trip to New Hampshire.

Wrapped in the warmth of his gray Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, Stark didn’t even notice the tiny inn where Hope had stopped at on foot, and continued to drive north on Galena Avenue towards less appealing lodging.

He was in the vampires’ trap with plenty of time to spare.

 

Four hours later, Meriwether Davis was cycling cigarette smoke through lifeless lungs. Meriwether was a dead man who just wanted to watch the world burn, okay, so sue him, maybe he wanted to be the guy holding the match, too. He was dressed sharply for the part, if not politically correctly, in one of the black leather trench-coats designed by Hugo Boss for the Gestapo. A Totenkopf twinkled silver on his lapel beside the rank insignia for a Sturmhauptfuhrer of the SS. The shiny polished jackboots he wore were also authentic Schutstaffel gear, and he was watching his step but knew getting mud or worse on them was inevitable. He thought it all nicely set off his jet black liberty spikes.

Meriwether was at his most honest with himself, which most likely had to do with the cocaine and crystal meth singing keening symphonies of furious insight in his bloodstream. He’d dragged a brat up here from a party he’d grabbed her at in Williamsburg, to kick off his wilding with a bang and a full tank.

Her bloody corpse sagged half-in, half-out the open back door of his black Econoline, her panties ripped down to her ankles, her eyes glazed and unseeing, the stuff of life oozing black as chocolate syrup in the moonlight from her long fake nails. What was her name? Something like Chelsea? Chesney?

Thrills ran through him, burning cocaine roars and crystal meth symphonies mixed into the blood he’d stolen. He was ready for the wilding to begin, all aquiver with excitement.

Meriwether had little use for rules, but would accept a minimum of them to avoid facing the consequences of the majority he was nominally breaking. Case in point: his Clan didn’t want him to wear the SS Eagle because it “represented loyalty to something other than Clan Nightshade” so he just didn’t wear it. He didn’t need to argue with some geezer that had been Reborn before the Holocaust about how he just wore this shit ‘cause it looked cool and pissed people off and it wasn’t some political statement or whatever.

Much bigger case: Cotillion said only one wilding for each of the clans of the Wild Hunt every eight years (only one wilding period every two years), so there was only one wilding for Clan Nightshade every eight years. Higher-ups in the clan, which was pretty much every one, said this was because wildings required careful planning to avoid them becoming fiascoes, and Cotillion’s control of the mortal media was limited in terms of what media cycles they could suppress in a year, but Meriwether thought that was so much ass-covering bullshit. He’d bucked and strained against the structure of the Clan since he’d been turned by Faraday in 1989, after failing spectacularly to sexually assault her at an Iron Cross concert.

Why even bother calling yourself a Wild Hunt clan if you were so eager to waltz to the Cotillion’s tune and tempo, Meriwether wondered increasingly often.

But just now he was the closest to calm he could come.

See, Meriwether was an artist, he knew, of rarified skill.

His medium? He painted in his victims’ blood. He sculpted with the ruins of their homes and their lives. And the maestro’s hand was finally being unleashed. Maybe he’d finally be able to show Faraday his inner genius. A thousand bodies piled up, he thought, I never thought would be enough to show her just what I’ve been thinking,

His cellphone bleated an alarm. 11:40 PM. Five minutes before it was time to close the trap on Gilead. He dropped the glowing ashes of his cigarette into the chill wind, which carried them away. His fingers expertly unbuttoned his leather Gestapo trench coat. He unlimbered a 6” barreled Colt Anaconda from a shoulder holster rig, leather of jacket and holster creaking in the Autumn quiet. He swung out the cylinder and counted six rounds of .44 Magnum ammunition, then swung the cylinder casually back into place and cocked back the hammer.

He waxed philosophical on the meaning of life and the nature of love until he saw headlights approaching him from the west on Route 311. His van was parked about twenty feet off the curb on the north side of the road. Parked perpendicular to 311 was a truck full of diesel that he’d gotten from a fuel depot just a bit outside the trap. The approaching SUV was decelerating, the driver probably trying to make out what the huge shape parked across the road was—in fact an 18-wheeler.

Meriwether stepped into the middle of the road and fired. The exploding front driver side tire must have startled the driver’s balls into dropping, because the panicking man’s foot landed on the accelerator, not the break. Meriwether considered to stride smoothly forward, ducking. The green Subaru Outback—that’s what it was—sloughed onto its side, rolled several times, and then bounced in what seemed like cool action movie slow motion right over Meriwether’s head, narrowly missing him. Then it crunched into the diesel truck, and Meriwether could smell diesel leaking out onto the road.

