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 Dark, a 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!