He looked around, spun in a little circle, pleasantly surprised that he was completely unscathed.

“That was fucking cool!” he said out loud.

He could hear the loud, frantic ruckus of the Subaru’s driver, finding his wife crushed to death in the passenger seat, ignoring his own serious injuries to try and get the three kids in the back seat out of the car before it became a fiery death trap. Meriwether spun in that direction and fired three times, killing the father and all three kids (two waifs with one bullet; not hard for a .44 round to penetrate through a five year old at that range). Then he turned back to the west, where more headlights were approaching. He snapped up his magnum and fired one round through the windshield of a red Jeep Cherokee, the head of the little old school teacher behind the wheel exploding like a pomegranate with an M-80 stuffed inside it. Once again, things broke Meriwether’s way and the dead woman’s weight fell on the gas, not the brake. Meriwether danced aside as the Jeep rolled into the side of the tanker truck at a steady forty-five mph, clunking it just hard enough to cause the entire thing to erupt into a curtain of fire, wavering heat wilting Meriwether from dozens of feet away; an enormous flaming barricade.

Northeast route was fucking blocked, can I get an Amen?

He wished that Faraday had seen his artistry at work. But fuck that shit. He didn’t need the approval of some trim, no way.

Meriwether practically pranced westward, to where, not a hundred yards from the flaming wreckage, a few onlookers had exited a rear door of “La Famiglia” bar and grill to observe the aftermath of the carnage. As his quick stride ate up the distance, he slid five live shells into his Anaconda, letting the empties fall and clatter.

“What is happening?” a short, dumpy, panicking middle-aged woman not gifted with much in the way of a face either asked him in a shriek voice. His claw flashed forward and relieved her of the burden of that mug. She crumpled to the ground in a spray of blood and torn flesh.

“It’s a feeding frenzy,” Meriwether told them cheerfully. “And you’re the food!”

Then he pounced, fangs first, on the throat of the next man, like a timberwolf.

 

Two hours earlier, Catherine Faraday was listening to “Peter and the Wolf” piping through the earbuds of her iPod. She was standing along the edge of the deep dark woods on the curb of the eastern fork of Rural Route 6, waiting for a truck to come along. It had been decided that the county hospital down that road must be excluded from the hunting grounds.

Faraday, like Meriwether, was a vampie, though unlike Meriwether she had been for nearly 100 years. She had been Sired—such a preposterous, outdated, patriarchal word, she thought—in 1909, just before the First World War. At the time, she’d been a fiery suffragette, a Russian émigré to the United Kingdom and a prominent member of the latter’s Women’s Social and Political Union. No doubt her Sire—ugh, add vaguely incestuous to the list—had found her passion appealing…among other things.

Faraday wasn’t awaiting the beginning of the Wilding with the hot-headed bloodlust of her Childe Meriwether—who was charged with securing the northeastern route out of town about two hours from now, and whom she desperately hoped wouldn’t fuck up and embarrass her, as he so often did. To her, Wildings were not unlike a necessary evil—they gave release to the impetuous nature of new blood and the ravenous appetites of the Elders, but didn’t do much for her. Her Sire had often teased her over the years that she should have been Reborn into one of the Cotillion clans, and if she’d supped recently, it seldom failed to bring a flush to her porcelain cheeks.

Just now, Faraday was pondering the nigh universal appeal of sluts to nearly all men: specifically the strange blend of disgust and desire men felt towards women they could safely pinhole as “sluts” or “whores”. Faraday was, for her own purposes, dressed as just such a woman. She was tall, leggy, and fair—she didn’t get a lot of sun, har har—and wore heavy eyeliner, a short black denim skirt, fishnets, 4” black leather boots and on top, a crimson tank top which scarcely covered the lacy black bra that cupped her breasts, and scarlet shrugs over her arms. Accentuating her breasts further were the criss-crossing shoulder holsters she wore, each holster containing a 9mm Beretta fitted with a silencer.

She was underdressed for the time of year, but the cold hadn’t bothered her much since she’d been a living breathing woman, over a century ago.

For the better part of an hour, she faded into the roadside shadows—the trees just beginning to change their hue provided a lovely lattice of darkness—letting the headlights and taillights of smaller vehicles pass her by as she waited for an 18-wheeler. Just letting the mortals move into and out of the trap as the small winds of their small fates blew them this way and that like fallen leaves. If a tractor trailer didn’t appear, she’d have to improvise, but she’d burn that particular bridge when she came to it.

As it turned out, a big old Mack truck was rumbling towards her moments after she had the thought. She stepped out into the spotlight of a streetlamp, putting all that skin and lace and makeup on display, and stuck out the thumb she was pretending to ride, her other thumb in her mouth.

Predictably—a pleasant non-surprise—the tractor trailer slowed to an awkward but controlled stop right alongside her. Observing that the trailer was full sized and plain unmarked white, she slipped quick and quiet as a moon-shadow around to the driver’s side door. The trucker was somewhere between the platonic ideal of a trucker and an out-and-out caricature of one; bib overalls, paunch, flannel, baseball cap, musk.

“Hey darlin’,” he said, eyes crawling all over her lean, exposed body in a way that made her feel greasy. “Where you headed?”

“Here,” she said, plum glossed lips pursing in a predatory smile.

Because they were in the vicinity of her tits, the trucker noticed the two guns she wore openly.

“Whoa babe,” he said, a prey animal recognizing the danger it’s in too late, “what’s with the heaters?”

“Don’t worry,” she said soothingly. “I don’t need them—for you.” She ripped off the driver’s side door one handed and threw it blindly behind her. It landed with a thunk, standing up at a jaunty angle from the grass and mud of the opposite curb. The driver made a face like he’d just shit himself—she could smell that thankfully he hadn’t—and frantically scooted away from her, maybe trying for a gun in the glovebox, maybe just fleeing in animal panic.

Either way, he was much too slow. She launched herself into the cab like a cougar, wrestled him underneath her, and grinning, buried her teeth in the fat of her neck.

Faraday latched onto the fat man’s jugular and drank him dry.

She climbed into the driver’s seat and wiped red from her chin. She hadn’t driven a semi-truck in a while, but thankfully, she didn’t need to drive it very far. She parked it lengthwise across the road, blocking the road completely, then yanked out the keys and threw them a few hundred feet into the dark of the woods.

Pausing her iPod, Faraday took out her cellphone and speed-dialed her Sire.

“Southeast route is secured. No one in Gilead is going to the hospital, and if they somehow contact the hospital by semaphore or some shit, ambulances are going to have a hell of a time getting through.”

“Perfect,” he replied; even after all these years she still found his Italian accent kind of sexy. “The table is just about set.”

 

It was minutes to midnight, and Lorenzo Medici—first among a few names he had grown attached to over the many years of his improbably long unlife—had just cut the power and to the town of Gilead. That should sew panic among the mortals and cut off land line communication. Lorenzo understood there were something called cellular phones that mortals could use to place calls from anywhere, but Cotillion had arranged for the local cellular tower to be taken care of, starting at the stroke of midnight, so he would just have to trust them.

Not particularly capable of comprehending 20th, let alone 21st, century technology, he had “cut” the lines in a rather stupidly literal way, hacking them to frayed tatters with his katana. The katana was a 16th century masterwork from the end of the Warring States period in Japan. Lorenzo had spent most of the 1500s in Japan, and that was where he had picked up his samurai sensibilities and ethos.

Every samurai has a master, and just now Lorenzo returned to his, riding the meticulously maintained black Benelli 500 VLM that he had liberated from Benito Mussolini’s motor pool when Italy’s National Fascist Party was collapsing during the end of WWII. He had modified the bike with a sidecar and a right-handed protective sheath that would let him draw his katana while driving.

The power station had been located on a plateau at the top of a steep hill called St. Michael’s Terrace. The angelic namesake had provided no divine protection. Lorenzo reared his 500cc bike like a stallion and plunged recklessly down the far end of the hill, plummeting downwards towards Old Route 6, a service road that snaked behind Gilead’s major shopping plaza through a hodge-podge of construction sites, auto collision places, storage depots, car dealerships, and—very keen to Lorenzo’s nose—one humane society pound full of baying hounds (the poor doomed strays could detect Lorenzo better than any human and at longer range). Long silky black hair streaming behind him, Lorenzo rode down through bare dirt and scrub and slaloming between trees and saplings, but he did so without a moment’s hesitation let alone a collision. He had nearly seven decades of experience with this particular bike, and it was like an extension of his body. Lorenzo ramped up onto Old Route 6, cutting a sharp left turn onto the broad dirt road that kicked up a cloud of dust.

Lorenzo had a bad feeling about this Wilding. The worst feeling he’d had about anything in a hundred years or more. And it wasn’t just the kid, Meriwether, who he fully expected to fuck up at a critical moment (Lorenzo was Meriwether’s Grandsire and felt personally responsible for the manic neo-Nazi’s many failings). But unfortunately, it was just a feeling, nothing he could explain logically. So if his master, Melciah Salomon, said there would be a wilding, then a wilding there would be.

Lorenzo leaned into a steep right turn from Old Route 6 onto Route 6, and almost immediately saw the bonfire.  It had once been a Shell station but was now a lively and grand pyre, smoke and flames dancing high into the chill night air as the gasoline burned. The shadows of vampires—many of them newly turned from just one bite–danced and capered merrily around the flames. The Shell station sat right at the fork where Stonelay Avenue split into Route 6, and was situated right across the street from Ninham Plaza,

Lorenzo could hear the sound of screams, gunfire, shattering glass, and could smell blood and cordite, gas flame and panic. The Wilding must have started early, for all of these mortals to be caught up in the carnage already; all of the businesses in Ninham Plaza closed for the day long before midnight. Behind the flaming shell station was a plundered McDonald’s, the golden arches splattered with blood, exsanguinated corpses wrapped in chains dangling from them. The windows had been smashed out and the jagged blades of glass in them glistened like bloody fangs.

“Welcome, my Childe! Is it not glorious?” called out the voice of his master. Lorenzo recognized Melciah’s shadow stepping out from behind the blazing bonfire, and killed the engine of his idling bike. He set the kickstand and stepped off the bike only to kneel before Melciah. If Lorenzo was centuries old and Meriwether little more than an up-jumped mortal, Melciah was ancient, an Elder. He no longer resembled a mortal unless he’d gorged himself on scores of them. He stood short and solid in a resplendent black greatcoat, centuries out of fashion among mortals. He was as pale as bone and as bald as an egg, his lips withered away to leave his large and prominent fangs ever visible. Lorenzo guessed from his appearance that he had not yet begun to sup.

“Yes, my liege,” Lorenzo said tentatively.

Rather than motioning for him to stand, Melciah, bent to speak to him.

“Why so subdued? Tonight and tomorrow the dark tide will swell our ranks with new blood. It is a time for elation.”

Then why am I anything but elated? Lorenzo thought. His nerves struck him as ridiculous—as a vampire, nearly an Elder, of Clan Nightshade, he was an apex predator by night, and he had long ago learned to safekeep himself during the daylight, when the mortals held their flimsy grasp upon the world—yet he had survived this far by listening to his instincts.

“Is there something…different about this Wilding?” Lorenzo asked finally. “Something special, something you haven’t told me?”

“Lorenzo,” Melciah said, his smile revealing a mouth crammed full of jagged, razor sharp fangs, “as you told me long ago, I am the will, and you are the blade. The will decides. The blade cuts.” Melciah finally tapped him on the shoulder, and he rose.

His samurai sensibilities kept him from arguing with his master, but Lorenzo’s brow furrowed in worry. This wilding was something other than it seemed.

Melciah was keeping something from him.

Patronage & Excerpt The First

I’m thinking of starting a Patreon and I probably will around my Birthday or the day after. I’m more comfortable than a lot of people have the privilege of  being, but it is a good, sane idea to have some kind of stream of income. Anyone who currently has a Patreon hit me up with like, your experience and stuff.

Now here is the first excerpt from Vampires Will Never Hurt You, Chapter 0: Jack and Jill. It is rated R.

Jack and Jill

 “You can cry all you want to, I don’t CARE how much you invest yourself in me,” she said, and Jack decided to kill her, right then and there, at the Gilead High School’s bleachers, on that foggy late September night. “We’re not working out, we’re not working out.

She didn’t need to tell him, let alone twice. Jill, Jack’s girlfriend, had cheated on Jack with his best friend Jesse, whose shiner Jack still wore from last night’s confrontation like a badge of honor.

Jack and Jesse were in a band—well they were in the school band, but they also fronted the garage band that all the cool kids in this one-horse, six-church back woods New England town of Gilead were enamored of, Phantom Diorama. Jack was the lead vocalist and lead guitarist. Jesse was the co-vocalist and bassist. Jill’s coming in between a friendship that had been closer to fraternity since before she even moved to Gilead was totally unforgiveable.

Jack had planned to bring her tears with his righteous indignation before dealing her an even more righteous dumping. But instead, he had found himself the one blinded by a veil of hazy eyes, the one begging her to stay. Pathetic, but he had a switchblade in the hot little pocket of his black leather jacket that would let him save face even if it meant cutting off hers.

The switch blade came out and made a satisfying click as its blade popped forth from its ivory handle.

“Oh baby,” Jack said, “pretty baby, you’re all heart. Let’s see that heart, and those pretty lungs, and all the fucking rest.” He used his free hand to wipe snot and tears away from his eyes.

To her credit, Jill, blonde haired, green eyed, and flawless, didn’t tremble or shriek or turn to run. If she’d done any of those things, Jack, like a dog smelling fear, would have rushed after her and slid the blade into her kidney from behind when he caught her. Instead she fixed him with an ice queen stare and played her best hand.

“You’re not going to do that, Jacky-boy, you love me too much, so put the knife away, okay? It’s a bit much.”

She was a stone cold sociopath, he thought, wondering if that was why she got his dick so hard.

Then it was 11:52 PM and they both heard the explosions that heralded the arrival of the vampires at Gilead’s gates.

Taking Back Vampires

Taking Back Vampires

I have one mission foremost in mind that is already underway, which is creating a vampire novel–working title Vampires Will Never Hurt You–that will be the equal and opposite reaction that Twilight sorely needs, taking back vampires for the horror genre and away from the teen paranormal romance “market”.

So until a recent(*), tragic personal loss that I am still reeling from (*four months later) my thing was pursuing game design and publishing as a career, which was frustrating, like pursuing an elephant with a butterfly net, or a fly with an elephant gun, for that matter. Now that I have indefinitely–which is not to say forever–retired from game design with End Transmission Games falling into inactivity, I have decided to focus again on traditional, single author fiction. I’ll always be a gamer, but a whole heck of a lot more people read things than buy tabletop roleplaying games.

There are other changes I want to make to the website but let me start with explaining the masthead, and the irony behind the phrase “gimme, gimme, gimme that vampire money”.

Brief, Opinionated Timeline of Vampires In Fiction

Pre-1897-1980s: Vampires are primal, terrifying, unfathomable monsters, diverging to various degrees from Bram Stoker’s original vampire, Count Dracula.
1976-1994: The increasing influence of Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire and the following wildly successful Vampire Chronicles gives birth to vampires with interiority, complexity, culture, and most importantly, angst and sexuality. A new breed of vampires is born.
1990s: Inspired by the former, the roleplaying game Vampire: The Masquerade provides a sort of golden age or renaissance of vampires, allowing players to play as Ricean vampire aristocrats and artists, more feral Near Dark style vampires, or even full on Max Schreck’s Nosferatu  style vampires. The different kinds of vampires are represented as different clans with complicated, interlocking politics.
2000-2010s: Charlaine Harris’ True Blood series and the extraordinarily popular HBO show following it show that it is more okay than ever to have vampires, but not take them particularly seriously.
2000s-2010s: The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer ruins vampires forever, showing the publishing industry just what a gold mine a certain kind of unforgivably bad writing can be.
2013 Onwards: The post-Twilight era. Can we take vampires back?

So What Got Vampires Right?

Thanks for asking!

  • Bram Stoker’s 1897 Dracula created the genre, so its mention is mandatory.
  • I feel like Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot really made vampires relevant to the modern day, so it is also a mandatory mention.
  • My personal favorite vampire movie is probably Near Darka 1987 Kathryn Bigelow joint, although I have some issues with the ending. It features some of my favorite actors–a nice chunk of the cast of Aliens–and Kathryn Bigelow’s future pedigree would go on to include Strange Days (another incredibly underrated movie), The Hurt Locker, and Zero Dark Thirty. You probably haven’t ever heard of it, and you should do yourself a favor and give it a watch, although it might be hard to find.
  • As mentioned above, I feel like Vampire: The Masquerade provided a wide enough playing field of vampires to satisfy fans of Interview With The Vampire and Salem’s Lot both, but unfortunately, it never successfully transitioned to mass media (there was a disastrous television series as I vaguely recall).
  • From Dusk Till Dawn definitely deserves a nod for its incredibly abrupt and jarring pivot from serious crime drama to vampire movie at the start of the second act. After that, it’s a bit too over the top on the gore and silly special effects to be perfect, but even the movie’s final acts feature some memorable dialogue of ordinary people needing to come to grips that yes, there are vampires, and they need to deal with it immediately.
  • Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s Thirty Days of Night graphic novels were an ass-kicking step in the right direction with some incredible visual DNA, but unfortunately their cinematic adaptation was unmemorable.

Vampires Will Never Hurt You (I Promise)

The novel is going to be a ground-up rework of Gilead, a behemoth of an epic with vampires and demons set in my home town that was meant to be neither behemoth nor epic, written between 2003-2005 and thoroughly revised in 2009. Gilead was a fine novel, inhibited by the fact that it  was written by a gifted teenager who would often write five long sentences  when one short one would have sufficed. I’m only partly joking when I say I still feel depleted by the writer I used to be.

2009 was also, not by coincidence, when I wrote the first half of the sequel to Gilead which was planned since work began on Gilead. At the time I heard it was the finest writing I’d ever done, and upon reviewing it as recently as last year, I concluded that it was still Publication-grade fresh. The problem is, it is tethered to characters and backstory from a novel that I’ve come to realize in the subsequent eight years is almost certainly not publishable (I am aware that this is the era of self-publishing, but I am still trying for the brass ring of actually receiving an advance for a novel, having an agent, and so on: I won’t let the process of navigating gatekeeping keep my work off the market for long however, not with the self-publishing experience I’ve accumulated over the years). Primarily because, irrespective of subjective “quality” issues, even in its second draft it’s 177,000+ words, easily 110,000 words more than most publishers are looking for a first novel to be. A select, elite few have read Gilead in its edited or original state. It is deeply connected to the metaplot/multi-verse surrounding the Systems Malfunction universe, and all of my other multiverse linked storylines as it features the Wanderers Guild and a character who is effectively the “mother” of the Systems Malfunction universe.

Anyway, the goal of Vampires Will Never Hurt You is to take the best parts of Gilead, add a few new elements and a definitely new, in-your-face, punk attitude, and a greater focus on vampires, specifically, making them really really fucking scary again.

The Title Is A Fucking Lie

OF COURSE vampires will hurt you.

Anyway, here is my favorite story of a rock and roll band NOT selling out. Back in 2002, brand-new band My Chemical Romance dropped their debut single, a kickass song called “Vampires Will Never Hurt You”. Obviously, I liked the song quite a lot, because I used it as the title of my novel! Anyway, fast forward to some time around 2010. My Chemical Romance had exploded into a nationwide phenomenon and so had The Twilight Saga.

MCR were offered huge sums to contribute a song to the Twilight soundtrack series because of the band’s connections with Goth culture. The quartet refused … Frontman Gerard Way told the British music magazine NME: “That’s why the song ‘Vampire Money’ is on there, because there’s a lot of people chasing that f–king money. Twilight? A lot of people around us were like, ‘Please, for the love of God, do this f–ing movie.’ But we’d moved on.”

This the wording of their response, “Vampire Money”, besides being an awesome rap name:

3-2-1 We came to fuck
Everybody party till the gasman comes
Sparkle like Bowie in the morning sun
And get a parking violation on La Brea till it’s doneHair back, collar up, jet black, so cool!
Sing it like the kids that are mean to you, c’monWhen you wanna be a movie star (c’mon!)
Play the game and take the band real far (c’mon!)
Play it right and drive a Volvo car (c’mon!)
Pick a fight at an airport barThe kids don’t care if you’re all right honey
Pills don’t help but it sure is funny
Gimme gimme some of that vampire money c’mon!

Perhaps the greatest fuck-you in all of pop culture. Perfect.
And that kiddies is what Taking Back Vampires/Vampires Will Never Hurt You is all about. I intend to publish some snippets and excerpts here before publication, along with progress reports, so stay tuned!

“Clanbook: Nyctaphobia”

This is an ancillary document that will appeal mainly to fans of the artist formerly known as Devon Oratz, although fans of “Old World of Darkness” Vampire: The Masquerade might find it an interesting piece of marginalia. It is first and foremost a document for internal use, further defining the vampiric clans that exist in the Nyctaphobia; Hope In The Mist; Gilead/Vampires Will Never Hurt You universe and further differentiating them from the Vampire: The Masquerade clans they were based on circa 2004.

Clans are divided into two major meta-factions, clans which participate in the Wild Hunt (taking part in annual “wildings” in which entire human towns are slaughtered, and the Cotillion, which prioritize the concealment of vampire kind from human awareness above all else and which do not take part in or approve of wildings, although they are not actively at war with the Wild Hunt. Vampire: The Masquerade players will recognize elements of the Sabbat in the former and elements of the Camarilla in the latter.

 

Clan Nightshade

Vulgar Labels: Serpents, Typhoid Maries
Philosophy: Wild Hunt
Members: Lorenzo Medici, Meriwether Davis, Catherine Faraday, Melciah Salomon
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Hypnotic Gaze, Blood-Venom

Notes: Clan Nightshade is by far the most important of the vampiric bloodlines to the overarching plot of the as-yet unfinished Nyctaphobia/Hope In The Mists saga. All of the major named vampire characters from Gilead/Vampires Will Never Hurt You belong to Clan Nightshade. In Vampires Will Never Hurt You, the rewrite of Gilead, Clan Nightshade will have a unique ability where anyone they bite but don’t drain completely will rise as an extremely weak vampire without any of Clan Nightshade’s special abilities. This does not follow “the rules” of how vampires in general are presented in Nyctaphobia, because every other clan must create vampires through an act of abundant intentionality, draining them down to a few drops of human blood and then feeding them their own vampire blood until they are reborn as undead. This is also the only way that Clan Nightshade can create full-blooded members, rather than blood-hungry ghouls. In addition to the vampire-plague spreading venom of their ordinary bite, older members of Clan Nightshade can transmute their own blood into a venom deadly or paralytic even to fellow vampires.

Spoilers: In the rewrite of Gilead, Vampires Will Never Hurt You, Clan Nightshade will be the clan we see “on camera” to be compromised by the Cult of Shade.

 

The Minders

Vulgar Labels: The Busybodies, Management
Philosophy: Cotillion
Members: Seth Rowald, Monica Winters, Hawthorne
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Levitation, Thaumaturgy, Hypnotic Gaze

Notes: The Minders is the second most important clan in the Nyctaphobia/Hope In The Mists trilogy, playing a reasonably significant role in the early parts of Hope In The Mists. They uphold with grave seriousness the dual responsibility of ensuring that humans remain under the misapprehension that vampires are purely the stuff of fiction and monitoring the greater world of magic and the supernatural for existential threats to vampire kind. The Minders have thoroughly compromised many or most human intelligence and law enforcement organizations, so their access to human law enforcement personnel and equipment is unparalleled.

Loup-Garou
Vulgar Labels: Furries, Hairballs
Philosophy: Wild Hunt
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Animal Forms

Notes: Many humans in their moments of pants-shitting terror mistake the Loup-Garou for werewolves before being torn apart by them, an understandable confusion. The Loup-Garou are not actually werewolves, however, and can take the forms of bats, ravens, timberwolves, and rare individuals have been reported to take on a variety of exotic “creatures of the night” such as mountain lions, panthers, bears, or tigers.

 

Clan Rose
Vulgar Names: Snobs, Eurotrash
Philosophy: Cotillion
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Hypnotic Gaze, Fascination

Notes: Clan Rose is made up of individuals who are passionate about art in all its forms, and as an organization, is almost exclusively dedicated to the preservation of the very greatest works of art made by man and vampire. Vampiric art and vampiric performance art tends towards the grand guignol, with human life little valued and blood and corpses preferred mediums for artistes to work in. The unique Clan Rose power of fascination

Gargoyles

Vulgar Names: Gargoyles is already a disrespectful epithet. This bloodline does not have a proper name.
Philosophy: Wild Hunt
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Talons, Claws, and Fangs, Winged Flight

Gargoyles don’t appear remotely like human beings, instead somewhere in appearance between Max Schreck’s Count Orlok in the 1922 silent film Nosferatu and something that might have given H.R. Giger nightmares. Of all the “wilding” factions, the Gargoyles are historically the most cooperative with the Cotillion factions, for reasons that are, after all, fairly obvious. The Gargoyles complete their wildings within the assigned time-periods and geographical coordinates, reliably not going “overboard”, which has led to most of the other Hunt factions referring to them as “the Cotillion’s (butt-ugly) bitch”.

 

Clan Umbra
Vulgar Names: Necrophiliacs, Creeps
Philosophy: Cotillion
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Necromancy, Shadow-Play

A very pure bloodline of French and Italian origin, many have hinted or more than hinted that the purity comes from a carefully curated mixture of necrophilia and incest. While it is fairly parallel to the story, it still might count as a spoiler that Clan Umbra is entirely loyal to the Cult of Shade and has been since time immemorial: however, the Minders have known about this for long enough to prepare “ contingencies” for this primarily European bloodline, a shadow war between the Minders (aided by the Gargoyles) and Clan Umbra that can be assumed to happen somewhere between the events of Gilead/Vampires Will Never Hurt You and the events of Hope In The Mists.

 

Clan Romani

Vulgar Names: Gypsies, Pikeys
Philosophy: Wild Hunt
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Hypnotic Gaze, Levitation, Fascination

Not all Romani are vampires but Romani vampires consider themselves Romani first and vampires second. Every stereotype and epithet assigned to real world “Gypsies” is stapled to the Romani Clan by the other vampires of the world. They are almost universally distrusted and regarded with at best suspicion. It is the fact that vampires as a rule don’t particularly trust each other—that and the delicate internal politics of the Cotillion and the Wild Hunt and the other minor bloodlines not worth mentioning here—that allows the Romani clan to navigate vampire society as well as it does, perpetually a potential “enemy of my enemy” to someone.

Unmasque, Unmasque

For any VtM players who didn’t follow, here’s how I collapsed the original thirteen or fourteen clans into seven. Clan Assamite and Followers of Set: Clan Nightshade; Clans Ventrue and Tremere: the Minders; Clan Brujah, not used; Clan Malkavian, not used; Clans Tzimisce and Nosferatu, Gargoyles;  Clans Toreador and Tzimisce, Clan Rose; Clans Giovannni and Lasombra, Clan Umbra; Ravnos, Romani.

Standardizing Vampire Abilities Kind Of Sort Of Without Numbers

Abilities and weaknesses. And did I mention standardizing and without numbers? What an ask of an ex game designer. Vampires in fiction are like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike, from the sparkling twinks of “Twilight” to the bloody tornadoes of fangs and rust from Ben Templesmith’s and Steve Niles’ work on 30 Days of Night. Here is my best attempt at presenting MOSTLY WITH WORDS AND NOT NUMBERS YOUR BASIC GILEAD/VWNHY vampire’s abilities.

Strength: Anywhere between twice and ten times as strong as a minimum would be your basic range. Double the range for each century the vampire’s been alive. In areas where agility and skill also inform strength (like swinging a sword), hundreds of times human competence might be seen. A vampire who had spent two centuries serving as samurai could cut you apart before you saw his hand move.

Toughness: Largely indifferent to bullets except for large caliber shotgun blasts and the like which only slow them down. Decapitation kills, impalement paralyzes, usually the former than the latter. Anything else (fire, blades, blunt force trauma, just plain running them over with cars) damages them normally, but they have a hyperbolically quick regeneration factor. Let’s stay it starts as Wolverine/4 and doubles for every two centuries they survive as a vampire. It never reaches a speed greater than, Wolverine x 4 but in terms of what a vampire can regenerate from, the rules of ridiculousness are “weapons free”.  As long as it has blood to drink, a vampire can regenerate to more or less “full health” after being burned in a fire until nothing but a blackened skeletal husk remained. Exactly this happened to Lorenzo in Gilead. The only thing that stops vampiric regeneration is the paralyzing stake through he heart.

Speed: Any vampire can move too fast for you to see. The differences in speed that come with clans and centuries only matter in showdowns between vampires. Vampires are more perceptive than humans—about as perceptive as a wolf at night, with human intellect—but they can still be surprised. A vampire that isn’t paying any attention isn’t any harder to hit than a human that isn’t paying any attention.

Weakness: The Sun: Each clan reacts a little differently. The sun destroys young blood of Clan Nightshade and the Gargoyles and instantly incinerates even elders of Clan Umbra. Elders of Clan Nightshade and Elder Gargoyles are deeply sickened and weakened by the sun.  For the Minders and Clan Rose, sun means weakness and unconsciousness for young bloods, and an inability to use your powers even for elders. For Clan Romani and the Loup-Garoup, young blood felt weak and sickly in the daylight, but sufficiently aged Elders suffer no special handicap from the sun.

Other Weaknesses: All but the oldest elders can enter a domicile without special permission and cross running water; only the oldest elders need sleep in the soil of their homeland. If a cross is brandished at a vampire, what matters is the faith of the holder in the object. So a Star of David in the hands of a pious Jew is better than a crucifix in the hands of a half-assed Christian. Holy water see above: the person doing the blessing needs to be a true believer. By the same principal, areas that count as “hallowed ground” will be rare. Garlic does not do anything. Only the Loup-Garoup care about silver bullets or other things made of silver. Most vampires would list “fire” under their dislikes.

Innate Abilities: Most vampires have telekinesis of a level commensurate with their age. All vampires can telempathically communicate with their children.

“Mood Is A Thing For Cattle And Love-Play!” – Gurney Halleck, Dune (1984)

Captain Jean-Luc Picard, USS Enterprise.meme

Anyway ladies and gentlemen, this is a kind of unstoppable force meets immovable object type deal. And from the title, you know I’m talking about MOOD.

As you can imagine it’s been pretty much impossible to be in a good mood since the person I love the most left and abandoned me, taking with her everything I care about most in my life…especially knowing that I deserved it for the most part. However, I also want to observe at present that it’s pretty damn hard to be in a bad mood in this 71 degree and rising San Diego weather, instead of being back home in New York where I’ve heard it is -30 Degrees factoring in wind chill or some such terrifying shit.

I just hope my family is finding a way to keep warm during the New York fimbulwinter.